Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Hoboken Board of Education Passes Two Resolutions: Naming of a Permanent Superintendent and Authorizing Legal Action Against the State of New Jersey
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Kids First Spending Spree on Superintendent's Salary--Then and Now: Lawsuit Likely in Order to Challenge Governor's Guidelines
In a February 2010 letter to the Hoboken Reporter, a former Kids First Board member commented on the contract of then Superintendent choice Mr. Romano:
"Tuesday night they assisted Theresa and Board president Markle to deliver Frank Romano from Fort Lee to Hoboken with a very lucrative contract: $190,000 salary and a guarantee 3% annual increase regardless of his performance! How does this behavior show fiscal responsibility to the Tax Payers and our Students – especially during these times of national economic constraints?"
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Hoboken Board Chooses Sussex Administrator to be New Superintendent; parents meet him today; vote could come as early as tonight
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Kids First Board of Education, Results Please?-- Superintendent SurveyMonkey Poll Results Not Communicated with Parents or Taxpayers of Hoboken
For a few weeks earlier this fall, the Kids First Board of Education majority placed a poll centered on the public's input for the next permanent Superintendent of the Hoboken School system. The URL to this survey was located at: www.surveymonkey.com/s/S2YKMFC
Well, the idea of the survey was not support but INPUT. I think it is fair to ask what were the RESULTS of this survey and how is this information being used in order to fill the position of Superintendent. If one was skeptical, one might think that this survey was posted merely to: 1) make the public "think" they had input; 2) give the political group known as Kids First a justification for claiming they solicited public input, and to 3) reduce the input of low income parents without internet access.
Keep in mind, this was the SAME Kids First majority that criticized some polling techniques used to measure support for a charter school in Hoboken 2 years ago. That technique was far stronger from a statistical and representative standpoint that using Survey Monkey like the current Board of Education majority attempted to use.
Hypocrisy in anything whatever may deceive the cleverest and most penetrating man, but the least wide-awake of children recognizes it, and is revolted by it, however ingeniously it may be disguised. -Leo Tolstoy
If is reasonable to ask the Kids First Board of Education the following questions:
1) Where are the results of this survey?
2) How are the results being used in the search for a Superintendent?
3) Is this the only input the Kids First Board of Education is seeking from the public? If so, doesn't it limit the input of many of our public school families who do not have a computer and internet access at home?
Monday, November 15, 2010
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Some of you will remember Dr. Lorraine Cella as the former Principal of Hoboken High School. Dr. Cella, a PhD from Columbia University, led Hoboken High to two successive years as a Bronze Medal Award winner from US News and World Report. The high school during her time of leadership was also recognized as the second most improved high school in the State of New Jersey (2008) by New Jersey Monthly magazine. And, she increased the number of students taking the SAT's and pursuing a college education (see the end of this post for a full list of Dr. Cella's accomplishments while Principal of Hoboken High School).
How was Dr. Cella recognized or rewarded? A few weeks into the 2009-2010 school year (the first full school year with a Kids First Board of Education majority), Dr. Cella was informed she would likely not be getting tenure in Hoboken. Not surprisingly, no one I have questioned can remember the last time an administrator with Dr. Cella's accomplishments and qualifications did not get tenure in a district in the State of New Jersey. As if that was not enough, a few weeks later Dr. Cella was escorted out of the high school. This action remains one of the most egregious actions in the history of the Hoboken Board of Education. Read the Hoboken Reporter's account of what occurred by clicking HERE.
Not surprisingly, Dr. Cella still cherishes her time with the students of Hoboken High and the work she was able to accomplish with her faculty and staff during her 28 months in the district.
All the best to Dr. Cella as she transitions to her new position in Edgewater. Also, a tip of the hat to the Edgewater Board of Education for being able to conduct and conclude a search for a superintendent in a timely and professional manner. -Dr. Petrosino
From the Edgewater View, written by Maxim Almenas.
Edgewater — When Lorraine Cella takes the torch from outgoing Superintendent Ted Blumstein on Jan. 1, she expects to have a good gauge on what makes the district tick.
Although Cella will finish out her last two months as assistant superintendent with the South Plainfield Public Schools, she will use some vacation and personal days to get to know her new students, teachers and parents.
"I'm very excited and really looking forward to getting started," said Cella. "The school board seems to be absolutely wonderful people interested in education. Even during the interview, they were very good listeners."
"It's a good fit," she added. "They need to see me as a fit, but I also need to see myself as a good fit. That's what will make it work."
While Cella has worked in Middlesex and Hudson Counties, most of her professional experience has been in Bergen County. She was both a principal and a teacher at the Brookside Elementary School in the Westwood Regional district and the language arts department chairwoman and a teacher at the Tenafly Middle School. She was also the principal of Hoboken High School.
Last week, Cella, a Tenafly resident, accompanied Blumstein to the monthly Bergen County school superintendent roundtable meeting to meet other superintendents and to get the pulse of the issues affecting districts on the county and state level.
But the issues are not unique across county lines, according to Cella.
"I think the whole state is under similar challenges as is the nation in terms of education," Cella explained. "The challenges are there economically with budget caps, while meeting the needs of diverse students. In Edgewater, the population is increasing, so those are added challenges."
But Cella believes current English as a Second Language programs in Edgewater are running efficiently and that Blumstein has done "a solid job," which will make her adjustments that much easier.
"I feel very lucky in ways to come in with things very stable, but I have opportunities to look for improvement," Cella added. "There are always areas to improve."
Despite the economic challenges, Cella plans to work closely with the school board by prioritizing and allocating resources, based on district goals, while "keeping in mind the needs of the children, which is first and foremost" said Cella.
Cella is aware of the relationship between the Edgewater and Leonia districts and plans to pursue additional methods of helping elementary school students in Edgewater feel more comfortable as they shift into the Leonia middle school and high school.
A former colleague of Leonia Superintendent Bernard Josefsberg when he was vice principal at the Tenafly Middle School, Cella feels that connection should make that portion of her transition much easier.
"There's one word for Bernie – brilliant," Cella said, adding that Josefsberg was one of her mentors when he was hired to oversee the English Department at the time.
"He's the one who taught me how about how to ask the kind of questions to get people to think in ways of getting things done. I learned that from him," Cella explained. "In some sense I'm forever thankful our paths crossed once and here they will be crossing again."
Cella was to be officially introduced on Oct. 28, at 7:30 p.m. during the school board meeting at the Eleanor Van Gelder School.Full article: HERE
What follows is a list of some of the accomplishments of Dr. Cella and her staff during her two and a half years as Principal of Hoboken High School. The list speaks for itself:
Friday, November 12, 2010
Monday, November 8, 2010
Ravitch and Meier exchange letters about what matters most in education. Ravitch, a research professor at New York University, is the author of the bestselling “The Death and Life of the Great American School System,” an important critique of the flaws in the modern school reform movement.
I reviewed "Waiting for 'Superman'" for The New York Review of Books. I thought the movie was very slick, very professional, and very propagandistic. It is one-sided and very contemptuous of public education. Notably, the film portrayed not a single successful regular public school, and its heroic institutions were all charter schools.
There are many inaccuracies in the movie.
One that I describe in my review is Davis Guggenheim's claim that 70 percent of 8th grade students read "below grade level." He has a graphic where state after state is shown to have only a small proportion of students reading "on grade level" or "proficient." The numbers are based on data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
But Guggenheim is wrong. NAEP doesn't report grade levels. It reports achievement levels, and these do not correspond to grade levels. Nor does he understand the NAEP achievement levels or just how demanding NAEP's "proficiency" level really is. To score below "proficient" on NAEP does NOT mean "below grade level."
NAEP has four achievement levels.
The top level is called "advanced," which represents the very highest level of student performance. Students who are "advanced" probably are at an A+; if they were taking an SAT, they would likely score somewhere akin to 750-800. These are the students who are likely to qualify for admission to our most selective universities.
Then comes "proficient," which represents solid academic performance, equivalent to an A or a very strong B. Guggenheim assumes that any student who is below "proficient" cannot read at "grade level." He is wrong.
The third level is "basic." These are students who have achieved partial mastery of the knowledge and skills necessary to be proficient. This would be equivalent, I believe, to a grade of C. Many (if not most) states use NAEP's "basic" as their own definition of "proficient." This is because they know that it is unrealistic to expect all students to be "A" students.
"Below basic" is the category that appears to be what Guggenheim means by his reference to "below grade level." But in 8th grade reading, 25 percent of students are below basic, not 70 percent.
If Guggenheim knew what he was talking about, he might have said that 70 percent of 8th grade students were unable to score the equivalent of an A, but that would not be an alarming figure. It would not be a very dramatic story had he said, in sonorous tones, "25 percent of our 8th grade students are 'below basic' in reading, and that figure includes students who are learning English and students with disabilities."
He also erred in setting up charter schools as the singular answer to the nation's education problems, especially since he admits that only one in five charters gets "amazing results." The actual number that get amazing results is far smaller.
In the CREDO study to which he refers, it is 17 percent, not 20 percent, closer to one in six, that outperform a matched neighborhood public school. Not all of those one in six get "amazing results," just better results than a nearby comparable school. I was told by Professor Ed Fuller at the University of Texas, who studies Texas charters, that only a couple dozen charters out of 300 in the state get "amazing results," and that many more get "abysmal" results. But you won't hear anything about that in this polemical film.
There are excellent charter schools, as there are excellent public schools. I saw one last week when I visited the KIPP flagship school in Houston, a K-12 school set on 35 acres. But it polarizes the national discussion to treat public education as a failed institution, as this film does.
The aggressive movement to lionize charters and to demonize public schools is scary because there is so much money and power pushing this agenda. I urge you to read this account by Barbara Miner, who is deeply suspicious of the billionaire hedge fund managers and foundations behind this movement.
It disturbs me that the CEO of Participant Media, one of the main producers of the "Waiting for 'Superman' " film, was previously the CEO of a chain of for-profit post-secondary institutions, a sector that is now under fire in Congress for its shoddy recruitment practices and its high default rates on federally funded student loans. The man behind the other producer, Walden Media, donates heavily to conservative think-tanks, which promote privatization, vouchers, and school choice.
How socially useful is it to destroy public confidence in an essential public institution? Shouldn't we work together to improve the schools, rather than handing over our children to the private sector? I know it is the vogue now to privatize public libraries, public hospitals, public parks, prison facilities, and other public sector institutions. What will be next on the chopping block? But why give away public schools to the private sector? The private sector does not get better results on average than the public sector, not (according to NAEP) for black students or Hispanic students or urban students or low-income students. But even if it did, we should be wary of undermining one of the bedrock agencies of our democracy. This meretricious film offers fake answers for real problems.
Picture: Diane Ravitch is Research Professor of Education at New York University and a historian of education. In addition, she is a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.