Mayor Dawn Zimmer hopes that after Gov. Christopher Christie’s visit last Thursday to Elysian Charter School, Hoboken will receive some state assistance with problems of space and funding in Hoboken’s education system.
In a town-hall type meeting, featuring Christie and renowned education activist Geoffrey Canada, the governor outlined his legislation that would connect performance in the classroom to raises given to teachers. Though not publicly addressed by the governor, the meeting did raise some concerns among attendees about education issues in Hoboken.
Three charter schools
Hoboken is home to three charter schools: Elysian Charter School, Hoboken Charter School, and HoLa Charter School, New Jersey’s first Spanish-English charter school.
“We face a challenge of finding space and funding,” Zimmer said before introducing Christie on Thursday afternoon.
Christie began the session by showing the trailer to a new documentary, “Waiting for Superman,” which profiles the problem of the education system in America.
“We can’t provide high quality education if we don’t have the space.” – Mayor Dawn Zimmer
The governor, who was last in Hoboken in May, spoke primarily to push his education reform.
Public vs. charter
One issue, to Interim Superintendent Peter Carter, is the apparent divisive language being used when it comes to charter schools and public schools.
Charter schools receive public funding, but are independently operated, and do not have to conform to all school board regulations. Before the meeting, Zimmer said the public schools and charter schools go hand in hand in Hoboken.
Carter asked, in the public portion of the meeting, about the governor’s thoughts on public schools and charter schools.
“Let us come together,” Carter said to the governor. “Stop pitting one against the other. Would you consider a coalition of public school and charter school people, so it’s not an us vs. them?”
The governor responded that the charter schools are public schools, and he doesn’t see an “us vs. them” mentality in the state.
Still, Carter said this is not totally the case.
“This whole thing today was about how much better they [charter schools] are,” Carter said after the meeting. “We in public schools can and do the same as charter schools. We innovate, we motivate, and we activate our kids. Stop having an ‘us versus them’ and just have an ‘us.’”
Why in Hoboken?
The state called the mayor’s office last Friday and asked if there was a way to put the meeting together.
“HOPES [a local support group] did a fantastic job in helping us out and making this happen,” said Dan Bryan, confidential aide to the mayor.
HOPES’ mission is “to provide community services that respond to the social, educational, and training needs of its residents in an effort to overcome barriers, and fight the causes of poverty,” according to their website.
The event wasn’t planned very far in advance, but Hoboken seemed to be an attractive option for Christie’s office.
“He [Christie] has a great relationship with the mayor,” Bryan said. “I don’t know why he wouldn’t want to come here. Hoboken is a great town.”
Maria Musachio, the director of program operations at HOPES, said the process of coordinating the event went smoothly.
“Dan [Bryan] was instrumental in putting this together,” Musachio said. “We had a great team that knew what needed to be done.”
Musachio believes it was important to have the town hall meeting in Hoboken.
“It’s important because education is one of the more important things we’re dealing with in this city,” Musachio said.
One question Zimmer wanted to raise is of federal funding for charter schools. Currently, money from D.C. does not make its way directly to Hoboken charter schools.
“Today was an opportunity for us to have the governor here to recognize charter schools in Hoboken,” Zimmer said.
Zimmer, whose two sons attend charter schools in Hoboken, was asked if she would bring more charter schools to Hoboken if possible.
“I would, but the challenge is space,” Zimmer said.
Zimmer said she hopes redevelopment plans in the future could include more space for more schools.
“We can’t provide high quality education if we don’t have the space,” Zimmer said.
Minutes after Christie exited stage left, the HOPES team was back to work, setting up for a book sale in the auditorium of Elysian Charter School. The city is hoping that as Christie leaves Hoboken, he does not forget the issues that remain.