Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Award Winning Theater Director Resigns in Hoboken Over Claims of Harassment

Hoboken reports in an article entitled "Hoboken Schools Theater Director Resigns Unexpectedly" by Claire Moses that the theater program director of Hoboken's public schools resigned unexpectedly on Tuesday, April 5 after having worked for the district for 15 years. Paula Ohaus, in a brief phone conversation on Wednesday afternoon to Hoboken Patch, said she resigned because of an "ongoing sort of harassment ever since (former Superintendent Peter) Carter was here. "I can't take it any more," Ohaus added. She declined to discuss any specifics at this point.

“It is clear by the overstepping behavior of certain board members that their number one priority is power not the students, it is the systematic dismantling of the educational pillars in our community,” Carmelo Garcia (a member of the Hoboken Board of Education) said in a statement. “This is just another in the long line of egregious actions taken to bully and mistreat one of the treasures of not only our district, but our entire community. According to the Hoboken Reporter, one school member blamed a rival political faction of the board for Ohaus leaving.

Some highlights to Ms. Ohaus' recent career:

1) Received the first National High School Musical Theater Award for Outstanding Arts Educator presented at New York University in 2009.

2) Recognized in the March 15 2009 edition of the New York Times for the continuous and outstanding contributions of the Hoboken High School Theater Arts Program (along with colleague Jarad Ramos). See Video HERE.

3) Nominated in January 2009 for 9 award at Montclair State University first ever "Theater Nights Award" honoring the best of non-musical high school plays in New Jersey. Ms. Ohaus' production of "The Odyssey" won 4 awards including Best Overall Production in the State and Best Director (Paula Ohaus)

Here are the words of a former Hoboken High student who posted on a local blog this morning. Perhaps no better description exists than this articulate and impassioned response to the resignation of Ms. Ohaus due to claims of harassment:

As a hhs alumni and having friends and family in the plays (including the latest one hairspray) I am not one bit surprised about the nonsense w/Ms. OHaus leaving. Hoboken loves to have political drama and the schools are no exception. To answer the question re:the charter school kids being in sports, yes they have been playing on HHS's teams since the late 90s. I should know as I played several sports w/charter school kids while I was in Hoboken High. I was in school around the time the theatre program began. I can tell you that the theatre program has touched many students both current and former and Mrs. OHaus has changed lives. Kids who never would've gotten recognition were now nominated for papermill playhouse awards and even received opportunities outside of high school. Why you would want to get rid of someone who has such a positive influence on kids is beyond me. There will always be haters in this world and I guess they got the best of her. I won't be surprised if the backlash from the community causes the board of ed to go begging her to come back. Mrs. OHaus has dealt with a lot of situations the past decade and a half so whatever made her leave must've been serious. The kids are upset and hurt over this, including my brother who is in the theatre program. I really feel like whoever influenced her to leave really didnt give a damn about the kids at all.

Picture: Paula Ohaus (middle) © New York Times

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