Saturday, July 29, 2017

Stifling Success- "How the public education establishment tried to destroy a distinguished charter school in New Jersey" by Charles Upton Sahm

HoLa Dual Language School - Ranked 1st in NJ on PARCC English Grades 3, 4, and 5
The following article is entitled "Stifling Success" and centers on how the public education establishment tried to destroy a distinguished charter school in New Jersey. The article is written by Charles Upton Sahm who is the Director of Education Policy at the Manhattan Institute. I include a few sections from the piece here but encourage any interested reader to view the entire article which can be found by clicking HERE

I will remind regular and new readers that the idea of a dual language program was initially proposed for the public school district while I was the Assistant Superintendent of the Hoboken Public Schools but was rejected by a 1 vote majority of the Hoboken Board of Education Trustees.  The same political majority that rejected a dual langauge program in the Hoboken Public Schools in 2009 later went on to file a lawsuit to reassess the dual language school's charter and expansion (see Figure 1). In essence, this political group (self described as "reform" of course) did not want a dual language program in the Hoboken Public Schools in 2009 and they wanted the dual langauge's charter possibly revoked and reassessed in 2014 once the school gained a superior academic reputation in the community. I encourage you to read more about the story below. -Dr. Petrosino

The city of Hoboken has spent three years and more than $200,000 of taxpayer money in an effort to impede the growth of its most successful school. HoLa (formally the Hoboken Dual Language Charter School) first opened in autumn 2010. The innovative 385-student charter school offers a content-rich curriculum delivered in both Spanish and English. Last year, HoLa ranked in the top 10 percent of all public schools in the state in terms of math and English test scores, and outpaced all other schools in Hoboken.

Like most charters, HoLa started with students in kindergarten, first grade, and second grade and then added a grade each year as students moved up. In 2013, with its oldest students about to enter sixth grade, and HoLa’s initial five-year charter up for renewal, the school asked the state department of education for permission to add grades seven and eight in order to continue to serve its current students until they reached high school.

The state granted permission, but the Hoboken board of education filed suit to prevent HoLa’s expansion. Why would the city not want its most successful school to expand? The simple truth is that the anti-charter board of education saw an opportunity to thwart a charter’s expansion. The lawsuit, however, alleged that HoLa’s expansion would aggravate racial segregation and harm the district financially. Both claims are spurious.

HoLa receives about $11,000 per student, with zero money for facilities, while the district spends double that amount per pupil in its district schools. The school survives financially only because it rents space from the Hoboken Boys and Girls Club, which offers HoLa a reasonable rate and uses the building during after-school hours.

Currently, the demographic composition of HoLa’s student population is 54 percent white, 31 percent Hispanic, 7 percent black, and 7 percent Asian; 12 percent of students come from families with income low enough to qualify for the federal free or reduced price lunch program. While it’s true that the student population of the district is less-white and more low-income, HoLa’s student body more closely reflects Hoboken’s general population: many affluent, white parents choose to send their children to private school. But Hoboken’s demographic composition is changing rapidly in any case: since HoLa opened in 2010, the percentage of white students in the district schools has increased from 22 percent to 33 percent and the percentage of students qualifying for the free or reduced school lunches has decreased from 69 percent to 53 percent.

The notion that HoLa is an instrument of segregation is especially noxious if one knows the history of the school and its founders. “HoLa was created to embrace the rich diversity of our community here in Hoboken,” notes Barbara Martinez, one of the school’s founders—and a daughter of Cuban immigrants. Initially, HoLa’s founders didn’t even want to open a charter. “The original idea,” explains Martinez, “was to set up a dual-language program in Connors elementary,” the city’s most segregated, lowest-performing school. The district rejected that possibility, so HoLa was established as a charter.

After it opened, HoLa sought to institute a weighted lottery system that would give preference to low-income students. That option violated state policy, so HoLa officials went door-to-door in local housing projects, distributing leaflets to ensure that low-income parents knew about of the school. HoLa’s founders repeatedly tried to persuade the state to change its lottery policy, and when it did so in 2015, HoLa became the first charter school in New Jersey to adopt a low-income preference in its admissions policy.

Parents care most about the quality of education their children are receiving, and HoLa delivers high-quality learning. During a visit this spring, I saw a fourth-grade teacher conduct an inspired lesson, in English, based on Gwendolyn Brooks’s poem “Cynthia in the Snow” and the poet’s use of onomatopoeia. Students then had fun writing their own weather-themed poems using words like “swoosh,” “splat,” and “slap.” In a class across the hall, a teacher was conducting a similar lesson using Spanish poetry. After a week, the two classes would switch, thereby exposing students to both languages and cultures.

After the Hoboken board of education first filed its lawsuit against the state department of education in March 2014, the court requested that the department further study the board’s complaints and issue a report. One year later, the department issued a report that found no evidence to back up the board’s claims. Not satisfied, in April 2015, the board requested the court issue a stay preventing HoLa’s expansion. The motion was denied.

Facing criticism that continuing the lawsuit was a waste of taxpayer money, the Hoboken board of education then created a private legal fund in order to continue to fund the litigation. Four board members contributed. In June, 2015, the board again requested an emergency stay to prevent HoLa’s rising seventh graders from retuning in the fall. That request was also denied by the court.

In May, three appellate court judges heard arguments from both sides. On June 29, one week after HoLa graduated its first eighth-grade class, the court decisively rejected Hoboken’s claims that HoLa has a negative “segregative and funding impact” on the city: the court’s decision repeatedly notes that the Hoboken board of education failed to provide data in support of its contentions. HoLa officials estimate that well over $200,000 in taxpayer money was spent by HoLa, the Hoboken board of education, and the New Jersey department of education on the litigation.

The board of education hasn’t said whether it will appeal the decision, but seven of the nine members of Hoboken’s city council have issued strong statements urging the board of education to move on. “It’s about time we end this senseless lawsuit and start worrying about educating our children as our top priority,” Councilman Michael Russo stated. “Let’s focus on providing our teachers the tools to make our public school system, which include our charter schools, the best in the state.” That’s good advice, and it will best serve the children of Hoboken if it is heeded.

Figure 1: HBOE sought reassessment of Hola's charter and expansion

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Full Agenda Tuesday July 25, 2017 HOBOKEN BOARD OF EDUCATION MEETING

Monday, July 24, 2017

After 3 Years and Hundreds of Thousands of Tax Payer Dollars-- Hoboken Board of Education's Lawsuit Against HoLa’s Expansion to 8th Grade is Finally Over

HoLa Dual Language School- Hoboken Now file photo
Dear HoLa Community,

I’m writing to let you know that last week marked a deadline for the Hoboken Board of Education to file a petition to the state Supreme Court in the HoLa case. The deadline came and went and the Hoboken BOE did not make any filings or formal comments.

This means that the lawsuit against HoLa’s expansion to 8th grade, which started over three years ago, is finally over.

THANK YOU for  all of the advocacy you did in the past several weeks since the favorable Appellate Court ruling. The statements of support that you were able to get for us from elected officials surely contributed to the Hoboken BOE’s decision to finally put this conflict to an end and not proceed to the state’s Supreme Court.  Additionally,  thank you to the many, many families who helped us during this three year journey in various ways.  We did this together!

Thank you,

Barbara Martinez
Board President

Friday, July 21, 2017

Mr. Frank J. Spano Jr- Long Time Hoboken Public School Teacher, Administrator and Nationally Recognized Sports Official

Mr. Frank J. Spano Jr. 1939-2017
My condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Mr. Frank Spano. Mr. Spano was a valued colleague and a mentor and set a high standard for professionalism in his interactions with parents, faculty, and staff of the schools in which he administered. I will always remember his kind and generous words he had when John Raslowsky and I were appointed Superintendent and Asst. Superintendent of the Hoboken Public Schools back in 2007 . -Dr. Anthony Petrosino 

Frank J. Spano Jr.  loving husband, father and grandfather, passed away from this world on July 20, 2017 after a long illness (Details for final arrangement). Born and raised in Hoboken, N.J., Mr. Spano has lived in Manchester Township, N.J. since 2002.  He is survived by his loving wife Gloria (Herbster-Hanson); his three children, Gayle Khoury, Joseph Spano and his wife Kristen, Frank Spano and his wife Christine and their mother Ann, nee Gallo; his 3 step-children, Kristen Spano and her husband Joe, Danielle Bernie and her husband Budd, and Gary Hanson and his wife Johna. He leaves behind 9 grandchildren; Elizabeth and Bobby Khoury, Sarah and Joseph Spano, Frank Spano, Maxelle and Budd Bernie and Alyvia and Gary Hanson; his sisters Marianne Maarleveld, Judith Scarpone and brothers Joseph and Steven Spano. He is predeceased by his parents Frank and Josephine (Monaco) Spano.

He was a member of the class of 1961 of St. Peter’s College, Jersey City, N.J., and received his Masters Degree in School Administration from Seton Hall University in 1966. Mr. Spano served in the Hoboken school system from 1961 through 2000. His career in education started at A.J. Demarest School as a teacher of Business Studies where he later became Vice Principal. In 1972 he was named Principal of Joseph F. Brandt School where he served until 1995, he returned to A.J. Demarest as Principal for the 1995-1996 school year then took over as Principal of Hoboken High School from which he retired in 2000. After retirement he served as Interim Principal in the Englewood Cliffs Public School system as well as the Teaneck Public school system.

Through all of Mr. Spano’s success in his career in Education he also had an illustrious 50 year career as a sports official. Starting as a Little League umpire in 1964 he quickly moved to the high school level and to college baseball in 1967. His 22 year career as a college baseball umpire ended with him being on the diamond for the College World Series. He served as the Rules Interpreter for the College Baseball Umpires Association from 1984-1992. He took up refereeing college football in 1972 spending 20 seasons at the Division 1 level. He also refereed Division III Women’s College Basketball. After retiring from college officiating duties, Mr. Spano worked as a College Scout for the NFL and the Coach/Quarterback Coordinator for the NY Giants as well as the 24 Second Shot Clock Operator for the NJ Nets of the NBA. His love of sports was passed down to his children and grandchildren. The traveling involved in officiating college football became a passion of his. After retirement he travelled the world with his wife, Gloria, family and friends and spent much time in Paradise Island, Bahamas.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at St. Francis Church, 308 Jefferson Street, Hoboken, N.J. on July 25 at 11am. There will be no visitation prior to the mass. Friends and family are respectfully asked to gather directly at St. Francis church no later than 10:45 am. Entombment is at Holy Cross Chapel Mausoleum, North Arlington. Hours of visitation at Failla-McKnight Memorial Home, 533 Willow Avenue, Hoboken, N.J. on July 24 from 3-8pm. Valet parking in rear of memorial home off Sixth Street. In lieu of flowers donations may be made in Frank’s memory to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, P.O. Box 5014, Hagerstown, MD 21741-5014, or

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Thanks to those who helped with Father Mike’s services - Rev. Chris Panlilio, Pastor St. Francis Church

Photo: Avalon Zoppo | For
Dear Editor:

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who assisted our church with the wake and funeral for Fr. Michael Guglielmelli.

First and foremost is Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer and her administration. We own them a great debt of gratitude and we truly appreciate all that they did for us, especially, the Department of Environmental Services and the Police Department. Police Chief Ferrante and Lt. Petrosino bent over backwards to accommodate us. All involved were highly professional while being very sympathetic. We all can be proud of these who serve our city.

We would also like to thank our Hoboken Volunteer Ambulance Corp. who stood at the ready for two long days. Carlo’s Bakery, for sending desserts and breakfast. Failla Funeral Home, for sponsoring the catering. Our heartfelt appreciation to the Hoboken Board of Education and Hoboken University Medical Center for their respectful cooperation and the aid and assistance of the Jersey City Police Department and the Hudson County Sheriff.

The Konopka and Lawton Turso Funeral Homes did an amazing job under trying circumstances. Their staffs worked long hours to assure the highest level of service. We would like to express our appreciation for the members of the clergy who participated, especially those who helped organize: Bishop Dominic Marconi, Msgr. Michael Andreano, Msgr. Bob Meyer and Rev. Joseph Scarangella, Rev. Bryan Page and Rev. Tom Rzempoluch.

We would also like to apologize to those that were inconvenienced by the funeral. Our neighbors that surround St. Francis were asked to bear with street closures, major parking issues, extra traffic and crowds. We appreciate their patience.

Everyone’s time, talent and treasure will be paid forward, as we honor Fr. Mike’s lifelong commitment to the poor and homeless, through our free lunch program. It is our wish that God will bless, in a special way, all for their efforts on our behalf.

Rev. Chris Panlilio, Pastor
St. Francis Church

Related Link 1;   Related Link 2;   Related Link 3;   Related Link 4  

Monday, July 10, 2017

American Society of Engineering Education 2017: Group-Based Cloud Computing for Secondary STEM Education (Petrosino and Stroup, 2017)

I recently presented a paper at the 124th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Engineering Education. This work is related to my recent National Science Foundation (NSF) research grant and was by special invitation to all new awardees of NSF research grants. What follows is an abstract of the paper as well as the full paper that was presented at the conference.
Title: Group-Based Cloud Computing for Secondary STEM Education (Petrosino and Stroup, 2017)Presented at NSF Grantees Poster Session
This project will advance efforts of the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program to better understand and promote practices that increase students' motivations and capacities to pursue careers in fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) by designing, developing, implementing, and studying a socio-technological system for group-centered STEM teaching and learning consistent with a nationally recognized pre-service program.The project takes a design-based research approach to creating and studying technologies and materials that support generative teaching and learning in STEM. Sites associated with a nationally recognized and expanding approach to STEM teacher preparation and certification will serve as incubators and testbeds for the project's innovation and development efforts. Computational thinking, including agent-based modeling, and simulation across STEM domains as well as geo-spatial reasoning about personally meaningful learner-collected data will provides an important scientific foundation for the project. This will be achieved by developing a highly-interactive and group-optimized, browser- and cloud-based, device-independent and open-source architecture and by integrating and extending leading computational tools including the NSF-funded NetLogo Web agent-based modeling language and environment. The project will also achieve this outcome by publishing its technology-mediated activities and materials in the public domain and by capturing extensive qualitative and quantitative data on the intensity and nature of use of these technologies and materials. Collectively, the project will foster the growth of educational infrastructures to enable the dissemination and effective adoption of generative teaching and learning in STEM particularly in high school engineering. 
  1. Dr. Anthony J Petrosino Jr University of Texas, Austin [biography]
  2. Dr. Walter M Stroup University of Massachusetts [biography]

Group-Based Cloud Computing for Secondary STEM Education [view paper] Dr. Anthony J Petrosino Jr (University of Texas, Austin) and Dr. Walter M Stroup (University of Massachusetts)

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Excerpts from Hoboken Board of Education vs. HoLa and NJDOE Decision

Superior Court, Appellate Division- New Jersey
The following are excerpts from the Superior Court of New Jersey concerning the case of Board of Education of the City of Hoboken, Hudson County (Petitioner-Appellant) vs. New Jersey State Department of Education and Board of Trustees of the Hoboken Dual Language Charter School (Respondents-Respondents). The appeal by the Hoboken Board of Education was decided on June 29, 2017. The following excerpts are taken from the June 29, 2017 decision without editing. The full text of the decision is available by clicking here.


1) the original intent of its founders was to implement a dual-language program (Spanish and English) at Hoboken's Connors school (the district's most segregated and poorest school), but Hoboken rejected the plan.

2) Students are admitted to HoLa through a lottery with no interviews. No demographic data is collected until students are registered. In order to represent a cross section of the Hoboken community, HoLa holds open houses and tours and advertises in local publications. It also partners with local organizations to recruit on-site. Dates for the open houses, tours and events, as  well as the lottery, are posted on the school's website and are printed on flyers "distributed throughout the city." In addition, applications and brochures are mailed to every low-income household each year prior to the lottery. HoLa's parents and teachers also canvass subsidized and public housing and help complete applications on the spot.

3) Parents may enroll children in the lottery online, in person, or by a phone call to the school. HoLa has a sibling preference, so that if a child is enrolled in HoLa, that child's younger sibling will have priority over other lottery applicants. On December 23, 2014, HoLa submitted a request to the Commissioner to include a low-income preference in its lottery.

4) A-3690-14T3 N.J.S.A. 18A:36A-8(e), however, states that a charter school's admission policy must seek to enroll "a cross section of the community's school age population." (Emphasis added). This indicates that the entire community, not just the students enrolled in the public schools, must be considered.


5) The percentage of students receiving free or reduced-price lunch decreased for all four Hoboken public elementary schools from 2010-2011 to 2013-2014

6) [A]lthough HoLa enrolls a higher percentage of White students, and a smaller percentage of Black and Hispanic students than [Hoboken], the percentage of White students attending [Hoboken] has actually increased since HoLa opened in 2010 with the percentage of Hispanic students decreasing in that same period. The percentage of Black students in [Hoboken] has stayed fairly constant since 2010. The increase in percentage of [Hoboken's] White students since 2010, along with the decrease in Hispanic students, and the lack of changes to the percentage of Black students indicates that HoLa's enrollment has not had a segregative effect on [Hoboken]. Instead, the data points towards an overall population shift in the last ten years in the City of Hoboken, which began before the opening of HoLa Charter School.


7) [A] Charter School should not be faulted for developing an attractive educational program. Assuming the school's enrollment practices remain color blind, random, and open to all students in the community, the parents of age eligible students will decide whether or not to attempt to enroll their child in the Charter School and any racial/ethnic imbalance cannot be attributed solely to the school.


8) Hoboken does not, however, show that expanding HoLa will increase racial imbalance as it did in North Haledon. To the contrary, the percentage of white students in Hoboken schools increased since HoLa opened.

9) The evidence showed that HoLa's policies are geared toward admitting a cross section of the school-aged population, economically as well as racially and ethnically. HoLa canvassed and advertised in Hoboken's subsidized housing developments. On December 23, 2014, HoLa submitted a successful request to the Department to include a low-income preference in its lottery. Hoboken fails to convince us that the facts regarding economically disadvantaged students lead to a conclusion that HoLa should not be permitted to expand.

10) Hoboken does not argue that the financial losses surrounding HoLa's expansion would impede Hoboken's ability to provide a thorough and efficient education. It mounts only general, non-specific and unconvincing attacks on the entire charter school scheme and does not separate HoLa's impact from the impact of the other two charter schools.

11) HoLa provides quality education to a cross section of Hoboken's children. As a dual-language school, HoLa allows students to become bilingual in a curriculum with a multi-cultural content, and thus advances public policy goals. Hoboken has not shown that the Commissioner's decision to allow HoLa to expand was arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable.