With 35 retirements or resignations expected by the end of August, the Hoboken School District will see an unusually high number of staff changes when classes start again in September.
On Thursday, Interim Schools Superintendent Peter Carter confirmed that Wallace Primary School Principal Charles Tortorella will retire effective Aug. 31.
The news came on the heels of several other retirement announcements in the last few months, including from former Connors Primary School Principal Linda Erbe, Brandt Middle School Principal Edith Vega, Director of Special Services Elizabeth Falco, Hoboken High Vice Principal Eileen Carvalho, supervisor Steven Repetti, and Mary Tremitiedi, who was the administrative assistant to the superintendent.
“It’s all because of the pension reform that we have all these retirements.” – Mary Tremitiedi
The high number of retirements is not necessarily a coincidence. Gov. Chris Christie announced earlier this year that he plans to cut state spending partly by reigning in pay, pension benefits, and health insurance costs for public employees, including teachers. Among the changes, Christie has supported limiting the amount of sick and vacation pay when employees retire.
More than 5,000 teachers statewide have already announced plans to retire this year. At this same time last year, less than 3,000 had decided to retire, according to the New Jersey Education Association.
During the April school board elections in many municipalities, Christie told voters they should vote down school budgets in districts where teachers did not accept pay freezes. Fifty-eight percent of school budgets were rejected statewide.
Mary Tremitiedi, the former assistant to the superintendent who retired last month, said Thursday that she believes the governor’s proposed changes had an impact.
“Normally, we wouldn’t have this many retirements,” she said. “I would say just about everybody [decided] to retire because of the reform.”
When contacted, Tortorella declined to comment on his reasons for leaving.
Changes this fall
The retirements mean the 2010-2011 school year will be one of change and transition in the Hoboken School District.
The Hoboken Board of Education recently voted to hire Laurinda Pereira to be the new principal of Connors School, an elementary school in southwestern Hoboken, starting Aug. 1. Pereira will begin her new position at a critical time for Connors: The students were supposed to move to temporary quarters in September while the state funded renovations for the building, but the Christie administration postponed the funding. For now, students will remain in their original building until work can start.
Former Hoboken High School Principal Lorraine Cella also resigned in March, but did so in order to take a position at a different district.
Best is yet to come
Despite all the changes, Tremitiedi said the school system is sound and is heading in the right direction.
“We’ve made a lot of investments, especially in the area of technology,” she said. “And it’s paying off.” (See sidebar).
E-mail E. Assata Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Looking back on 38 years in schools
Mary Tremitiedi, a Hoboken native, spent 38 years working in the city’s school system, including serving as the Brandt Middle School principal. Most recently, she functioned as the district’s assistant schools superintendent. She has witnessed many changes in the district.
“The method of teaching, the pedagogy, is much different today than it was when I first became a teacher,” Tremitiedi said in an interview last week. “When I started, most of our students went into the workforce after they graduated from high school. Most now continue their education, whether it’s a two-year or four-year school.”
Graduation rates and test score have also improved in the district, she said, although “there’s always room for improvement.”
Tremitiedi taught the first and second grades at Wallace and Connors before becoming vice principal at Salvatore Calabro Primary School. She was later vice principal at Brandt before becoming the school’s principal.
As the city’s demographics change, it remains to be seen whether the new parents living on the waterfront will send their children to the local public schools. In the past, Hoboken’s newcomer parents traditionally moved to the suburbs when their kids reached school age, but now, that’s not necessarily the case. Besides the options of the Wallace, Connors, and Calabro primary schools, there are two publicly funded charter schools.
“There are parents who are willing to give the public school a chance who never did before,” Tremitiedi said, “because they hear good things coming out of the schools – because there are many good things coming out of the schools.”
Now that she has retired, Tremitiedi said she plans to become a supervisor to new student teachers and hopes to mentor young principals through a state mentoring program.
Tremitiedi lives in Hoboken with her husband, retired Fire Chief Richard Tremitiedi, who sometimes speaks at council meetings about taxpayer issues. – EAW