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Test Scores, Charter Schools and Budget are Among Topics Discussed at School Board Debate

Seven school board candidates are fighting for three open seats on the board of education.

The seven candidates running for Hoboken’s board of education in the November 6 elections, all tried to convey their passion, experience and insights into the district on Thursday night during a roughly two-hour forum at the Demarest auditorium.

While attendance from the public was scarce—roughly 60 people attended the debate, the vast majority of whom are already involved in local politics or hold elected office in town—the atmosphere was just as serious.

Questions for the candidates were submitted by the audience members, much like in previous years, and the night was moderated by Bob Bowdon.

The Move Forward candidates—Anthony Oland, Elizabeth Markevitch and Felice Vazquez—spent much of the time pointing out the weaknesses of the incumber majority. The Kids First team, in turn, defended the last three years, promoting the district’s new programs and flat tax levy.

“The budget can’t go down,” said Jean Marie Mitchell, who is running for the board of education for the third year in a row.

Because of the special aid the district receives, explained incumbent and Kids First candidate Ruth McAllister, “we cannot lower the budget.” The district has to conform to the minimum tax levy.

In turn, Felice Vazquez—who is running on the Move Forward ticket and moved to Hoboken about two years ago—said that Hoboken still spends too much money.

“We spend a third higher than the average,” she said.

The Move Forward candidates also mentioned recent reports in New Jersey Monthly and the Wall Street Journal that painted the Hoboken public schools in a not-so positive light.

“The facts and the news reports tell the story,” Vazquez said. “My opponents call this progress, I call this crisis.”

"I have lived in town for 27 years," said Markevitch, "from the day I got here there's one thing: Hoboken has poorly ranked schools."

Markevitch said she started attended school board meetings in 1995, when she was pregnant with her daughter. Markevitch was also the only candidate who brought up the termination of former theater director Paula Ohaus, saying that the Kids First majority didn't listen to the public.

The candidates also discussed the idea of converting back to a model where students are housed together based on grade level. Part of that would be to reinstate the middle school model. Superintendent Dr. Mark Toback recently introduced the idea, and has sent out surveys to parents in the district.

“Let the public think about it,” said Tom Kluepfel, who is running on the Kids First ticket. Kluepfel added that he would listen to recommendations on the topic from the community and educators.

Kluepfel, just like his political opponent Elizabeth Markevitch on the Move Forward ticket, is the parent of a Hoboken High School student.

Patricia Waiters, who is known to be passionate about the Hoboken public schools, is running independently this year. Waiters, a single mother of three, said that she took her school aged children out of the charter school and put them back into the Hoboken school system.

While the candidates kept it civil, the candidates' position on charter schools caused one point of contention.

"I see a candidate who is a director of development at another school," Kluepfel said, "I'm just saying."

Kluepfel referred to Oland, who is the director of development at Spanish language charter school HoLa. Move Forward's campaign treasurer, Frank Raia, is on the HoLa board.

"I am not currently a public school parent, I was," said Oland. "I have been very involved."

Other topics discussed included the school's legal fees (which are significantly higher than the state's average), the district's budget ("It's a large budget," McAllister said) and test scores.

"The previous administration cheated on the scores," Mitchell alleged. "They only cherry picked the children tested."

McAllister added that the creation of the Demarest Alternative High School also added to the skewed results, since it took the badly performing students out of the high school.

A little after 9 p.m., Bowdon wrapped up the debate—not before notifying the audience of the world series score—and the parties went their separate ways.

The school board elections are on November 6.

Hobbs October 26, 2012 at 03:54 PM
The poeople of Hoboken have a clear choice between a set of positive informed candidates with KIDS FIRST who want to continue the progress made in Hoboken schools. Or the negativity and political chaos of three uniformed front people for the OLD GUARD politicos. That said the massive amounts of money Beth Mason and others are pouring into the campaign could again destort the democratic system with hundreds of paid "election day workers" like the same people did to put Tim Occhipinti into office on the City Council. ___________________________________________________________________ November 6th VOTE KIDS FIRST K - L - M Klupefel - Mitchell - McAllister
Apology Demanded October 26, 2012 at 04:54 PM
Move Forward needs to apologize for displaying swastikas on their vans. Now that the proof is out that their campaign manager is behind it, it is imperative that they apologize at once. Beth Mason and all her chumps must come clean and say sorry to the community.
Facts Alone October 26, 2012 at 05:14 PM
Watch the school board meeting on channel 77. Kids First doesn't ask even ONE question about the horrible test scores. SAT scores down every year. crickets. At least half the kids failing in grades at every school. crickets. 75% of kids in seventh grade at Calabro flunked the math test. crickets Did the KF candidates ask about it? Nope. Ruth McAllister was too busy giving a sweetheart job to a loser employee (who can't be called a teacher) to care about the kids. (test scores here: http://hoboken.k12.nj.us/hoboken/Recent%20News/Hoboken%20Testing%20Results%202011-2012.pdf Kids First fans cheered when the wonderful teachers Paula Ohaus and Chengyen Hillenbrandt were fired by KF last year even after dozens of kids got up to speak in their favor and hundreds signed a petition. Last week that incredibly weak McAllister said she switched her vote on a $10,000 stipend for a loser because ONE student got up to speak (and got it completely wrong.!!) The student said the school board wanted to end the track team. Even Toback said that was wrong!!. But McAllister changed her vote because of ONE student who was put up to telling a lie. How does she look at her self in the mirror every day? bunch of fakes.
CuriousGal October 26, 2012 at 06:40 PM
Under KIDS FIRST the Hoboken School District has been classified a "District in Need of Improvement" by the state and federal government for the first time in its history. Under KIDS FIRST over 90% of students now attend a school that has failed to meet state and federal NCLB Adequate Yearly Progress for the past 3 years. Under KIDS FIRST a December 2011 audit by the firm Lerch, Vinci, & Higgins found the Board had 7 "recommendations" including the fact that the district owed $783,000 for food services and that the Hoboken School Board spends significantly more per pupil in legal costs than New Jersey's average. Under KIDS FIRST the high school has the 3rd lowest graduation rate in the county as well as a school that went from the 2nd most improved high school in the state of New Jersey to being ranked in the bottom 50 high schools in New Jersey. KIDS FIRST has approved to bring in as many as 350 students from surrounding communities to make up for the loss of student population. Under KIDS FIRST the Board of Education budget has risen from $59.1 million to $63.2 million during a period of decreasing student enrollment and they've taken away the public's right to vote on the budget.
CuriousReplacement October 26, 2012 at 07:15 PM
Hi CuriousGal pal. Hey if we just cut and paste over and over like you're doing, what do we get paid? Do we have to change a sentence to get credit for a different post? Like you I need all the money I can get. $16,400 for tuition at Stevens Cooperative! Private school moms pretending we get a rat's ass about public schools for the blogging bucks - Dawn's legacy.
Facts Alone October 26, 2012 at 07:19 PM
Kids First can't even remember their old talking points from 2 years ago. Yesterday Jean Mitchell says "The previous administration cheated on the scores. "They only cherry picked the children tested." But during the campaign 2 years ago Kids First constant blogger jane bragged about the test scores: jane wrote on patch at 1:53 pm on Monday, March 22, 2010 "LOL!!! Poor souls (real results) didn't even bother to check the HBOE website before making up their stories... Hoboken High School is ranked as the 2nd most improved high school in the state." duh. now kids first says those rankings are all a lie. kids first will say and do whatever they have to to keep their power. James Kocis - do you know that your $7,800 of private equity capital is going to fund some of the biggest hypocrites in hoboken? when the test scores were up years ago before they even controlled the board it was because of them. when the test scores crash even lower this year, that's not their business. hey look at that nazi truck! forget about the kids and the test scores! give us more money Mr. Kocis so we can continue to churn out lousy results.
Facts Alone October 26, 2012 at 07:24 PM
Kids First needs to apologize for turning out students who can't pass the state reading test or math test. Kids First needs to apologize for one of the lowest graduation rates in the county. Kids First needs to apologize for doing all that while spending one of the highest per student rates in the state. When is Kids First going to say their sorry for hurting the children?
puzzledone October 26, 2012 at 07:25 PM
Sounds like the usual from the move forward ticket, no ideas put forward except "encourage reading and parental involvement", then send a truck around town telling everyone what Kid's first supporters look like. Yes, our schools suck. Decades of neglect, outright theft, lies, and mismanagement crushed them and it will be a LONG time until they are fixed. What good was the public's right to vote on a budget when any money they school board had was dumped on $1200 steak dinners anyhow? And how do you compare test scores to a past when 1/3 of students mysteriously dropped out of 11th grade and failed to get tested? If Move Forward is willing to accept illegal campaign contributions and work out of an office run by a charity, and be remarkably silent on midnight flyers and nazi trucks summporting them, how much do we trust them to be honest with our kid's futures?
friendly fire October 26, 2012 at 07:45 PM
Why would you say Move Forward sent the truck around?
CuriousGal October 26, 2012 at 08:15 PM
puzzledone- Neglect? the QSAC scores did not show that. Outright theft? baseless allegations. I understand there are laws against outright theft. Press charges. Mismanagement? Worse than 4 high school principals since February of 2010? Worse than 4 superintendent is 3 years? Worse than plunging the district into DINI status? Worse than 3 years in a row that 90% of all Hoboken students attend a school than failed to make AYP? Violence and Vandalism report that's glossed over Let's face it-- If a group came in wanting to destroy the public school system they could not do a better job at it than the Kids First group has over the past 4 years. Exploding budgets, dividing the community, plummeting test scores, nepotism, taking the right to vote away from the people, extending terms, and of course counting on Newark, Plainfield and Keyport to help us out-- thankfully, the nightmare will be over in a few weeks--no one who is conscious can be voting for Kids First this time around--
puzzledone October 26, 2012 at 08:44 PM
Why would I say that...I guess "then watch a truck go around and completely defend it's message" would have been more apt. My apologies. As for the theft, I consider the payment of invoices to employees without names and ID and using money from the BoE funds for steak dinners and cell phones, using money from school fundraisers to pay for teachers ipods to be theft. If you prefer misappropriation, I could go with that.
CuriousReplacement October 26, 2012 at 09:34 PM
Now you're talkin' sister! Cut those cuts and paste that paste, baby! I bet you can do this 100 times before the weekend is over. I still want to know if we get paid the same for cut and paste. I need those Stevens Coop tuition bucks so bad I can taste it. Private school mom's pretending we would ever set foot in a public school for Beth's bucks - Dawn's legacy.
I am Spartacus October 26, 2012 at 10:12 PM
This is the type of mess the backers of MF left over at the BOE for Kids First to clean up and this is the type of mismanagement Curiousgal supports http://media.nj.com/hobokennow_impact/other/Hoboken%20BOE%202009%20CAFR.pdf
Facts Alone October 26, 2012 at 11:53 PM
Theresa Minutillo has been on the school board since 2006. She teamed up with Pupie and Carmelo Garcia to become president of the board. Why didn't she put up a stink about these hidden students, steak dinners, audits? Why didn't she or Rose Markle do anything or say anything? Has she ever taken responsibiltiy for one thing that happened to the schools since 2006? She fired Ohaus and then made sure her daughter got a role in the play with the new theater teacher she hand picked. Sure hope her kid doesn't wind up needing extra help at the high school. I hear the kids who need special help at hhs can just forget about it because their teacher is where???? Kids First was too busy to talk about education for the regular kids at the last meeting. They were too busy making sure Rose Markle's second kid got a job at HHS and her bff got $10,000. Kids First = Markle's Posse First. And mouth breathers like McAllister and Mitchell (and now Kloopfel) go along without saying a word.
Hobbs October 26, 2012 at 11:54 PM
NOT TRUE. The doctored numbers when the Old Guard politicos ran the BOE have been exposed. But hey such is the constant negativity from the Old Guard politicos and their drones.
Hobbs October 27, 2012 at 12:02 AM
It is always nestolgic to watch Michael Russo son of convicted felon and former mayor rant and rave just like his father did, The voters will see past the frontpeople on the OLD GUARD politicos bought and paid for ticket. You can't "Move Forward" with the corruption of the past.
Hobbs October 27, 2012 at 12:07 AM
Mason has dumped over seven thousand two hundred dollars to prop up the Old Guard politico ticket that we know of and most likely that will double or triple before election day. Remember the same people paid over five hundred people on election day to put Tim Occhipinti on the City Council and we know how he has repaid them.
I am Spartacus October 27, 2012 at 12:20 AM
Wow, so 2 of the MF candidates have never even voted in a BOE election before? Yet they voted in municipal and general elections and still skipped the BOE elections? And we should believe they care now? I think not.
bubbles October 27, 2012 at 11:57 AM
That's my Gal! No one from our campaign was convicted and cuffed for taking illegal contributions, were they? No one from our campaign said they drove the Nazi truck, did they? Damn newbies, just don't get it. Just like we told them at that debate; no stinkin laws or codes are gonna tell us what we can do. bah blah blah..board not allowed to hire and recommend people for positiins blah blah blah can only approve recommendation...blah blah blah... and what's with the "superintendent's recommendations" anyway!?!? This is another one of those areas where the newbie yups got it all wrong, - you dont let the leader of the district interview and recommend employees- we tell the leader which of our peeps get which postions. He don't like it- there's the door. He got a contract- we pay him off to go away. It's just like that sayin...how does it go? " If a tree falls in the woods"..., "if we dont get arrested......"
bubbles October 27, 2012 at 12:20 PM
And for those of you who say we got no plan. Damn skippy - we do! You gotta watch our debate and see em. Here's a few, for all you doubtin Toms; 1- we are gonna cut legal costs by askin lawyers to donate their services. 2-we are gonna lower the budget by payin for afterschool activites and summer camps for every kid from every town 3-we are gonna make sure that the we have consistency by gettin rid of the principals and leaders. Then we are gonna take peeps from our area. We are gonna do the interviewing and recommendations. 4- it aint about bein there, showin up or knowin what's goin on in the schools, its about a person who wants to start some community service. 5-we are gnna get "buy in" from the parents to help the students in the district cause one of our candidates is in charge of fundraising for another school. we give the other school some cash, they buy into supporting us- this then makes it good for the kids in the district. 6- spending- uh...right..30% way too much...uh..dont care what the stinkin state says about "can't cut" and "mandatory expenses"- we are gonna cut. And if the state won't let us- oh well- so sorry, too bad. we tried. Always remember that sayin- if we don't get arrested.....
lorraine morgan October 27, 2012 at 02:56 PM
Why didn't a kids first board trustee expose these issues early on? They've had representation on the board since 2006. We are well aware of how they micro manage everything, so I find it strange how any mismangement escaped them. they talk about illegal activities, why didnt they pursue criminal prosecution? I understand that steak dinners,cell phones etc were permitted and enjoyed by districts throughout the entire state of NJ until the state placed regulations for all NJ School Districts to follow. I am curious to know if Hoboken BOE followed the new guidelines or did they ignore them?
I am Spartacus October 27, 2012 at 05:29 PM
Lorraine, incompetence and mismanagement aren't illegal. You can't throw people in jail for wasting money on steak dinners. All you can do is toss them out of office and never trust them or the people they back ever again.
CuriousReplacement October 27, 2012 at 05:47 PM
"I am curious to know." You are one Curious Gal! Hey, I like the real-sounding name. I was up at 1200 and they told me it's not a bad idea but since it isn't in the phonebook it will seem phony. Not that we care! Go team! Private school moms blogging for dollars trying to raise that Stevens Cooperative tuition any way we can - Dawn's legacy.
lorraine morgan October 28, 2012 at 12:28 PM
cell number is not listed ? good to know ! thanks CurRep - hope you didn't waste too much of your precious time on that dead-end search.

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