BREAKING: Hoboken Board of Ed. sues state over HoLa charter school expansion
Apr 16, 2014 | 4749 views | 9 9 comments | 27 27 recommendations | email to a friend | print
HOBOKEN – The Hoboken Board of Education has filed a lawsuit against the N.J. Department of Education and the Hoboken Dual Language Charter School (HoLa) over the school’s recently-approved state expansion to seventh and eighth grade, a spokeswoman for the school confirmed on Wednesday. The expansion, which board proponents say will cost the district around $600,000 next year, has been a topic of contention since late last year.

The suit, which is filed against the state but names HoLa as a co-defendant, argues that Christopher Cerf, the department’s former commissioner, was not in a position to approve the expansion in early March because he had already announced his resignation. On March 20, Cerf was replaced by acting Commissioner David Hespe, who the district is arguing should have been the one to make the decision. At the last Board of Education meeting, the board approved a $20,000 contract with a law firm to handle HoLa-related issues.

The district has opposed HoLa’s expansion for some time now, and went as far as to advocate against it in a letter to Cerf last November.

The Kids First school board majority believing too many of the district's resources go to the district's three charter schools. Two of those schools were founded in the 1990s, and HoLa is more recent.

Mayor Dawn Zimmer, who was allied with Kids First, has nevertheless encouraged the school board and charter schools to work together. Zimmer has two children in a charter school.

Superintendent Mark Toback and multiple members of the board majority have used the term “segregation” to describe what they say is the charter’s adverse affect on the district. Charters are considered public schools and receive money from the state through the budgets of local districts. This school year, the city’s three charter schools – Hoboken Charter, Elysian Charter, and HoLa – are set to receive nearly $8.3 million in funding, up from $4.2 million in 2010.

Both sides of the debate have given contradictory numbers for how much the charter schools cost the district.

On Wednesday, Barbara Martinez, HoLa’s spokeswoman and Board of Trustees president, criticized the district for including HoLa in the suit because it would result in high legal costs for taxpayers.

“A $64 million district using taxpayer money to sue a tiny and successful public school like ours is an unfair attack,” she said.

Superintendent Mark Toback has been contacted for comment. Updates will be posted when more comments are received, so keep an eye on hudsonreporter.com. For past coverage of this issue, see stories linked below. – Dean DeChiaro



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hobokenmom1234
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April 21, 2014
To those who say "don't let the door hit you on the way out," I wonder if you realize that if the HoLa 7th and 8th graders leave the district and don't go to school in Hoboken, then the $600,000 that the BOE is trying to recoup from the expansion will be non-existent.

Seems like a waste of taxpayer dollars to spend $20,000 on legal fees when the end result could be a wash to the budget. Also, does anyone know what that $20k covers. Seems like a really low legal fee for a lawsuit.
Charley_Algernon
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April 19, 2014
Jake: Interesting how when you mention diversity, you completely ignore economic diversity – of which Hola has practically none…that would be the question about the percentage of children on a free or reduced lunch program, for example. You see, the school isn’t supposed to mirror the economic demographic of the town as a whole, it’s supposed to mirror the economic demographic of the children of the public school system; Hola does not do that. As for which “CHOICE” you opted for (and I certainly don’t fault any parent for picking an available option,) the “CHOICE” you made was a school that only had classes through the 5th/6th grade. The adding of 2/3 grades at Hola is costing the tax payers money that they don’t have or is robbing the students of the public district of much needed funds. Now if there were NO school, it would make sense for the tax payers of Hoboken to dig deeper into their pockets when they cannot afford to, but there IS a public school so, they shouldn't have to.

While you may view my language as divisive, I was recounting things said by Hola parents at the 2nd time charter-oriented parents attended (stormed) a public district board meeting (the first time was not for Hola) and I’m, at minimum, paraphrasing the things that, more than one parent said, i.e. ‘we’re the ones you want here.’ It may not have been you specifically, but that type of rhetoric was said more than once in more than one way and, quite frankly, it is VERY telling. Yes, of course, board meetings are public, that’s how I know about such comments. And yes, as I previously state, you may find my comments here divisive; but I, on the other hand, found those comments at the board meeting completely offensive. Do you think any particular Hoboken group or demographic is more preferred than another? Is there a particular group that 'we” want here?' What do you think your fellow charter parents meant when they said such things? If there is one group or demographic that "we" want here; conversely, which one(s) are the ones that "we" don't want here? Is one type of resident preferable to another? What type would that be? And, by the way, what does that have to do with caring "a lot about getting the best education for their children"?



Charley_Algernon
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April 17, 2014
Jake: Since you value diversity, you must have full information on this. Do tell us again how many of the Hola students are on free or reduced lunch. Tell us how many African American students are enrolled in Hola. Tell us, how many Hispanic students are enrolled in Hola. Tell us how many special needs students are enrolled in Hola. And please, share with us exactly how that compares with the public school district profile. Then, after you provide all of these stats, tell us which school provides an opportunity for children to be part of the most diverse school environment and, if your children aren't enrolled in that school, please explain why...since racial, ethnic and economic backgrounds are so important to you.

As to what select group I refer; it's a self select group. Clear, I refer to a self-selected segment of the community that is economically positioned to move on a whim and at the drop of a hat, since that's the constant bluster and bravado that we hear from them. Obviously, self-selected segment believes that their residence in Hoboken is some sort of blessing onto the entire community above all other residents. Undoubtedly, this self-selecting segment does not integrate fully into the entire community because they seem to be completely unaware that the rest of us don't view them as "the people we want here" who should, therefore, always get their way constantly echoing that ridiculous refrain that so many of them utter every time they storm a public school board meeting without the slightest concern for the responsibility that our board members have to the children of Hoboken's public school district. Indisputably, this self-selected segment does not care about, or perhaps even have the depth to understand the impact their words have on the children of the public school district when they emphatically state that they would rather move out of town than have their children share a classroom with the public district children. When I say "select group" THAT'S the segment of the population to which I refer.

PS: I'm not acting on anyone's commentaries. These are my personal opinions that may or may not be shared by anyone else in Hoboken.
hobokenjake
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April 19, 2014
Charley - RE the diversity, the kids in the school come from parents from all over the world, many countries represented - poverty levels align to those of the community and there are twice as much Hispanic representation as the city's Hispanic population. My son himself is half Latino, so besides the large amount of research that ties bilingual education to strong impact on cognitive learning, HoLa was a great "CHOICE" for me and my family. This "CHOICE" is a key tenet in the state's Charter School Program Act of 1995. We were given this choice by the state, we opted for it just like anyone else in town can.

RE self-selecting - what is divisive is your 'us versus them' language. I don't see people who have desires for educational choice and care a lot about getting the best education for their children to be self-selective. This should be a goal for all in our society. I don't see what is so "special" about that.

"every time they storm a public school board meeting" - I recall this happening once, but maybe I missed one. These board meetings are open to the public so the community can be heard. So you can phrase it however you like, but "caring families who want to defend a great learning environment for their children and make their voices heard" would be another way to put it.

mmlorenzoherve
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April 17, 2014
This is what our Board of Ed spends its public funds on - a lawsuit to limit school choice for Hoboken students? Toback and Gold are delusional if they think they'll force parents to send their kids to the failure factory that is Hoboken Jr/Sr High by simply removing a local public alternative. Those parents will simply leave town (is this the main goal?) or enroll their kids in private schools. Does the fact that all 3 Hoboken charter school have waitlists of 200 students *each* not mean anything to these people?
Charley_Algernon
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April 17, 2014
Don't let the door hit you on the way out... As far as I'm concerned this is a much better way of spending public funds, and by that I mean, rather than spending public funds for a select group of (mostly wealthy) citizens' children's private school education. The rest of us don't want to foot the bill for that particular separatist scam. Thank you Drs. Toback & Gold
hobokenjake
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April 17, 2014
Charley - a message not just for you but for those whose commentaries you are acting on - get your facts straight.

HoLa is extremely diverse in all ways - ethnically, racially, economic backgrounds - what's ironic is this a major reason we have our child in the school - we want that diversity. The school's admission is based on a lottery open to ALL in Hoboken and it is not a private school.

"Select group?" - what are you talking about? There is nothing select about this group. We are Hoboken residents who care about both diversity and strong education as I think most of us in town do - so what do you mean by "Select" ?
edazare
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April 22, 2014
'Failure factory' is harsh and untrue. The highly-educated, hard-working teachers of Hoboken district are teaching the same material and are just as capable as any better-testing suburban school. Most adults I know could never solve the math my district attending child does every day and night, or write the essays. Given choice, people choose to go where friends or familiar types go. We should accept that without having to justify it by insulting the district schools, teachers, and students.
IfItDontMakeDollarsItDontMakeSense
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April 16, 2014
So...Is...The...Hoboken School District Suing Itself?