The information has been arranged into five categories: School environment, student information, student performance indicators, staff information, and district/charter financial information, and can be viewed at http://www.nj.gov/education.
An issue of money
While Hoboken's per-pupil costs are the highest in the county and among the highest in the state, school administrators said they are doing what they can to control costs and are dealing with several unique mitigating factors. According the report card, the district spends $13,152 per pupil. In comparison, Guttenberg spends the least in Hudson County at $6,158 and the county average is $9,998.
Last April, voters approved a $46.6 million budget. It's important to note that the state does not simply divide the total budget by the number of students to obtain the per-pupil cost. That number would be higher if the district's 2,406 students (including those in the 3- and 4-year-old program) were divided by the total budget. The cost per student enrolled would then be $19,368.
According to school officials, the state takes out certain expenses, such as extra costs involving special needs students, before calculating per-pupil costs.
But there is a silver lining in Hoboken's high cost, according to school officials, which is the Hoboken per-pupil cost has remained the same or declined every year for the past decade, and is the only city in the county to decline in both of the past two years.
In fact, according to state numbers, the Hoboken cost per-pupil has declined almost 10 percent in the past two years.
"Over the same time period," said Superintendent of Schools Patrick Gagliardi, "the remainder of the county has averaged more than a 14 percent increase in per-pupil cost."
As is the case with most businesses or government entities, the biggest single cost is salaries, and this is the reason the Hoboken per-student cost is so much higher than most other school districts. Because Hoboken had several decades of declining enrollment, school officials have been able to hire very few new teachers. This means that there are an unusually high number of teachers with over 25 years of experience.
The average teacher in the mile-square city, according to the report, has 25 years of experience and makes $70,514 a year. Statewide, teachers have an average of 11 years of experience and make $50,002 a year.
"The factor having the greatest impact on any school district's budget is salary," said Gagliardi. "Although Hoboken's teachers are not the highest paid in the county, they average 25 years [of] experience, which places them at the top of the salary guide."
Over the past two years, the school district has offered two separate early retirement packages for more seasoned teachers. More than 30 teachers have taken advantage of the package.
School Board member John Raslowsky III said Wednesday that the board is doing everything it can to keep costs down. He added it will take some time before the effects of the retirement packages and other cost cutting measures will be fully felt.
"Progress has been made on a number of fronts," said Raslowsky.
He added that the unbalanced salary situation means the board has no other choice but to be extra careful about how it spends money.
"With the situation as it is, we really don't have the option to be wasteful," Raslowsky said. "We are continually asking ourselves as board members if we are spending the money wisely."
He added that one area where there could be future cost savings is in the district's administration. According to the report card, administrative costs are significantly higher than the state average. The state average administrative per-pupil cost is $1,096, but during 2002 to 2003, Hoboken spent $1,847 per pupil. Another number that might point to the need to trim the administrative staff is the administrator to student ratio. Statewide, there is an average of 165.2 students per administrator. In Hoboken there are only 96.4 students per administrator, according to the report card. The average administrator in Hoboken has 31 years experience and makes $99,789.
"This is definitely something that needs to be addressed," said Raslowsky.
He added it's likely there will be an early retirement package offered to administrators, similar to the one offered to teachers.
"For every administrator that would retire, we could hire two or three new teachers," said Raslowsky.
Big piece of the pie
A large piece of the tax pie is made up of school taxes. Property taxes are made up of municipal, school, and county portions. While it's not uncommon for well over 100 people to pack the City Hall chamber for a City Council meeting, it's rare to see more than a dozen people at a Board of Education meeting, even though the school portion of the tax bill is nearly twice the amount of the municipal portion.
In last year's municipal budget, $17.5 million was raised in municipal taxes, while the school board needs about $30 million to be raised in property taxes.
According to the DOE report card, high school test scores took a dip in the 2002 to 2003 school year, especially when it came to math scores. The one bright spot was in the city's elementary schools, where students performed well and nearly met the state averages.
In the high school
Every year juniors must take the state required High School Proficiency Test. The students are tested on mathematics and language arts. In Hoboken only 39.6 percent of those who took the test were proficiently or better on the math portion of the test. That is a steep step down from last year when 56.2 percent of students were proficient or better. It is also much worse than the state average, where 68.6 percent of students scored proficiently or better.
One factor in the dip in scoring, said school officials, is that because of new federal "No Child Left Behind" regulations, all students' scores, including those of special needs students, are included in the report. That is the major factor in the lower scores, said Gagliardi.
"I'm confident that you're going to see higher scores next year," Gagliardi added.
But Raslowsky said even with that considered, there is work to be done. "Obviously we would like for the scores to be higher," said Raslowsky, "and there is some disappointment. Something in the equation needs to be changed."
But, he added, over the past several years, programs have been started to improve test scores, and it takes time for these programs to become successful.
"Change, when it comes to education, doesn't happen overnight," he said. "It's a long haul. I'm pleased with many of the programs that are in place and I believe we will successfully identify where changes need to be made."
School Board member Carmelo Garcia added that district officials are aware of the issue. "We are working diligently to use our resources to implement the programs that will benefit our students," said Garcia.
While the rest of the test scores are not as low as the high school math score, there is still plenty of room for improvement. On the language arts section of the High School Proficiency Test, 70.1 percent of Hoboken juniors were proficient or better as compared to the state average of 81.1.
As for the SAT, only 50 percent of seniors take the test, as compared to 76 percent statewide. On the English portion, Hoboken students had an average score of 440. The state average is 518.
On the math portion Hoboken students scored an average of 418 while the state average is 500.
Last year's graduation rate at Hoboken High School was 88.5 percent as compared to 97.5 percent statewide.
In elementary schools
Every year fifth grade students take the Elementary School Assessment Test and are tested on math and language arts. In language arts, 75.6 percent scored proficiently or better; the state average 79.1 percent.
On the math section, 66.7 percent were proficient or better. The state average was 68.5 percent.
In middle schools
In the district's middle schools, eighth grade students are tested in language arts, math and science. On the language arts section, 68 percent of district students scored proficiently or better, compared to the 73.8 percent state average. On the math section, 44 percent of Hoboken students were proficient or better. The state average was 56.7 percent. And on the science portion of the test, 57.5 district students scored proficiently or better as compared to 72.9 percent of state students.
We are connected
One encouraging tidbit in the report card is that Hoboken has Internet connections in every classroom, every library and every computer lab.