Carlo Davis of the Hoboken Reporter has been doing some excellent reporting on the Hoboken Board of Education this summer. Here is a very important piece recently published under Carlo's byline where Davis documents the efforts of a parent group in exposing the cuts made to kindergarten aides in Hoboken, NJ that were in violation of NJ Education Code and were recently restored. -Dr. Petrosino
The Hoboken Board Of Education recently "discovered" that Hoboken’s district is actually required to have kindergarten aides under New Jersey’s education law code (Full day kindergarten requirements. New Jersey Education Code § 6A 13-3.2 ). On August 19, they voted unanimously to bring back aides for all 14 kindergarten classes in Hoboken’s public elementary schools for the upcoming year.
Hoboken’s school district must follow different regulations from most New Jersey school districts. In 1985, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that poor urban school districts were being unconstitutionally shortchanged in funding compared to affluent suburban districts. To help correct this imbalance, the state legislature devoted extra funding to 31 poorer “Abbott districts”—nicknamed after the original court case—including Hoboken.
Abbott districts receive special money for things like universal pre-kindergarten, and must follow corresponding rules and stipulations. One of those rules is that full-time kindergarten classes must have a teacher’s aide and no more than 21 students in each class.
Outgoing Superintendent Mark Toback had announced the elimination of the aides at the last board meeting of the 2013-2014 school year in June.
According to the Hoboken Reporter a parent group uncovered the violation:
According to group organizer Lisia Zheng Hohlfeld, their efforts “made little difference until [they] came across a part of the NJ education code” applying to “at risk” districts.
Hohlfeld said the group consulted with the state Department of Education, which confirmed that Hoboken is still an “at risk” district and subsequently contacted Interim Superintendent Dr. Richard Brockel, who officially replaced outgoing Superintendent Mark Toback two weeks ago.
Hohlfeld said she’s happy with the outcome, but the turnabout came too late for some. She mentioned that two of the families in her group’s steering committee decided over the summer to move out of Hoboken. “It’s this kind of exodus that continues to cripple Hoboken public schools and this whole episode will only further encourage the trend,” said Hohlfeld.Hoboken Board of Education member Fran Phodes-Kearns expressed disappointment at Hoboken’s flirtation with a legal violation. She and Peter Biancamano voted against the original cuts to Kindergarten aides in June while the remaining seven trustees Ruth McAllister (Tyroler), Thomas Kluepfel, Jennifer Evans, Leon Gold, Jean Marie Mitchell, Irene Sobolov, and Monica Stromwall voted yes on the motion which led to the elimination of Kindergarten aides in the Hoboken Public Schools.