Wednesday, May 7, 2014


As Hola has been such a topic of community conversation lately, I have noticed that so many inaccuracies cloud the discussion. I want to set the record straight on the belief that Hola was proposed and rejected by the BOE, what the original concerns were of the district parents and why you never hear about the funding questions about where the money comes from and the impact on the public district students.  Let me start from the beginning.

In June 2008, I saw an email from the Hoboken Family Alliance that mentioned that a group of women; Camille Korschun Bustillo, Jennifer Hindman Sargent, Mary Azzarto Ciampa were planning a dual language school and that they were asking for parents to take a survey to gauge whether or not there was community interest.

The introduction to the survey stated that the program founders were
"developing a dual language public elementary school (Spanish - English), and
proposing it to the Hoboken School District as an independently run contract school."

As a parent of a young child at the time I was trying to raise my daughter to be bilingual in Italian and English.  It wasn't an easy process but a worthwhile one.

I filled out the survey and was supportive and positive of the concept.  After the Hola team read my survey and saw that I was supportive they contacted me directly.  They revealed to me that they were already in talks with the Assistant to the Superintendent, Anthony Petrocino.   As I was also a Hoboken Board of Ed trustee, since April 2006,  I was surprised that I was unaware of the discussions already taking place.

I also found out that there were continuous ongoing and serious conversations in the curriculum committee meetings with the Hola team about bringing this dual language program into the district.  I wasn't a member of the curriculum committee so I was not present during these meetings nor informed of them until much later in the process.  

I was intrigued and excited by the possibilities of the program, which soon turned to concern.  

So much time, energy and focus was being given to creating a new program that the focus was soon diverted from the entire district.

I wanted to know why the Superintendent and the curriculum committee:

-felt comfortable allowing three women without any educational experience, training or credentials to become the leaders of this program.

-wanted to award a no-bid contract to this same group of women, violating the state contract laws.

-wouldn't go out for a Request of Qualifications/Proposals to get the best qualified and experienced team to create a new program

What I was soon to learn:
-The Superintendent at that time had a personal relationship with one of the leaders of the Hola group and therefore he refused to go out for bid on the contract.

More concerns:
-How were we handling the educational needs of the students that were currently enrolled in the district instead of spending so much time creating a program for kids not yet enrolled.

-How to address the concerns of the parents whose children were already enrolled and committed.

-Why was the Superintendent and the Curriculum committee rushing the program to start in Sept. 2009?  Which I would later find out was b/c the founders children would have been too old to enroll if the start year was pushed back. 

More Unanswered questions
-The Superintendent hadn't budgeted for the first two years of the initial proposal nor any long range planning through the Fifth grade.

-The Superintendent hadn't budgeted for four new teaching positions which would have been necessary for the first year of the program implementation because all teachers needed dual certification of which there weren't any already on staff.

The Superintendent hadn't budgeted for writing the curriculum nor for textbooks nor any other support learning tools.

-The Superintendent didn't know where Hola would be housed. 

-The Superintendent wanted Hola to be separate, a school within a school.

-The Superintendent wanted to hire the Hola founders as unlicensed principals of the dual language program, against NJDoE laws and regulations.

-Eventually it came out that the Superintendent wanted to house Hola in Wallace displacing current students and infuriating current parents.

-The fact remained that this proposal for a "school within a school" meant that it was never really supposed to be a part of the district.  It was always meant to be separate.  The Hola children were never supposed to interact with the district students but the district was going to fund this separate but equal school.

Next Up, Part 2.  The presentation to the board.


  1. Well this explains a lot. I can't wait for the second installment!

  2. Thanks for the interest. Part 2 is on it's way!! Just another day or two!!