Paula Ohaus and Cheng-yen Hillenbrand are two excellent teachers who are being let go for violating rules that do not exist. It is clear that Mark Toback, the new superintendent, is following the capricious and vindictive agenda of the previous administrations, who refused to appreciate all that these wonderful teachers have done for the students and city of Hoboken.
It is beyond the scope of the Board of Education to ban fun. Many times over the 14 years she has worked in Hoboken, Ms. Ohaus has invited her students, their siblings and parents to her beautiful home in Westfield. I signed a permission slip and was invited with my daughter to one of these parties in February. The kids ate and sang and danced and enjoyed themselves. As Ms. Ohaus said at the May 10 board meeting, there was a time when the district supplied the school buses to take the students to her house. Now these events are an excuse for firing her.
It was clear at the meeting that the administration has no guidelines for dealing with the huge productions she puts on. It expects the theater teacher to be an expert on every state law and budget line item affecting her shows. It was also clear to everyone that Ms. Ohaus got the complete run-around from administrators when she tried to pin them down on the details for her next show, “Alice in Wonderland.” And now that’s an excuse to let her go.
Ms. Ohaus mentored a senior this year, arranged for her to get a college scholarship, bought her suitable clothes to wear to her college interview, and then drove her there. The parent agreed that her daughter should spend the night at Paula’s to get to the interview on time early the next morning. Now Mr. Toback is using Paula’s generosity as an excuse to fire her.
Ms. Hillenbrand, who created and nurtured the largest Johns Hopkins gifted-and-talented program in the country, is being let go for equally trumped-up reasons. She sets high standards and demands rigor in a district that too often fails to challenge its students to succeed. Why are we getting rid of two teachers who draw bright students into the district and inspire them to perform to their highest ability?
The district policy manual stipulates that the board should listen to and take direction from the community. The board needs to read it. It has failed to follow its own policies. If Mr. Toback won’t, the five Kids First board members can stop this insanity.