In what Mayor David Roberts hopes is a dramatic change in Hoboken's public school system, the city has announced its plan to enter into a public/private partnership with Stevens Institute of Technology to improve the way technology is taught and used in the classroom.
Although still in the planning stages, the program involves Stevens, in concert with technology and communication companies to be announced later, using its resources plus federal and state funds.
"I'm very excited about Hoboken and Stevens entering into a partnership," said Roberts. "One of the best ways to attract families to Hoboken is to improve the school system and we feel this is the first step to having a superior school system."
In a meeting held on Sept. 6, Stevens' President Hal Ravache met with the mayor, Hoboken Superintendent of Schools Patrick Gagliardi, and several members of the Board of Education to lay out a blueprint of what the partnership seeks to accomplish.
At last Tuesday's Board of Education meeting, the board unanimously passed a resolution supporting the partnership. "Stevens is desirous of sharing its experiences and learning with the children of Hoboken and to raise their level of technical proficiency to world class," the resolution stated.
One goal is to update the technology in the classrooms. Stevens and its staff will serve as consultants on how to best use technology in an adaptive learning environment for facility improvements and information sharing. According to the mayor's spokesperson, Michael Estevez, one of the focal points in the plan is to retarget some of the $56 million of state school improvement and Abbott district funds. The money is Hoboken's cut of the $7 billion that the state has set aside for its 30 "special needs" districts.
Estevez said that city has been in contact with representatives of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, the state agency that controls the Abbott funds. According to Estevez, in preliminary discussions, the EDA is receptive to rerouting the funds.
Another aim of the partnership is to convert Hoboken into a college prep district. In early talks it was decided this would be accomplished by Stevens putting up an undecided number of scholarships for Hoboken students that meet its enrollment requirements and its teachers and staff assisting Hoboken administrators in building a curriculum that gives students the opportunity to excel in a post-secondary setting.
"We want to change the whole way of thinking from kindergarten to high school," said Estevez Wednesday. "Instead of setting graduation as our goal, we want students to aim higher and we are taking upon ourselves to provide the best environment for success."
The Hoboken schools have long been criticized for their below-average test scores, although performance has been improving steadily over the past four years.
Roberts is very pleased with the support Stevens has shown for the plan. "Dr. Ravache has been very receptive to our ideas," he said. "He realized that Hoboken is a relatively small school district, and an institution of Stevens' resources and prestige can effect a dramatic positive change in a relatively short time."
According to Estevez, the next step is to start getting plans down on paper. "Right now we are at the early stages of an exciting process," he said. "It's time to roll up our sleeves and get to work. We need to all sit down together and find the new direction that Hoboken schools need to go."