Hackensack, NJ Community Message Boards
General Category => Hackensack Discussion => Topic started by: wetochwink on April 29, 2005, 08:33:08 AM
Editor's note: This topic was merged with an older one called "Troubled School System"
Yet the suit accuses the government of shortchanging schools by at least $27 billion, the difference between the amount Congress authorized and what it has spent. The shortfall is even larger, the suit says, if the figures include all promised funding for poor children.
The suit, citing a series of cost studies, outlines billions of dollars in expenses to meet the law's mandates. They include the costs of adding yearly testing, getting all children up to grade level in reading and math, and ensuring teachers are highly qualified.
To cover those costs, the suit says, states have shifted money away from such other priorities as foreign languages, art and smaller classes. The money gap has hurt schools' ability to meet progress goals, which in turn has damaged their reputations, the suit says
CNN - First national lawsuit over education law (http://www.cnn.com/2005/EDUCATION/04/20/education.lawsuit.ap/index.html)
Maybe school districts should build oil refineries so that the President takes notice. Think of the additional funds one could raise and the workforce experience students would have.
This is a huge problem!! Not only with the newly implemented programs but with some of the older ones that don't get funding increases. One of them is the all day kindergarten. Years ago the State said Hackensack had to have it and made it mandatory. The State said it would fund it, and they did. Years later the funding amount has not changed but the school has had to add more teachers to keep up the number of children attending these classes. Then add the cost of the teacher’s salary increases and the rise in insurance costs over the years and you end up with a large amount of cash that needs to be used to make up the gap in the school budget.
Last year the school received about $350,000 in Help funds, next year we get $0. The State says the funding stayed flat, but I would call it a decrease. The BOE has a power point on the budget on there website (www.hbe.net) it’s OK but doesn’t get into all the details.
Latest story: Frustration at low test scores moves board member to resign (http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjczN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk2MDkmZmdiZWw3Zjd2cWVlRUV5eTY3MDY2NDkmeXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXkz)
Record Article: Charter school plan offers choice (http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXkyJmZnYmVsN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk2NzQzNDc0)
"More than 500 parents from the Lodi, Garfield and Hackensack school districts signed a petition looking for another education option in their communities."
More area schools fail to meet federal standards (http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk0JmZnYmVsN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk2NzQzODYx)
And yet some how the Bush Administration continues not to fund the Federal program that started this mess.
Local school taxes continue to climb - but for what?. Over the last few years the increases only support existing programs, health benefits costs or unexpected special ed students coming into the district. The money is not flowing right.
I don't even think mere funding is enough. The problem is treating education like it's a generic business that can be understood via test scores and the such. Teaching to the test rather than engaging the students is a direct cause of low test scores, meaning that the mechanism by which schools are evaluated indicates cause, not effect.
Programs like NCLB (No Child Left Behind) are really directed at destroying the public school system by allowing public schools to fail. The people in Congress who voted for it because of its name and the potential damage from voting "against the children" should be absolutely ashamed of themselves for allowing such an odious idea to become law.
Please take 5 minutes to read page 23 in the County Seat. Dan Kirsch from the BOE wrote about how the State test scores are broken down by groups and sub-groups. It shows how unfair the test is to schools that are so diverse like Hackensack.
Someone told me about a recent New York Times article about AP classes. Hackensack is mentioned several times.
Click here to read the article (http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/0109APcredit-ON.html).
If the link is dead, let me know and I'll send you a copy.
Latest story: Arts and Science charter OK'd (http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXkzJmZnYmVsN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk2ODY3MTA4)
There was an article in the last edition of the Chronicle discussing the BOE's opposition to charter schools. Chronicle articles are not available online.
Latest story: Improving minority education means knowing law, parents told (http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk0JmZnYmVsN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk3MDAzMDQ3)
In today's Record, "Your Views":
I take offense at the eighth paragraph in "Education forum will stress greater school involvement (http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk0JmZnYmVsN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk3MDAxNzY1)" (Page L-3, Oct. 6). It identified all the Hackensack schools that this year did not meet adequate yearly progress and "were therefore classified as in need of improvement."
The Fanny Hillers Elementary School made AYP in 39 of 40 categories. It made "Safe Harbor" in the 40th. The state required Safe Harbor in three subgroups; Hillers' students went beyond the expectations of the state.
Safe Harbor is a state requirement that involves reducing failure by 10 percent in any given subgroup. Hillers had to make Safe Harbor in three subgroups: African-American, Latino and the economically disadvantaged. Our students scores reached AYP in the African-American and Latino subgroups, and reached Safe Harbor in the economically disadvantaged subgroup -- a feat laurelled by our superintendent and many proud members in the community.
To suggest anything less is an insult to my dedicated staff and to the intelligence of the Hillers community.
As an educator with 37 years of dedicated service to the children of Hackensack, I find it personally offensive that the great strides we have made are minimized.
Michael A. C
Hackensack, Oct. 11
The writer is principal of the Fanny Meyers Hillers School in Hackensack.
Latest story: Bipartisan aid effort targets Bergen schools (http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk0JmZnYmVsN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk3MDE0NDA0)
The Record produced a chart of the percentage of students in NJ high schools going to college.
Click here for the chart. (http://www.northjersey.com/education/charts/111606_gradchart.html)
For 2004-05, 46.3% of Hackensack High students went on to college. The statewide average was 52.6%.
Latest story: Separate and unequal (http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXkxNCZmZ2JlbDdmN3ZxZWVFRXl5NzAzMjM5NA==)
There are also 36 districts across New Jersey that for years have been under state oversight because of past racial segregation. These districts, including Hackensack and North Bergen, periodically have to report to the state on how they are maintaining racial balance. That program, too, could be in jeopardy.
Latest story: Students required to pick career path (http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXkzJmZnYmVsN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk3MDM3Njcz)
Should kids skip classes for vacations? (http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk0JmZnYmVsN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk3MDY1MDY4)
Jesus Galvis [former Hackensack Councilman] has seen it all too often – stressed parents walk into his travel agency on Main Street in Hackensack, and plead with him to run interference with school officials who refuse to grant their children permission to miss classes for an extended visit back to the family's homeland.
"If it's not a death in the family or another major crisis, or a medical appointment, kids should never ever ever have their studies interrupted," Galvis said.
"When kids miss class, they miss a lot even if they try to do some of the work on a plane or train somewhere," Galvis said.
"It's just not the same to try to cover the same ground in a hotel room as getting the lesson in real time, in the classroom, from the teacher, with all your classmates."
Galvis, who has held various political posts in Bergen County and has been a guiding light for many Latino immigrants over the decades, describes the issue as a particularly worrisome one in the Hispanic community.
"It's not uncommon for parents who plan to travel to their native countries for the holidays to take their children out of school one whole week before Christmas break begins, and to return a whole week – even two weeks – after classes resume in January," Galvis said.
"This jeopardizes so much for so many people involved in a kid's education," he said.
"It sends a wrong message to the child, that education can be put on the back burner for fun, social reasons.
"It makes a teacher's job more difficult, especially in a school where there are many immigrants and it's not just one or two or three kids missing class for a long stretch of time."
Latest story: After-school program serves as warm, quiet haven (http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk0JmZnYmVsN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk3MDgwOTk2)
Latest story: Some Bergen districts set for double-digit hikes (http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk0JmZnYmVsN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk3MDg0NjQ1)
Hackensack will receive an additional $1.2 million next year, a 12 percent increase that will "undoubtedly" help with tax relief, said Francis Seery, business administrator.
"A 12 percent increase is going to be very, very helpful," he said. "But on the other side, for the past seven years, our budget and the appropriations that drive the budget have gone up, because of the increase in benefits, special-education tuition and normal contractual arrangements, heating, and electrical bills."
Latest story: Students face a test of short-term recall (http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk0JmZnYmVsN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk3MDkzMjA1)
From Today's Record:
Outside aid down, local taxes up
Local taxpayers in roughly two-thirds of North Jersey communities saw their share of funding local school systems rise in the 2005-06 school year because state, federal and other funding sources did not keep up with school budget increases. Here’s the breakdown of how educational costs in districts across North Jersey were funded from 2003-04 to 2005-06, the latest year data is available.
Click here for chart (http://northjersey.com/education/charts/0314educhart.html)
Source: New Jersey Education Department/Staff analysis by Dave Sheingold
Latest story: Minority dropout problem explored (http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXkzJmZnYmVsN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk3MDk0MDU5)
Latest story: Parents question duties of cop at middle school (http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXkzJmZnYmVsN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk3MTAxMTE3)
Latest story: School spending beats inflation again (http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk0JmZnYmVsN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk3MTA1Njg2)
Latest story: Do armed cops scare middle schoolers? (http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk0JmZnYmVsN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk3MTA2MTY2)
From today's Record (School Briefs (http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk0JmZnYmVsN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk3MTIyODg0)):
HACKENSACK -- Bergen County Academies has been named a finalist in a national competition that could make the school eligible to receive $170,000 in grants and curriculum materials.
The school is one of 18 nationwide named a finalist for the Intel Schools of Distinction Awards. The annual program honors schools for implementing innovative math and science programs. Winners will be announced May 23.
The school was one of four high schools chosen for its "mathematics excellence." Bergen County Academies will also send a student to the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair in Albuquerque, N.M., next month.
Three winners, one elementary, one middle and one high school, will be selected in each of the two categories of science and math. Winning schools receive a $10,000 cash grant, and an award package that will include class materials, professional development sources, hardware and software valued at $160,000.
-- Monsy Alvarado
I found something online that I thought people would find this interesting.
There's a Charter School in Newark called the Robert Treat Academy that is the 4th highest rated school in the State of New Jersey. That's according to www.schooldigger.com. That's not comparing all Charter Schools. That's comparing all public, private, and charter schools. And the enrollment at the Robert Treat Academy is 77% Latino and 19% African-American. Language barriers appear to be of little obstacle to high test scores.
You heard me correct. There is a school in Newark with 96% minority enrollment that is outperforming virtually every public school in northern Bergen County.
To some extent, this particular school must be attracting the best and brightest from all of Newark. And it's located in the Forest Hill District, which is a very good neighborhood. Nevertheless, they must be doing something right to have these kinds of scores within the city limits of Newark.
Here's the link, I hope it'll appear "live".
I also reviewed their scores on www.greatschools.net, and found that most grades at the Robert Treat Academy have 100% of all students passing the state standardized tests.
Maybe the school administration there should take what they do, bottle it, and sell it throughout New Jersey.
This has me wondering if it might be better for ENTIRE CITIES to turn over their entire school systems to the Charter System. This alleviates the problem of the Charter Schools draining the Elementary Schools of the families most concerned about quality education, and leaving the Elementary Schools with worse-performing students. I think this would be good public policy for New Jersey's cities. Our illustrious Governor should start with one entire Abbott District, convert it 100% to the Charter System, and see what happens. We already know that state takeover of Abbott Districts has achieved little or nothing, so what about Charter Takeover ????
Latest story: Should unruly students be suspended? (http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk0JmZnYmVsN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk3MTUxNzA0)
Hackensack First Grader Dies From Rare E. Coli (http://wcbstv.com/topstories/local_story_173161819.html) CBS Video: http://wcbstv.com/video/?cid=48
Record article: Hackensack boy, 7, dies from E. coli (http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXkzJmZnYmVsN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk3MTU3Nzgx)
Latest story: More E. coli cases unlikely, official says (http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXkyJmZnYmVsN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk3MTU3OTI1)
Latest story: Schools roll tape to keep eye on kids (http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk0JmZnYmVsN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk3MTU5OTYy)
Districts such as Elmwood Park, Hackensack and Secaucus also film their students -- helped by federal community-policing grants and a political climate where safety is a top concern.
Latest story: Charter school cuts into budget (http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk0JmZnYmVsN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk3MTYyNjg5)
144 kids from Hackensack??? That's a big hit. Has the school system gotten that bad? Why are so many people willing to take a chance on the unknown?
Let's hope the Charter School is not taking the best and brightest only. This could really become a brain-drain on the student body. If so, the result would be declining standardized test scores. And of course in the future, some people would blame any test score decline on the school system, and not acknowledge loss of the top students to a charter system. I like the suggestion that entire school systems be converted to the Charter School system.
If someone has the data, I'd love to know which elementary schools lost students, and how many were lost.
From: What's new in your school? (http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk0JmZnYmVsN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk3MTg1MDMw)
City schools will be offering Mandarin Chinese come September.
Fourth-graders will be learning the language and about Chinese culture from Zhu Jing, 26, a teacher who will be coming to the district from China. Jing, who teaches English in China and lives in the Hunan Province, is participating in the Visiting Chinese Teacher Program. The Chinese government pays the teacher's salary while the school district pays housing costs.
"I want them to learn about the eastern world and some of its unique cultures," Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Michael Wojcik said.
Over at the middle school, an Academic Attainment Committee composed of teachers will be in charge of analyzing state standardized test scores and figuring out ways to improve, Wojcik said. The district's middle school has been classified in "need of improvement" for the past several years for not meeting benchmarks set by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
The high school will be offering two more Advanced Placement courses: environmental science and a course on government designed for English as a second language students.
The high school will also be adding two more electives, a Latin American studies class and a Black studies course.
Chinese? Why not offer Spanish in the elementary schools like they did years ago. There is more of a need for it now. This will help our kids in the future.
There's a pretty big need for Chinese too, apparently:
Yahoo Story: China's influence spreads around world (http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070901/ap_on_re_as/china_global_impact)
China's reach now extends from the Australian desert through the Sahara to the Amazonian jungle — and it's those regions supplying goods for China, not just the other way around. China has stepped up its political and diplomatic presence, most notably in Africa, where it is funneling billions of dollars in aid. And it is increasingly shaping the lifestyle of people around the world, as the United States did before it, right down to the Mandarin-language courses being taught in schools from Argentina to Virginia.
I'd like to know what it was 20 years ago. I think it was at least 75%.
Latest story: Students aren't the only ones getting ready for school (http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXkzJmZnYmVsN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk3MTg5NzI2)
Numerous districts, including Cresskill, Fair Lawn, Hackensack, Leonia, Tenafly, North Arlington and Northern Valley Regional High School, will be adding a Chinese language course.
There may also be a need for Chinese in the future but right now. there is an obvious need for the Spanish.
I agree that Spanish is the priority foreign language to be taught, but......The schools already teach Spanish, don't they ???
If there's a SECOND foreign language to be taught, I'd say Chinese should take precedence over Russian or other traditional favorites, such as French or German.
It wouldn't be so bad if putting Chinese on the curriculum encouraged a few Chinese families to move to Hackensack and attend the public schools. A little more diversity in terms of Asian students might even increase our test scores. Those Asian families really push their kids to learn, it's more important to their culture than SPORTS, and sports is what Hackensack has always prioritized.
Spanish is taught as an elective only when they get the Middle School. It was mandatory when I attended Hackensack public schools and it started in the 2nd Grade.
One more story: Students take Mandarin Chinese (http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk0JmZnYmVsN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk3MTkxMjU5)
Latest story: Schools get a 'C' in the arts (http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk0JmZnYmVsN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk3MTk3MDcy)
Latest story: Threats chip away at our sense of security (http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjczN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXkyNjMmZmdiZWw3Zjd2cWVlRUV5eTcxOTk1MDYmeXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk5)
Latest story: Bergen Academies wins Intel grants (http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk0JmZnYmVsN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk3MjA1MTU4)
Latest story: N.J. asking why so many minorities are in special ed (http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk0JmZnYmVsN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk3MjA3MTAw)
County colleges see record enrollment (http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk0JmZnYmVsN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk3MjIxNzMy)
Med school to open in Bergen in 2009 (http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk1JmZnYmVsN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk3MjIxNzY0) (Touro College)
Big changes in school funding formula (http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk0JmZnYmVsN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk3MjI4MTEy)
In today's Record:
HACKENSACK -- Students and parents will have the chance to learn about their rights and freedoms at a Dec. 13 seminar .
Sponsored by the Hackensack Parents for Student Achievement, "Your Rights and Responsibilities as Students and Young Adults" will be held at 7 p.m. at Trinity Baptist Church, 218 Passaic St., Hackensack.
Topics to be discussed include freedom from discrimination; freedom of speech and expression; and religion in schools.
The featured speakers will be Jeanne Lo Cicero, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney, and ACLU racial justice organizer Jeremiah Grace, who also is a trustee of the Elizabeth Board of Education.
Latest story: School funding clears hurdles (http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk0JmZnYmVsN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk3MjQxMjQy)
Charter school boom slows (http://www.northjersey.com/education/Charter_school_boom_has_slowed_to_trickle.html)
School chief 'a bit scared' about retirement (http://www.northjersey.com/news/northernnj/School_chief_a_bit_scared_about_retirement.html)
Hackensack parents size up superintendent candidate (http://www.northjersey.com/education/hacksuper070708.html)
Hackensack approves new superintendent (http://www.northjersey.com/education/educationnews/Hackensack_approves_new_superintendent.html)
Local singer aims to empower kids (http://www.northjersey.com/betterliving/Local_singer_aims_to_empower_kids.html)
Hackensack schools consider restructuring (http://www.northjersey.com/education/Hackensack_schools_considers_restructuring.html)
BOE plan would eliminate positions
(by Mark J. Bonamo - March 12, 2009)
A plan under consideration by the Hackensack Board of Education would create separate academies for Grade 9, Grade 10, Grade 11 and Grade 12. Each academy will be under the supervision of its own assistant principal.
The Hackensack Board of Education is considering a restructuring plan that could add more assistant principals to the administrative ranks. The plan is still under review after the board voted to eliminate the dean-of-students positions at the March 3 meeting.
The move comes as the board prepares to set up smaller academies within Hackensack High School designed to accommodate the specialized needs of each grade. The high school restructuring plan would create Grade 9, Grade 10, Grade 11 and Grade 12 academies. These academies would each have a specific assistant principal, with an accompanying staff to help point students in the right direction in terms of achieving educational objectives and deciding what classes to take.
Although the high school already has three assistant principals, it still requires one more to institute the plan, according to school officials. In addition to another assistant principal, the board also hopes to add a campus monitor, a social worker and an athletic director at the high school.
Under the plan, the four dean positions were eliminated because the dean position is not acknowledged as a job title in the state’s certified staff list.
Kliszus explains restructuring plan
Hackensack Superintendent of Schools Edward Kliszus explained why the restructuring plan is being considered now.
"It takes several months to have the plan in place for next September," he said. "Secondly, the unrecognized staff titles do not accrue tenure or seniority rights. It’s important to correct that for the staff’s well being."
For Kliszus, the concept of creating separate high school grade academies is based on the idea of community building.
"It’s a question of having a smaller community," he said. "Right now, you have 1,800 students and one assistant principal for the entire school. The idea is to break the school into four smaller segments with their own leadership team. The academies will then be further developed in time after examining several models to see which one will be best for our school."
Kliszus pointed out that the cost of the restructuring plan would be negligible.
"There is no additional cost," he said. "The abolishment and changing of positions is a wash financially."
Kliszus also noted that while the high school dean positions would go by the wayside, the deans, who all hold teaching certificates, would simply be reassigned. The school district also has a dean in place at the 5ive-6ix School, as well as the middle school. According to Kliszus, assistant principals would take the place of these positions.
According to district officials, assistant principals currently earn salaries of between $113,420 to $128,000. Deans, who primarily handle disciplinary matters, earn an additional $5,300 on top of their regular teacher salaries.
District officials also noted that an advisory committee has been created to discuss the restructuring plan’s other elements, including adding on more assistant principals. The committee will also consider who will do the deans’ job after the eradication of the positions. District officials stated that the deans will remain in their current positions until the close of the school year.
Board of Education election candidacies filed
Candidates for the Hackensack Board of Education election to be held on April 21 officially filed to run by March 4.
Incumbents Rhonda Williams Bembry, Philip Carroll and Jacqueline Long-Parham will all run for another three-year term.
Newcomers Veronica N. Bulcik McKenna, Toi Hightower, Sylvia Hughes, Edith Martinez, Toni Miello, Robert J. Mortorano and Mark A. Stein will attempt to win a seat on the ten-member board.
Hackensack has concerns about upcoming education cuts
Friday, March 5, 2010
BY MARK J. BONAMO
When Governor Christie addressed both houses of the state Legislature in a major budget speech on Feb. 11, he had just signed an executive order that froze $1.6 billion in state aid as part of a plan to close a $2.2 billion budget gap. The freeze included withholding $475 million in state aid to local school districts with budget surpluses. The move will compel these districts to spend their surpluses and reserve funds to make up the shortfall. It will affect 500 districts for the remainder of the fiscal year.
Proclaiming New Jersey to be on "the edge of bankruptcy," Christie explained his rationale for the cuts to the joint legislative session with a mix of pragmatism and defiance.
"We have not reduced school aid with an axe, we have done it with a scalpel and with great care," said Christie. "Now is the time when we all must resist the traditional, selfish call to protect your own turf at the cost of our state."
"We chose to confront the problem head on by reforming our spending habits and laying the groundwork for reform," added Christie. "We have set out in a new direction, a direction dictated by the votes of the people of New Jersey, and I do not intend to turn back."
If anything, Christie forged further ahead with his budget cutting campaign on Feb. 17 when he announced that he has asked school districts to prepare for a 15 percent reduction in state aid for the budget year that begins in July, a plan meant to help address a potential $11 billion deficit in the next fiscal year. With the total formula of aid to schools currently standing at approximately $7.5 billion according to the state Department of Education, a 15 percent cut would equal nearly $1.1 billion.
Whether Christie’s radical cost-cutting moves constitute needed surgery, or will leave the state’s schools dead on the table, can be debated. Either way, Hackensack’s schools won’t be spared the knife.
The effect of education cuts for Hackensack
The effect of the funding freeze for the rest of the fiscal year on Hackensack is considerable. According to the Governor’s Office, the total state aid expected by Hackensack was $13,157,589. As a result of the freeze, the total state aid to be withheld adds up to $3,572,199.
Hackensack Schools Superintendent Dr. Edward Kliszus stated that his district won’t be able to get a full grip on next year’s state aid numbers until Gov. Christie addresses the fiscal 2011 budget gap on March 16, but had a rough idea of what Christie’s proposed state aid cuts might mean.
"Any cut in state aid is consequential, because schools are about kids and teachers," Kliszus said, pointing out that Hackensack had a $61.2 million district budget last year, with state aid making up $14 million, or approximately 23 percent of the total. The proposed 15 percent reduction in aid for the next fiscal year would amount to $2.1 million.
While the proposed cuts have some educators worried about issues such as teacher layoffs, Kliszus looked at some more short-term effects.
"Whenever the state decides to cut funding, ultimately the programs that are not mandated become targeted if there have to be cuts," Kliszus said. "A lot of things are not mandated. Athletics are not mandated. Class sizes are not mandated. Music and art are not mandated. You don’t have to have summer school or after-school programs. None of those are mandated. Those are the ones that take the hits. In these situations, I show the board a list of all the non-mandated programs, and we’ll have to go from there."
Battle between teachers union and Christie expected
Conflict between the Republican Christie and the Democratic-leaning New Jersey Educational Association, the long-powerful teachers union, is anticipated in the wake of the current and proposed cuts in aid to schools. While the size of teacher contracts and their pensions will continue to generate controversy, Kliszus questioned the recent framework of the debate about educational issues in the state.
"The reason that the governor is able to do as much as he’s doing so quickly is because he’s using executive orders," said Kliszus, a reference to the fact that Christie has issued 15 executive orders since taking office on Jan. 19. "I think that there is a point where he’s going to have to work with the legislature, including those who are sensitive to the needs of unions around the state, and work with the legislative process."
"Right now, there is no democracy until we have legislative action," added Kliszus. "When that happens, I think that there will be more measured actions rather than the emergency actions that we have right now."
Looks like the percent of the school budget subsidized by the State is now up to 23%. It never used to be that high. This reflects negatively on Hackensack. The best districts have almost no state aid, and the inner cities are often 75% - 90% subsidized.
Hackensack Board of Education rehires administrative staff
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
BY MONSY ALVARADO
Related story: http://www.northjersey.com/news/101425329_Schools_chief_is_under_fire.html
HACKENSACK — The Board of Education, in a revote, has appointed an assistant superintendent, a high school principal and assistant principal.
Trustees also voted Monday night to inform Superintendent of Schools Edward Kliszus that his employment will be discussed at the next board meeting.
Board member Clarissa Gilliam Gardner cited the revote and Kliszus' hiring practices as some of the reasons she asked for the motion on his status.
She also said she doesn't like the way Kliszus handled a personnel matter involving a high school teacher.
"I did it because I truly believe that the leadership is terribly ineffective and it needs to change," Gardner said.
Kliszus said Tuesday that Gardner began talking about his employment Monday night without notifying him, which is illegal. He said Gardner has taken exception to most of his recommendations for administrative hires.
"We have a very comprehensive process … for school leaders and principals, and those are the standards that are used," Kliszus said.
Kliszus said they also disagreed on who would be laid off when the district had to make staff cuts because of reductions in state aid. He said he considered seniority but that Gardner wanted him to take staff diversity into account.
"I will not hire based on ethnicity," he said. "I will always present the best candidates to the board."
On Monday, the board also reappointed Raymond Gonzalez as an assistant superintendent. James Montesano was named high school principal, and Patricia Aquino was appointed as an assistant principal at the high school.
Trustees Rhonda Williams Bembry and Gardner opposed the appointments of Montesano and Aquino. Bembry also opposed the hiring of Gonzalez.
Bembry said that among the reasons she voted against the appointment is that the candidates didn't answer questions well in an interview.
"Their answers lacked depth and substance," Bembry said.
A revote on Gonzalez, Montesano and Aquino was recommended by board attorney Richard Salkin after some trustees questioned whether the five votes they received at previous meetings were enough for the appointments to be valid.
The Hackensack Board of Education bylaws state that a majority vote of the full membership is required for the appointment of a superintendent, school business administrator and administrative principals.
The board has nine members, but since the Maywood representative gets to vote on the positions, the number of votes needed for the appointments to pass is six. Each received more than six votes on the revote.
Gonzalez, who has worked in Paterson as the assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, will be paid $160,000 annually in Hackensack.
Montesano, who is the son of retired Superintendent of Schools Joseph Montesano, will receive $156,518 as principal.
Aquino, who has worked in the district since 2002, will receive $142,884.
The school board also hired Gordon Whiting, a former dean at the high school, as assistant principal for the in-school suspension and the alternative high school programs, and for student activities.
The post is a new position at the high school this year, bringing the number of assistant principals at the school to five. Whiting will receive $142,884 in the position.
Bembry opposed creating the new position, saying it will add to the district's already high administrator costs.
She said that instead, the district could have moved an assistant principal from another school, or redistribute the responsibilities of the assistant principals at the high school. She did, however, vote in favor of Whiting getting the job.
Mercedes Abreu-Haines will become the assistant principal at Jackson Avenue School, replacing Celso King, who was appointed last month as an assistant principal at the high school. Abreu-Haines, a bilingual teacher, will get paid $126,042.
Kliszus needs to be given the right to present the best candidates to the board, not the best candidates that reflect each racial group of teachers. Politics cannot enter into this. Too much politics has traditionally been the downfall of urban school systems.
The best candidate could be a black teacher, a white teacher, a Latino teacher, and maybe even an Asian teacher. The "best" candidate has to be someone who has personal knowledge and teaching skills, a kind heart, and should believe that diversity is an asset, not something to be tolerated. And above all, he or she must believe that all students of all backgrounds can and should learn, and not to expect better performance from some students. Expect the best from everyone, and you'll get the best.
The racial mix of teachers would be expected to reflect the racial mix of teachers coming out of the Montclair teaching school and other major colleges with teaching programs. Not the racial mix that is politically demanded by school board members.
City schools to get $470K in aid
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
BY MARK J. BONAMO
HACKENSACK — Hackensack schools will receive $470,169 as part of an infusion of federal aid designed to help replace money cut from local school budgets.
The state Education Department announced Sept. 20 how it plans to allocate nearly $263 million provided to New Jersey last month by Congress with the passage of a bill meant to save education jobs. The money is designated for hiring or saving the jobs of teachers and other school employees. In total, Bergen districts will get just below $8 million from the $10 billion federal Education Jobs Fund. All state school districts will have until September 2012 to spend the funds.
The federal fiscal boost comes at a particularly opportune time for Garden State school districts. With the passage of the 2010-2011 state budget in June, schools will receive $820 million less in state aid this fiscal year. Hackensack's school aid dropped from nearly $14.9 million to close to $10.7 million, an approximately 28.5 percent cut.
These hard fiscal facts led to an especially rancorous budgetary season across New Jersey, with districts dealing with difficult choices as they prepared to allocate diminished funds. Hackensack school staff layoffs were announced in May, with 19 first- and second-year teachers losing their jobs, as well as 34 para-professionals.
The New Jersey Education Association, the state's largest teachers' union, claimed Governor Christie's administration had been slow to apply for the federal funds, affecting districts' abilities to plan for projected funding shortfalls.
Supporters of the Education Jobs Fund, which was attached to the Education Jobs and Medicaid Assistance Act passed by Congress in August, said it would save the jobs of 140,000 teachers throughout the nation. This figure included 3,900 teaching jobs in New Jersey, according to the federal Council of Economic Advisers.
Hackensack Schools Superintendent Dr. Edward Kliszus was uncertain regarding how the city's fund influx would be allocated, including whether the new money would be able to restore any district education jobs in the near future.
"We have nothing from the Department of Education yet on how this is going to work, including when we are going to receive payment. We have to look at the top priorities," Kliszus said, adding that the district was able to re-hire approximately 10 teachers and 15 para-professionals to partially recoup this year's earlier layoff losses. "We are still facing a $4 million hole in next year's budget& as well as the effect of the new statewide 2 percent property tax cap."
In her letter to New Jersey school districts announcing the federal funding allocations, acting Education Commissioner Rochelle Hendricks advised caution when making dispersal decisions.
"With your staff and budget set for the 2010-2011 school year, I urge you to be mindful of how and when these funds are spent," wrote Hendricks. "While record levels of total federal, state and local funding have been made available to schools in recent years, the next budget cycle promises to be challenging. Therefore, please consider reserving this one-time funding for the 2011-2012 school year if possible."
"I encourage your district to avoid spending decisions that would significantly grow future-year obligations that could prove to be unsustainable," added Hendricks. "These one-time funds should not only preserve critical jobs, they should provide your district with the breathing room needed to plan for educationally sound, balanced budgets in the austere days to come. It is unwise to assume that there will be additional streams of federal jobs money in planning for the future."
In Hackensack, Kliszus hopes to eventually use the funds to restore jobs, re-establish cut programs and extracurricular clubs and reduce class sizes. But he also seemed ready to play it safe until the funding is finally in place.
"At this point, it's best to be pretty conservative and wait and see," Kliszus said. "There are still too many questions."
Charter schools rejected
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
BY LESLIE BRODY
State officials have said no to three groups that hoped to start charter schools in Bergen County.
Documents released Tuesday showed the Education Department denied approval to the proposed Bergen Regional Charter School, which aimed to serve children in Fair Lawn, Glen Rock, Paramus and Ridgewood. It also denied requests for two language immersion programs — Spartan Academy in Hackensack and Shalom Academy, drawing students from Englewood and Teaneck.
Two new charters were approved for a September 2011 opening in Passaic and Paterson, and two more were nixed there.
Overall, the state said yes to six new urban charters out of 29 applications last Thursday, just as Governor Christie was holding a press conference to call for more charters and school choice, especially in low-achieving districts.
"We cannot continue to ask children and families stuck in chronically failing public schools to wait any longer," he said. His press release noted that 104,000 students were "trapped in 205 chronically failing schools" in New Jersey. Last year, it said, 40 percent of New Jersey's African-American students and 32 percent of Hispanic students were unable to meet basic standards on a national test.
Charters have long been controversial, with supporters applauding the successful ones as laboratories for innovation and detractors arguing that they siphon money from regular public schools. Charters are taxpayer funded but independently operated. Now there are 72 open in New Jersey, including three each in Bergen and Passaic counties.
Superintendents in Fair Lawn, Glen Rock, Paramus and Ridgewood had lobbied the state against Bergen Regional Charter School. They wrote in a May letter to state leaders that the proposed charter would be an unnecessary "private school using public dollars" at a time when districts were reeling from cuts in state aid. They argued that the charter movement aimed to provide options in floundering districts, not high-performing ones like theirs.
The department's denial letter to Bergen Regional said the proposal lacked clear, measurable goals and did not show how it would integrate all of New Jersey's content requirements, among other concerns.
Anna Vladi, who applied for three years to open Bergen Regional, said Tuesday she was crushed and was likely too exhausted to try again. A computer consultant with two children in private schools, she wanted to build a charter that would be more rigorous in math and science than she found the local public schools to be.
"We only did it for our children and the community," she said. "None of us were planning to get a penny out of the school. …Some people may be happy with schools here, which is fine, but there lots of parents that are not satisfied, and this would give them an option. So many parents will be so disappointed."
Meanwhile, organizers of the John P. Holland Charter School in Paterson were celebrating their approval for a school that would open next fall and eventually serve 198 children in kindergarten to eighth grade. Christina Scano, a former administrator at two existing Paterson charters, said she aimed to offer small class size and more individual attention than crowded public schools can provide. "I always knew I wanted to start my own charter because parents need more quality schools," she said.
Paterson Superintendent Donnie Evans said through a spokesperson that he supported school choice and looked forward to working with the new school.
The other local charter approved was the Passaic Arts and Sciences Charter in Passaic, which aims to serve 540 children in kindergarten through eighth grade with an extended school year.
Denials also went to the proposed Phoenix Academy charter for Paterson, Prospect Park and Haledon and Passaic Spanish Heritage Charter in Passaic.
In denial letters, the state said failing proposals had several problems, such as inconsistent themes and a dearth of adequate staffing plans.
The state has set Oct. 15 as a deadline for a new round of applicants for expedited decisions. Approved charters must show they have followed their plans before opening their doors in the fall. The others approved are in Jersey City, Newark, Willingboro and South Brunswick.
Does anyone know WHO was pushing for the Spartan school in Hackensack, and WHERE they had planned to locate it.
I'm wondering because they can always reapply next year.
Does anyone know the result of the vote yet?
Hackensack teachers union votes on pay freeze request
Monday, February 7, 2011
BY MONSY ALVARADO
HACKENSACK — The city teachers union voted Monday on whether to accept a pay freeze, a request made by the Board of Education which is in the process of drafting a spending plan for next school year.
Eileen Hooper, president of the Hackensack Education Association, said the union was told that if pay freezes are not accepted, layoffs will be a certainty. She said the number of staff that would lose their jobs if a pay freeze is rejected is not known.
“We are going to have layoffs one way or the other, whether it passes or not,’’ Hooper said. “We just don’t know the number of layoffs.”
Frank Albolino, president of the board, said he doesn’t know what a rejection of the pay freeze will mean to the multi-million dollar budget.
“It will not help obviously,’’ he said. “It will mean a cut in staff across the board.”
Albolino said besides the association’s vote, the board is waiting for state aid figures to finalize a spending plan.
Hooper said the association represents 534 teachers and para-professionals. She said the ballots would be counted Monday evening, but said results would not be available until the union members were notified.
Staff from throughout the district filled the auditorium at Hackensack High School in the afternoon to ask questions and submit their salmon-colored ballots.
Some teachers said they were conflicted on what to do.
“In my heart no matter what happens it’s going to be tough for everybody,’’ said an elementary school teacher, who declined to give his name but said he did not submit a ballot. “I would rather let the superintendent have to make that decision. It shouldn’t be up to the teachers to decide how to use money in the school system.”
Association members voted down the same question last year by more than 50 percent, Hooper said. She said two-thirds of the membership need to vote in favor of the pay freeze for it to pass.
The district laid off 20 teachers and 30 para-professionals last year.
Hackensack teachers union rejects pay freezes
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
BY MONSY ALVARADO
HACKENSACK — The city teacher’s union have rejected pay freezes next year.
Eileen Hooper, president of the Hackensack Education Association, said in an e-mail Tuesday that almost half of the association’s membership was in favor of the pay freeze, but it was not enough to pass the question. She said two-thirds of the membership had to vote in favor of the pay freeze for it to pass. The union held a vote on the question on Monday.
“This was a difficult decision for many of our members,’’ she wrote. “There were many factors involved and strong opinions on both sides of the issue.”
“We anticipate working with the Superintendent and Hackensack Board of Education to meet the challenge of the closing the budget shortfall and still maintain the quality of the educational system in Hackensack Public Schools,’’ she added. “We will work together to find a solution so we can provide the best education for the students in Hackensack Public Schools.”
Frank Albolino, the board president, could not be reached Tuesday, but he said earlier in the week that a no vote would mean that there would likely be staff cuts.
The association held the vote on Monday after it was requested by the Board of Education, Hooper said. The association represents 534 teachers and paraprofessionals in the district.
Last year, the association also voted down pay freezes. The district laid off 20 teachers, and 30 paraprofessionals last year.
I learned recently that one of the reasons many unions are voting against the pay freeze is that there is no legal way to insure that the BOE will spend money saved on staff. In other words, they may agree to have their pay frozen with the hope that other teachers' jobs will be saved, and that class sizes will be kept at a productive level, but the BOE might turn around and use that money for facilities or anything else they want to.
I'd be interested to see Gov. Christie put something in place that requires any money saved through salary freezes to be spent on staff.
Hearings begin today on state education aid cuts
Monday, February 14, 2011
Last updated: Monday February 14, 2011, 6:41 AM
BY LESLIE BRODY
Bergen County Assignment Judge Peter E. Doyne is scheduled to start hearings in Hackensack today on the impact of last year’s state aid cuts to schools.
The New Jersey Supreme Court appointed Doyne as “special master” to examine whether the cuts infringed on students’ constitutional rights to thorough and efficient education.
The Education Law Center challenged the cuts last summer, saying the Christie administration’s roughly $1 billion decrease in aid to schools violated the state’s obligation to fully fund New Jersey’s formula for distributing money to districts. The Christie administration countered the cuts, though painful, were necessary considering the state’s severe budget gap.
The state is expected to present its first witness this morning. Last week the Education Law Center filed a motion asking Doyne to stop the state from bringing state treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff as a witness, on grounds that the special master was assigned to review the effects of the cuts on students, not the state’s fiscal crisis. Judge Doyne said Friday he did not bar the state from calling the treasurer as a witness.
Lawyers involved have predicted the hearings will take about two weeks. Doyne is supposed to report back to the justices by March 31.
Hackensack schools super to retire
Thursday, March 3, 2011
BY MONSY ALVARADO
HACKENSACK — Schools Superintendent Edward Kliszus will retire this summer after less than three years in the district.
Kliszus, who submitted his retirement letter to Board President Frank Albolino on Monday, said the decision was based largely on the state’s pension reforms.
“That’s an issue for anyone my age, and there are many superintendents retiring,” said the 57 year old. “The climate for educators in New Jersey is not a healthy one.”
Kliszus’ retirement will take effect June 30.
“I was surprised, but I wish Dr. Kliszus the best of luck in the future,” Albolino said Thursday.” I want to thank him for his years of service.”
Kliszus retirement is listed on the Board of Education’s meeting agenda for Thursday night, when it will also introduce a preliminary school budget for next year. The budget will include cuts in administrative, teacher and support staff positions, he said.
“This is just sad and unfortunate,” Kliszus said about the budget and the nearly $13 million in state aid cuts to the district in the past two years.
Albolino said he would like to name a new superintendent for the district before the start of next school year, but said the board has not discussed how it will proceed with its search for a new leader.
Kliszus, who earns $205,504, has a doctorate from New York University, a master’s degree from the Manhattan School of Music, and a bachelor’s degree from Nyack College.
He started his education career as a music teacher in Union Township in 1977 and later became director of technology and the Gifted and Talented Program, before being named principal. He then served as superintendent of schools in Denville for more than a year.
Kliszus officially began working in Hackensack in October 2008, after Joseph Montesano retired from leading the district for 14 years.
His four-year contract, which called for 4 percent salary increases each year, wasn’t set to expire until 2012.
Before coming to Hackensack, Kliszus had been superintendent of schools for the Belleville school district just shy of four years.
1.Thursday March 3, 2011, 4:00 PM - Njlucifer says:
It's all about the money, not the children....
2.Thursday March 3, 2011, 3:17 PM - royallen says:
P.S. Joseoh Montesano retired with a pension of over $122,000 which he collects at his estate in Florida
3.Thursday March 3, 2011, 3:14 PM - royallen says:
I guess he decided to run out,before his 200K plus salary was reduced to 175K,which would have reduced his pension by about 20k per year
4.Thursday March 3, 2011, 2:44 PM - Njlucifer says:
“The climate for educators in New Jersey is not a healthy one.” I bet he meant the 'Climate to make lots of money...'
More layoffs loom for Hackensack schools
Thursday, March 3, 2011
BY MONSY ALVARADO
HACKENSACK — More layoffs are looming for the city school district, whose board on Thursday unveiled an $85.9 million spending plan for next school year.
The preliminary budget reflects a $1.22 million spending increase compared with the current budget and depends on $66.3 million being raised in property taxes. The tax levy would increase by 4.06 percent from this year, said Fred Martens, the business administrator.
Superintendent Edward Kliszus said district officials had to cut nearly $4.8 million from the budget to make up for shortfalls in state funding over the last two years. Although the district will receive $10.8 million in state aid next year — more than the $9.9 million it received for the current year — it’s significantly less than the $14.2 million it received for the 2009-10 school year. Martens said the reductions have had an impact on the districts’ surplus.
“Our kids are losing a lot in the last two years, and it’s very unfortunate,” Kliszus said before the board meeting, which more than 200 people attended. “It’s heartbreaking.”
Kliszus said the current budget cuts $1.34 million in administrative costs, $887,000 in teaching and coaching expenses and $844,513 in support-staff costs. Those cuts will result in the elimination of vice principals at all four elementary schools, one assistant principal at the high school, and an assistant superintendent post. The preliminary budget would also call for the Middle School and the 5ive/6ix School to share a principal, and three vice principals. Each school currently has a principal. The middle school has three vice principals and the 5ive/6ix School has two.
Certified staff, including teachers, nurses and guidance counselors, are also slated to be laid off. Kliszus said approximately nine full-time positions will be cut, and eight coaching posts may also be eliminated.
He said $1.7 million is being trimmed from non-personnel expenses, which include supplies and utility costs.
Kliszus and board trustees stressed that the proposal can change before it goes before voters in April, and said upcoming retirements can impact the proposed budget.
Ada Torres-Wright, a parent, urged the board to be careful as it reduces staff.
“I know that a good education costs money. My taxes go up, but as long as the children are receiving a good education, it is worth it,” she said.
The district laid off 20 teachers and 30 paraprofessionals last year.
so let me see if I read this right. 4 grades in 1 school.(or what should be one school) 2 principals & 5 vice principals-along with 2 different staffs. Wonder why taxes are out of control?
I do not live in Hackensack anymore. my oldest son goes to a 4 year middle school. same as Hackensack. the difference is that they have one principal and one vice principal and 2 secretaries. And that school runs very efficiently.
If the Hackensack Middle school cant run that way, maybe its time to find some new people that can run it properly. They did when I went there with 3 grades, 150 kids extra for the 4th grade in does not warrant a whole new set of staffs.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>The preliminary budget would also call for the Middle School and the 5ive/6ix School to share a principal, and three vice principals. Each school currently has a principal. The middle school has three vice principals and the 5ive/6ix School has two.>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
While I agree that they could easily cut two VPs, there are about 1500 kids in that school. The ratio of administrators now is 200/1, which is alot, but going down to 375/1 is shortchanging the school a bit, in my opinion. It's much worse, however, at the elementary level where, in one case, the ratio of administrators to kids will be 620/1. That's just irresponsible.
Charter school in Hackensack among 58 bids
Saturday, April 2, 2011
BY LESLIE BRODY
Applicants hope to start one new charter school in Hackensack, one in the city of Passaic and two in Paterson, a state official said Friday.
They were among a record 58 applicants in the latest round of those seeking state approval. The Christie administration is pushing to expand quality charters, but faces opposition from critics who argue they drain resources and top students from regular public schools.
James Giokas of Washington Township is making his third bid to open Spartan Academy in Hackensack after two denials. He said the state wanted more detailed budget projections. He envisions a K-3 school that will teach Greek and extra math.
In Passaic County, applicants want to start the Passaic Dual Language Charter, Paterson Urban Music and Movement Charter and Great Falls Academy for Performing Arts.
Most applicants want to open in urban areas. Some plan to focus on business, science or even fashion. Four would immerse students in Chinese or Hebrew. Some critics have expressed concern about the growing group of "boutique" charters that cater to families' desires for specialized learning.
Supporters say charters are havens of energy, hope and innovation, especially in poor cities with failing schools. Lynne Strickland, who represents mostly suburbs as executive director of the Garden State Coalition of Schools, said she was hearing more of her members complain that charters placed in high-achieving districts amounted to an "extra tax." Charters are financed by local taxpayers but are independently operated.
She said families in troubled districts may need alternatives to traditional public schools, but successful districts could serve students better without the loss of funds to charters. Tension over their growth "has been exacerbated by cutbacks in state aid," she added. "I hear more and more from my members they would prefer not to have them."
James Crisfield, schools superintendent in Millburn, said he was frustrated that two charter applicants wanted to start Mandarin Chinese immersion elementary schools in Maplewood and Livingston that would draw from his district. His schools consistently rank among the best in the state, and he worries about losing resources.
"I don't understand why this sort of arrangement is being so vigorously pursued in Trenton because it adds more costs to the system and doesn't help us get more efficient," he said, adding that he understood the push for options in underperforming districts.
The last round of applications came in October, when 50 applicants sought approval, and almost half were accepted for future openings. Currently, 73 charters are operating statewide.
What are the Charter Schools really about ?? Is it about education, or is it about immersing your child in a mono-ethnic cultural school. Hebrew-immersion, Mandarin-immersion, now even Greek-immersion. I can only wonder if this is part of the balkanization of America.
What happened to the idea that a student body hails from diversity of cultures and backgrounds, which is both a goal and a virtue..
What court ruling does (or doesn't do) for school districts that aren't poor
Friday, May 27, 2011
BY MARK J. BONAMO
Northern Valley Suburbanite
The New Jersey Supreme Court's May 24 decision to order Governor Christie's administration to find $500 million in additional state aid for schools in 31 relatively poorer cities led to a sigh of relief for those districts. For the rest of state's approximately 600 school districts, however, including those in Bergen County, the reaction was more a shrug of resignation as they still wonder when relief might come for them.
Governor Chris Christie holds a press conference in regards to the New Jersey Supreme Court school funding decision at the Statehouse in Trenton, N.J. on Tuesday, May 24, 2011.
The court's decision mandated that the state fully finance its 2008 school funding law, known as the School Funding Reform Act. However, the ruling stated only that funding be restored to the 31 lower-income districts known as the Abbott districts, which includes cities like Newark, Paterson and Passaic. The decision does not require the state to fully fund its aid formula for the rest of the state's districts.
Christie's decision to cut public school aid to all districts by a total of $1.7 billion last year was justified by the administration because of the effect of the recession, including lower tax revenues. The school funding reduction has led to tough decisions in all corners of the state. In Hackensack, Fairmount School Principal Joseph Cicchelli expressed his disappointment with the court decision.
"Over the last two years, I've lost my guidance counselor, I've lost teaching slots, and my classroom sizes have gone up," said Cicchelli. "We were hoping for any increase in funding, but unfortunately that kind of ruling didn't come through."
Cicchelli also expressed concern about districts like Hackensack, which sit somewhere between the upper and lower ends of the economic spectrum of New Jersey's school districts, regarding school funding decisions.
"When it comes down to decisions about money matters and politics, they have to draw a line in the sand somewhere," Cicchelli said. "Hackensack doesn't fit on either side of the line. Because we are not part of the Abbott districts, our needs aren't as great. On the other hand, we are a very diverse community, with extremely wealthy and extremely needy families. For the students that we have that come from needy families, we have to provide them with the same services as an Abbott district would."
Jan Furman, superintendent of schools for the Northern Valley Regional High School District, noted that her district has been able to maintain its staff and programs. But while the governor and lawmakers will have about a month to balance a new budget that must include the yet-to-be-found $500 million because of the state Supreme Court's decision, Furman does not expect any influx of funds into her district's coffers any time soon.
"The state is in a very difficult financial position," Furman said. "I'm just happy that we've been able to maintain our program and staff. I don't know how the state could afford to give us more aid."
Bernard Josefsberg, Leonia's school superintendent, does not begrudge the Abbott districts' good funding fortune but still feels the impact of recent funding reductions in his own district that the court ruling did not restore.
"We benefited significantly because of the School Funding Reform Act. We also received a significant reduction in state aid when he ignored that formula," said Josefsberg, commenting on a school aid cut of approximately $1 million within a year. "Because of that ruling, the governor can still ignore that formula. I'm worried that he will take advantage of this decision to further walk away from the formula as it relates to suburban districts."
No matter where municipalities sit on New Jersey's urban/suburban divide, Hackensack's Cicchelli expressed a wider concern of many educators statewide.
"When you hear politicians talk about the cost of education, they treat those costs as if we're going out and partying," said Cicchelli. "The reality is that we're in a period of conversation about reform, where we're talking about cutting back or at least limiting funding. Maybe if people finally come into the schools and see how we work with and for children, the respect for our profession will swing the funding pendulum back."
Hackensack school appointments unclear
Thursday, June 9, 2011
BY MONSY ALVARADO
HACKENSACK — Several administrator and principal appointments in the school district are in limbo after the Board of Education failed to agree or act on hires and transfers this week.
The Board of Education will have to call an extra meeting this month to vote on the appointments, which include finding a replacement for outgoing Business Administrator Fred Martens and selecting principals for the Fanny Meyer Hillers School and the Jackson Avenue School.
"The district has to come back together and come back with appropriate coverage," said Assistant Superintendent Ray Gonzalez, who will become acting superintendent on July 1 when Superintendent of Schools Edward Kliszus retires.
The appointment of a new business administrator was among the items tabled or not approved during the board's contentious Tuesday night meeting, which lasted past midnight and was attended by residents who voiced their opinions about the staffing decisions. District officials had recommended that Mark Kramer, who works for the Paterson schools, be hired at an annual salary of $155,000, according to the agenda. But questions about why he was not rehired in Paterson led the action to be tabled.
"There are allegations out there that are in question that need to clarified, confirmed, or not," said board member Clarissa Gilliam Gardner.
In January, Paterson schools Superintendent Donnie Evans said he would not renew the contract of Kramer, the district's assistant superintendent for business services, as well as the business administrator, Frances Finkelstein. At the time, Evans would not comment why the two would not be rehired, beyond a prepared statement, which said they would be replaced. His decision came months after the state reviewed the district's fiscal operations.
Gonzalez, who worked with Kramer in Paterson, said the recommendation made to the Hackensack board was based on Kramer's credentials and experience in Paterson and for the state.
"To our belief he provided all of the explanations and evidence to demonstrate he was the candidate to recommend to the board," Gonzalez said.
However, Gonzalez acknowledged that although Kramer's listed references were checked, he never made a call to Evans. He said he will call Paterson before the next board meeting.
"The reason I didn't is because I had firsthand knowledge of his work," he said.
Sharing a principal
Also uncertain are the transfers of three principals at the elementary schools. Officials eliminated one principal, three assistant principals and an assistant superintendent position as a way to reduce costs in next year's budget, which led to layoffs and switches in administrative assignments. To reduce costs, the Middle School and the 5ive/6ix School will share a principal and three vice principals.
Among the transfers that the board voted down were the reassignment of Andrea Parchment from principal of Hackensack Middle School to the Jackson Avenue School; the move of Joy Dorsey-Whiting from 5ive/6ix School to Hillers; and the transfer of Judith Schuler from principal of Jackson Avenue School to assistant principal at Hillers School.
A transfer that calls for Hackensack High School Assistant Principal Gordon Whiting to teach students in Grades 5 through 8 was also voted down. The board also rejected the transfer of Mercedes Haines as assistant principal of Jackson Avenue School to an elementary school teacher.
Trustee Frank Albolino, a long-time board member who voted in favor of the transfers, criticized the other board members for not approving the changes.
"They threw the district into chaos," he said.
"I don't know what the next step is going to be. We have to do something by July 1, which is the start of the new school year," he added. "You have to have people in place to get the curriculum ready and the buildings in shape."
Gardner defended her vote, saying that she would have preferred that a new schools superintendent be hired before the principal appointments are made and the consolidation of administrators at 5ive/6ix and the middle school be approved.
"I had questions about the process and the impact to the kids in Hackensack, and that's why I voted the way I did," Gardner said.
The board did approve Tuesday the appointment of David Petrella as the new principal of the 5ive/6ix and middle schools. Petrella, who is assistant principal at Hillers, will be paid $160,909 in the post.
The appointment of a supervisor of special education was tabled, and the hiring of John Zisa, the son of former Hackensack mayor Jack Zisa, as a high school music teacher was pulled from the agenda, board members said.
This racist flyer is being distributed in certain areas of Hackensack.. Those involved should be ashamed and the rest of us should be disgusted.
Hackensack school board OKs principal transfers
Wednesday, June 15, 2011 Last updated: Wednesday June 15, 2011, 9:08 PM
BY MONSY ALVARADO
HACKENSACK — Principals have been reassigned and a district business administrator has been hired by the Board of Education despite pleas from parents and teachers that it reconsider.
Trustees also voted Tuesday night to send a Rice notice to Superintendent of Schools Edward Kliszus to discuss the date he will retire from the district. Kliszus’ last day is scheduled for June 30.
The vote capped a heated meeting, where Trustees Clarissa Gilliam Gardner and Rhonda Bembry tried unsuccessfully several times to table agenda items that included the principal transfers and the hiring of Mark Kramer, a Paterson schools official, as business administrator.
Bembry asked why some items were being revoted on, when they failed last week. And Gardner asked why school officials and other board members did not respond to a request to meet after last week’s meeting and discuss the items that were of concern.
“When something is tabled you table it for discussion, and that didn’t even take place,” Gardner said, to applause.
“I understand we have urgency, I understand we have a budget, I understand all of that, but a request was made the day after, not even 24 hours after the last meeting and we all got it,” she added. “However, we didn’t have that close session meeting, so I say let’s make a motion to go into close session or make a motion to table this until we can have that discussion.”
The motion to table all of the agenda items failed twice, and some of the items once by the end of the night.
Kliszus, as superintendent, decides what is placed on the agenda. After hearing from more than a dozen parents and teachers, the items were voted on and passed. Bembry, Gardner, and Trustee Carol Martinez voted against most of the transfers.
The reassignments are due to cuts in next school year’s budget, which led to the elimination of one principal, three assistant principals and an assistant superintendent position. The district’s remaining principals are being reassigned, and some assistant principals are returning to the classroom.
Around 100 people attended Tuesday night’s meeting, which was peppered with shouts and applause from the audience and warnings by Board President Mark Stein that he would close it if the outbursts didn’t stop. Several members from the Hackensack African-American Civic Association (HAACA) and the Bergen County chapter of the NAACP were in attendance. Most of the administrators that were transferred are minorities.
Fred Wallace, a member of HAACA, said his group wants the board to reconsider its principal choice for grades 5-8. Last week, the board chose David Petrella as the new principal of the 5ive/6ix and middle schools. Petrella is currently assistant principal at Hillers elementary school.
Andrea Parchment and Joy Dorsey-Whiting, who are the principals of those schools now, are being transferred to elementary schools.
Kliszus has said moves were based on seniority, and the shifting was due to some positions being eliminated. He said the transfers were not based on race.
“No decisions regarding transfers and assignments are based on race, ever,” he said.
Some residents pointed to some principals and assistant principals who haven’t been administrators very long and are not being touched.
“That’s their opinion, it’s not based on fact,” Kliszus said.
Tekeema Allen, the mother of a 7-year old at Nellie Parker School, said she was frustrated with the Board of Education’s actions, and was encouraged to attend the meeting because she objects to so many minority administrators being moved.
“The community is seeking strong positive role models for their students, but they continually demote and move these administrators who have a proven track record,” she said.
Kramer will replace Fred Martens, who also will depart the district this summer. Kramer, who currently is assistant superintendent of business services for the Paterson schools, will get paid $155,000 in Hackensack. His hiring was among the items tabled last week after questions were raised on why he was not rehired in Paterson. His contract in that district was not renewed months after the state reviewed the school district's fiscal operations.
Kliszus said last week that Kramer was fully vetted and fully qualified for the job, but that Assistant Superintendent Ray Gonzalez planned to call Paterson schools about his work there before Tuesday night’s meeting. Trustees did not talk about Kramer before voting to hire him on Tuesday.
Hackensack residents suggest uses for extra school aid
Friday, August 5, 2011
BY MARK J. BONAMO
The powers that be at the Hackensack public school district are now deciding what to do with more than $852,000 in its collective pocket, but it is still uncertain as to how to spend it.
For Fred Wallace and Andee Post, however, the decision is clear.
"I would spend the money on the kids," said Wallace, a Hackensack resident and businessman who is a regular attendee of school board meetings. "Putting it towards property tax relief doesn't make any sense because they are going to end up raising property taxes anyway."
"Most importantly, I want that money to go to new technology," said Post, a city resident and parent of a Hackensack schools student. "We had some great advances in the past few years, and then we came to a screeching halt. We have to keep up with what's going on at the other high schools."
On July 12, the Christie administration outlined new statewide funding that followed a pledge by the governor when he signed the budget for the new fiscal year on June 30. The governor's move restores some of the funding lost following the 2010 budget cuts.
After announcing the new funding, Governor Christie encouraged non-Abbott districts such as Hackensack to use the new money for property tax relief this fiscal year or next.
Neither spending nor saving the money was fully explored at the July 26 school board meeting, the first since the announcement regarding the additional funds was made.
School officials indicated that they needed to better understand the state's parameters regarding how the funds should be spent before they proceed to dispense the money. As a result, no immediate suggestions were made at the meeting.
In an earlier interview, interim Superintendent Raymond Gonzalez said that although $852,000 will not completely ease the impact of having approximately $4.8 million less this fiscal year as a result of the budget restrictions generated by Christie's recent policy decisions, the funds should still provide some relief to local schools. Gonzalez did not make any specific recommendations.
But Joseph Cicchelli, principal of Fairmount School, had some clear suggestions to make about how the money could help his school, particularly regarding staffing.
"I'd like it to go towards supporting staff," said Cicchelli. "I would appreciate bringing back my guidance counselor – that would help tremendously. It would also be helpful to have a reading coach again."
Cicchelli noted that he would also like to regain a reading intervention specialist lost due to recent budgetary constraints. However, in these tough fiscal times, the veteran administrator admitted that not all of the new funds are likely to address staffing concerns.
"You're going to have to set some of it aside for property tax relief," said Cicchelli. "I'm almost positive that's going to be a part of it."
But for Wallace, any property tax set-aside is not the answer. Wallace argues that spending money on schools will ultimately save local taxpayers money.
"In the long run, better schools bring in more ratables, which ends up eventually lowering taxes for everybody," said Wallace. "I'd rather have better schools than lower taxes in the immediate future."
For Post, a vision of a better future includes a revival of programs lost or curtailed.
"I would love to see an after-school program at the middle school," said Post. "We were also working towards an academies-type set up at the high school. We should do what we can to keep that moving along."
Tekeema Allen, a city resident and parent of a Hackensack schools student, reiterated the importance of boosting technology in the schools, but with an important addition.
"We need professional development," said Allen. "I'm not sure that some of the things that teachers are being asked to implement were directly taught to them. That type of development is important."
Allen also pointed to curriculum concerns as another important area where the new influx of funds could be helpful.
Education requires funding but all the funding in the world will not balance the formula needed for excellence and a balanced economy in any administrative theatre. Tenure must be reviewed every two years and the number of teachers reduced by attrition. Creativity, initiative, and excellence must be rewarded, and teachers who only make the mark should be encouraged to seek employment elsewhere. It is possible to reduce the amount of spending and increase the quality of education. The "experts" do not see it because we were all brought up to believe that money and materials are the key to better education. It would seem that way, because we have come to learn that when school districts become corrupt and/or lacking in resources, the scores fall below and the system falls apart, but that is indicative of mismanagement. Teachers who are there because it is a job and not a passion should be encourage to work in the private sector as tutors for advanced education, and I wonder how many would be very effective. . Education administrators and teachers have to be a special type of human being who can work with each other, the students, and parents and exude a confidence that brings out the best in human attributes. Students and teachers have to be excited about building a better school with less. It is more challenging that a video game, and I believe that students and parents are the best integral part of an advancing growing system. This is what America means, that when things get tough we pull together to build more with less. This is the challenge for the next 10 years.
Gone are the music programs for strings and reeds; gone are the select languages: Spanish, Italian (Mandarin Chinese would be helpful) yet these programs that are proven to work best during the formative years, in building brain power, were never in place (K-2). They did exist as voluntary (aside from a language in later grades). Music study (even if vocal only) not only builds brain power and confidence, and a spirited participation, building personal and school spirit.
The school systems have been sucked into the influence of every vendor and professional sector that have not done much at all for education but only make administration more and more difficult. The systematic medication of children to fill the void of diciplinary and dietary problems at home is a mainstay of the pharmaceutical industry which has most "experts" believing it necessary. The vaccination requirement by the more profitable use of harmful preservatives is a double-dipping drain on private and public funds. The fix is natural preservatives and fresh temperature-controlled batches that would men more jobs in the pharmaceutical industry, but less profits for the majority holder and market shares. They say it is to make it more affordable... for them. We did better with bigger classes and less teachers. We didn't use taxpayer dollars to buy electron microscopes and a computer for every desk. We were not allowed to use calculators for everything.
Can we still recite the pledge of allegiance line "one nation under God?" - ok then there is still hope.
State aid helps Hackensack school district hire more staff
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
BY MONSY ALVARADO
HACKENSACK – The extra $852,017 in state aid the school district will receive in the upcoming school year will allow the district to return 21 part-time aides to full-time status, and will also pay for additional teaching staff, school officials said.
The Board of Education this week approved the appointments of the aides, and also approved the creation of a high school biology teacher and a technology technician post.
The aides are paraprofessionals who assist teachers, students, and special needs children.
The extra biology teacher will allow the high school to keep those science classes at around 24 students per class, said Ray Gonzalez, interim superintendent of schools.
The additional funds will also pay for computer upgrades, said Mark Kramer, the district’s business administrator.
Kramer said the district will have to submit an amended budget to the state that includes how the funds will be used.
Due to a reduction in state aid in the past two years, the school district has had to reduce teaching and administrative costs, including reducing the number of assistant and vice principals in the district for the 2011-12 school year.
Governor Christie announced the additional state aid figures in July, months after voters decided on their school district’s spending plan. In total, Hackensack received $11.6 million in state aid for the upcoming school year, up from last year’s $9.9 million.
Some North Jersey schools imposing strict academic standards on student athletes
Sunday, September 4, 2011 Last updated: Sunday September 4, 2011, 10:00 AM
BY ANDREA ALEXANDER
Teaneck students will soon be required to meet a higher bar in the classroom if they want to compete on the field.
Teaneck High School football team practicing. By school year 2014-15, students must maintain a 2.5 grade-point average to be on a sports team.
By the 2014-15 school year, they will be required to maintain a 2.5 grade-point average — typically somewhere between a C plus and B minus — to play sports under a new policy that gradually raises the eligibility standard.
When school starts this week, students will have to maintain a cumulative 2.0 GPA to participate in sports. In the 2012-13 school year students will have to maintain a 2.3 GPA. Under the district's previous policy, students were required to have a 2.0 GPA during the previous marking period to play sports.
Teaneck’s Athletic Competition Policy:
•The school board requires that to be eligible to participate in any athletic competition activity, each student shall maintain a minimum cumulative grade average of 2.0.
•The minimum grade average will be increased to a cumulative 2.3 beginning with the 2012-13 school year and 2.5 beginning with the 2014-15 school year.
The new policy may set the strictest eligibility standard in North Jersey.
Most school districts, including Wayne, Ridgewood, Bergenfield and Paramus, follow the minimum requirement set by the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association. The NJSIAA requires that students stay on target to have the necessary number of credits to graduate set by state regulations. Under the NJSIAA standard, a student could be passing classes with a D average and be eligible to play sports.
But a few districts, including Teaneck and Englewood, have added a minimum GPA requirement to send a clear message to athletes about the importance of academics.
"The ultimate goal is to make sure students are eligible not just to play sports but to get into college," said Yvonne Sheard, athletic director for the Englewood schools, which requires students to achieve a 2.0 GPA in the previous period. "No school is going to come look at you with a 1 point whatever, so the goal is to make them students first and athletes second."
Todd Sinclair, Teaneck's athletic director, believes that setting the bar too low is a disservice to students. "When you have something that is more rigorous than 2.0 you are really sending a message to these kids that the student athlete is synonymous," Sinclair said. "With a 2.0 you really can't make that argument because, let's be honest, it's not that great."
So far, almost all students have risen to the required level. Out of about 250 students who signed up to play fall sports in Teaneck, only seven didn't make the grade point cut off, Sinclair said.
With Teaneck's new policy, "kids are now getting the message that 2.0 doesn't cut it in the real world anymore," Sinclair said. "You try to go to any college with just a 2.0. … We are not doing kids a favor when we have this implicit or explicit message that we are saying to them a 2.0 is OK."
Other North Jersey school districts that don't have a minimum grade requirement to participate in sports say their coaches still closely monitor the grades of athletes.
• Hackensack adheres to the NJSIAA standard. But any student who falls below a 2.0 grade is required to participate in a tutorial program, said Ralph Dass, the district's athletic director.
• In Paramus, coaches keep an eye on students' grades and teachers will let the coaches know if an athlete's grades are slipping, said interim schools Superintendent Joseph Lupo. "Often a little push from the coach goes a long way."
• Clifton schools also follow the NJSIAA standard. But the district is one of a few that sets its minimum passing grade for students at 70.
"We are letting students know that your education starts in the classroom and to be rewarded to play sports you have to do the work in the classroom," said Athletic Director Rick Handchen.
Setting a high standard encourages students to buckle down and work harder to maintain their eligibility, he said.
"If every kid could just go out and play [sports], school would be chaos," Handchen said. "If they knew they didn't have to do anything in the classroom to play sports there would be problems in the classroom."
Not all administrators favor a minimum grade-point average. "There are certain things that turn on certain kids," said Wayne Hills High School Athletic Director Chris Olsen. "It may be he loves going to music, it may be he loves going to art every day. … Some kids say, 'I come to school because I love sports.'
"Sometimes it keeps the kids interested in school," Olsen said. "If the kid is not involved in athletics, where is he at 3 o'clock in the afternoon? I can promise you he is not at home studying."
Administrators in Ridgewood and Bergenfield see sports as the hook that keeps students interested in school. Both districts follow the NJSIAA on grade-point requirements.
"We promote academic rigor, but we don't want to put up any barrier to the students who are not strong academically and their only one hook into coming and staying in school is sports and extra curricular activities," Bergenfield Superintendent Michael Kuchar said. "The minute you take that away they have no reason to come."
"While we have them we get them to drink the Kool-Aid and ignite their inner flame to do well," he said. "But sports is what gets them captive and gives us the opportunity to give them the Bergenfield Kool-Aid."
But in Teaneck the district wanted to ensure that students are focused on what goes on in the classroom as well as on the field.
"We believe that there are other aspects of school that are important to the kids, but certainly our core mission is their education," said Superintendent Barbara Pinsak. "We are not interested in having at the very worst end of it kids who might do very well athletically and who might get picked up by a college but who might not be able to finish because they don't have the start academically and the study skills and the study habits to do well."
Charter school proposals declined
Last updated: Saturday October 1, 2011, 10:30 AM
BY LESLIE BRODY
New Jersey education officials approved four new charter schools out of 58 applicants Friday, but rejected all proposals from Bergen and Passaic counties.
The news sorely disappointed 63-year-old James Giokas of Washington Township, who had tried three times over the past four years to get permission to start Spartan Academy in Hackensack. He wanted to teach Greek as a second language to 150 children in kindergarten through third grade.
Eight in region
No new charters gained approval in Bergen or Passaic counties Friday, but eight currently operate here. They are:
* Bergen Arts and Science Charter in Garfield
* Englewood on the Palisades Charter
* Teaneck Community Charter
* Classical Academy Charter in Clifton
* Community Charter School of Paterson
* John P. Holland Charter School in Paterson
* Passaic Arts & Sciences Charter
* Paterson Charter School for Science and Technology
"I thought we really dotted all our i's and crossed our t's this time," said Giokas, a retired federal court clerk and business administration professor. He said Education Department officials seemed skeptical of his plan to get two Greek language teachers from a Greek government grant program, considering the country's financial turmoil.
In Passaic County, the department denied applications for the Passaic Dual Language Charter, Paterson Urban Music and Movement Charter and Great Falls Academy for the Performing Arts.
Acting Education Commissioner Chris Cerf said in a release that the department was careful to approve only applicants that demonstrated a "very high likelihood of providing an excellent education."
Charters, which are publicly financed but independently operated, have long provoked opposition from critics who say they skim talented students and resources from traditional public schools that desperately need the money. Supporters say they foster innovation and provide alternatives to failing schools.
The spread of "boutique" charters in the suburbs, including charters that immerse students in Hebrew or Chinese language programs, have sparked particular protests in recent years. Critics have said they are unnecessary drains in areas with schools that perform well. The department denied applicants seeking to launch two Chinese language charters near Millburn, a top district where many residents had rallied to fight them. It also rejected a bid for the state's first Hebrew immersion high school, in Highland Park.
The four newly approved charters are Beloved Community Charter School in Jersey City, Knowledge A to Z Charter School in Camden, Trenton Scholars Charter School and Regis Academy Charter School, which will serve students from districts that represent a wide range of socioeconomic groups, including affluent Cherry Hill and low-income neighbors.
Those charters will open in fall 2012, if the department deems them ready. That brings the total scheduled to start next fall to 25, on top of 80 now operating. There are eight open in Bergen and Passaic.
Carlos Perez, president of the New Jersey Charter Schools Association, noted that thousands of children are on waiting lists for charters, and "New Jersey must continue to grow the charter school sector, but not at the expense of quality." The association has pushed for legislation to expand the number of agencies empowered to open and oversee charters. Now, only the Education Department has that authority.
State receives 42 new charter school applications, including 4 in Passaic and 2 in Bergen
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
BY LESLIE BRODY
The state received 42 applications for new charter schools by Monday’s deadline for a new round of reviews, including six in Bergen and Passaic counties, officials said Tuesday.
Two of the proposals come from the same educators who run the Bergen Arts & Sciences Charter, based in Garfield and Hackensack, and the Passaic Arts and Sciences Charter. They want to expand by launching a Northeastern Arts & Sciences Charter for K-5 students in Hackensack and Ridgefield Park, as well as a proposed Clifton Arts & Sciences Charter for K-5 students.
Another proposal aims to start a K-12 online learning program based in Teaneck, dubbed the Garden State Virtual Charter School.
Proposals for Passaic County include the Passaic International Languages and Arts Charter, for K-2 children in Passaic City, the Great Falls Charter for K-5 students in Paterson, and the Paterson Preparatory Charter for grades 9 and 10.
Education Department officials said they would announce approvals in January. Charters, which are publicly funded but independently operated, have drawn fire from opponents who charge that they siphon taxpayer dollars from traditional public schools. Supporters argue that they give families choices, especially in failing districts.
The Christie administration has made expansion of quality charters are key part of its agenda. Now 80 are open statewide.
Hackensack teacher outlines fight against bullying
Last updated: Friday October 21, 2011, 1:32 AM
BY MARK J. BONAMO
New Jersey's new law against harassment, intimidation and bullying in the schools hit the books earlier this year. But for Fairmount School Assistant Principal Rhonda Ashton-Loeb, the battle against bullying must also hit close to home.
"Our kids sign a pledge saying that they won't bully other kids on multi-colored paper," Ashton-Loeb said. "These pieces of paper make up a rainbow in the hallway. That rainbow goes into a pot of gold. Respect is gold."
The new law, known as the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, was adopted by the Hackensack Board of Education on Aug. 23 and went into effect statewide Sept. 1. Fueled in part by public outcry over the suicide of a Rutgers University freshman, Tyler Clementi, last year, it mandates that all public schools adopt comprehensive anti-bullying policies (which includes 18 pages of "required components"), that they increase staff training and that they stick to tight deadlines for reporting episodes.
Ashton-Loeb explained how Fairmount School is attempting to meet the requirements of what is seen by many as one of the toughest anti-bullying laws in the country.
"There is a clear set of procedures. We're promoting safety, respect and responsibility all year round so we won't have bullying in the schools," Ashton-Loeb said.
Teachers have received training about the new anti-bullying law, and were provided with stickers and pencils for their students.
"They can give them to children when they see them exhibiting these good character traits," Ashton-Loeb said. "We're trying to show children new ways that they can interact with other children that are responsible and respectful."
While Fairmount and other Hackensack schools conducted a "week of respect" program earlier this month, Ashton-Loeb noted that her school planned to keep teaching the theme of respect all year long.
"Our first graders made a PowerPoint presentation showing kids doing the right thing and appropriate ways of behavior," Ashton-Loeb said. "Each of our grade levels is going to put together one of these presentations. We're going to have anti-bullying assemblies during the year. We're having teachers take pictures of children in their classrooms being respectful with each other, trying to show what it looks like to do things the right way."
"We also have a Fairmount School pledge that the kids recite every Monday morning in which they say that they will follow all the rules," Ashton-Loeb added. "That pledge includes all of the anti-bullying rules, which means keep your hands and feet to yourself among other things."
Overall, Ashton-Loeb emphasized that law or no law, any effort against bullying begins with personal responsibility.
"We're trying to put in good practices to replace bad practices. Kids aren't usually naturally mean to other children," Ashton-Loeb said. "We want to take the high road and teach children these good character traits. These are lessons that they can learn at a young age that they can use their whole lives. We want them to be positive role models and respectful, responsible citizens. It all starts when they are children."
Former Lyndhurst superintendent to head Hackensack schools
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
BY STEPHANIE AKIN
HACKENSACK — Former Lyndhurst Superintendent Joseph Abate Jr. will take over leadership of the Hackensack school district in December, the Board of Education announced Wednesday.
Abate, 62, will replace Interim Superintendent Raymond Gonzalez, who is leaving to take a position in Wayne.
“I’m honored to have been chosen, and I’m looking forward to working with all the constituents of the community,” he said.
Abate will serve as an interim superintendent until the Board of Education finds a candidate to fill the post permanently, Gonzalez said.
He was appointed by a 7-3 vote at a special meeting Tuesday. Board members Rhonda Bembry, Clarissa B. Gilliam Gardner and Carol Martinez cast the opposing votes.
Abate will earn a per diem salary of $644 in Hackensack, with the stipulation that his annual pay cannot exceed the state limit of $167,500 for a district the size of Hackensack, Gonzalez said.
He will also continue to pull his state pension, Gonzalez said. His monthly pension payment was $8,545 in 2011, according to state records.
Abate will join the district at the beginning of its budget process and will likely have to steer contract negotiations with its unions, Gonzalez said.
“Mr. Abate will definitely have a full plate of expectations and work ahead of him, but in the short time I’ve come to know him, I’m confident in his experience, and that he will be able to pick up the ball and run with it,” Gonzalez said.
Abate started his public education career in Lyndhurst in 1972 and has served as an elementary school teacher and principal, a coach, an assistant superintendent, and a school business administrator. He served as the Lyndhurst superintendent from 1993 until he retired in 2010.
At the time, Abate said he was concerned that new state budgeting guidelines would hurt the district. He also said he wanted to leave before state limits for superintendent salaries and mandatory health insurance contributions went into effect in August 2010.
The school board is planning to review applications for permanent superintendents in December and determine, based on the applicant pool, whether to interview those applicants, suspend or continue the search, Gonzalez said.
Hackensack PTA chapter helps to reverse program cutbacks
Last updated: Friday January 20, 2012, 1:24 AM
What the Hackensack school system has had to contend with in recent years is no secret: cuts in state funding since 2010 when Governor Christie called for budgetary sacrifices in the face of grave fiscal woes.
One city school has found a way to partially recoup the resulting losses — a concerted plan directed by its Parent Teacher Association (PTA) to revive lost programs.
"What we’re trying to do is bring back some clubs," said Hackensack Middle School PTA President Stephanie Hellpap. "Due to the budget cuts, we haven’t had some of these activities for a few years."
Although Hackensack schools did receive an unexpected $852,000 funding surge from the state last year, programs for students are still recovering. Among those that were eliminated at the middle school in recent years were the baseball and softball teams. Using $4,000 generated from fundraising drives that included magazine subscription and candy sales, the PTA hopes to have these and other programs back in place by next month, according to Hellpap. Students will have input into which club activities will be revived or created. Among those activities under consideration besides baseball and softball are volleyball, yoga, badminton, basketball, baking, creative writing and a book club.
"We can teach kids how to become more physically fit, or to be exposed to different things," Hellpap said. "We’re hoping to recruit some teachers to help us with the clubs."
It is uncertain when the school system will be able to fund a wider range of clubs once again. But Hellpap points to the PTA’s efforts as a way to advance learning and promote student involvement in life outside of school despite fiscal challenges.
"We need to make sure that kids have something to do," Hellpap said. "They need to feel part of a team and be involved in something outside of themselves. If we have the money, I don’t see a better way to spend it."
Census: N.J. second among states in education spending per student
Thursday, June 21, 2012 Last updated: Thursday June 21, 2012, 11:19 PM
BY LESLIE BRODY
When it comes to public school spending, New Jersey’s average of $16,841 per pupil in 2010 ranked it second to the top among states, the U. S. Census Bureau reported Thursday.
The average of $18,618 in New York and $18,667 in Washington, D.C., exceeded New Jersey’s per-pupil spending. All nine states in the Northeast region were ranked among the top 15 in spending in 2010.
In arguing for a new tenure bill and weaker seniority rules, Governor Christie has long argued that money alone does not bring achievement, and that billions poured into the state’s poorest city schools have not brought adequate results. Many educators counter that New Jersey’s schools, in the aggregate, are among the highest-performing in the country, even though there are pockets of chronically troubled schools with dismal test scores and low graduation rates.
There are many ways to calculate per-pupil spending, depending on whether transportation, debt service, capital outlays and other expenses are included. Last year Christie started counting those items, saying doing so gives taxpayers a fuller picture. According to data released in May by the state Department of Education, New Jersey spent an average of $17,469 per student in the school year ending 2011.
The Education Law Center, an advocacy group, asserted that Christie added items to the per-pupil funding figures to bolster his arguments for reining in spending on urban schools. The group says the Christie administration’s proposed 2013 budget, which must be negotiated and passed by July 1, shortchanges poor children.
According to the Census Bureau, Utah spent $6,064 per student, the least nationwide.
Public school systems received $594 billion in 2010, up .5 percent from the prior year. Of that, local and state governments contributed 44 percent each, and federal sources paid the rest.
For detail, go to census.gov/govs/school/
Utah. No surprise there. Utah can afford to spend less per pupil. There are no struggling inner cities, families are strong, and spiritual values are more important than all the nonsense broadcasted on television. I don't accept that the Mormon Faith is based on actual revelation from God, but you have to respect their model for society. And I don't hear the cries of oppression coming from any other groups in Utah. Nobody is being oppressed.
Pioneer in school policing looks back on success in Hackensack (http://www.northjersey.com/news/education/high_school/Pioneer_in_school_policing_looks_back_on_success_in_Hackensack.html?page=all)
Sunday July 8, 2012, 11:55 PM
BY REBECCA D. O’BRIEN
When Detective Kenneth Martin left his patrol in the projects to roam the halls of the Hackensack school system, there were no cellphones, no anti-bullying laws and little precedent for his assignment — interacting with students. That was 24 years ago, and Martin was just 10 years out of high school himself.
KEVIN R. WEXLER/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Detective Kenneth Martin is preparing to retire after 24 years in school policing in Hackensack. Now Martin, 52, is retiring from the position he largely defined as New Jersey’s first school resource officer, a role informed as much by community policing tactics as by Martin’s deep familiarity with the city.
“My approach is to be visible,” Martin said, though at 6 feet 4 inches and 300 pounds, this seems less an approach than an inevitability. “I get out there and interact with students.” Trust, he said, is critical.
“But I have a line, and once they cross that line, they’ve gotta be held accountable for their actions,” said Martin, who also serves as the schools’ liaison to the Police Department.
That line lies in the gray area between juvenile misconduct — the acts and attitudes that schools traditionally addressed internally — and the criminal behavior that lands kids in serious legal trouble.
Police presence in U.S. public schools has increased dramatically over the past three decades, from fewer than 100 cops nationwide in the late 1970s to a peak of roughly 15,000 in 2003. Scholars and policymakers decry this trend, saying overzealous policing endangers students, undermines the educational mission and engenders distrust in vulnerable communities.
They argue that posting police in schools has transformed discipline into criminalization. A 2011 study by the Justice Policy Institute reported that school resource officers had little impact on crime rates in schools, and may encourage dropouts and juvenile arrests.
In place of distrust, Martin leaves “big shoes to fill, literally and figuratively,” said Hackensack Police Chief Tomas Padilla, who credited Martin with shaping the resource officer position with a deft hand. “Somebody once described Kenny as a guidance counselor with a badge,” Padilla said.
Though he wears a bulletproof vest every day, Martin has never drawn his gun on school property. He does not yell. The students cherish him; they consider the school a safe haven, and turn to him with tips and concerns.
“He’s going to be next to irreplaceable,” said Hackensack High School Principal James Montesano, who was a student at Hackensack High in Martin’s early years as SRO. “He is so part of the fabric of our community.”
Martin was born in 1959 to fourth-generation Hackensack parents. He graduated from Hackensack High School in 1978 and enrolled at Bergen Community College, but left after a year to work full time — as a supervisor for armored trucks at a local bank. When the Police Department test came up, in 1986, Martin took it and passed.
He was assigned to the Hackensack housing projects, then in the grips of a crack-induced crime epidemic. His partner, Allen Ust, trained Martin in community policing, a relatively new theory in urban crime prevention.
“Ust’s technique was to go out there, meet the people, be visible, stay out of the police car, and just walk around,” Martin said.
Ust, who later served as the Bergen County undersheriff, said the two worked closely with local youth. “They knew Kenny was a friendly person,” Ust said.
By the early 1980s, the Hackensack Police Department, frustrated by years of emergency calls from the schools, began to assign officers to patrol them. Until Martin came to the schools position, in 1988, the officers stayed in their cars, responding only to crises.
“All the training Ust gave me, when I was assigned here, I took that training with me,” Martin said, sitting in his well-worn office on the first floor of the high school. His phones rang constantly.
Martin has upgraded security at the schools, locking the doors, installing cameras, walking the hallways. For years he accompanied Hackensack’s teams to away games, guarding the locker room. Students began to tip him off to fights in the hallway, imminent drug deals and parties, suspicious characters in the area.
Though he took the lessons of the streets into the schools, much of Martin’s work in the quarter-century since has been keeping the streets out of the schools, which serve roughly 5,000 students.
When Martin first arrived, the biggest problems were drugs and brawls fomented by “outsiders,” Martin said.
“Now the kids from other towns know me,” Martin said. “They know if they came here, they’d automatically get arrested. I have a very good relationship with other schools, because I trained their officers.”
Today, school officials said, 85 percent of their student trouble has to do with social media and cellphones, which have enabled a 24-hour cycle of bullying, “sexting,” and the unchecked spread of gossip, media and teenage vitriol.
“All of this is coming from outside into the school, and so kids are saying, ‘Why are you dealing with this inside the school? It has nothing to do with the school’ — but it does,” Martin said. “It impacts the school community.”
Kids bring other problems to school — broken homes, mental illness, abuse, weapons. Martin once had a girl’s father arrested for sexual assault; he has hauled kids in for selling drugs. Recently, a handful of middle schoolers brought sharp objects to school, threatening to cut themselves.
The father of two girls — the older, Taylor, graduated from Hackensack last month, with a perfect attendance record — Martin is particularly attuned to teenage culture.
“People ask me, ‘Aw man, are the kids worse than they were when I was in school?’ and my answer to that is, ‘No, they’re not worse,’Ÿ” Martin said. “Technology has changed things so much. Things are the same, it’s just they’re doing it in a different way.”
While Hackensack has long simmered with latent racial tensions and police mistrust, Martin believes police should be accountable to the people they serve. “If I’m gonna deal with any youth, I’m going to explain to them what I’m doing and why I’m doing it while I’m doing it,” Martin said.
In this sense, he addresses a frequent criticism of school policing: that it violates student rights and marginalizes at-risk youth.
“Problems that used to be treated as education moments are instead treated as a law enforcement matter,” said Paul Hirschfield, a sociology professor at Rutgers University who specializes in youth, criminal justice and schools. “The issue is when police become overzealous and fail to tolerate any insubordination.”
Hirschfield said school policing can create hostility to the criminal justice system. Ust disagrees.
“When young people see a police car riding down the street, they have no connection to that officer,” Ust said. “But when you have police in schools, they can approach them. Their job isn’t to lock kids up for no reason, their job is to protect the students.”
“I try to avoid filing complaints against a juvenile when I can,” Martin said, though he declined to provide numbers. But in some cases, he said, the courts may be the only way to get students support. “It’s a tough lesson to learn, but juvenile laws are different,” Martin said. “When they do go to court, our society says it wants to rehabilitate our kids, not crucify them or lock them up.”
Padilla, the chief, said Martin has kept “thousands” of kids out of the criminal justice system. “The bottom line is to discipline, to teach,” Padilla said. “Sometimes, things that could escalate into complaints and courts can be better handled at the school level using school personnel.”
“I guess it’s an art,” Padilla said. “You have to know when you need to be soft and when you need to be hard. Martin is also one of the toughest guys you’ll ever meet.”
Still, Montesano, the high school principal, said: “He always knew that the kids came first, and that kids make mistakes.”
Martin serves on several local and national school safety boards, and has received many awards.
Later this month, the National Association of School Resource Officers will honor Martin with its 2012 Exceptional Service Award at its annual conference in Reno.
Nobody has been officially tapped to succeed Martin, though Padilla said an officer had been trailing him.
Martin is spending this summer as he always does, working in the police department. He plans to spend the rest of the year “getting my life together.” Afterward, he hopes to stay involved in Hackensack.
He may not have a choice — Montesano said he plans to reach out for advice. “I told him, don’t change your phone number.”
Hackensack teachers protest as contracts are still pending (http://www.northjersey.com/news/194116171_Hackensack_teachers_protest_as_contracts_are_still_pending.html?page=all)
Friday, March 1, 2013
BY JENNIFER VAZQUEZ
Hackensack School District educators come together in unison, every Friday morning, as they rally outside district schools. These demonstrations are, in solidarity, to protest the current contract negotiations and the fact that a resolution is still pending.
BERNADETTE MARCINIAK/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Teachers gather in front of Hackensack district schools, including Hackensack Middle School, above, Friday mornings before the school day begins. This is meant as a way of bringing awareness to their current contract negotiations. HMS science teacher Theresa Jones said it's a non-disruptive, peaceful way to stand up for fair contracts without bringing students into the middle of negotiations. The teachers' demonstrations take place before the start of the school day — during the past few weeks, said Michael DeOrio, the Hackensack Education Association vice president.
"We are doing this as a sign of solidarity," DeOrio said.
DeOrio is not only the vice president of the association but a special education teacher in Hackensack Middle School. He has worked for the district for the past 10 years, albeit his overall experience as an educator spans 17-and-a-half years.
Contracts for district educators expired in June 2012, according to HEA Chief Negotiator Louis Ferrante, who is also Hackensack High School biology teacher.
"Our contract expired in June," he said. "But we have been negotiating since March 2012."
According to Ferrante, teachers and the board of education met, in excess of 24 hours, to try to come to an understanding — to no avail. Because of this, both sides reached an impasse and a mediator was assigned to the case.
An impasse takes place when the two sides negotiating are unable to reach an agreement.
Though these protests do not effect or hinder the educators' work day, many who take part believe it is a necessity to bring awareness to the proceedings.
"This is us coming together in unity," Hackensack Middle School science teacher and negotiator Theresa Jones said during a Friday morning demonstration. "We are standing up for what we believe in and what we believe in is a fair contract."
"The gatherings take place every Friday," Ferrante said. "[The protests] are nothing like Meet the Mediator Rally because the county or teachers from other districts aren't involved. Only Hackensack teachers are participating and it only takes place on Fridays.
"We gather outside the schools — this is happening at all Hackensack schools — before the start of the [school day]…We still adhere by our contractual time. We start at this time on Fridays and leave at our contractual time on Fridays. …We want to stand-up and receive what is fair and reasonable."
What is "fair and reasonable," includes, among other provisions, a better pay and work schedule, according to DeOrio and Ferrante.
"Our association is not happy with the proposals set forth by the board of education," DeOrio said. "For one thing, our pay is well below the county average. The percentage is insulting. ...We are hoping to receive a fair adjustment in salaries. We are hopeful that our school year and our school day is not altered."
According to DeOrio, the board of education is aiming toward making a longer school year. State legislation mandates that New Jersey schools work off a 180-day school calendar. Hackensack teachers work 185 days, DeOrio said.
Due to ongoing litigation and negotiations, specifics on what exactly is sought by district teachers cannot be addressed, according to DeOrio and Ferrante.
New Jersey Education Association UNISERV Representative Norman Danzig, who has been involved with the contract negotiation since it went to mediation, said the board of education is unrealistic in its requests — which currently includes 38 proposals.
"What [the board] is looking to do is, essentially, gut the entire union contract," he said. "They currently brought 38 proposals to the bargaining table. That's unheard of. [Feb. 28] is our third mediation meeting, by this point in time topics are generally narrowed down to half a dozen…they want to undo years of contract between the union and board…the board is totally unrealistic in their negotiations."
"In the past, we always had a very good relationship with the board of education," DeOrio said. "That isn't the case this time around. I chalk this up to an inexperienced negotiating team in the [board of education]. There are currently four members sitting on the board that have never negotiated contracts before."
According to DeOrio, the four members are: Clarissa Gardner, Dr. Angel Carrion, Kevon Larkins and Rhonda Bembry.
However, the teacher's union is content with the fact that the board brought in legal counsel – the Machado Law Group — who is familiar with negotiations, after mediation was determined, according to Danzig.
Despite the fact that requests being made by both sides are not made public due to ongoing proceedings, Interim Superintendent Joseph Abate knows that the next mediation meeting will bring forth passionate debate from both sides.
"At this point, there is nothing much I can say, except that I expect, and know, both [teachers and the board] are going to be active in their discussions [Feb. 28]," he said.
The Machado Law Group had no comment regarding the negotiations.
Hackensack teachers' contract negotiations reach 'fact finding' stage (http://www.northjersey.com/news/196246241_Hackensack_teachers__contract_negotiations_reach__fact_finding__stage.html?page=all)
Friday, March 8, 2013
BY JENNIFER VAZQUEZ
After the third mediation session took place Feb. 28, the Hackensack Board of Education and district teachers have not come to an agreement regarding teacher contracts.
This stall in a final decision has prompted the parties to go on to a next step —fact finding.
According to Hackensack Education Association Vice President Michael DeOrio, the "third and final mediation session ended at 1:30 a.m."
"Even though there was some progress made, [both sides] were far enough apart in order for a fact finder to be brought in as a next step," HEA chief negotiator and Hackensack High School biology teacher Louis Ferrante said.
According to Ferrante, who has been a teacher for the past 20 years —19 of those as part of the Hackensack School District —this is the first time, he can remember, the district going to fact finding.
New Jersey Education Association UNISERV Representative Norman Danzig, who has been involved with the Hackensack district negotiations since mediation, said that the fact finding stage will be a lengthy process.
"Let me put it this way," he said. "If memory serves me right, I filed for mediation around June and we just finished [Feb. 28]. Fact finding will certainly be as long, if not longer."
The fact finding stage of the contract negotiations is the next step, after mediation, under the Public Sector Collective Bargaining law, according to Danzig. This stage includes bringing in a fact finder.
"The first meeting will essentially be a mediation," Danzig said. "This is done in hopes of a possibility of a settlement. If there still is no mutual agreement, we will have a formal fact finding hearing."
The fact finder, who is assigned to the case by the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC), will be presented "testimony, information, data and a tremendous amount of facts" by both parties, according to Danzig.
The fact finder will then gather all the presented information and creates a report after closing arguments from both sides. This report is, essentially, a third-party decision and is non-binding, according to Ferrante and Danzig.
"We have gone to mediation before," Ferrante said. "We have worked it out very quickly. This time around it has been different."
Superintendent Joseph Abate, however, is hopeful that an agreement can be met.
"I am disappointed with the outcome [of mediation], however, I am confident that an agreement can be met," he said.
Abate also said he hopes the teachers "will uphold their professional responsibilities during the remaining part of the process."
The Machado Law Group —counsel to the Board of Education —had no comment, as they normally do not comment on cases.
Hackensack considers using Padre Pio Academy for kindergarten classes (http://www.northjersey.com/news/199598971_Hackensack_considers_using_Padre_Pio_Academy_for_kindergarten_classes.html?page=all)
Friday March 22, 2013, 5:00 PM
BY JENNIFER VAZQUEZ
HACKENSACK - School officials are looking to convert the soon-to-be-vacant Padre Pio Academy into an additional building to hold the district's pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classes.
Interim Superintendent Joseph Abate discussed the potential for the district to use the Padre Pio Academy building, after it is vacated, in an attempt to alleviate overcrowding by moving the district's pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classes there.
BERNADETTE MARCINIAK/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Interim Superintendent Joseph Abate discussed the potential for the district to use the Padre Pio Academy building, after it is vacated, in an attempt to alleviate overcrowding by moving the district's pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classes there.
Interim Superintendent Joseph Abate touched on this plan during the presentation of the 2013-2014 school budget Thursday night.
"Our elementary schools are bursting at the seams," he said. "Each of our elementary schools struggled with enrollment, including kindergarten - so much so that we added two kindergarten classes this year."
Though the board is looking into a long-term plan that will deal with increasing enrollment figures, it could take years for complete execution.
"When talking about a long-range plan, there is a lot of work involved, including community input," said Abate. "This can take three to five years, but the [student population increase] issue is happening today."
While the early childhood school is a possibility, Abate also mentioned the possibility of the district keeping kindergarten classes in two different schools to accommodate students who would have to travel long distances to get to the proposed early education school.
"We might retain kindergartens in two other schools," he said. "In Hillers [school] for those students in the southern end of town and in Parker [school] to accommodate the people in the north. This way there would be no need for [the district] to provide transportation - which is very expensive."
Transportation for special needs students is mandatory, it is not for the general student population.
Abate and a number of other officials have been to the Padre Pio building a number of times. The school, according to Abate, was built in the 1960s and includes a gym and auditorium.
Negotiations with the Archdiocese of Newark, the entity that owns the building, is currently taking place.
"We sent a proposal and received a counterproposal that is very doable," Abate said. "I see the board continuing on its way to a long-range plan, but this plan would give the board a breather. They can later decide to either buy the building or build another."
Board member Angel Carrion said the district could possibly pay $1 million a year for leasing the property.
When a resident in the audience asked if the board is looking for the acquisition of Padre Pio to take place in time for the following school year, Abate stressed the need to move quickly.
"We have to take this opportunity and move quickly before a charter school comes in and takes a hold of the building," he said.
Parents, students seek coveted entry to prestigious Bergen charter school (http://www.northjersey.com/news/203956631_Parents_feel_glee__disappointment_in_charter_school_lottery.html?page=all)
Sunday, April 21, 2013 Last updated: Sunday April 21, 2013, 9:30 AM
BY HANNAN ADELY
GARFIELD — Parents leaned in, eyes wide, to read the names flashing on the screen of the children who had made it into kindergarten at the Bergen Arts and Science Charter School through a lottery.
Jennifer Arroyo, second from left, with daughter Kaitlin, 11, at the admissions lottery for Bergen Arts and Science charter school in Garfield. Kaitlin was able to get on the waiting list.
DON SMITH/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Jennifer Arroyo, second from left, with daughter Kaitlin, 11, at the admissions lottery for Bergen Arts and Science charter school in Garfield. Kaitlin was able to get on the waiting list.
With 247 applications and only 80 open spots — 46 spots already awarded to students' siblings — the odds were long.
"I did not hear any cheers," said Nihat Guvercin, the school's chief executive officer and team leader, as he glanced around the gym.
Sharon Whitaker broke the silence with a solo clap from a corner seat in the last row. "I'm excited," said the Hackensack resident, talking about her 5-year-old son, who got in. "He has a chance to have a better education."
Many more parents got the disappointing news at the school admissions lottery Saturday that their children didn't make the cut and would be placed on lengthy wait lists. The lottery has become an annual tradition for hundreds of families who vie to enter the high-performing charter school. Parents say they're impressed by the class size, the science and technology program, and the discipline at the charter school, which they believe is superior to other non-charter public schools.
With that in mind, many had hopes riding on the lottery, including Tania Cespedes of Garfield. She has tried unsuccessfully for the past two years to enroll her son Christian, 7.
Christian, who applied to first grade, was unlucky again this year when he didn't place in any of the 16 open spots. Cespedes said she believed her son would have gotten individual attention at the Bergen charter school that he lacked at his own school.
"He's just another kid going to school," she said. "Nobody knows my child."
She vowed to keep trying. "I feel education is something priceless you give your child, so you have to try," she said, fighting tears.
The lottery, though fraught with emotion, dispels any misconceptions among parents that a child is getting special preference because of some connection or because he or she is a high-scoring student, Guvercin said.
The children are selected using a computer program in a process that's done live at the admissions lottery. The school places siblings first, and gives preference to students from Garfield, Hackensack and Lodi. Beyond that, the selection is random.
Rajeev Wahi of Hackensack said he welcomed the open process. His son didn't get in but he was optimistic, saying he would find good opportunities elsewhere. "You don't know what opportunities will open for him, with this door being shut," he said.
With this outcome, he said, he plans to move to a top public school district in North Jersey that will accept his son for kindergarten in September. Hackensack won't, he said, because of his October birthday. Bigger public schools have their own advantages, he said, including competition, peer learning, and a spirit of belonging.
Kitabu Cessay of Hackensack was thrilled that his daughter, Aisatou, made it into kindergarten at the charter school. "It's like hitting a million-dollar jackpot," he said.
His son didn't get accepted to eighth grade, but will have a sibling advantage in the next year.
"There's small class size, better discipline," he said. "I think they'll benefit from the environment here."
The Bergen charter opened in Garfield in 2007 and has 420 students in Grades K-6 at the MacArthur Avenue site where the lottery was held. Another 240 students are in Grades 7-10 at a separate building in Hackensack.
The school signed a lease last month with the Archdiocese of Newark to use the former Our Lady of Sorrows School in Garfield, where they'll open a campus in September to accommodate students as the school expands to Grade 12. The news angered Garfield school officials, who have rented the former parochial school for about eight years and say they had been led to believe that church officials wanted to continue that arrangement. The district has been using the site as an annex to School 4 for about 200 kindergarten and first-grade students.
As one lottery ended, another group of parents entered the room to hear information about a new affiliated school that will open in Paterson next year. The parents heard promises of strong discipline and potential entry to prestigious colleges.
The school will start with 360 students in Grades K-5 and is expected to grow by 60 students each year until it expands to eighth grade. The location will be announced in about a week, Guvercin said. The lottery for that school will take place May 18.
A lottery for a third affiliated school, in Passaic, will take place Saturday.
Guvercin said he gets lots of hugs from parents who learn their children have been accepted. "I'm so happy for them," he said, "but I am so sorry for the others. There is nothing we can do for them."
For information on the Bergen, Passaic and Paterson Arts and Science Charter schools and the admissions process, visit njascs.org.
Three Bergen County schools ranked among top 200 on annual U.S. News list (http://www.northjersey.com/hackensack/Three_Bergen_County_schools_ranked_among_top_200_on_annual_US_News_list.html)
Tuesday, April 23, 2013 Last updated: Tuesday April 23, 2013, 6:02 PM
BY LESLIE BRODY
Three Bergen County schools ranked among the top 200 public high schools nationwide, according to the annual list released today by U.S. News & World Report.
They include Bergen County Academies in Hackensack (No. 34), Bergen County Technical High School in Teterboro (73) and Ridgewood High School (188).
Tenafly High School (316) and Northern Valley Regional High School in Demarest (373) also placed relatively well among 21,000 schools in the running. In Passaic County, Manchester Regional won a “bronze” but did not score well enough to be ranked.
U.S. News said it worked with the American Institutes for Research, a Washington-based organization, to evaluate schools on overall student performance on state exams, as well as achievement by black, Hispanic and economically disadvantaged students. Performance on Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams was used to determine how well schools prepared students for college.
Schools, real estate agents and parents often refer to such rankings, but critics say they use flawed methodology. Some argue that many schools that score well teach students from well-educated, high-income families who tend to do well on standardized tests – so the rankings often reflect student demographics more than effective teaching. The rankings do not measure whether schools inspire a love of learning or creativity, or whether they nurture students emotionally.
Biotechnology High School in Freehold, part of the Monmouth County Vocational School District, was the first among New Jersey schools and ranked eighth nationally. Seven of the 10 highest-ranked New Jersey schools were county vocational-technical schools, which often have competitive admissions policies. Passaic County Technical Institute in Wayne won a “bronze” medal but was not ranked.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @lesliebrody
Hackensack school board member's arrest is second since February (http://www.nj.com/bergen/index.ssf/2013/04/hackensack_school_board_member_arrested_for_second_time_since_february.html)
April 25, 2013 at 3:32 PM, updated April 25, 2013 at 3:38 PM
HACKENSACK — A Board of Education member was arrested by city police today — the second time he has landed behind bars since February.
Officers picked up 35-year-old Kevon Larkins at 11:11 a.m., according to Capt. Thomas Salcedo, after South Brunswick police issued a warrant for his arrest.
Salcedo was unsure whether the warrant stemmed from a prior arrest or a traffic violation.
"I don't know if it's traffic or criminal, but even a failure to appear (for a ticket) turns into a criminal warrant for your arrest," he said.
Police in Jersey City also had an active warrant for Larkins, but were unable to send an officer to Hackensack and issued a summons for his arrest. He was turned over to South Brunswick authorities this afternoon.
Larkins, who was appointed to the school board last year, was also arrested on a simple assault charge Feb. 2 after a domestic dispute with the mother of his children. The woman claimed he had slammed her hand in a door and threatened her with further violence.
He has yet to be convicted, but could lose his seat on the board if he is ultimately found guilty.
Hackensack district, teachers, have a tentative contract agreement (http://www.northjersey.com/hackensack/Hackensack_district_teachers_have_a_tentative_contract_agreement.html)
Monday May 6, 2013, 10:03 PM
BY HANNAN ADELY
HACKENSACK — The school district and teachers’ union have reached a tentative agreement on a new contract following more than a year of negotiations, union president Eileen Hooper said Monday.
The contract expired in June 2012 and negotiations started the prior January, she said. But talks hit an impasse, and a mediator was assigned to the case.
The union and district officials were able to resolve outstanding issues and reach an agreement at a meeting Thursday, Hooper said.
“I think it’s fair and equitable,” said Hooper, who announced the agreement at a Board of Education meeting Monday.
She declined to say what issues had held up the agreement or talk about the terms of the contract. Details will remain confidential until a membership vote and a school board vote, Hooper said.
The three-year contract will be retroactive to include the 2012-13 school year.
The Hackensack Education Association represents 560 teachers and paraprofessionals. Union members had rallied outside district headquarters and outside schools in recent months to call for a fair and quick resolution.
School Board President Veronica Bolcik McKenna said the agreement, if adopted, would allow people to move on and focus on their work without the distraction of an expired contract.
“We’re just pleased that the negotiating team was able to bring it to a close,” she said.
District officials move forward with plan to use building (http://www.northjersey.com/news/207827141_District_officials_move_forward_with_plan_to_use_building.html?page=all)
Friday, May 17, 2013
BY JENNIFER VAZQUEZ
The plan to use the soon-to-be vacant Padre Pio building to alleviate overcrowding in district schools is moving forward.
Interim superintendent Joseph Abate updated those in attendance on the district’s plan to use the Padre Pio building to house students in pre-K and kindergarten classes come this September. The Archdiocese of Newark announced the closure of Padre Pio Academy due to dwindling enrollment and increasing costs. Interim superintendent Joseph Abate hopes to come to a agreement with the Archdiocese that would allow the district to use the building to ease overcrowding.
BERNADETTE MARCINIAK/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Interim Superintendent Joseph Abate gave an update at the May 6 Board of Education meeting concerning the effort.
Certain grades are plagued with overcrowding, particularly, at the kindergarten level, which experienced an influx of students.
"For the better part of this year, there was a lack of long-range planning for the district," Abate said. "We are struggling in the elementary school because of the very high enrollments of kindergarten — so much so we were forced to open two new kindergarten classes."
When Abate became aware that Padre Pio was closing, he "jumped on this opportunity" because the building was an option to "solve long-range issues short-term…immediately…as of right now."
With hopes of gaining a better perspective of the student population, the previous board decided to set a long-range plan and conduct a demographic study performed by Whitehall Associates.
What the study concluded was, though there was an increase in kindergarteners, an influx at the middle school was foreseen in two years. However, the increase in student population at the middle school was a present reality. This year alone, the school saw 102 new students with only 20 departures, Abate said.
In essence, acquiring the Padre Pio building would give the district the much needed space for the kindergarteners. Therefore, middle school students, specifically current fourth-graders, would continue to remain at the elementary schools without being forced into the middle schools, which is facing its own issues with a growing student population.
The Padre Pio building was an opportunity that the district had to take up immediately, especially since, according to Abate, a charter school was eyeing leasing the building as well.
While negotiations with the Archdiocese of Newark, the entity that owns the building, are currently taking place, Abate was cautious in over sharing.
"We have budgeted the rental of this facility," he said. "We settled on a price but haven’t signed anything yet…I’m reluctant to say what we are willing to settle in terms of money because I do not want word to get out there to [the archdiocese] of how much money we budgeted for Padre Pio [and have the archdiocese ask for that amount]."
After juggling a few option as to how the building would be used if the district acquired it, the choice the board is leaning towards, according to Abate, is the option to move the entire pre-K, pre-K handicapped, and no more than three special education kindergarten classes into the building.
By law, transportation is provided to special education students. Since pre-K is not a mandated state program, transportation is not provided. Therefore, there will be no added cost for transportation and an additional administrator for the building.
The other option would entail moving the entire pre-K, pre-K handicapped, and as many kindergarten classes as possible into the building. However, this would have required the need for transportation that the district would have to pay for.
If the board decides to lease the building from the archdiocese, it is looking into a long term contract.
"We are looking for a possible 5 year lease," Abate said. "This timeframe will give the district a better idea as to what the [definitive] long-range plan will be, and prohibit the archdiocese from pulling the rug under us."
Abate clarified that he does not want the archdiocese to mandate the district to vacate the premises before the district has a better grasp of a definitive plan to address the population growth.
"During the [five-year lease] time frame, we will have a better idea if we should purchase Padre Pio or start building a new building," Abate said.
Abate and a number of other officials have visited the building a number of times. The school, according to Abate, was built in the 1960s and includes a gym and auditorium.
Abate first touched upon the possibility of the district using the Padre Pio building in an effort to ease overcrowding during the March 21 board meeting.
The board hopes a definitive answer by the May 20 meeting, according to Abate.
For those who didn't read the entire article, here's the key sentences.
*** Abate clarified that he does not want the archdiocese to mandate the district to vacate the premises before the district has a better grasp of a definitive plan to address the population growth. "During the [five-year lease] time frame, we will have a better idea if we should purchase Padre Pio or start building a new building," Abate said. ***
"start building a new building".
IF that is what is going to happen, let's try to turn it from a negative to a positive. If the Editor could post the map of the city's school district lines, readers can see how they are nonsensical and don't reflect the sense of community for each part of Hackensack. Those lines were drawn that way for issues that no longer exist. For instance, the Fairmount District extends well south of Passaic Street, and east of Railroad Ave. The Nellie K. Parker District and the Hiller's District also extend east of Railroad Ave.
IF the city wants to create a sense of growth for the downtown and vicinity, maybe a new school building just outside of the downtown could be part of the answer. How about acquiring some lands around Union Street Park, especially to the north all the way to Atlantic Street, and making a new school building there ? Just north of the park along Union Street, there's an ugly box-style warehouse and two very old houses subdivided into many small apartments. I think the house on the corner is 4 or 5 apartments. No big loss there. No big losses west of the park either, if that land is needed. That park was originally the site of the Union Street School, which was abandoned due to damages sustained in the Great Appalachian Hurricane (Nov, 1950) and then torn down. Keeping the park as a park is needed, and it could double as the playground for the school. A new school could be built around the park, helping to define a new sense of community for the whole downtown area and vicinity.
Perhaps the new school district could cover everything EAST OF RAILROAD AVE, from around Passaic or Anderson Street down to around Essex Street or Kansas Street. School officials would have to look at the numbers to decide how far north and south it would go for enrollment to balance capacity in all the city's schools and to make sure that all the schools are roughly divided between Black and Latino students. My gut tells me that these suggested school district boundaries would work on all those counts. From a community-defining standpoint, I'd say the Railroad Ave would be an excellent and firm western border, especially to create a sense of community for the neighborhoods just to the west of the downtown district (State St, Union St, Park St).
As needed, the city could perk the remaining school district boundaries between Nellie K. Parker and the other schools, again so that all schools would have proper balance regarding capacity and demographics.
After long negotiations, Hackensack settles fire, school contracts (http://www.northjersey.com/news/208773461_After_long_negotiations__Hackensack_settles_fire__school_contracts.html)
Friday, May 24, 2013
BY HANNAN ADELY
HACKENSACK — Union contracts for teachers, firefighters and fire officers were approved this week following months of negotiations with school and city officials.
The city school board approved the Hackensack Education Association contract Monday. The three-year contract grants no raise in the first year and a 7.11 percent raise over the second and third years, said school board member Angel Carrion, who was on the negotiating team.
"I think all in all we did a good job," said Carrion, saying the raise was in line with the county average. "We compromised and I think people are happy."
The teachers also agreed to have two additional days of professional development, while seniority protections were written into the contract for paraprofessionals.
The contract for the union that represents 560 teachers and paraprofessionals expired in June 2012 and negotiations have gone on for more than a year. The new contract is retroactive to the 2012-13 school year.
Union President Eileen Hooper could not be reached Thursday. She said in an interview this month that she believed the resolution was "fair and equitable."
The City Council last week approved contracts for Hackensack Professional Fire Fighters Local 2081, representing about 60 workers, and the Hackensack Uniformed Fire Officers Association Local 3172, with about 40 members.
Both contracts include 1.5 percent raises annually over three years, said City Manager Stephen Lo Iacono. The unions’ contracts had expired on Dec. 31, and the new ones will be retroactive to that date.
Hackensack school officials scramble to ease overcrowding (http://www.northjersey.com/news/209767041_Hackensack_school_officials_scramble_to_ease_overcrowding.html?page=all)
Saturday, June 1, 2013
BY HANNAN ADELY
HACKENSACK — The city school district expects to lease a Catholic school that will close in June to get some relief from overcrowding, but officials say the building won't go far enough to meet long-term demands for classroom space.
Kindergarten teacher Pedra DelVechio with her students at Fairmount Elementary School in Hackensack. AMY NEWMAN/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
The school district is seeing a spike in enrollment that is expected to continue for the next five years. School officials say they'll consider plans that could include redistricting, or buying or constructing a new building.
"We need to be preparing because according to our demographic study, the bump in population is still coming. So what we see now is just the beginning," said Angel Carrion, a school board trustee and member of its long-range planning committee.
In Hackensack, the number of students has been growing for the past six years, according to a March demographic study. The number went from 4,879 in 2007-08, to 5,409 students in the current school year. The rise in young students bucks a trend in the rest of Bergen County, where enrollment of young schoolchildren has plummeted.
Despite growth in the city, there has been a lack of long-range planning in the district, said interim Superintendent Joseph Abate. The state requires school districts to submit a long-range facilities plan every five years, but Abate said the last one was done eight years ago.
School board members blamed turnover in administration for the lack of a current plan.
"When you have a high turnover, it's very difficult to maintain a level of continuity," said Veronica Bolcik McKenna, president of the school board. "Some things will not move forward the way they should."
She said the schools were "bursting at the seams" and operating at or near maximum capacity.
Abate said the district struggled this school year because of high kindergarten enrollment. The district had to open two more kindergarten classes and hire aides for "just about every one of our [kindergarten] classes, expect at the Jackson Avenue School," he said.
Ed Ahearn said he was concerned that his son's kindergarten class at the Fanny M. Hillers School had 25 students this year.
"It's a big burden on the teacher to have to manage 25 5-year-olds," he said. "And it could take away from the children as far as learning."
But Ahearn said the teacher had done a "fantastic job" under tough circumstances. The classroom also has an aide until 11:30 a.m., he said.
The middle school numbers also jumped this year and included many mid-year transfers; 102 new students enrolled but only 22 left, Abate said.
In an apparent stroke of luck for city schools, the Archdiocese of Newark announced in February that it would close the Padre Pio school in Hackensack. The school board is expected to approve a five-year lease for the building at its next board meeting.
The district plans to house pre-kindergarten, the pre-K handicapped program, and two or three special-education kindergarten classes at the school, Abate said. It will be called the Hackensack Early Childhood Development Center.
The board also expects to hire a certified school facilities planner to identify steps the district can take to accommodate the student population. The district may have to buy or build a new school, use classroom trailers, or redistrict, school officials said.
In the next five years, the total school population is expected to grow by 369 students, or 7 percent, according to the demographic study. The middle school will see the biggest jump in the number of students during that time.
As a result, the fifth grade will be moved into the elementary schools in the 2014-15 school year, Abate said. "The only way the middle school could absorb the numbers down the road, and in fact at the door already, is to remove a grade," he said.
He also believes fifth graders will fare better there than with older students at the middle school.
Barbara Kilgore, president of the middle school PTA, said moving the fifth grade out of the school will help. But she was dismayed, she said, by school officials' inaction. "The lack of planning just appalls me," she said.
The rising number of children in Hackensack is contrary to what's happening in most places in North Jersey.
The number of children under 5 fell 12 percent across Bergen and Passaic counties from 2000 to 2010, according to U.S. Census Bureau data, for reasons that include the economy, women's decisions to stay in the workforce, and decisions by more young parents to live in New York City instead of moving to suburbs in North Jersey.
But in Hackensack, the number of children under 5 went the opposite way — rising 12.5 percent. The municipalities with an increase, such as Hackensack, are generally less affluent and have more immigrants, whose birth rates are higher than those of native-born residents.
Hackensack also has new residential construction that can affect enrollment. The study estimates about 55 students will enroll from new housing — 44 of them from the 226-unit Avalon apartment complex, which opened about a month ago. With a big downtown rehabilitation push by the city, development is expected to continue.
School board members say the district's strong reputation also has attracted new students. The district has strong enrichment programs, many advanced placement classes and good teachers, they said. Newsweek recently named Hackensack High School among the top 1,500 high schools in the U.S., officials noted.
"We offer tremendous amounts of programs here that are above and beyond other school districts and people are starting to realize that," said Bolcik McKenna.
44 kids from Avalon Hackensack ???? I'm laughing at that one. High end rental and condo buildings in Hackensack have traditionally put few or no kids into the schools. And the last kids we should be complaining about are ones from high-income families, you know, the ones that statistically perform better and make the statistics better.
They're lucky if they get 44 kids from all of Prospect Avenue.
Homer is absolutely right, I doubt there is 44 kids from all of the HIGH-RISES on Prospect Ave. I'm guessing that what he meant, the high-rises.
If you want to find kids on Prospect Ave, they are easy to find --- just look at the old apartments on next to the hospital (#2, #8, #64), and the garden apartments across the street. I bet there is way more than 44 kids in those buildings.
Avalon Hackensack will be a great ratable, it will pay a ton of taxes to the city and create almost no burden on schools, police, and city services. This is the future of Hackensack, especially Main Street and vicinity. And I understand that Edgewater mega-developer Fred Daibes is interested in The Record campus. By all accounts, his Linden Street building is a great asset to Hackensack. He's proved himself. Daibes will sure propose something similar to Avalon Hackensack, but much bigger, and perhaps with office and retail components. Bring it on, we need it.
I certainly hope that the new administration in Hackensack is will not curtain upscale construction due to the school overcrowding issue. Without the ratables provided by new construction in urban areas, the city will be strained financially to provide the necessary city services, including schools, police, fire, etc. Hackensack is a city, it is not a suburban town. If anyone wants to know what happens to a city that fails to redevelop its downtown and its older areas, just look at all the other cities in New Jersey.
You guessed right. I was referring to the area of Prospect Avenue from Atlantic Street north to Passaic. And since I am in the neighborhood, might as well throw in Overlook also.
Yep. I agree. All the highrises on Prospect AND Overlook are putting less than 44 kids in the Hackensack school system, combined.
And Avalon Hackensack will be almost entirely empty-nesters and young couples with no kids (or maybe a baby).
I bet there will be a lot of retired couples (esp. Jewish) downsizing out of houses in Teaneck and northern Bergen County, and lots of Asians (esp. Koreans) who want to live near their favorite mall and still be not too far from Palisades Park. Add about 10% or 15% for upscale Latino's, and maybe a handful of African-Americans, and that'll be the composition of Avalon Hackensack.
Newsweek ranks Hackensack HS among top high schools in the nation (http://www.northjersey.com/news/210521781_Newsweek_ranks_Hackensack_High_School_top_high_school_in_the_nation.html?page=all)
Friday June 7, 2013, 7:45 AM
BY JENNIFER VAZQUEZ
Hackensack – Hackensack High School was ranked among the top high schools in the nation by Newsweek.
The process at Newsweek by which rankings were determined, involved a look at set criteria such as Advanced Placement programs, graduation rates, and college acceptance.
"It is always nice to be recognized," Hackensack High School Principal James Montesano said. "It is nice to be honored."
According to Montesano, credit must be given to all the students, staff, and faculty for all their hard work and dedication to education.
"We have a mature group of students who rise to the occasion," he said.
While Montesano is pleased with the school's latest honor, he noted that this is not the first time that Hackensack High School received such a ranking — in fact, it is the second time. HHS was previously ranked in 2009, although, Montesano pointed out, the criteria has changed.
According to Newsweek's website, the publication invited over 5,000 high schools to take part in the survey. While close to 2,500 institutions responded, Newsweek picked the top 2,000 of which Hackensack placed No. 1,374.
It is ranked among the top 1,500 high schools in the country, recognized on set criteria such as Advanced Placement programs, graduation rate, and college acceptance.
The list is based on six components: graduation rate (25 percent), college acceptance rates (25 percent), AP/IB/AICE tests taken per student (25 percent), average SAT/ACT (10 percent), average AP/IB/AICE score (10 percent), and the percentage of students enrolled in at least one AP/IB/AICE course (5 percent).
Montesano further explained the process.
"We received an email [from Newsweek] saying we were preliminary screened to be a part of [the survey]," he said.
High schools that were screened, were then sent an application.
"To our surprise, we were selected [among the top]," Montesano said.
The latest honor has other district officials pleased as well.
"In terms of the announcement, it is great news for Hackensack," Interim Superintendent Joseph Abate said. "However, there is still much to be done."
"I will not be satisfied until we are No. 1."
Here's the complete list:
Hackensack School District hosts community forum for superintendent search (http://www.northjersey.com/news/212438761_Hackensack_School_District_hosts_community_forum_for_superintendent_search.html?page=all)
Friday, June 21, 2013
BY JENNIFER VAZQUEZ
HACKENSACK — The Hackensack School District hosted a community forum regarding the superintendent search that is currently underway.
Richard Marasco, right, and Jan Furman — both from the Leadership Advantage search firm — gathered suggestions, concerns, and questions residents had regarding the current search process for a new district leader at a community forum on June 12.
The forum, on June 12, was scheduled to give residents an opportunity to voice any questions or concerns they may have about the hiring of a new superintendent — as well as a chance to aid in the search process by providing insight as to what the community is looking for in a district leader. Two representatives from Leadership Advantage — the search firm that was hired to assist in narrowing down the pool of candidates — were present to gather information and speak to those present.
"We want to listen to your voices," Assistant Superintendent Rosemary Marks said. "We want to listen to your questions and concerns."
Richard Marasco, representative for Leadership Advantage, further added, "We are here today because we want to know Hackensack better."
He continued, "What do you like about the school system here? What don’t you like? What do you want to see in the next superintendent?"
According to Marasco, the information gathered will be "part of a public document — a blue print for the board, district, school administrators, and [the firm] in order to go forward [with the search]."
Marasco also explained how the search and candidacy pool for the superintendent position changed throughout the years.
"Before we used to have about 100 people interested in a superintendent position," Marasco said. "That is not the case anymore. The pressure that comes with the position has decreased the candidacy pool. Salary caps imposed by the state have dramatically changed and play a part in less people applying [for a superintendent position]."
Resident Andrew Wright, who has two children in the Hackensack Public School system, was present during the forum. He voiced his desire for someone who will be at the helm of the district for the long-haul.
"We need someone who has staying power," Wright said. "Someone who won’t feel the pressure and go right through the door….we need someone who is, probably, not close to retirement."
Marasco noted that Wright’s point is a common concern throughout the community and among the district’s educational staff. Over an approximate span of five years, the district has seen two superintendents — Edward Kliszus and Raymond Gonzalez — come and go before current interim Superintendent Joseph Abate was appointed on November 2011.
According to resident Ojetta Townes, an individual who understands the diversity within the student population is another matter of importance.
"We need someone who understands the diverse needs of our community," she said. "How can one implement the needs of our children while taking into consideration all the factors — cultural, racial, and economical — of our community."
Adding to the comment, resident Blanche Stuart said that an individual who focuses on all levels of the education spectrum is of significance as well.
"We have a great [Advanced Placement] curriculum, and we have special education, but what happens to the kids in the middle," she asked. "We need a leader who can focus on all the levels — not just AP and special education."
The need, and want, for someone with an "open-door" policy who is willing to address the concerns of parents was also brought up during the forum.
According to Wright, a keen focus on preparing students for the workforce should be a main goal of the next superintendent.
"One of the many challenges schools face is preparing children for the workforce," he said. "How can you prepare our children if you are preparing them for [New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge exam]? I think schools are lacking in up-to-date technology."
Stuart advised for the district to expand their search.
"We need to expand the pool of candidates," she said. "It is important to get someone committed."
Though Jan Furman, representative for Leadership Advantage, agreed with the notion of broadening the search, she did mention that there could be some slight conflicts when someone is brought in from out-of-state.
"There will be nuances with [New Jersey’s] Department of Education if you get someone from out of state," Jan Furman, representative for Leadership Advantage said. "But sometimes you do have to expand the pool."
Once the search comes to an end and a candidate has been named the next superintendent, he or she will take the position come November.
Hackensack district approves building lease from Archdiocese of Newark (http://www.northjersey.com/news/213522601_Hackensack_district_approves_building_lease_from_Archdiocese_of_Newark.html?page=all)
Friday June 28, 2013, 11:36 AM
BY JENNIFER VAZQUEZ
HACKENSACK - The Hackensack School District has a lease agreement for the Padre Pio Academy building with the Archdiocese of Newark, officials said..
The Hackensack School District approved entering a five-year lease with the Archdiocese of Newark to use the now-vacant Padre Pio Academy building. The facility will now be known as the Hackensack Public Schools Early Childhood Developmental Center and will house pre-K, pre-K handicapped, and two or three special education kindergarten classes come fall.
For months district officials toyed with the idea of converting the now-vacant Catholic school into what will be known as the Hackensack Public Schools Early Childhood Developmental Center to hold the district's pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classes in an attempt to alleviate student overcrowding. The board approved the five-year contract at its June 10 meeting.
The school building spans 42,069 square feet, interim Superintendent Joseph Abate said in an interview with The Chronicle.
Though the Early Childhood Developmental Center will house the entire pre-K, pre-K handicapped, and two or three special education kindergarten classes, plans could change within the year.
"A year from now, we hope to move as many kindergarten classes into the building as we can fit," Abate said.
As per the agreement between the two parties, the Hackensack district will provide a $46,667 security deposit and will pay "$54,677 a month for a total of $656,129 a year," according to Abate.
While school officials have visited the building on occasions and Abate, previously, mentioned that the school facility is in "great shape" - having been built in the 1960s and hosting a gym and auditorium - the contract gives the district the opportunity to make certain changes to bring it to code.
"Even though there is not one physically handicap student scheduled to attend the school in September," the district hopes to create handicap accessibility ramps and toilets, Abate said. Despite the fact that the district is "currently in bid" for the ramps, Abate said the project should be complete by the start of September.
The five-year lease will also allow the district time to gather additional information and come up with a more permanent solution to its growing student population. The district will look into either buying the property or constructing a new building, among other options, Abate said.
The agreement with the Archdiocese also states that the building will host CCD - or religious Catholic instruction classes, according to Abate.
Though the Archdiocese of Newark was initially disappointed in the closing of Padre Pio Academy, it takes comfort in playing a role in the education of the community it once served.
"Despite our best efforts to keep Padre Pio open, we just couldn't because of low enrollment," Kelly Marsicano, public relations specialist for the Archdiocese of Newark, said. "We are thankful the school building will still be used as a school. We are glad that we can continue, in a way, the tradition of education."
According to Marsicano, the lease will begin July 1.
Classes at the Center are set to begin September, according to Abate.
Hackensack school board removes one of its own, citing change of residence
Monday, July 15, 2013 Last updated: Monday July 15, 2013, 10:51 PM
BY HANNAN ADELY
HACKENACK — The school board voted Monday to remove Trustee Kevon Larkins from office because he has moved out of the district — while Larkins protested that he had dual residences and was being targeted for political reasons.
School board members must live in the district where they serve, according to state statute, and if they move, their membership “shall immediately cease.”
School officials said they had proof Larkins no longer lived at 140 Prospect Ave. — including returned packages, a police report and word from the doorman.
“Mr. Larkins no longer lives in Hackensack,” said Board Attorney Richard Salkin, and, under law, “he has to resign his position.”
Larkins, elected to the board last year, said he had residences in both Teaneck and Hackensack and it was his right to remain on the board. He did not say which was his primary residence.
He said he moved to Teaneck a month ago because he gained custody of his children and needed a home large enough to accommodate his family. But Larkins reported a Teaneck address on a police report as far back as January, Salkin said. The report, Larkins said, was a confidential one that he made involving his children and that it shouldn’t have been released.
School officials said packages sent to Larkins’ Prospect Avenue address had been returned three times in recent months and that the doorman said he no longer lived there.
Larkins countered that his name was not on the lease and that there were 300 or 400 residents in the building where he lived, so the doorman might not know him. He said he also told officials he’d pick up packages at school board offices.
Six board members voted for the resolution to remove him from office. Larkins and board member Carol Martinez voted against it. One person, Angel Carrion, was absent.
After the vote, Larkins was asked to leave the dais. He did and promptly sat in the rows of the high school auditorium where the meeting was held. He was the first person to get up to speak during public comment, where he defended himself and criticized the board.
He claimed he was targeted by the board for political reasons — because he didn’t “rubber stamp” the matters that come before the board: “Because I won’t play ball with their politics, they destroy me,” he said.
Board member Frank Albolino said that wasn’t the case: “He’s not being targeted because he moved out of the district,” he said. “He moved out of the district. It’s that simple.”
Larkins was part of divided school board marked by frequent disagreements and complaints over the past two years. Last year, he was part of a board faction that made a controversial decision not to renew contracts for three administrators, which sparked outcry from some parents and students.
He also was accused of verbally assaulting high school Principal James Montesano — one of the fired administrators — in earshot of several students during a walkout in support of the educators. The matters was made part of an ethics complaint, Salkin said.
In February, Larkins was charged with aggravated assault, simple assault and terroristic threats in a domestic incident, but has denied the allegations.
School board President Veronica Bolcik McKenna said the board would soon advertise for candidates to fill the open trustee position and hoped to have a replacement before its August meeting. The board has 65 days to approve a new member. After that, the responsibility falls to the county schools superintendent.
- See more at: http://www.northjersey.com/news/Hackensack_school_board_removes_one_of_its_own_citing_change_of_residence_.html?page=all#sthash.t9XXnoD2.dpuf
I would say that Albolino nailed it. Can't get any more clear than his statement.
Hackensack Board of Education appoints new trustee
Wednesday August 14, 2013, 12:10 PM
BY JENNIFER VAZQUEZ
HACKENSACK - The Hackensack Board of Education appointed a new trustee at the Aug. 12 meeting - filling the seat left vacant after the departure of Kevon Larkins.
Robin E. Coles, left, was appointed to the Board of Education on Aug. 12 - filling in the vacancy left after Kevon Larkins was ousted due to residency issues. Business Administrator and Board Secretary Mark Kramer, right, swears her in.
According to board Attorney Richard Salkin, eight individuals came forward for the seat - including a lawyer, a retired teacher from the district, and former students.
Though the board reached out to all interested candidates to allow them the opportunity to address the public at the meeting, not all of them responded resulting in the five being present, and one candidate addressing the audience and board via telephone since she was on vacation.
Robin E. Coles was chosen for the position.
"Community service is my life," Coles, who is a pastor's wife, said when addressing the residents in attendance. "I know I can be an asset to the board. I bring a lot of compassion and look at both sides of an issue."
After the board came back from executive session and announced that Coles was chosen, she was immediately sworn in by Business Administrator and Mark Kramer, also the board's secretary.
Coles subsequently thanked all in attendance.
"I just want to say thank you," she said. "I'm committed...I'm thankful and I'm happy."
According to Coles, she has been a resident of the city for the past 21 years. She is the mother of a Hackensack High School graduate and an upcoming senior. She hopes her time with the board will bring a sense of teamwork and togetherness.
"I want to make sure we maintain cohesiveness," Coles said. "We have to work as a team...I hope to be an asset to this Board."
Board Vice President Dr. Angel Carrion, who oversaw the meeting since President Veronica Bolcik McKenna was absent, said Coles' interest in the community was a selling point in her appointment.
"What really stood out for us was her community involvement," he said. "That weighs very heavy with [the board]. She is very well spoken. She seems honest as an individual."
Fellow trustee Frank Albolino further explained why Coles was selected.
"Her community involvement was great," he said. "Plus, they always say go with your gut."
According to Salkin and Carrion, Coles will remain in the position until elections are held on April 2014.
The Hackensack Board of Education ousted trustee Larkins at the July 15 meeting, citing residency issues.
Rules dictate a member must live within the district in order to serve.
According to published article from The Record, Larkins proclaimed that he had dual residences in Teaneck and Hackensack - since he moved to Teaneck when he gained custody of his children and needed a larger home.
Six members voted to remove him, while Larkins and member Carol Martinez voted against the motion.
With the removal of Larkins there were nine members, which was still "enough board members to hold a quorum and operate" since the minimum number of members for voting matters in the elementary level is five and those pertaining to high school is six, according to a previous interview with Albolino.
- See more at: http://www.northjersey.com/news/219582251_Hackensack_Board_of_Education_appoints_new_trustee.html?page=all#sthash.fHEVZv4K.dpuf
Published on Aug 19, 2013
Hackensack Public Schools 2013 State of the Schools address by Interim Superintendent Joseph Abate.
Hackensack summer school program for preschoolers decreases performance gap
Tuesday, September 3, 2013 Last updated: Tuesday September 3, 2013, 6:45 AM
BY HANNAN ADELY
HACKENSACK — Summer school is traditionally for students who haven't completed coursework, failed tests, or just didn't meet marks in their classes.
In Hackensack, summer school now targets a student population that doesn't even do homework: preschoolers.
The school district this summer began a program for children entering kindergarten who lagged behind their peers, because they didn't go to preschool, their preschool's standards fell short, or they simply needed extra help.
"We do have a number of children who come to us in kindergarten who have not had the opportunity to be in preschool," Superintendent Joseph Abate said in his 2013 address on the state of the district. "These children find themselves behind right away."
The summer school program is rooted in the belief that early-childhood education is critical to students' success, can help close achievement gaps, and can put students on the right track.
Researchers also say high-quality early-childhood education is a long-term investment that pays off as students become adults and enter the workforce at a more stable starting place.
"If there's one thing we need to do, it's to invest in early-childhood years as much as possible and not cut back," said Rosemary Marks, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in the Hackensack school district.
President Obama has made universal pre-K a priority and this year unveiled a $75 billion plan over the next 10 years for high-quality, full-day preschool for income-eligible families. It would be funded with a new federal tax on tobacco products and cost-sharing with states.
The summer school program in Hackensack, which served about 70 students in half-day classes over four weeks in July, cost $30,000. Parents who registered their children for kindergarten in the district were invited to apply and their children were given assessment tests. Those most in need of help were placed in the program.
Some had gone though the district's public half-day preschool program during the school year, which serves 120 students, but needed reinforcement of skills they'd learned or had poor attendance. Others never went to preschool or went where the standards weren't the same as those in the district.
The early education helps students catch up with classmates and helps lower the performance gap among children of varying income levels and race, Marks said.
"We spend an inordinate amount of funds and time trying to help students later in the middle-school years and even high school to make up for gaps," she said. "This is really about creating more equity across the board so more students have access to opportunity."
While a summer school program can help, it won't address a lack of, or inadequate, education, said W. Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research.
"It's better than nothing," he said, "but it's too little, too late to impact the kind of things they're talking about – language and social and emotional development, and not just simple literacy skills."
But that speaks to a greater problem – the lack of public preschool education and the inadequate education at most preschools.
"States need to be playing a bigger role so districts aren't doing this by themselves," Barnett said. "That's why, of course, the president proposed federal support for preschool for all kids."
New Jersey has been a leader in providing free preschool to at-risk urban children since passing the School Funding Reform Act of 2008. But thousands of children outside the state's 31 poorest cities don't get the education they are entitled to under the law, according to a survey released earlier this year by Advocates for Children of New Jersey.
- See more at: http://www.northjersey.com/news/222120531_Hackensack_summer_school_program_for_preschoolers_decreases_performance_gap.html?page=all#sthash.Gcua8pgp.dpuf
Hackensack hires superintendent and middle school principal (http://www.northjersey.com/news/223580111_Hackensack_hires_superintendent_and_middle_school_prinicpal.html?page=all)
Friday, September 13, 2013
BY HANNAN ADELY
HACKENSACK – The Board of Education has signed a five-year contract with the city's new school superintendent in a measure that officials and parents hope will bring continuity to the district.
Karen Lewis, an assistant superintendent in Highland Park, will start work as district superintendent on Dec. 1, earning $167,500 annually.
The board voted to hire Lewis and middle school Principal Corey Jones last week and finalized their contracts on Monday. Lewis' contract is longer than previous ones in order to address a key concern in the community about turnover in administration, said board member Veronica Bolcik McKenna.
"One of the strong messages we got from staff, administrators and the community was [they were] looking for stability and that's how we thought we could bring stability," she said.
Since Superintendent Edward Kliszus left in June 2011, the district has been served by two interim superintendents. The current one, Joseph Abate, leaves Nov. 30.
The board interviewed eight people for the superintendent job. Lewis' references and interviews showed her to be fair, personable, a good communicator, and someone who works well with teams, Bolcik McKenna said.
Eight trustees voted unanimously for her hire; two didn't vote because of conflicts of interest. Lewis has been assistant superintendent in Highland Park for the past five years and is a certified business administrator.
Lewis said she was impressed by Hackensack's programs.
"Hackensack interested me because it is a large, very diverse community, and I think it offers a great program and a quality academic program," she said. "I'd like to be part of moving that tradition forward."
Lewis said she will focus on getting the district accustomed to state changes in standardized tests and a new method for reporting test scores.
Corey Jones started as the principal of Hackensack Middle School last week. He was principal at Somerville High School in Somerset County for about two years until March, when he resigned because of "different visions of leadership," he said. He has also been an assistant principal in West Orange.
His contract runs though the end of June. Jones will earn $159,363 annually. He replaces David Petrella, who was chosen over the summer as the athletic director for Hackensack High School.
Jones was chosen from four finalists, Bolcik McKenna said. She said he came across "as a positive leader" who had strengths in curriculum, scheduling and programming.
Jones said he wants to transition students to the "reality of 21st century learning" by encouraging learning through inquiry and through subject connections.
"The world is changing quite rapidly and we need to prepare students for occupations that may not exist now," he said.
- See more at: http://www.northjersey.com/news/223580111_Hackensack_hires_superintendent_and_middle_school_prinicpal.html?page=all#sthash.3mlWQs9A.dpuf
In Hackensack, Athetics Director is a higher career position than being a school principle. Pathetic. And what does that say to the kids, what are the priorities in life ? Education or sports.
Hackensack district names new superintendent (http://www.northjersey.com/news/224520661_Hackensack_district_names_new_superintendent.html?page=all)
Friday, September 20, 2013
HACKENSACK — After a months-long search, the Hackensack School District has a new head at the healm as Karen Lewis was named superintendent, finalizing her contract on Sept. 9. Lewis is an assistant superintendent in the Highland Park district, in Middlesex County, according to Board Attorney Richard E. Salkin, and is set to receive $167,000 annually as per her five-year contract and as "permitted by the state for a district this size."
The Board of Education was searching for a replacement for current interim Superintendent Joseph Abate for a few months. "By law, he could only be employed until the end of November," board President Veronica Bolcik McKenna said. "We’ve been working to find a replacement since springtime." Lewis is set to start on Dec. 1, while Abate is expected to leave his position on Nov. 30. According to both Salkin and McKenna, there will be a time overlap allowing Lewis to become acclimated in her new district role by working alongside Abate before she leaves.
The superintendent search process included "various meetings with administrators, teachers, and the community," McKenna said. According to McKenna, there were eight candidates who were narrowed down to three individuals that underwent extensive interviewing and onsite observations, among other criteria.
Though he was not part of the search, Board Secretary Mark Kramer, further explained that the search firm Leadership Advantage assisted the district in its superintendent search by speaking with administrators, the community, faculty, and even posting the job opening in its network. McKenna mentioned that the district also wanted stability in that position with someone to head the district for a longer stretch period of time.
In an interview with The Record, Lewis said that Hackensack impressed her. "Hackensack interested me because it is a large, very diverse community, and I think it offers a great program and a quality academic program," she said. "I’d like to be part of moving that tradition forward. According to McKenna, the Board is confident that Lewis will do a good job. "She was the candidate that best matched what we were looking for," she said. "She has a strong academic achievement record. She is able to be fair. She is a focused leader….We are all very excited to have her here."
Hackensack Police investigating theft of school iPads
Friday, September 20, 2013
HACKENSACK —As a new academic year got under way this week at Hackensack High School, school officials are getting ready for the second year of their "iPad initiative."
And as administrators distribute the Apple tablets to all incoming freshmen, the Chronicle has learned that they have also been working to recover 52 of the popular devices that went missing since last September.
And since last October, Hackensack police have charged four students with theft.
In a telephone interview, interim Superintendent Joseph Abate confirmed the district has filed police reports for the missing iPads.
Abate said it has "aggressively" pursued the recovery of the expensive tablet computers.
"We've been getting them back," Abate, who explained that the insurance policy requires the district to file a police report, said.
According to police reports, many iPads were allegedly stolen from gym lockers and after the devices were left unattended at various locations.
In some cases, students filed a police reports days, or weeks, after their iPad went missing.
Police have been able to charge four students. Available details of the incidents were limited.
According to Detective Thomas Salcedo, on Oct. 25, 2012, a 14-year-old boy and a 14-year-girl who were Hackensack High School students were charged with receiving stolen property for being in possession of an iPad that was reported stolen.
Police said the iPad was stolen during a school assembly. The theft was recorded by the school's video surveillance system.
On Dec. 21, 2012, a 14-year-old male student was charged with one count of theft.
Police said during class, a student went to the bathroom. When he returned his iPad was missing. Students in the class told the teacher that the 14-year-old took the iPad. When the student was confronted, he removed the iPad from his bag.
Then on Feb. 7, police said a 17-year-old boy was charged with theft after "he walked up to another student and demanded he turn over the iPad." The student complied.
Initially, school officials said that 43 iPads were reported stolen, and that no students were charged by police.
Asked about the students who were charged, Abate said: "I'm not aware of those facts. I can't comment."
Abate added that the students who were charged no longer attend Hackensack High School. It remains unclear what disciplinary action, if any, was taken.
According to an email from Adrain Cepero, the district technology coordinator, of the 43 iPads the district said were reported stolen "eight were replaced through insurance." The remaining 35 claims were denied since iPads were left unattended or unsecured somewhere others had access.
Cepero said three iPads were recovered by police, and one was returned by a "good Samaritan."
Even when insurance does cover the cost of a replacement iPad, the district is on the hook for a $100 deductible for each iPad.
"We felt it might be a financial burden for some families to pay," Cepero said in a telephone interview. "We didn't know each individual family's financial situation."
Cepero said there were also nine iPads that were "reported lost and later found on campus using tracking technology."
According to the District Technology Plan, Hackensack seeks "to have all students with an iPad by 2015-2016."
During the last 15 months, the district has approved several purchases from Apple.
According to the minutes of Board of Education meetings, in June 2012 the district first approved the purchase of 590 iPads for staff and students "for $579 per unit for a cost of $341,610."
In December 2012, the district spent $57,900 for 100 iPads for the high school's Bilingual/ESL Student Program.
At the same meeting, two separate resolutions were approved to insure a total of 200 iPads for the program at a total cost of $29,800.
In June 2013, the district purchased 700 iPads, 25 iMac computers and 50 Apple TVs "for wireless mirroring to classroom projectors." According to the resolution approving the purchase, "the District has secured a 3-year, 0 percent interest, dollar-buyout lease through Apple Financial Services."
The deal gives the district "the option to trade-in, or "refresh" leased iPads after two or three years and receive credit for each device at fair market value towards the purchase of new devices."
The total cost is "not to exceed $444,450, to be paid in three annual payments of $148,148.05."
Incoming freshman are scheduled to receive their iPads sometime in mid-September, according to Cepero.
"Currently iPads not recovered will be replaced from our current supply, but I am exploring replacing them in the future through the purchase of refurbished iPads at a lower cost if necessary," Cepero explained via email.
Abate characterized the thefts as "the norm" in any school.
"When we entered this program with Apple we were advised that we would face 5 to 10 percent [in losses]", said Abate. "We're talking about percentages that are below the norm. While I'm concerned, I'm not overly concerned."
North Jersey Media Group Inc.
Cops halt checks of students’ residency
Saturday, September 21, 2013
BY HANNAN ADELY
HACKENSACK — City police officers no longer will be permitted to work for the school district in residency fraud investigations.
Police Director Michael Mordaga said he will bar officers from doing that work starting on Nov. 1 to avoid potential conflicts of interest. The Board of Education employs police officers on a $120-a-case basis to make sure Hackensack students are residents of district.
"Most boards of education do not use the police department for this, and I feel that they’re probably better off hiring their own people," said Mordaga, police director since February. "We want to avoid a conflict and any appearance of impropriety."
For instance, he said, he didn’t want to give the appearance that police officers were doing the investigations on their regular shifts. The head of the department’s youth division receives cases from the school district and assigns them to officers to carry out on their own time.
Questions of impropriety were raised when the former head of the youth division, Capt. Tomas Padilla, revealed in a court deposition last year that he took payment for residency investigations that were performed by his officers. Padilla claimed the payment was the result of an agreement with the superintendent at the time.
Students are required to live in the city to attend its schools, but there have been cases in which families used an address of a friend or relative to gain admission. It’s a problem in numerous school districts, and typically the motive is access to better education and programs. Many districts hire investigators to identify and remove those students as a cost-saving measure.
The Hackensack district spent an average of $18,591 to educate each student in 2011-12, according to the state Department of Education. While cutting student rolls saves money, the cost impact of removing students varies depending on factors like staffing.
In the last school year, police officers investigated 68 cases through June, earning a combined $9,045. In 27 of those cases, investigators found students lived out of district. In the previous school year, officers earned $6,375.
Those amounts are much less than what the district paid the two prior years — $25,750 and $25,250, respectively — for police to investigate residency cases. Interim Superintendent Joseph Abate said police directly managed residency investigations in that time, but he didn’t work in the district then and did not know why the charges were two to three times higher.
In addition to the $120 per case, the department now also gets a $10 administrative fee per case.
Abate said the district will post a job ad for a part-time residency officer who will be paid a stipend, but the amount hasn’t been determined. The job is ideal for retired law enforcement officers, he said.
- See more at: http://www.northjersey.com/hackensack/224677752_Cops_halt_checks_ofstudents_residency.html#sthash.mmBOw0J6.dpuf
Hackensack High School designated as Focus School
Friday, October 11, 2013
BY JENNIFER VAZQUEZ
Despite being named one of the top high schools by Newsweek last year, Hackensack High School has been designated a Focus School for the 2012-2013 school year, by the New Jersey Department of Education.
Hackensack High School has been designated a 'focus' school for the 2012-2013 school year by the New Jersey Department of Education due to achievement gaps between different subgroups of students. This latest designation is in contrast to the school being named one of the top schools by Newsweek last year.
BERNADETTE MARCINIAK/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Assistant Superintendent Rosemary Marks stated, during the Sept. 16 Board of Education meeting, that the HHS was labeled a Focus School despite being named a top school by Newsweek because both entities look at different criteria.
During the previous school year, Newsweek ranked Hackensack High School as one of the top high schools — taking into consideration graduation rates, college acceptance rates, AP/IB/AICE tests taken by students, average SAT/ACT and AP/IB/AICE scores, and the percentage of students enrolled in at least one AP/IB/AICE course.
However, Newsweek's and NJDOE's criteria differ.
Marks explained that a school can be designated a Focus School if it falls into one of three categories: a school with a wide achievement gaps between high performing students and particular subgroups; an overall low proficiency rate; or a low graduation rate. Hackensack High School falls into the first category.
"We had an extremely high level of performance by our students," Marks said. However, there was a gap between the high performers and two subgroups — the bilingual/ESL [English as a Second Language] and special education.
"In both cases, you are looking at students that fall under specialized groups that are small," she explained. "Since the groups are so small, if you have three or four students that don't do well, that can skew the entire school performance."
Interim Superintendent Joseph Abate further explained.
"Hackensack High School was labeled a Focus School because of discrepancies," he said. "There was a difference between the special education scores and the rest of the student body. The same for the bilingual/ESL students and the general student body."
Director of Information for the New Jersey Department of Education Michael Yaple stated that though Hackensack High School was labeled a Focus school, overall it performed very well.
According to Marks, when the state entered a No Child Left Behind waiver, students that were once exempt from taking the High School Proficiency Assessment — such as non-English speakers who were in the United States school system for less than three years — would now have to take the exam, which is in English, regardless of their language skills.
"That exception is no longer there," Marks said, citing this change has influenced the outcome as well as the fact that the NJDOE came up with a new grading system for school performance last year.
When a school is labeled a Focus School, it receives specific and targeted intervention and plans by a Regional Achievement Center. The NJDOE launched seven field-based RACs, "charged with driving improvement in New Jersey's most struggling schools," as per its website.
In a press release from April 11, 2012, the NJDOE defined a Focus School as "a school that has room for improvement in areas that are specific to the school.
"RACs are relatively new creation — think of it as a bureau where staff can work with the school," Yaple said. "Their sole goal is to provide individualized, tailored instruction to the school. It is an ongoing. The idea is to identify the area that needs improvement and provide tools to address these areas."
Though the discrepancy between the general population and bilingual/ESL subgroup was a key point in the high school being labeled a Focus School, and prior to RAC's intervention, the school implemented, roughly two years ago, a parent and community outreach coordinator — a position with a goal of informing students and parents, with a particular focus on the bilingual population, of school expectations and viable options "for our children," according to Marks, "whether it be a certificate, associates degree, bachelors degree, or beyond.
"The more parents are involved, it has been proven the more children are, and the greater their advantage."
In addition, due to being labeled a Focus school, district officials introduced a new faculty position — a data lead teacher — to assist in compiling data and performance information with a focus on student examination. According to Marks, this has allowed for teachers to delve deeper into data analysis without them taking time from their schedule to compile such information. Subsequently, when information is compiled, teachers have a better grasp as to specific exam questions — and therefore subject area — the majority of the students have trouble with and can therefore, tackle these issues.
According to state regulations, Focus School interventions will continue for a minimum of two years, however during this time a school could exit status if all requirements for improvement are met.
Abate echoed this point.
"[The Regional Achievement Centers] complimented us for working diligently," he said during a phone interview. "They are confident that after this year we no longer will be labeled a 'focus' school."
Marks contended the same.
"We have a very collaborative relationship," she said. "They have been very supportive. It has been an extremely positive experience."
Yaple further explained the NJDOE's expectations.
"The federal government requires sustained improvement, so the school would need to demonstrate that it has closed the identified achievement gap over a two-year period for it to no longer be considered a Focus school," he said in an email.
Calls to Hackensack High School principal James Montesano were not returned.
- See more at: http://www.northjersey.com/news/227336321_Hackensack_High_School_designated_as_Focus_School.html?page=all#sthash.ECcZwdmU.dpuf
I am not surprised that the high school has been designated as a Focus School. While testing of special education and ESL students are credited as being the cause of the determination. There has consistently been a large achievement gap between whites and all other subgroups . The schools website list a report which has not been updated since 2010 reflecting HSPA scores. It is clear their has been this gap for years. Each year, the Board sets a goal to close the achievement gap but obviously has not achieved that goal. If it had, the high school would not be a Focus school. Success for all groups is a success for Hackensack children and taxpayers. People move to a district where the schools are excellent. People move when it is not.
The website should include an update to the report posted in 2010. Then an accurate assessment can be evaluated. See, http://www.hackensackschools.org/files/312601/2009-10%20state%20assessment%20report.pdf.
Hackensack presents school data during Board of Education meeting
Friday, November 15, 2013
BY JENNIFER VAZQUEZ
HACKENSACK — Assistant superintendent Rosemary Marks, along with district principals, presented school data of standardized examinations during the Oct. 21 Board of Education meeting — explaining the targets each school met and the subjects which students fell short.
- See more at: http://www.northjersey.com/news/232014601_Hackensack_presents_school_data_during_Board_of_Education_meeting.html?page=all#sthash.bx7gJFbD.dpuf
Hackensack school event coaches immigrant parents on helping their kids
MAY 31, 2014, 6:15 PM
LAST UPDATED: SATURDAY, MAY 31, 2014, 9:11 PM
BY AARON MORRISON
HACKENSACK — Immigrant parents should immerse themselves in their new communities and create learning environments in their homes, if they want their children to get the most out of an American education.
That was the message for about 60 families who attended the first-ever Family Academy at the city’s Jackson Avenue School on Saturday.
- See more at: http://www.northjersey.com/news/hackensack-school-event-coaches-immigrant-parents-on-helping-their-kids-1.1026938#sthash.hRblIktp.dpuf
ACLU: Hackensack, East Rutherford violate law by asking parents to show photo ID when registering students
JUNE 2, 2014, 1:21 PM LAST UPDATED: MONDAY, JUNE 2, 2014, 6:18 PM
BY HANNAN ADELY
Responding to pressure by a state civil-liberties group, the East Rutherford school board may consider changes to a policy that requires parents to show photo identification when registering children for school, a policy that discriminates against immigrants, the group contends.
The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey said the district was one of 27 in the state that continues to ask parents to show photo identification when they register their children, in violation of state regulations. The organization announced Monday that it is suing seven of those districts in Camden, Middlesex and Atlantic counties that have the most restrictive policies.
“It is deeply troubling that in New Jersey today, public schools discriminate against immigrant families, and do so despite repeated warnings to come into compliance with clearly established law,” said Udi Ofer, executive director of the ACLU New Jersey chapter. “Immigrant children have an equal right to access a public school education, and schools must not erect barriers that prevent the exercise of this right.
The organization sued the districts that specifically require a driver’s licenses or other county- or state-issued identification. The districts that were not sued also accept other forms of photo identification.
Hackensack was the only other Bergen County district included in the group’s list of districts that are not in compliance. Richard Salkin, the school board attorney, said that was a mistake.
- See more at: http://www.northjersey.com/news/aclu-hackensack-east-rutherford-violate-law-by-asking-parents-to-show-photo-id-when-registering-students-1.1027538#sthash.XHvGYHSW.dpuf
Hackensack High School status remains unclear
August 15, 2014 Last updated: Friday, August 15, 2014, 12:31 AM
By Jennifer Vazquez
Superintendent Karen Lewis said the district does not know the current status of the high school after it was classified as a Focus School in 2013.
HACKENSACK — District officials do not know the current status of the high school after it was classified as a Focus School last year due to an achievement gap between the general student population and subgroups.
"I met with the state in regard to the status and I asked when we were going to find out whether or not we were out of status," said Superintendent Karen Lewis during the July 26 Board of Education meeting. "We were told they do not have an exit plan at this point so we don't know."
The NJ Dept. of Education still lists HHS as a focus school as of Oct. 21, 2015:
Definition of Priority, Focus or Reward Status:
New Jersey's ESEA waiver application included a detailed methodology for identifying Priority, Focus, and Reward Schools. Below is a short definition of each category:
A Priority School is a school that has been identified as among the lowest-performing five percent of Title I schools in the state over the past three years, or any non-Title I school that would otherwise have met the same criteria.
Focus Schools comprise about 10% of schools with the overall lowest subgroup performance, a graduation rate below 75% and the widest gaps in achievement between different subgroups of students. Focus Schools receive targeted and tailored solutions to meet the school's unique needs.
A Reward School is a school that has achieved high proficiency levels or high levels of growth, including progress toward closing the achievement gap. This allows for a range of schools from across the state to attain Reward status, regardless of their absolute starting point.
According to info presented earlier in this thread, HHS has been designated as a Focus school ever since the 2012-2013 academic year, despite expectations that it would only be a temporary situation. From what I’ve read, there has been a wide discrepancy between the performance of special needs and bilingual/ESL students relative to high performing students.
I have not been a resident of NJ for many years, but I am concerned about equal educational opportunites for all HHS students. Does anyone know what HHS is currently saying about this matter? Have test scores of these two subgroups improved at all over the past couple of years?
The latest info I’ve been able to find about academic achievement at HHS is a ranking of 339 NJ public high schools by New Jersey Monthly. The report is dated Sept., 2014, but it covers data from the 2012-2013 academic year. The rankings showed that HHS was ranked 242nd on their list, or in the bottom 1/3 of all state public high schools:
For those who may be interested, here is the methodology that was used for the rankings:
This result is in stark contrast to the overwhelmingly positive evaluation from Newsweek, but is possibly due to differences in data interpretation and weightings.