Wednesday, March 19, 2014

According to, Hoboken Superintendent Toback Urged State to Deny Bilingual Charter's Expansion, Renewal

J.F. Kennedy Stadium (Circa 1968)
Let us turn the calendar back 4 months to when Hoboken Superintendent of Schools Mark Toback petitioned the State of New Jersey's Department of Education to not only reject a request by the Hola Dual Language Charter School to expand from a K-6 to a K-8 configuration but he also petitioned the state to "study the effectiveness" of the school before considering the renewal of the school charter itself (charter schools come up for renewal every 5 years). An odd request when one considers the clear academic record enjoyed by Hola and that the State of New Jersey already and continuously monitors all charter schools.  
Board President Leon Gold is claiming that a charter school (and it alone) is "bankrupting" the district and causing "white flight", Superintendent Toback is seeking "studies" being conducted to look at the effectiveness of charter schools before granting a renewal or awarding an expansion. Even Diane Ravitch is weighing in on this issueSo much concern over a single school. Perhaps its a good thing that attention is being paid...
-Dr. Petrosino

On March 5, 2014 the New Jersey State Department of Education not only granted the Hola Dual Language School a renewal of its charter but also agreed to extend and expand Hola to include grades K-8.  

On March 11, 2014 the Hoboken Board of Education approved a motion to retain legal representation to appeal the decision to grant the Hola Dual Language School its approved expansion to 8th grade. -Dr. Petrosino 

By Kathryn Brenzel/ 
November 12, 2013 at 3:16 PM, updated November 12, 2013 at 10:52 PM

HOBOKEN — Amid requests to add middle-level grades to a Hoboken charter school, the district's superintendent is urging state officials to temporarily block the school's renewal.  
Citing funding, diversity and other issues, Superintendent Mark Toback said a study of the effectiveness of charter schools in the city should be conducted before the state signs off on a renewal or expansion of the HoLa Hoboken Dual Language Charter School.
A letter from Toback was posted to the board of education's website Monday night,  asking state officials to hold off on renewing the school's charter. The board of education will discuss Tuesday night whether or not the letter should be sent to state Department of Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf.
Toback said on Tuesday that he isn't seeking to have HoLa's charter revoked, just to have the state thoroughly examine the impact of charter schools in the city.
"The fact is that it is not an attack on charter schools," he said. "It's just a suggestion that things should change."
The request stems from the bilingual charter school's request to add six through eighth grades to its already existing kindergarten through fifth grade classes. Jen Sargent, the school's executive director and one of its founders, said the school already has state approval for sixth grade and would add the new classes gradually, with its existing students.    
She said that the requested expansion would allow students to continue their bilingual education —something wanted by both parents and students. Sargent said   that the superintendent's request threatens the existence of the four-year-old school.
"We've been peacefully coexisting for the last four years," she said. "There's no reason to think that another two grades would have a negative impact."
In his letter, Toback notes that Hoboken is uniquely situated: It has four public school districts operating within one square mile and a school board often torn between the interests of charter and public schools.
Representatives for the school board could not immediately be reached for comment.
He argues in the letter that HoLa's modest enrollment — the school currently has 254 students — and the history of transient student populations in Hoboken would make it extremely difficult for the charter school to sustain adequate enrollment in middle-level grades. Because the school is a dual language program, filling vacant seats is even more challenging, he said.  
He also noted that charters cause public schools to lose funding and can foster segregation of students. Charters can limit diversity, and it's the state's duty to ensure that the charter schools are taking a cross-section of the community's student population, in terms of racial and academic considerations, he said.
The costs of special education
in Hoboken's public schools is also on the rise, and charter schools don't
enroll significantly disabled students, he said. Toback said a study of "what has
been achieved" under HoLa's charter and how it has benefited the community should be conducted
before granting its expansion or renewal.
"We cannot continue to lose huge amounts of funding in our budget to support charters, especially at a time when we have increasing enrollment," he writes. "Our students require space and funding and our parents, students and community leaders should not be pitted against one another in a fight over those issues."