Sunday, January 26, 2014

I HAVE A DREAM.......


"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.   



Photo: King delivers his iconic speech during the climax of the march on Washington.
Associated Press file

As we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s legacy, I am saddened by the reality of the statistics in the chart below.  There are large disparities in the student populations--in terms of race and income--in the publicly funded Hoboken Public schools.




In one square mile we have four public school districts: Public district (Brandt Primary School; Calabro, Connors and Wallace Elementary Schools and Hoboken Junior Senior High) and three Charter districts (Elysian Charter School, Hoboken Charter School, Hola Dual Language Charter School).  The Public school district enrolls every child that applies while the Charter districts each use a lottery system to fill their limited seats.  An unintended result of the lottery system, as indicated by the data in the chart, is segregated schools.

I believe that Dr. King is looking down on Hoboken and is proud of Dr. Toback, the superintendent of the Hoboken Public School district, who has brought this topic to the fore and has had conversations with the Directors of the other three publicly funded school districts in Hoboken to explore ways to address this issue.  Dr. Toback has also asked the NJDOE for their help in exploring ways to ‘fix the lottery process’ and to “help balance enrollment”.  


Are there other factors that have created this imbalance? The perception of the Public District schools hasn’t changed much in the last 25 years but the demographics of the City has as the increasing number of new more affluent families arrive in Hoboken.  The Charter schools appear to be the only “choice” for many of these new families.  Is this a choice based on the district’s historically low test scores, or a decision based on race or income disparities?  Maybe it’s a little of both?

While we can all agree that it’s harder and costlier to educate a population of students that bear the burden of poverty, we can also agree that it’s easier to educate children of more affluent, engaged families.  If we continue on this path we will have what is being described as “apartheid schools”–a school system in which the district public schools educate a majority of disadvantaged students and the Charter schools educate the more privileged students.  Is this how public funds should be used?  Is this how a community thrives?

http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2013/10/study_new_jersey_has_too_many_apartheid_schools.html
  
Positive results happen when engaged parents get involved to change the status quo as witnessed during my tenure on the Hoboken Board of Education.   The past four years have seen many positive results and many success stories in the Public School district led by Dr. Toback and a group of dedicated and engaged parents. 

http://hudsonreporter.com/bookmark/24410397/article-Hoboken%20schools%20announce%20teachers%20of%20the%20year-%20Recipients%20praised%20for%20involvement%20and%20ingenuity%20in%20the%20classroom-%20#.UuR51bRYjoh.facebook


Let’s embrace the fact that Hoboken is a rich, diverse community and let our differences be the bond that unites us, not divides us.  I welcome you to join in the discussion in the name of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

TAKING THE OATH OF OFFICE


On January 7th, 2014 the Hoboken Board of Education held their re-organization meeting.  Irene Sobolov and Leon Gold were each sworn in to serve another three-year term and Jennifer Evans was sworn in to serve her first term on the board.  They took their Oath of Office and were seated to conduct board business alongside Ruth McAllister, Jean Marie Mitchell, Tom Kluepfel and Peter Biancamano.  (Frances Rhodes-Kearns and Carmelo Garica were absent)

The first order of business was to elect the President and Vice President of the board.  Leon Gold was re-elected board President and Ruth McAllister was re-elected Vice President, roles that they each held this past year.

Congratulations to Leon, Irene and Jen.  I know you will serve the district well.



You can find the entire agenda for the meeting here.  http://www.boarddocs.com/nj/hoboken/Board.nsf/Public

There are more changes to happen to the composition of the board.  On Tuesday, January 14 long time Board of Education member, Carmelo Garcia was sworn in as the 33rd district Assemblyman thus forcing his resignation. New Jersey State law states that an individual cannot hold two elected positions therefore Mr. Garcia can no longer serve out the remainder of his term which expires November 2014 along with the terms of Frances Rhodes-Kearns and Peter Biancamano.  

The board is comprised of nine publicly elected board members who serve three-year terms and every year three seats are up for election during a Citywide election held in November.  In place is a board policy for filling vacant seats through an application and interview process.  Whoever is appointed to the vacant seat by the board will serve the remainder of Carmelo Garcia's term.  

Here is a link to the policy describing the specific process that will take place.


Thursday, January 9, 2014

IT'S JUST THE BEGINNING!!

Welcome!!

My name is Theresa Minutillo and I have been involved, in various ways, in the Hoboken Public Schools for the past 10+ years.

I was first a volunteer at Hoboken High School running a program that I created called the Senior/Junior Prep Day, a day dedicated to helping the students write their resumes, get coached In interview techniques and show them how to dress for success.  The event has since expanded and has been adopted as an official school program focusing on career awareness and exploration with over 40 community volunteers sharing their real life experiences.

Last year I was acknowledged for the Junior Prep Day’s 10th year Anniversary and I am so very proud of this program's success and expansion and the commitment of so many within Hoboken High School to see this program evolve with the students and their interests.  


When I first started volunteering at HHS, I was a young single woman creating a community event as part of a Self Expression and Leadership course that I was taking.  And It was this involvement with the students that led me to start attending board of education meetings and ultimately to run for the board.  I was elected and served two full terms on the Hoboken Board of Education. Though there are many things I am proud of during my tenure, the one that stands out the most imy participation in the selection of the current superintendent of schools, Dr. Mark Toback.  He is, without a doubt, a great educational leader.  

At the time of my first election, I was soon to give birth to my first child.  It was a challenge trying to balance being a new mother and a newly elected official.  I managed this by bringing my infant daughter to board meetings in order to breastfeed while conducting board business.  On one occasion, this small act was deemed more newsworthy than the actual work of a board.  



I decided not to seek a third term on the board when my daughter was a 1st grader at Wallace Elementary Public School. But I am as involved in the district today as I was before my tenure on the board.

This past summer, for instance, I organized and styled a photo shoot of Hoboken High School students to create a "look book" to showcase the new uniform policy that commenced the beginning of this school year.


Today, I am a still a happy and dedicated district parent.  I am involved in the Wallace PTO, I still volunteer as the recruiter of the Junior Prep Day, and I'm a regular attendee at board meetings. 

My goal for the future is to provide you the information that parents are looking for regarding Hoboken's schools-be they district, charter or private-and to discuss the similarities and the differences.  I welcome your comments.

Sincerely,
Theresa Minutillo