The Board of Education approved a new vice principal at Hoboken High School and a new business administrator at the board meeting Tuesday. Both came recommended by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Mark Toback.
Eric Boateng begins his term as vice principal on Feb. 11 for an annual salary of $121,160. His appointment was a point of contention for the board minority faction of Peter Biancamano, Francis Rhodes-Kearns and Carmelo Garcia, but their concerns were discussed in closed session.
The school board unanimously approved Ronald Smith as the interim business administrator/board secretary.
A three-hour closed session in the middle of the public meeting preceded the appointments, angering many parents and residents. More than half of the meeting attendees and nearly all of the speakers who had signed to make public comments, including Councilman Tim Occhipinti, left the meeting.
Prior to the closed session, however, an informative presentation was given on the efforts of the Regional Achievement Center (RAC), a state program, in aiding Connors School. Also committee reports were discussed.
Three hour closed session
The meeting went into closed session around 8 p.m. Board President Leon Gold estimated the session would take one hour. According to Gold, the board had to discuss confidential student matters and legal matters.
During the break, many parents commented on the inconvenience.
“Do they even care about the people coming out to these meetings?” said one resident.
“They never do,” another resident answered.
Board members said afterward that they voted in closed session not to discuss the hiring of Boateng when they returned to public session. Once back, the board voted for Boateng and unanimously for Smith. Kearns, Garcia and Biancamano voted against Boateng.
A presentation was offered at the start of the meeting giving an assessment on how the Regional Achievement Center (RAC) team is set to improve Connors School. RAC implements “turnaround principles” in what are deemed priority schools and focus schools. Connors is considered a focus school, which means it is not in the bottom 5 percent of schools in the state, but it is in the next level above.
Objectives of a focus school include raising New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge (NJASK) test scores or High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA) scores, sustaining 92 percent attendance rates, meeting 80 percent of the goals set, and more.
So far, the presenter working with RAC said that Connors School is “doing very well.” During visits to the school, the evaluators have seen a reduction in disciplinary problems.
Board member Peter Biancamano asked if the visits were planned or surprised. He was told they are planned.
Board member Garcia asked how the RAC team will deal with a potential drop-off of progress after the school year ends. The presenter explained that they are in the process of assessing afterschool and summertime activities.
Board member Tom Kluepfel read a list during his Finance Committee report of more hurricane recovery donations to the schools since the last report. The gifts included games, books, supplies, teddy bears, clothing, gift cards, and more, coming from Massachusetts, Florida, Delaware, Louisiana, Alabama, and Texas.
Kluepfel said thank you for the “deep, heartfelt generosity from so many unexpected places.” Board member Ruth McAllister also expressed her gratitude.
McAllister also mentioned a new program being talked about as a privilege to be offered to juniors and seniors with high GPAs called “Virtual High School.” It will allow students to take high school courses not offered at Hoboken High School due to its size, like Advance Placement classes or other foreign language classes.
Amanda Palasciano may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Raising security since Newtown
Last week, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Mark Toback and Board of Education President Leon Gold emphasized the continued commitment of the Hoboken school district toward strengthening security measures in the wake of the Newtown, Conn. shooting. Gold said that the public will be kept informed of the measures taken. They have heard suggestions ranging from two mandated police officers in the buildings to technology on doors that can recognize if a door has been blocked open.
Dr. Toback said that the Board of Education has made recent investments in security measures such as camera coverage and lobby guards to identify people entering the buildings. He also pointed out that Hoboken is considered a M.O.S.S. district school (Making Our Schools Safe), which provides resources in the area of school preparedness against school violence and works to establish safe learning environments in various ways.