Three school board seats up for November vote
Slates differ on whether to add charter schools, other big issues
by Amanda Palasciano
Reporter staff writer
Oct 07, 2012 | 11067 views | 12 12 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MOVE FORWARD – Elizabeth Markevitch, Anthony Oland, and Felice Vazquez are on the same school board slate.
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As if there’s not enough to vote for in Hoboken this November – president, three important Hoboken referendum questions, and a congressional seat – three seats are open on the nine-member Board of Education.

The school district is run with a $63 million budget and has a little more than 2,100 children enrolled.

The school board election will be held in November for the first time, a change that was approved by a vote of the board last February. In the past, elections were held each April, but turnout was low.

This election has implications for kids, taxpayers, and of course, local politics. Right now, the majority of the school board seats are held by Kids First, a faction allied with Mayor Dawn Zimmer, who is up for re-election next year herself. In the past, the school board election results were looked upon as a way to determine the strength of the reigning mayor, and his or her likelihood of re-election.

Residents of Hoboken pay taxes to three entities – the town, the schools, and the county, all figured into one total on the quarterly tax bills.

The district includes five public schools: Hoboken High School, Joseph F. Brandt School, Salvatore R. Calabro School, Thomas G. Connors School, and Wallace School. There are also three charter schools in Hoboken, which charge no tuition and are considered public schools.

Some of the bigger issues this year include whether the district should add more charter schools, how to improve test scores, personnel changes, and whether public school recreational facilities should be open to all children in the community, regardless of school.
“I’m not going to sugar coat it; there are serious problems in our schools.” – Elizabeth Markevitch
Kids in the district are subject to state standardized tests at different grade levels. Parents look at Hoboken High as a way of determining whether they can keep their kids in the public schools into their teenage years. For 2010-2011, the combined average SAT score for Hoboken High was 1151, considerably lower than the state average of 1506. The district average was over 100 points lower in each category than the state average. The highest possible combined score is 2400.

However, there have been some strides in the elementary schools. Calabro School saw higher percentages than the state in both proficient and advanced levels in mathematics and science testing in 2010-2011.

Kids First, Move Forward, and an independent

Seven candidates are running for the three open seats. Voters can vote for any three; they don’t have to stick with a slate.

There are two slates running – Kids First (allied with Mayor Dawn Zimmer) and Move Forward, along with independent Patricia Waiters, who has run for the board before.

Kids First consists of existing board member Ruth McAllister, former board member Jean Marie Mitchell (who filled a board seat in 2010 but lost her election bid in 2011) and first-time candidate and founder of Elysian Charter School Tom Kluepfel. All three have children in the public schools.

The Move Forward slate consists of Elizabeth Markevitch, attorney Felice Vazquez, and Anthony Oland. Markevitch and Oland have children in the public schools (Oland’s child is in a charter school), while Vazquez has no children.

Waiters is a parent and an avid Board of Education meeting attendee.

And then there were seven

Kids First’s original ticket was to include existing board member Theresa Minutillo, who has been on the board since 2006. She announced her decision not to seek re-election in August.

Kluepfel, who had intended to run independently, then joined Kids First. He has never run for office in Hoboken before. He helped found the Elysian Charter School in Hoboken in the mid-1990s. After the founding of Elysian, Kluepfel said he had to take a step back to focus on business and family. He said that people have approached him to run for the school board over the years.

Charter chatter

As with many issues in Hoboken, clear sides have been drawn over a few issues that one might think would not be so cut and dried.

For instance, the Kids First slate believes that adding more charter schools to the district would sap resources from the other public schools. Charter schools are considered public schools and are largely funded with public money, but can raise some private funding. A state law passed in the mid-1990s allows educators and parents to found these schools, subject for approval of their charter by the state.

Last week, the state rejected a proposed new charter school for Hoboken, the DaVinci Charter School, a science-oriented school. The Board of Education, along with Superintendent Mark Toback, opposed the application for the DaVinci Charter School last May.

Kluepfel offers a unique perspective on charter schools, since he founded one but is running on a slate that opposes more.

“The state funding formula sort of sets up district and charter schools to have an adversarial relationship,” Kluepfel said. He shares his running mates’ opinion that additional charter schools would force the district to cut programs.

Mitchell said, “We need to support the children in the district.”

Move Forward, on the other hand, believes there is a place for more charter schools.

“The best part about any charter,” said Felice Vasquez, “is the new energy being brought to it by interested, excited and engaged parents. Politics and egos force [charter schools] not to be included as part of the curriculum. My fear is that our opponents are making the same mistake with the DaVinci Charter School.”

Supporters of charter schools say they will provide parents with more educational choices in Hoboken, and help keep parents from putting their children in private schools or leaving town.

There is also debate over whether charter school kids can participate in athletics and school programs (like plays) in the other public schools. Kids First does not believe they should participate. Move Forward would like to implement a case by case fee allowing all Hoboken kids to take part in all extra-curricular activities.

Kids First member McAllister said, “The purpose of the Hoboken Board of Education is to provide educational programming to children that attend the schools in our district. It is unlawful for us to use HBOE dollars to finance programs that are not related to that goal.”

But Move Forward believes public school facilities and programs should be available for all local schools.

“A lot of these extra curricular programs,” said co-campaign manager John Castellano, “would benefit from having more kids.”

Kids First

Kids First supports the recent changes made while they have held the board majority. This includes the hiring of Superintendent Dr. Mark Toback, who took over the reins in January of 2011.

Jean Marie Mitchell, who previously sat on the board from 2010-2011, has not missed a Board of Education meeting in six years. She emphasized that she would like to “maintain the progress that the majority has made.”

Ruth McAllister, the only incumbent in the race, agreed.

“We believe in the leadership that was in place over the past three years,” said McAllister. “We believe that Dr. Toback is doing an excellent job. The opposing ticket, Move Forward, is looking to bring in new school leadership.”

Move Forward contested this statement. “We said new leadership in our literature,” said Castellano. “We were talking about the board, not administration. It is just a rumor that [Move Forward] seeks to get rid of anyone.”

Kluepfel has spent a lot of time working with Toback as a volunteer. He believes the district needs to do more testing to figure out which kids are not doing well, and in which categories, so they can improve.

“Schools need that information,” said Kluepfel. “We need to get these kids up the literacy ladder.”

Mitchell said Monday that her opponent (Move Forward) has been bashing the district.

“[Move Forward] is tearing down the district,” said Mitchell, “but I haven’t heard any ideas from them.”

Kluepfel feels the board meetings themselves need change.

“I’d like to see a return to civility at the board meetings,” Kluepfel said Monday. “[Board meetings] are not Town Hall meetings. Business needs to get conducted. Dialogue needs to go back to intelligent.”

Mitchell and Kluepfel each have a child in Hoboken High School and McAllister has a child in fifth grade at Wallace School.

Move Forward

The Move Forward ticket does not feel that much progress has been made in the schools in recent years. They say that many issues need attention.

“I’m not going to sugarcoat it,” Markevitch said. “There are serious problems in our schools.”

Markevitch has a daughter in 11th grade at Hoboken High who formerly went to Elysian Charter.

“Let the charter students join the Redwings band and/or theater,” said Markevitch, “and show that we can do right for all the students because all taxpayers pay for all schools.”

Move Forward also feels strongly about the instability among the school staff in recent years and the impact it has on children.

“Hiring or naming four superintendents in three years,” Vasquez said, “or four principals at the high school in three years, is not the consistency that positive change is built on, and that is shown in the [NJ Monthly] rankings.”

In a recent list in New Jersey Monthly Magazine, Hoboken High School dropped to the bottom 50 high schools in their list.

Move Forward believes that the children and parents deserve more.

“The students don’t care about board politics,” Markevitch said. “They care about superb teachers who wake them up and shake them and change their lives.”

People behind the slates

Kids First supporters have expressed concerns about the politicians backing Move Forward, saying some of those behind the scenes were members of past boards when auditors found problems in the district.

“As with all elected officials, I consider who funds their campaign indicative of the integrity of the candidates,” McAllister said. “Frank Raia, the main backer and treasurer of Move Forward, was president of the [board] when it was common practice to spend [Board of Education] dollars on many non-educational activities such as $1,200 dinner tabs at expensive steak restaurants, trips, and so many other contracts that auditors said added no value to the education of our children.”

Castellano responded, “This is just a distraction and has nothing to do with my candidates; it has to do with their supporters.”

He said, “I’m not surprised they’d make this an issue rather than education. I can’t speak on Frank Raia’s service on the board, but as a treasurer he is doing everything by the books. All reports are being filed and filled out accurately.”


Patricia Waiters, who often makes her opinion known at board and council meetings alike, has run in the past three elections.

“I just want to leave the politics out of it!” Waiters said last week.

Waiters admits that she does not have the funding for a campaign, but says she will not stop fighting.

Waiters also mentioned a dislike of Kids First, saying the ticket is “only in it for the power.”

Amanda Palasciano may be reached at

Comments-icon Post a Comment
October 24, 2012
Mason's excessive $7,200.00 contributions to Move Forward are against Hoboken's anti-wheeling ordinances and the slate faces $24,000.00 in fines.

The difference between the two slates appears Move Forwards lack of ethics.

However, when you look at who is behind them that shouldn't come as a surprise.
October 22, 2012
Have any of the candidates of Move Forward ever married the children they once baby sat for? Is the public aware that one of the current mommies on that BoE has.
October 17, 2012
How much money are Richard and Elizabeth Mason spending to put their people on the Hoboken BOE ?

Elect reports filed by Russo cousin John Castellano dated 10/11 are slready showing $7,000.00 and counting ?

Those weekly half page ads in the Hoboken Reporter that the Mason's are giving to their ticket are expensive !

October 17, 2012
How much are richard and Elizabeth spending to put their peopeole on the Hoboken BOE ?

ELECT reportes are showing $7,000.00 and counting !

Those half page ads in the Hoboken Reporter are expensive.

October 13, 2012
More bad news for Old Guard politicos.

"Move Forward" supporter Angel Alicia is making news as alledged recipient of hijacked City Hall emails.

October 10, 2012
"How can you "Move Forward" with the corruption of the past ?"

Patricia Waiters
October 11, 2012
Westy you still didn't answer are you any of the names in the recent lawsuit filed by a local couple for $2 million for defamation?
October 11, 2012
Will Pat Waiters even get her own vote this time? She is a habitual candidate who would run for anything just to get attention. She has zero credibility in this City anymore.

October 09, 2012
I am not going to sugarcoat it Liz Markevitch IMO is fronting for the OLD GUARD politicos like Raia, Russo, Castellano, and checkebook Mason.

Hoboken has seen that line up before behind convicted felon and disgraced mayor Peter Cammerano, the infamous 575 election day worker campaign staged to put Tim Occhipinti on the City Council.

The Old Guard politicos had a tough call like when Russo backed Mason, they needed to let their locked down machine vote and paid election day workers who their front guys were and tried to hide their backing from the rest of Hoboken's voters.

The OLD GUARD like the Wizard Of Oz beggs Hoboken voters tod disregard the man behing the curtai!

October 11, 2012
Not going to sugar coat it... Westy get a life. Your sick obsession with posting round the clock to defend Hoboken's Queen of Mean is disgusting.

You people can't win elections so you try to win the war of moronic posts on the internet. Get a life dude!
October 08, 2012
John Castellano, Mike Russo's treasurer when $18k went missing and no ELEC report was filed, tells us that talking about the people behind Move Forward is "just a distraction."

We wish it were. It's more like a nightmare for our kids and our schools. The same riff-raff who brought you the staggeringly corrupt BOE audit, Occhipinti's 2010 'election' with 575 PAID 'workers' generating 1240 votes - now wants to get their hands in the $63million trough of the public schools.

Do Not Let Them. They have been very clear about what they will do with this power.

We're just lucky that all of the same stooges have stayed in the picture while they try to put lipstick on this pig called Move Forward.
October 11, 2012
Did you see the story on the cover of the paper last week? Russo submitted the reports and gave copies of the reports and bank statements to The Hoboken Reporter.

Still waiting to hear from Zimmer about how much she paid Bhalla to be her lawyer while he was casting rubber stamp votes on the Council for her.

Also would love to hear from Doyle about all the money he and his wife donated to Joe Vas who is sitting in a prison right now for corruption. Did Doyle's wife do legal work for Vas when he was Mayor? If so how much?