The suit, which is filed against the state but names HoLa as a co-defendant, argues that Christopher Cerf, the department’s former commissioner, was not in a position to approve the expansion in early March because he had already announced his resignation. On March 20, Cerf was replaced by acting Commissioner David Hespe, who the district is arguing should have been the one to make the decision. At the last Board of Education meeting, the board approved a $20,000 contract with a law firm to handle HoLa-related issues.
The district has opposed HoLa’s expansion for some time now, and went as far as to advocate against it in a letter to Cerf last November.
The Kids First school board majority believing too many of the district's resources go to the district's three charter schools. Two of those schools were founded in the 1990s, and HoLa is more recent.
Mayor Dawn Zimmer, who was allied with Kids First, has nevertheless encouraged the school board and charter schools to work together. Zimmer has two children in a charter school.
Superintendent Mark Toback and multiple members of the board majority have used the term “segregation” to describe what they say is the charter’s adverse affect on the district. Charters are considered public schools and receive money from the state through the budgets of local districts. This school year, the city’s three charter schools – Hoboken Charter, Elysian Charter, and HoLa – are set to receive nearly $8.3 million in funding, up from $4.2 million in 2010.
Both sides of the debate have given contradictory numbers for how much the charter schools cost the district.
On Wednesday, Barbara Martinez, HoLa’s spokeswoman and Board of Trustees president, criticized the district for including HoLa in the suit because it would result in high legal costs for taxpayers.
“A $64 million district using taxpayer money to sue a tiny and successful public school like ours is an unfair attack,” she said.
Superintendent Mark Toback has been contacted for comment. Updates will be posted when more comments are received, so keep an eye on hudsonreporter.com. For past coverage of this issue, see stories linked below. – Dean DeChiaro