Did you know that your children's education and well being are on the line?
This November 3rd, Hoboken residents will have a chance to cast their ballot not only for city council members, but also for three Board of Education positions.
Who do you want running our district schools? Who do you trust to be our children's caretakers and custodians?
On October 5, 2015, concerned citizens and community members gathered in the Our Lady of Grace school auditorium for a forum co-sponsored by the Hoboken Quality of Life Coalition. All seven Board of Education trustee candidates were present to answer questions from the audience and share their vision and goals, or in some cases, the lack thereof, for the Hoboken public schools.
Immediately, three individuals stood out for their positive energy and depth of knowledge of our hometown schools. They were Tom Kluepfel, Sheillah Dallara, and Addys Velez: the Reach Higher Hoboken slate. They shared with the audience their proven track record of leadership and deep engagement with the school system. They highlighted their involvement with the District's Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) program at Wallace Elementary, our impressive theater program, and the dynamic high school. Furthermore, they all expressed a desire to move past divisions with charter schools and brought up the unfair state budget formula as a culprit for pinning student against student in our hometown.
What struck me most was that one slate consistently expressed negative views about the Hoboken public schools, but clearly lacked familiarity with the current state of them and relayed the least amount of depth in their answers. Meanwhile, the Reach Higher Hoboken slate shared positive impressions and actually had the track record and experience of engaging with Hoboken's students and teachers.
Addys Velez started off the evening by addressing listeners in English and her native Spanish for her opening remarks. She spoke about how her three children are blossoming at Wallace Elementary and the Hoboken Junior Senior High School (HJSHS). Addys proved herself to be a calm and unflappable presence in the forum and demonstrated her desire to speak to the needs of the Spanish speaking community in Hoboken. She impressed the audience with her background in finance and involvement with the HJSHS PTO. She identified herself as a good listener who wants to work with all community members to take our schools to the next level. Addys shared that she is so proud of her daughters for participating in the district theater program and how the performances move her to tears each time.
Sheillah Dallara spoke at great length about how her own experience as a mother to a boy with special needs inspired her to get involved in the district schools. She discussed the amazing teachers, including New Jersey Teacher of the Year last year, Mr. Mark Mautone, who has been instrumental in meeting the needs of her son in the classroom. Sheillah spoke with passion and precision. At one point, she called for a stop to the negative talk spewed by opposing candidates who spoke without foresight, knowledge, or clarity. With one graceful swoop, Sheillah highlighted the starkest contrast between the candidates when she said: if her opponents regularly attended BOE meetings, they would have a better grasp of reality and a clearer understanding of Hoboken's public schools.
Tom Kluepfel exemplified wisdom and experience throughout the event. He spoke about the unique experience of being a founding member of the Elysian charter school, one of the very first charter schools in New Jersey. He had deep insights to share about the board’s past and current decisions based on his experience as a current Board of Education trustee. He conveyed how much our little town has grown and how more housing has been built to accommodate these young families. He spoke of the unique opportunities and challenges that this brings to the Hoboken Public Schools. Tom struck an emotional chord when he recalled how he had been given opportunities as a young person and how he wanted to ensure the same for Hoboken's students.
John Madigan consistently showed how clueless he was throughout the evening and demonstrated why he has been a failed BOE candidate a total of three times already. When the moderator asked John if he was “Dr. Evil” and was awarded $1M to do what he wished in support of the Hoboken public schools, the audience was clearly amused because they already knew the answer. John Madigan would likely pocket that money for himself, just as he allegedly was a less than stellar BoE employee. While his answers were not laced with expletives at the forum, residents should know that he has a history of using abusive misogynistic language directed at current and former BOE trustees, including in front of their children. Great team player!
Unfortunately, Alanna Kauffmann failed to produce any original ideas or hardly any coherent thoughts. She excelled mostly at parroting her fellow candidate's ideas. When asked about her favorite district initiative, she replied about a charter school program. Confused are we? It's doubtful that Alanna has ever stepped foot into any of the Hoboken public schools in the district and her answers clearly reflected this. This was most exemplified in her characterization of the high school as a “violent” place. Alanna, try stopping by one of the district's theater productions, football games, the Young Women’s Leadership Forum on November 19, or the upcoming science fair in December, before you spread your vicious lies around town.
The most frustrating candidate of the night was Britney Montgomery. Clearly versed in the education world as a classroom teacher and consultant, Britney's answers, for the most part, were measured and respectful. What is most puzzling about this candidate is that she chooses to associate herself with local cronies and unsavory characters. Furthermore, she failed in her bid to win a City Council seat in 2013. What is her motivation to run for these two very different seats of power in recent years? Do better, Britney.
It is difficult to write about Patricia Waiters: a woman who cares deeply about representing her community, but who so often fails to be its best spokeswoman. She did have a clever retort when the moderator closed the evening’s questions by asking candidates if they supported the so-called “Hola lawsuit” with a simple yes or no answer. Patricia said that was obviously an unfair and trick question. Agreed, Patty!
The winner of the night was Hoboken’s newly appointed Superintendent, Dr. Christine Johnson. All seven of the BOE candidates spoke glowingly about her arrival to the district and her impressive background.
At the end of the day, one slate demonstrated passion, commitment, and knowledge -- the Reach Higher Hoboken slate. They communicated the many great accomplishments that our District has seen in the last few years and spoke with determination to tackle the challenges that lie ahead.
If you care about your kids, you will vote 2 + 4 + 6, the Reach Higher Hoboken slate.
Too much is on the line and Hoboken parents are not afraid to protect their young.