Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Hoboken Board of Education's 2013-14 Budget Passes 6-3

Photo Credit: Mark Mauer/The Jersey Journal
The Hoboken Board of Education passed the 2013-14 school budget by a 6-3 vote. All 6 "yes" votes were cast by the political group known as "Kids First." A previous motion passed last year by Kids First 5-4 took the right to vote for the school budget away from the public provided the new budget contained an increase of 2% or less than the previous year's budget. Even though the 2013-14 budget was more than 2% of the 2012-2013 budget, the public was not allowed to vote since a waiver was requested and granted to the Board of Education by the State of New Jersey. 

How they voted: 
Yes: Leon Gold (Board President), Ruth McAllister (Vice-President), Thomas Kluepfel, Rose Marie Markle, Jean Marie Mitchell, Irene Sobolov
No: Peter Biancamano, Carmelo Garcia, Frances Rhodes-Kearns

1) early April 2009 all members of Kids First vote no on a $59.1 million dollar budget claiming the budget was too high. 
2) late April 2009 Kids First wins BOE election. "Fiscal responsibility" a major part of their platform. 
3) February 2012 Kids First introduces a motion to take the right to vote for the school budget away from the public provided the new budget is an increase of 2% of less than the previous year's budget. 
4) Late Winter 2013 a request for a waiver to exceed the 2013-2014 by more than 2% but to not have a public vote is requested. Waiver granted by the State of New Jersey. 
5) March 27, 2013 The Hoboken Board of Education passes the $64.3 million dollar 2013-2014 budget by a vote of 6-3. All 6 Kids First members vote yes. The budget exceeds the 2% threshold by hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

Some interesting aspects of the 2013-2014 budget: 

* The Board predicts a 14% jump in student enrollment despite 4 consecutive years of declining enrollment. Last year, the Board ended up predicting 100 LESS students than actually were enrolled on October 15th (official enrollment day for all districts in NJ). This over estimation of enrolled students for 2013-2014 also has the "unintended" consequence of reducing the estimated per pupil costs for next year. 

* There were at least 3 different contradictory and confusing budgets put forward to the public this year. The final number is actually $64,789,691. 

* Cost per pupil in Hoboken is the second-highest in the State of New Jersey.

* Hoboken will receive an additional 8.3% in state aid next year for a total of $10.5 million dollars (interestingly, this was not mentioned in Board President's Leon Gold's letter to the public justifying the more than 2% in crease over last year's budget). 

* Board President Gold also mentions an unexpected loss of "$450,000 in federal funds as a result of sequestration" but the federal government has not notified the district of any such loss. 

* According to a post on Hoboken 411
Gold claims the district must pay an extra “$553,000 in charter funding due to the addition of a new grade” at a charter school in Hoboken. This is also fabricated. The district must pay roughly $12,000 for each Hoboken resident (not out-of-town students) attending a charter, as was reported last year. At the very most the new 5th grade at the charter school would have 15 or 20 Hoboken kids. That’s $180,000-$240,000, not $553,000. And, of course, each kid attending a charter school who would’ve attended a public school saves the district money because charter kids cost the taxpayer $12,000 each while the district spends $24,000 on each public school kid

* According to a post on Hoboken 411
 Leon Gold’s budget breakdown says the district will pay $7.81 million next year for charter kids, up from $7.2 million this year. That’s an extra $553,000 next year to pay for the extra charter kids. But that $7.2 million was the amount budgeted a year ago–it’s not the actual figure paid out after school started and the actual number of kids was counted. According to the district website, the actual amount spent on charter school kids this year is $6.8 million. The charter schools tend to overestimate how many kids will actually attend and so the enrollment is always lower each year than projected.
* In exchange for having the 2nd highest per pupil costs in New Jersey what does the community receive? Well, it receives a high school that went from the 2nd most improved HS in New Jersey (NJ Monthly) and consecutive Bronze Medal Award Winning Awards by US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT to a school with the 2nd lowest graduation rate in Hudson County, the 10th biggest drop in graduation rate in the State of New Jersey and 3 consecutive years of not meeting minimum state and federal adequate yearly progress standards. A district with the 2nd highest number of incidents per 100 students in violence and vandalism in Hudson County and higher than districts such as Jersey City, Paterson, Newark, and Camden. A district where 90% of its students attend a school that failed to meet NCLB's "Adequate Yearly Progress" standards for 3 years in a row (less than 15% before Kids First took majority control of the Board of Education). A district with sub 400 average SAT scores in all three tested areas,  and a district with 6 Business Administrators in 5 years, 4 high school principals in 3 years, 4 superintendents in less than 4 years. A district officially declared a "District in Need of Improvement" for the first time in its history. ALL under the stewardship of the Kids First political group's leadership of the Hoboken Public Schools. Objective and independent data show conclusively that this is not the district Kids First inherited in April of 2009. Unfortunately, it is the district Kids First has overseen and administered since April of 2009. 

Interestingly, Hoboken Board of Education President Leon Gold has instituted new policies which limit questioning, dialogue and discourse from the public at its monthly meetings. The meetings are run very efficiently now although there is a fair amount of time spent clapping by the Kids First board members every chance they get to give the impression that everything is going well. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Kids First Conundrum: $59.1 Million Budget "cannot be supported" in 2009 but $64.3 Million Budget Likely to be Approved by All Kids First MembersTonight

Photo Credit: Mark Mauer/The Jersey Journal

Three weeks before the April 21, 2009 Hoboken Board of Education elections, on Tuesday, April 1, 2009, all three member of the Kids First political group who held elected positions on the Hoboken Board of Education voted "no" on a $59.1 million dollar budget proposed by the then superintendent of schools. That budget included the reduction of at least 20 employees which included nurses, clerks, computer technicians, and others. Nonetheless, all three Kids First members (Carrie Gillard, Theresa Minutillo and Rose Markle) opposed the $59.1 million dollar budget. "$59 million is troubling me. We need to revisit this. I cannot support it" said Rose Markle according the the Hoboken Reporter. 

Kids First did very well in that 2009 Board of Education election and swept into majority rule, primarily on a platform of fiscal responsibility- their "NO" votes on the 2009 budget being held as a badge of honor to their supporters as proof of their steadfastness and commitment to cost reduction. 

Tonight, on Wednesday March 27, 2013- a little less than four years later- the Kids First Board of Education will be proposing a budget of $64,300,000.00 for the 2013-2014 school year. All 6 members of Kids First are expected to vote in favor of the budget. 

Furthermore, having requested and received a waiver from the state to exceed a 2% budget cap and having unilaterally decided to take the right to vote on the school budget away from the taxpayers and voters of Hoboken, there will be no public voting on the budget. 

*For an interesting discussion on this topic please click here for a debate on the topic on Hoboken.411

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Hoboken High School Under Kids First Stewardship: 2nd Lowest High School Graduation Rate in Hudson County, 10th Biggest Drop in Graduation Rate in State of New Jersey

7th and Madison St playground - Circa 1974
In the latest data released by the New Jersey Department of Education in December of 2012, Hoboken High School reports a graduation rate of 74.53%, over 7% below last year's number and a 7.46% drop from last year's 81.99%. More disturbing, Hoboken's 74.53% graduation rate places it almost 12 percentage points below the State of New Jersey average and next to last in Hudson County. Jersey City with a graduation rate of 67.34% is the only community in Hudson County with a lower graduation rate. Hoboken's drop in graduation rate of 7.46% was the largest single year drop in all of Hudson County for 2012 and placed it 10th worst in the entire State of New Jersey (see charts and graphs below).

While this situation did not happen overnight, it happened quickly and in less than 4 years. Decisions such as the manner of removal of Dr. Lorraine Cella as principal of Hoboken High School, the decision to replace Dr. Cella with a retired interim high school principal with questionable past success, a high school with 4 principals in less than 3 years, and the recruiting of hundreds of "choice" students from out of the district for financial reasons certainly may be contributing factors. 

It is worth noting that a few short years ago, before Kids First took majority control of the Hoboken Board of Education, Hoboken High School was recognized as the 2nd Most Improved High School in the State of New Jersey by New Jersey Monthly Magazine to the bottom 50 of high school in New Jersey and was awarded consecutive US News and World Report Bronze Medal awards. However, since the political group known as "Kids First" came into full majority rule in May of 2009, the school and district has experienced a significant drop in academic standing, graduation rates, attendance, and disturbing news about violence and vandalism.

Data for the following analysis (see attachment) were obtained from the NJ DOE websites including:

Friday, March 22, 2013


Hoboken, Hudson County, and NJ State Averages
During the KIDS FIRST BOE Era
I have been compiling some data for a presentation I will be giving soon on district turnaround, reform efforts, and policy decisions. While putting together the presentation I decided to investigate issues of violence and vandalism in schools across New Jersey. What follows is a small summary of some of my findings. Initially, I only looked at data from 2011-2012 but became intrigued and decided to do more of a longitudinal investigation (see picture top left). There is no simple answer to why the Hoboken violence and vandalism numbers are so much higher compared to county and state figures but administration turnover at the school and district level are likely contributing factors, as are a host of other possible explanations. When one looks at data from comparable districts in Hudson County (see below) as well as other districts commonly thought to have more pressing problems of violence and vandalism (Newark, Camden, Patterson, etc...) other possible explanations fail. The issue is complex, multifaceted, apparently chronic and seemingly systemic and likely related in part to Board, district, and school leadership via use of retired interims as building principals and superintendents, administrator turnover, and active recruitment of non-resident students from surrounding communities. -Dr. Petrosino

The report indicates that total incidents of self-reported occurrences of violence, vandalism, weapons, substance abuse, and bullying in the Hoboken City District are 320% above the Hudson County average and 210% above the State of New Jersey average. Except for the small East Newark School district (total student pop. 229), the Hoboken public schools have the highest number of incidents per student* in Hudson County (4.05 incidents per 100 students in the Hoboken Public Schools; County average 1.3 incidents per 100 students). Hoboken schools make up 2.19% of Hudson County's public school population yet account for 7% of the total incidents reported countywide. 

Around the state, Atlantic City (2.13 incidents per 100 students), Camden (1.6 incidents per 100 students), Newark (.9 incidents per 100 students), and Paterson (1.0 incidents per 100 students) school districts reported less incidents per 100 students than Hoboken while Asbury Park (10.13 incidents per 100 students) reported significantly higher. Bullying accounted for less of a percentage of total incidents in Hoboken (21.4%) than Hudson County (36.1%) and statewide (46.0%). 

Hudson County Vocational School had the least number of incidents in Hudson County with .07 incidents per 100 students.  

* Keep in mind, you cannot go by totals only. You need to account for the size of the district as well (incidents per student). If you don't, the bigger districts will almost always have more total number of incidents. Generally, "incidents per 100 students" is a reasonable and acceptable way to communicate results such as these in educational research and policy.  

                                                                                    # # #

Full report:

DISTRICT (Hudson) Students in 
Total Violence and Vandalism Acts Violence and Vandalism per pupil Violence and Vandalism Incidents per 100 pupils

1272 1 0.001 0.08
W. NEW YORK  7805 37 0.005 0.47
WEEHAWKEN  1232 8 0.006 0.65
BAYONNE CITY 9418 74 0.008 0.79
NORTH BERGEN  7819 71 0.009 0.91
JERSEY CITY 27394 353 0.013 1.29
KEARNY  5920 85 0.014 1.44
SECAUCUS  2156 32 0.015 1.48
UNION CITY 10800 179 0.017 1.66
HARRISON  2031 45 0.022 2.22
GUTTENBERG  931 22 0.024 2.36
HOBOKEN  1726 70 0.041 4.06
EAST NEWARK  229 22 0.096 9.61

Violence and Vandalism Incident per 100 students
Asbury Park 
Atlantic City

Friday, March 15, 2013

New Jersey Approves Two New Charter Schools, Both in Paterson

Two new charter schools with ties to established school management companies will open this fall in Paterson, the Christie Administration announced recently, according to a report by

Ascend Learning, a company with deep ties to New York City’s charter school sector, will run one of the schools. The other school’s founder is Nihat Guvercin, who already runs schools in Paterson and Garfield.

State Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf said the two schools selected to open this fall stood out among the other applicants. They are not, he said, part of a plan to boost charter school enrollment in Paterson, the state’s fourth largest city.

“There is nothing about Paterson in particular,” Cerf told “These were the ones that emerged with the highest probability of success. These are proven models with strong track records, and they both happen to be in Paterson.”

Since Gov. Chris Christie took office in 2010, 46 charter schools have earned state approval and 25 new schools have opened while five schools have been closed due to poor performance and financial mismanagement.

Picture: Focus Wall 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

UT-Austin Ranked #1 Among Public Colleges of Education in the USA

UT-Austin COLLEGE OF EDUCATION ranked #1 among public universities by U.S. News & World Report - THIRD YR in a ROW for that. Ranked #1 in research expenditures among private AND public for the SIXTH YR IN A ROW. Special education, educational psychology and admin/supervision all ranked in top 10 nationally. The college is the only one on the UT-Austin campus that's been ranked #1 - ever.

Within the Department of Curriculum and Instruction (my department), are these specific rankings: 
Curriculum and Instruction- #13 overall 
Secondary Teacher Education- #13 overall
Elementary Teacher Education- #15 overall

Hoboken Board of Education Agenda - Tuesday March 12

2012 Hudson County Drop Out Percentages
The Hoboken Board of Education will meet on Tuesday evening March 12, 2013 at 7PM for a regularly scheduled meeting. It is budget time and no doubt the meeting will have a number of important ramifications for the community over the next year. 

One issue that may arise could be the waiver that the Kids First majority is seeking for the 2013-2014 annual budget. Some of you will recall that last year the Kids First majority choose to take the right to vote for the school budget away from Hoboken's voters provided the budget is less than 2% more than the previous year's budget. Less than a year later, the Kids First have asked for a waiver to this law-- increasing the budget by 4% (about $2.5 million) to a total of somewhere in the neighborhood of $65 million dollars. Keep in mind that 4 short year ago a number of Kids First members said publicly they could not vote for a budget of $59.1 million because it was excessive.
(Kids First) Board member Carrie Gilliard joined (Kids First member) Theresa Minutillo and (Kids First member) Rose Markle in opposition to the spending document. “$59 million is troubling me. We need to revisit this. I cannot support it,” she said. - Hoboken Reporter (April, 2009)
It is interesting that Kids First found a school budget of $59.1 million was "troubling", "unacceptable" and required "revisiting" in April of 2009 but in 2013 Kids First has no issue at all with a budget of $65 million? My estimate is that per pupil cost will be in the neighborhood of $30,000 per student for 2013-2014. 

Another issue that may arise is the planned district organization of Hoboken High School into a 7-12 school building. Some will remember that last year there was talk of going to a middle school model (Hoboken is currently a quasi- K-8; 9-12 district with the actual distribution more like PreK-K, 1-7, and 8-12 configuration). The moving of 7th graders to Hoboken High School is being received with mixed reactions around the city. It will be interesting to see what type of dissuasion, if any, this generates at Tuesday's meeting since there is a special meeting schedule focused of this specific topic on Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at 7PM in the auditorium of Hoboken High School (last week's meeting was cancelled due to bad weather). 

The choice of expanding the student population to Hoboken High School in interesting given that currently it has the 2nd lowest graduation rate in Hudson County and had the 10th biggest one year drop in graduation rate for the entire State of New Jersey for 2011-2012. The drop in graduation rates combined with the troubling numbers from the 2012 Violence and Vandalism Report is bound to initiate some discussion. 

Some readers will remember that Dr. Cella was the principal of Hoboken High School when Hoboken High School was the 2nd Most Improved High School in the State of New Jersey (NJ Monthly) and won successive US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT Bronze Medal Awards. Significantly different from the current situation which finds a school that has failed to make Adequate yearly Progress, increased suspensions and expulsions, and a school which has seen 4 principals in 3 years. I believe this shows the critical importance of Board and building leadership rather than any negative implication for the teachers or students. It is sobering how quickly things can unravel without successful supervision, administration, and competent Board oversight.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Tuesday March 12, 2013 Notice of Public Meeting- Hoboken Board of Education

The following is the public notice for the Hoboken Board of Education Meeting of Tuesday, March 12, 2013. The meeting is to take place at 7PM which is when the Stated Session will take place. At 9PM there will be a Student Disciplinary Hearing. Recently, the Board approved introduction of the 2013-2014 budget with a meeting scheduled on March 26, 2013 for approval. 

Picture: Analysis of the most recent dropout data published by the New Jersey Department of Education in December 2012 indicates that the Hoboken School District had the 10th biggest increase in the dropout rate in the State of New Jersey (-7.46%).

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Interdisciplinary Professors and Universities Struggle to Find Common Ground

A recent article by Carl Straumsheim of Inside Higher Education entitled "Interdisciplinary and Out of a Job" discusses some recent issues developing at universities across the country concerning faculty from interdisciplinary studies and their promotion and tenure rate. The article by Straumsheim focuses particularly on The University of Texas at Austin but the article points out the possibility both of a national trend or simply a statistical aberration. - Dr. Petrosino 

Of the 14 instructors up for promotion to associate professor in the College of Liberal Arts this academic year, only eight were recommended for tenure -- the lowest rate of promotion in nearly a decade. ​About 81 percent of the instructors up for tenure review last year were promoted to associate professors. The rate has fluctuated between 64 and 95 percent in the last eight years before dropping to about 57 percent this year, according to UT-Austin data.

According to professors familiar with what happened, five of the six faculty members not recommended for tenure represent interdisciplinary fields. All six are minorities.

In a letter to UT-Austin President William C. Powers Jr. and Provost Steven W. Leslie, 32 faculty members in the liberal arts expressed their concerns about the methods used to determine whether an instructor is granted tenure.

  A review of the tenure process revealed no bias against interdisciplinary scholars, said Tara Doolittle, the director of media outreach at UT-Austin, who described this year’s results as an “aberration.”
“We value our interdisciplinary scholars,” Doolittle said. “It’s ... a priority of the university, and it brings a lot to the College of Liberal Arts. It’s very important for those faculty members to have an identifiable career track.”

A related article was published in The Daily Texan on February 27, 2013 entitled "Tenure denial of interdisciplinary faculty sparks concern from liberal arts professors" and was written by Andrew Messamore

Photo Credit: theboken - Court Street #hoboken during #snowstorm #saturn#snow #newjersey

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


Due to inclement weather, the parent meeting at HHS is rescheduled to 7pm on March 13th. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Meeting Scheduled on Reconfiguration- Wednesday, March 6 at 7:00 p.m at HHS

Hoboken Patch reports that there will be a public meeting on Wednesday, March 6 at 7:00 p.m. in the auditorium of Hoboken High School to discuss Junior High School and Middle School options and possible reconfigurations for the 2013-2014 school year. You can read more by clicking HERE