The Hoboken Board of Education announced several major changes in staff for the upcoming school year at its meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 21, including new principals for Connors School and Hoboken High School and a new athletic director for Hoboken High School.
Some meeting attendees expressed concerns about the leadership changes in the district and how the new hires were chosen, while others were optimistic.
The former principal of Connors School, Laurinda Pereira, will become principal of Calabro Primary School for the 2012-2013 school year. She will be replaced at Connors School by Gerald Fitzhugh II. Fitzhugh recently served as principal of the Chancellor Avenue/Annex Elementary School in Newark.
The Fitzhugh appointment raised a few eyebrows at the meeting. Some said it was disconcerting to have a principal selected from a struggling school district. Fitzhugh has only served as principal of Chancellor Avenue Elementary for two years, having been appointed in 2010.
The talk about the Connors School’s reputation and Fitzhugh’s background roused Board of Education candidate Patricia Waiters. (The election will be held this November.)
“Hiring decisions are more important than ever.” – Elizabeth Markevitch
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Mark Toback said the primary reason Fitzhugh was considered for the position was parent involvement and the strength of the relationships that he has made. Fitzhugh’s position took effect on Wednesday at a yearly salary of $127,209.
HHS gets new principal
Despite sad feelings expressed over the departure of principal Noreen Lazariuk, the appointment of former Vice Principal Robin Piccapietra as interim principal for Hoboken High School caused much less concern than the Fitzhugh announcement. Ivan Ramos will now serve as interim vice principal.
Piccapietra’s and Ramos’ effective dates are Aug. 22 through Dec. 31, 2012, at salaries of $124,640 and $115,911 respectively. The search will continue for permanent replacements.
Piccapietra, who was lovingly referred to by students and adults as “Miss P,” was present at the meeting and enthusiastically applauded for her promotion.
“I had her, Miss P., as my high school teacher. I think she’ll do a tremendous job,” said Hoboken native and frequent meeting attendee Nick Calicchio.
Low rank for HHS cause concern
Despite the confidence expressed in Piccapietra, a recent ranking of public schools seemed to have several people concerned.
Two years ago, New Jersey Monthly ranked Hoboken High School 187 out of 328 of the state’s top performing high schools. But the most recent ranking was 298. The magazine said the scores are based on the state’s school report cards.
These numbers were on everyone’s lips at the meeting, along with the recently-released HHS combined SAT score average of 1157. This puts the average below the halfway mark of a possible combined 2400 points.
Certain parents at the meeting were quick to defend the Hoboken school system, saying in between sessions that the scores from higher ranking schools should be investigated for possible cheating. Others seemed genuinely concerned over how the new staff was being chosen.
“I am pleased to see the addition of the Singapore Math program and I think many of the staff hires will benefit our district,” said Elizabeth Markevitch, Board of Education candidate. “However, I disagree with the board’s strategy of hiring from other districts, especially when those districts typically perform worse than our own. At a time when we have seen our high school drop [in ranking], hiring decisions are more important than ever. Every new hire is an opportunity to bring a new molder of our future. Hiring qualified professionals who have a vested interest in our community and its success is how we get ranked in the top 50.”
New athletic director hired
The final staff announcement named Derek England as the new athletic director of Hoboken High School. England is a social studies teacher in the district who has also served as head baseball coach.
“Hiring the best educators and administrators is the most important ingredient in the academic process of our schools,” said Peter Biancamano, Board of Education member. “I was glad to see the efforts of our current staff members recognized and I hope to see that we continue to promote talent from within.”
Rugby team? And ‘Rent’
Other topics discussed at the meeting included grant-funded workshops, new science labs at Connors School, a streamlined report card process, the aforementioned replacement of the current math series with Singapore Math, the possibility of a rugby team, and upcoming events like a spring production of the musical “Rent.”
Amanda Palasciano may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.