Apparently, the recent state approval for the additional grade level inspired the city's Board of Education president to make some strong claims.
On Wednesday, Salon published a story here about the impact of Gov. Christopher Christie’s charter school policies on New Jersey public schools.
The story quoted Board of Education President Leon Gold extensively, including Gold’s claims that HoLa, a dual-language school that teaches students English and Spanish, is “fostering white flight” and “bankrupting” the school system.
The Salon piece included a full transcript of its author’s conversation with Gold, in which he took on Gov. Chris Christie’s education policy, Hoboken’s various charter schools (there are three including HoLa), the effect of charters on public schools, and Mayor Dawn Zimmer. He argued that while charter schools originally were founded in Hoboken to combat a failing school system, his tenure on the board is focused on reforming those public schools and must now compete with the charters for limited state funding.
“We are creating separate but equal school systems,” Gold said. “The Hoboken school system … was a nepotism mill. And in order to fight that, a charter school was created. The Elysian and Hoboken charter schools were created for exactly the right reason. [But] now that reform has taken over the public school systems … HoLa has now become an alternative, in my opinion, white flight school..."
Gold is only in his second term on the board. Various reform groups had been elected to the board in past years.
Gold was first elected four years ago as part of the "Kids First" majority backed by Zimmer. But on Wednesday, Gold also took aim at the mayor, who endorsed Gold in last November’s school board election. When news broke that Toback would advocate against HoLa’s expansion, Zimmer was at first hesitant to take sides, saying that cooperation between the board and the charters was important for Hoboken’s future. But Gold said she wrote a letter in support of HoLa, tipping the scales in the charter’s favor.
He told Salon that Zimmer is playing "a very poor, bad role" in the issue.
“I just got reelected to the school board, and we were running together. HoLa wanted an expansion, and HoLa wanted our City Council people to write letters, and the mayor. We begged Dawn, 'Don’t write a letter.' We have tried to explain to her what the financial impact would be,” he said. “But the HoLa parents are so organized — and they represent, again, the richest and the brightest of Hoboken — that they talked her into writing a letter in support of HoLa.”
Zimmer spokesman Juan Melli declined to comment on Gold’s statements on Thursday. The president of HoLa’s Board of Trustees, Barbara Martinez, told the Reporter that Salon did not ask her to comment on its story, but will provide a comment in the Reporter shortly. Keep an eye on hudsonreporter.com for the update.
For more information on the struggle between HoLa and the Hoboken Board of Education, see our past story, HERE at hudsonreporter.com. -- Dean DeChiaro