Friday, June 13, 2014

Hoboken Public Schools says farewell to Dr. Toback

The most important role of a Board of Education is to hire a Superintendent, an Educational Leader who sets the tone for the entire school district.  

I am proud that during my tenure as Board Trustee I had the opportunity to participate in the selection of Dr. Toback for Superintendent.  He is without a doubt, a great educational leader that will be sorely missed. However, he built a strong foundation and set high expectations and is leaving the district in very good shape for the next Educational leader to build upon.

As a district parent I am excited about the future possibilities and wish Dr. Toback great success as he embarks on his new journey. 

Now the next chapter begins!!

Letter to Community from Dr. Mark Toback
June 13, 2014
Dear Residents,
Last night, the Wayne Township Board of Education appointed me to serve as their new superintendent of schools. While I am honored by their endorsement and confidence, I must admit that leaving Hoboken will be bittersweet, due to the many relationships built here over the past few years. Working with a dedicated staff, a talented administrative team, supportive parents, and a thoughtful group of school board members has been rewarding in so many ways.

The Hoboken Public Schools are a wonderful example of what is possible when a community redefines what it expects from the schools. By establishing higher expectations, and then investing in our schools at a level that matches our ambition, we have made significant progress in many areas. Substantial improvements in academic performance, school climate, safety, parental involvement, communication, technology and facilities are visible results of our new expectations. All of these changes will serve as a solid foundation for the work of the next school district leader.

It would be inappropriate for me not to express my appreciation for the support of the Hoboken Board of Education. Working as a trustee is possibly the most thankless volunteer community service job a citizen could undertake. On top of being thankless, it can be quite stressful due to many difficult decisions that must be made. The support from the trustees of your elected Hoboken Board of Education allowed for many positive changes to take place and continues to be a positive influence on the school system.

I will look back fondly on my days of service to this city and I remain appreciative of the opportunity to work as your educational leader. While some residents may not have agreed with me from time to time, know that my primary focus with any decision was the students attending our schools.

I have heard long-time residents and employees say “Once a Redwing, Always a Redwing." As I move along in my profession, I will always be proud to be counted as a Hoboken Redwing.


Mark Toback

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


Here are my thoughts and comments about the email blast from Barbara Martinez that was shared with me.  (below my comments) 

What I find interesting is who wrote the letter.  Barbara Martinez is the Board President of Hola, Dual Language Charter School and she is simultaneously urging her parents to advocate for their school while vilifying the public school administration, board members and parents for advocating for their schools. Hardly fair....

Who is Barbara Martinez?
- Hola's Board President.  She is an appointed board member not an elected board member. Her board is unaccountable to the taxpayers who fund her school. 
- The Chief External Officer( for Uncommon Schools.  The Chief Cheerleader.

- Opened and manages a network of 38 charter public schools across Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York. 

The Hoboken Board of Education is made up of nine elected officials.  The tax increase that Martinez is asking her parents to argue against is in part raised to offset some of the additional costs associated with the expansion of Hola to 6th grade.

Martinez mentions the cost to the taxpayers of the additional funds necessary for the HBoE to continue to oppose the expansion of Hola.  Does Martinez consider the impact that Hola's expansion will have on the district children?

Will they experience an increase in size, cuts in funding to their music and arts programs, cuts in funding to their after school clubs or cut backs in their Athletics and Sports teams? 

Will the elected officials that supported Hola's expansion understand that they missed a great opportunity to be leaders in their communities instead of helping divide their communities: Mayor Dawn Zimmer, Council members Dave Mello, Ravi Bhalla, Michael Russo, Beth Mason, Tim Occhipinti and Theresa Castellano?

When she asks her parents NOT to "disparage the district schools in any way" maybe she should talk to her fellow unelected board member, Anthony Petrosino.  He spends a great deal of time attacking Hoboken High School.  Yet he never acknowledges that he is a disgruntled former employee of the Hoboken district schools.  

As one district parent opines:  What bothers me most about Dr. Anthony Petrosino's blog is that he uses his academic credentials to convey steely-eyed objectivity without ever disclosing anywhere his connections with Hoboken's HoLa charter school (who the state has decided must fight with public schools over funding), and his lawsuit with the public school district. These two facts undermine any "facts" he blogs about the public schools. Indeed, they explain the monomaniacal attacks on Kids First, Hoboken's fantastic public schools superintendent Dr. Toback, and Hoboken's public schools.

Martinez insists that Hola educates their students at half the cost that the Board of Education spends.  She fails to understand that the District is a full service K-12 district. Offering very specific support services to many of their low income and special needs students.  For example; Guidance Counselors, Social Workers, Out of District Placement for severely handicapped and disabled children and an in school Autism Center.  Also provided at no cost to the students are 14+ AP courses, TV-Media Studio and the Johns Hopkins Gifted and Talented program, to name just a few.

It's time for Martinez to start being honest with the Hola families and the community.  They can start by removing the wholly inaccurate statement about how Charter Schools are funded.  This would be the second request that I have made publicly asking them to remove this statement from their website.  Let's see if they hear me this time.
"Charter schools are free public schools funded by the State and operated independently of local school districts."
At the end of the day we have two groups of families who both love their schools and are doing everything they should to advocate for them.  Let's all be patient and allow due process to run it's course.


Subject: Message from Barbara Martinez regarding BOE lawsuit

Dear Parents,
The Hoboken Board of Education is planning to vote tomorrow (6/10) to increase its litigation expenses to fight HoLa’s expansion to $50,000 from $20,000.
This is, of course, very disappointing and surprising news. It suggests that there’s no limit to what this board is willing to do to try to keep our children from staying in their school through 8th grade. We expect the Department of Education (DOE), who is the main subject of this lawsuit, to continue to vigorously defend its approval of HoLa’s expansion. However, as you know, our parent voices are critical to ensuring that the DOE and others fight on our behalf as well.
We suggest the following:
Every parent should, in the next 24 hours, send an e-mail to every elected official listed below, asking them to intervene before Tuesday night’s vote. Feel free to use some of the talking points below, but please include your own personal story about what our school means to your child and family as those are the most important and influential messages to elected officials. If you voted for the elected official, make sure you note that. If you have time to call their office, that’s even better.
Every parent should also make sure to tell as many non-HoLa Hoboken residents as possible what is going on and ask them to send e-mails as taxpayers. Unfortunately this situation is viewed as an HoLa fight only, and until other citizens chime in to say this is wrong, the Board of Ed will continue to think we are only looking out for our own kids’ interests. We need non-Hola residents to stand up and say this is wrong and a terrible waste of taxpayer money. Hoboken is a stronger city with more educational choices, not fewer.
Please commit to writing a letter to the editor. These letters matter as they are read by Hoboken at large, not just those who have children. We need to be making our case as widely as possible that this is a terrible use of taxpayer money and harmful for Hoboken in general. Our time is best spent over the next few days and weeks educating our broader community about charter schools, about choice, and about the decision that this Board of Education is making in wasting taxpayer dollars to limit choice in Hoboken. We need ordinary citizens—not just charter parents—to understand this.
If you do want to attend Tuesday’s meeting, you should. But I strongly urge us to follow these do’s and don’ts so that we can make our case stronger in the public eye, rather than weaker:
*Do talk about what HoLa has meant for your child (maintaining culture, now able to speak to grandma in Spanish, can read and write in two languages, child's special needs well supported....whatever is most salient to your family's experience)
*Do say that you appreciate that Hoboken is a town with many choices, and choice is good because not every school fits every kid perfectly
*Do re-iterate that HoLa makes up a fraction of the overall Hoboken public school budget and cannot possibly be the most important thing for them to focus on
*Do show respect for the families and teachers in the traditional district schools
*Don’t disparage the district schools in any way. Don’t say things like “the district schools aren’t an option for my family.” These types of comments can be misinterpreted as elitist, which hurts our case to many who might otherwise be on our side. What we really mean is that there are many choices, and I chose this one for my own reasons
*Don’t call attention to the district’s low academic performance. The children of our neighbors and friends attend district schools and many are getting a great education, and us coming across as believing we have something superior to them alienates us from many residents who would otherwise want to help us. We simply want to preserve our own choice for our children and help ensure that Hoboken families have a vibrant menu of options to choose from
For elected official e-mails, try not to use these verbatim and only use them to support your e-mail after you’ve shared your personal story.
· The BOE lawsuit is now going to cost taxpayers $50,000 instead of $20,000
· Just a few weeks after raising our taxes 3.9%, the District’s first order of business is spending more money on litigating against a small public school
· At issue is just a handful of kids every year: all we want is for students to be able to stay for two more grades, 7thand 8th
· The District’s lawsuit would seek to kick our kids out of their school for their last two years of middle school
· The expansion of HoLa represents less than 1% of the overall Hoboken district budget; there are so many bigger costs at the Hoboken Board of Ed that should be attacked instead of HoLa
· Attacking another school never helped a District system get better
· The BOE lawsuit is spending tens of thousands of dollars asking the Department of Education to do what it already did. It asks the DOE to consider ALL of the factors if HoLa expands to 7thand 8thgrade, including the effect on the district. The DOE spent months poring over hundreds of documents and data points to determine that adding 7thand 8th grade was in the best interest of the Hoboken community. Spending $50,000 on a lawsuit asking the DOE to do the same thing again is a waste of money and terribly divisive to our community
· A vibrant, choice-filled community of schools is GOOD for Hoboken, it keeps families here longer and increases our real estate values.
· HoLa is a public school which uses taxpayer funds to offer a dual-language education. It has great results and spends half of the per-pupil funds as the district schools.
Mayor Dawn Zimmer,
Senator Brian Stack,
Assemblyman Carmelo Garcia,
Assemblyman Raj Mukherji,
City Council Member Ravinder Bhalla,
City Council Member Theresa Castellano,
City Council Member Beth Mason,
City Council Member David Mello,
City Council Member Michael Russo,
City Council Member Tim Occhipinti,
County Freeholder Anthony Romano,
Thank you for doing your part and helping to protect HoLa. Please let me know if you have any questions.