The seven candidates are divided into two slates and one independent candidate.
The Hoboken Board of Education consists of nine trustees who serve on three-year terms and oversee the district’s public schools, including roughly 1,900 students and a $72 million budget. They also are involved with disbursing charter school funding, although they don’t have direct oversight.
Incumbent Sharyn Angley heads up the Hoboken Proud slate, consisting of moms Chetali Khanna and Melanie Tekirian. They are endorsed by mayoral candidates Ravi Bhalla and Jen Giattino.
Incumbent Peter Biancamano leads the Educate/Collaborate slate with moms Lauren Eagle and Anne Marie Schreiber.
Long time political watchdog and activist Patricia Waiters is running independently.
Incumbent Sharyn Angley, a 15-year resident and mother of three, has served on the Board of Education for the past three years. She has served as both vice president and she is chair of the finance committee. She has also been a member of the facilities committee, negotiations committee, and long-range facilities committee.
She graduated from The Pennsylvania State University with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting. She worked in Finance and accounting for KPMG, Lehman Brothers, and Barclays Capital. Now she focuses on her work as a trustee.
“While this is an unpaid position, I am excited to dedicate my time and experience to help pave the way for generations of superior education,” she said. “I put much effort into studying the issues at hand.”
Her slatemate, Khanna, is a resident of 11 years and mother of two. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a bachelor of science in business administration and a master’s in accounting.
She began her career in accounting for private companies. She now works part-time from home as a managing director of accounting and auditing for a private real estate partnership in order to spend more time with her children.
She has served on the Wallace PTO for the past three years “during which I have implemented bylaws, budgeting, policies and procedures, chaired a number of Wallace PTO events, and stepped up as the first chair of field trips and assemblies in order to bring consistency across grades,” said Khanna via email.
Tekirian, a mother and resident of Hoboken for the past 20 years, earned her undergraduate degree from the George Washington University with a BA in international affairs, with a concentration in East Asian studies. She earned a master’s degree from Stevens Institute of Technology in information system management. Currently she is on the executive team of a financial services focused product and technology consulting firm. “I have over 25 years of financial services experience,” she said.
The Hoboken Proud slate wants to ensure that the elementary and middle schools be “urban schools of excellence” and that Hoboken High School be the number one choice for families.
They said they would make this possible by working to provide innovative programming, building a fiscally responsible budget, and collaborating with other board trustees and the administration.
They said a lingering area of concern has been the district’s negative perception and their perceived lack of community support. But enrollment numbers are increasing, which they noted will lead to another area of concern; space.
They said district enrollment is up by 200 students this year, which is a “great challenge to tackle.”
They said they intend to work with the administration on a plan, and that Angley is already on the long-range facilities committee, which focuses on enrollment growth and future facility needs. They did not offer more specifics.
Hoboken Proud said what sets them apart from their opponents is that they are all district parents who have experienced what the public schools have to offer first-hand. (Among their opponents, both Patricia Waiters and Lauren Eagle have children who attend Hoboken’s district public schools.)
“Melanie, Sharyn, and I are and have been very active involved parents and a driving force of progress in the district since our children started in the school district several years ago,” said Khanna.
Tekirian. “We believe in our schools and our goal is to raise awareness of the great things happening in our school and squash the negative stigma that plagues our district.”
Angley said, “The opposing slate includes a current board member who has consistently voted ‘no’ on the budget, and this year skipped the budget hearing altogether. The budget not only supports the successful district programs the candidate now touts, but also provides funding to Hoboken’s three charter schools. Without the board’s support of the budget, the district would not have all of the successful programs that our students are benefiting from today.”
The candidate about whom Angley was referring, Peter Biancamano, said that he voted “no” because he was against a tax increase.
He said, “I represent both the district’s students and the taxpayers. I believe, as the state does, that if the tax increase is over 2 percent, that the public has a right to vote on the school budget and where there money is going.”
Biancamano, a lifelong Hoboken resident, has served on the board of the past six years. During that time he chaired the finance and facilities committees. He also represents the Hoboken school board at the New Jersey School Boards Association.
He graduated from Seton Hall University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication and a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science. He then also got his masters in communication. He currently works in production for SNY.
Eagle is a 15-year Hoboken resident in southwest Hoboken and a mother of two, one in public pre-school and the other at Brandt. She began the parent volunteer group at St. Francis Mile Square Early Learning Center and worked with the PTO president at Connors on school initiatives. She attended the University of Delaware where she got her degree in economics.
She said she is currently a stay-at-home mom. She used to work at L’Oreal, where she balanced a multimillion-dollar international capital budget and worked with competing brands and internal departments to ensure money was being spent wisely.
Schreiber, a 20-year Hoboken resident, has served on the board of the Elysian Charter School for the past five years, where she was the vice chair and finance committee chair for two years. Her three children attend the school.
She went to Bryant University and worked as a creative media buyer and planner upon graduation. She currently works as a substitute teacher for the Hoboken Charter School.
The Elaborate/Collaborate slate says that what sets them apart from Hoboken Proud is their well roundedness.
“We represent all of Hoboken,” said Biancamano. “Lauren Eagle is a mom from southwest Hoboken whose kids attend the public district schools, Anne Marie [Schriber] is a mom from midtown Hoboken whose children attend the charter school, and I live in uptown Hoboken and I am not yet a parent.” They also pointed to their experience with managing budgets.
(The Hoboken Proud team also has members from downtown, midtown, and uptown Hoboken.)
Educate/ Collaborate said the biggest issue facing the district is the lack of enrollment at Hoboken High School and the school’s negative stereotype in town.
“We have a little over 500 students at the high school,” said Biancamano. “We could easily fit two thousand students there. That negative stigma is still there. I really do think a lot of it has to do with word of mouth, in my opinion, despite the great programs and initiatives that are there.”
Each member of the Educate/Collaborate slate said that they want to make Hoboken High School a more attractive option to parents by bringing in new programs, partnering with universities and charter schools, and providing more outreach to the community.
“The biggest challenge is that the high school is an underutilized asset. Hoboken High school should be a destination,” said Schreiber. “I think we have to come together as a community… There needs to be more advertising and people need to feel invited and welcomed to see what is happening in the high school. “
Waiters, a resident since 1978, is a community activist who has run for election to multiple positions in the past including freeholder and Board of Education. She is currently a stay-at-home mom who uses her spare time to advocate for residents throughout Hoboken and the Hoboken Housing Authority.
“I attend every meeting. I go to council, school board, housing authority, and freeholder meetings.” said Waiters. “Everyone knows they can count on me to be there and do the right thing.”
She said the biggest issue facing the district is a lack of diversity on both the board itself and in the schools.
She said she realizes that statistics show Hoboken is a predominantly Caucasian town, but that she believes the lottery system should be changed at the preschool level to ensure children at the Hoboken Housing Authority have preference.
“There is no diversity on the board so there is no one there to speak up for them,” said Waiters. “There is no representation for minority students.”
Some residents were concerned as to whether or not Waiters may be able to represent all the districts children, citing an anti-semetic statement she made in 2014 at a Hoboken Housing Authority meeting.
At the meeting, she alleged that many real estate businesses with Jewish surnames had opened since Mayor Dawn Zimmer (who is Jewish) took office, and that Zimmer had only appointed Jews to city boards.
“Since Dawn’s mayorship, we have a real estate place on every corner,” she said at the public meeting. “What is his name? Weitzman, Heller, Einstein, every corner, okay?”
The comment came up at a time when Zimmer was being accused of avoiding hiring minorities. A previous story in the Hoboken Reporter had noted a very low level of Latin Americans on the most powerful city boards.
At the time, Waiters was a paid aide to Assemblyman Carmelo Garcia, the former head of the HHA and Councilman David Mello asked that she be terminated from her position. She later resigned for unstated reasons.
She apologized for the comments in a letter to the Hoboken Reporter a few weeks later.
“I would ask anyone who I may have offended with my comments to forgive me for not making my points a little clearer,” she wrote. But weeks after that, Waiters said that the letter had been drafted by Chris Campos, another Garcia aide and a former Hoboken councilman, and that she did not write it.
When asked about this last week, Waiters said, “I will be able to represent everybody and anybody, because that’s what I already do. You can ask anyone. I advocate for everyone, black, white, Chinese, Latino and Jewish. People come to me all the time of all colors and races. There is not a racist bone in my body. That is why I am running. Because there is no representation for minorities.” She said recently she aided a downtown Jewish family who needed help navigating an issue with the public schools.
Charter school stances
The past school board majority has stood against new charter schools in Hoboken and against expanding the HoLa charter school to eighth grade. However, the state allowed HoLa to expand.
Both slates were asked how they feel about future charter school expansion.
They both said that charter school expansion is up to the state to approve and that they value Hoboken’s diverse school options.
The Hoboken Proud slate said that if there was enough community interest and willingness to increase property taxes proportionately, that they would support new charter schools or charter school expansion. However, they said that they think the community should be focused on how they invest their energy talents and resources towards continuing the positive momentum in the Hoboken district public schools.
They said the want to “bridge the divide” between the public school and charter schools that has occurred over the years.
On the Educate/ Collaborate slate, Schreiber said she feels there has been a divide between charter schools and other district parents. “I think parents of charter school feel kind of vilified for choosing that option…but just because your lottery number may have been picked, doesn’t mean you’re not part of the community,” said Schreiber.
She added that the hypothetical of charter school expansion is not something she would weigh in on, as it’s up to the state.
(However, in the past, school board members have fought HoLa expansion in court.)
Eagle said that she wants the district to collaborate with charter schools to help ensure students will want to attend Hoboken High School. Schreiber and Biancamano agreed with that assessment.
Biancamano said he doesn’t believe the existing charter schools should expand into high school if they haven’t already, because his goal is to get the charter school students to want to attend Hoboken High School.
Waiters said she supports charter school expansion.
Marilyn Baer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.