Sunday, June 26, 2011

Special Hoboken Board of Education Meeting Tuesday June 28, 2011: "Donaldson hearing" for Ohaus, Hillenbrand, others...

There will be a rare second Hoboken Board of Education Meeting for the month of June. The meeting is schedule for June 28th at 7pm. Among items scheduled to be discussed is the tenure decision on a number of teachers. Most notably is the tenure decision on Ms. Paula Ohaus (Theater Arts Program) and Ms.Cheng-Yen Hillenbrand (Johns Hopkins Program). Each teacher has been in the district for a number of years over the usual "3 years and a day" requirement and each have brought local, city, state, and even national attention to the Hoboken Public Schools. Each have decided to have their tenure case heard in an open public Board of Education Meeting (often, issues of employment are done in "closed session").

So, this is a rare opportunity to witness how decisions are made concerning tenure and promotion at the K-12 level. Commonly referred to as a "Donaldson Hearing", this portion of the Meeting will be substantially different than most Board of Education meetings as it will have some specific procedural issues that will be followed:

The non-renewed employee also has the right to an informal appearance before the board in order to convince the board to offer re-employment despite the superintendent’s decision to non-renew. This informal appearance, known as a “Donaldson Hearing,” is a right that was established by the New Jersey Supreme Court in Donaldson v. North Wildwood Bd. of Ed., 65 N.J. 236 (1974). The employee has 10 days from the receipt of the statement of reasons for non-renewal to request a Donaldson Hearing, which must then be scheduled within 30 days. The employee may be represented by counsel at the hearing and may present witnesses. However, because the Donaldson Hearing is an informal hearing, the witnesses need not be sworn in and the board may not cross-examine any witnesses that appear. While the hearing may be conducted in executive session, the employee also has the right to a public discussion according to Rice v. Union County Reg. H.S. Bd. of Ed. 155 N.J. Super. 64 (App. Div. 1977), unlike tenure certification determinations, which must not take place during a public meeting. After the Donaldson hearing has been conducted, the board then has three days in which to notify the employee of the board’s decision. -NJSBA.ORG

The meeting promises to be well attended and, if past meetings concerning the tenure decisions on these teachers is any indication, controversial. Note- the actual decision does not necessarily have to be made at this meeting. But the Board must inform the employee 3 days after the meeting and the employee can request the individual votes of the Board members.

You can read a good summary of the antecedents leading to this meeting by
reading an article from the Hoboken Reporter.

A nice article on Paul Ohaus and her program while I was still in the Hoboken School District:

A local blog, Hoboken 411 has also kept track of the events surrounding the tenure decision on Paula Ohaus and others:

While Hoboken has traditionally been a Democratic town, a local political group known as Hoboken Republicans have come out against the Hoboken Board of Education majority and their so called "war on excellence" as it applies to these teachers. Interesting reading. CLICK HERE

For those interested in the legal ramifications for denying tenure,
take a look at this description by Carl Tanksley, ESQ. from the New Jersey School Board Administrators website.

The decision has also sparked a number of "letters to the editor"--for an especially articulate and passionate letter by Perry Lin, please CLICK HERE

For a video of the current Superintendent's view of the situation CLICK HERE.

Announcement of Public Meeting June 28 2011