Public schools set to open Sept. 7
Hoboken says hello to HoLa
by E. Assata Wright
Reporter staff writer
Aug 29, 2010 | 4143 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
HELLO, THERE – On Aug. 27, residents and city officials held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for HoLa, Hoboken’s newest charter school.
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With 35 retirements or resignations of administrators and teachers expected by the end of this month, the Hoboken school district will see an unusually high number of staff changes when classes begin on Sept. 7.

Earlier this month, the Board of Education announced that Bartholomew Reilly, the current vice principal of Wallace Primary School, will become principal of the school beginning Sept. 1. He replaces the current principal, Charles Tortorella, who will retire on Aug. 31.

The news came on the heels of several other retirement announcements in the last few months, including from former Connors Primary School Principal Linda Erbe, Brandt Middle School Principal Edith Vega, Director of Special Services Elizabeth Falco, Hoboken High Vice Principal Eileen Carvalho, supervisor Steven Repetti, and Mary Tremitiedi, who was the administrative assistant to the superintendent.

The district includes six regular public schools and fewer than 3,000 students.

This school year parents have a new charter school option available to them: the Hoboken Dual Language Charter School, known as HoLa.

The high number of retirements is not necessarily a coincidence. Gov. Christopher Christie announced earlier this year that he plans to cut state spending partly by reigning in pay, pension benefits, and health insurance costs for public employees, including teachers. Among the changes, Christie has supported capping payouts for unused sick and vacation days when employees retire.

More than 5,000 teachers statewide have already announced plans to retire this year. At this same time last year, less than 3,000 had decided to retire, according to the New Jersey Education Association.

Changes this fall

The retirements mean the 2010-2011 school year will be one of change and transition in the Hoboken School District.

Earlier this summer the Board of Education also hired Laurinda Pereira to be the new principal of Connors School, an elementary school in southwestern Hoboken. Pereira, who began on Aug. 1, will begin her new position at a critical time for Connors. The students were supposed to move to temporary quarters in September while the state funded renovations for the building, but the Christie administration postponed the funding. For now, students will remain in their original building until work can start.

Loss of funding at Connors affects charter school

The situation with Connors has had a domino effect on Hoboken Charter School.

While their building was under renovation, the school district had planned to move Connors students into classrooms at the A.J. Demarest Alternative High School – classrooms that had been leased by the charter school for more than a decade. But to make way for Connors, the district told Hoboken Charter School that it had to find other accommodations, which the school did.

The school quickly signed a new agreement to rent space at The Academy of the Sacred Heart. After it became apparent at Connors would not be using the classrooms at Demarest, Hoboken Charter School began negotiations with the Hoboken School District to place its high school students back at Demarest; grades 1 through 8 will attend school at the Academy of the sacred Heart.

But the last minute-rush to find space has caused the charter school to push back its start date for the 2010-2011 school year to Sept 13.

Dual language charter school opens

This school year, parents have a new charter school option available to them: the Hoboken Dual Language Charter School, known as HoLa – Hoboken Language – for short. The abbreviation also plays on the Spanish word hola, which means “hello.”

This fall, 132 children in kindergarten through the second grade will become the inaugural students at HoLa, which opens on Sept. 7.

Under the directorship of Maria Acosta, HoLa has promised to offer a comprehensive curriculum in English and Spanish, which will be taught by teachers trained in innovative strategies specific to dual language education.

Believing the philosophy that students in dual language programs perform better than their monolingual peers, educators at HoLa say they will try to achieve bilingualism and academic excellence for all students, regardless of their native language.

The school, which held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Aug. 27, will emphasize arts, an experiential approach to education, and a multicultural perspective, according to spokespersons for the school.

Located within the Boys and Girls Club of Hoboken at 123 Jefferson St., HoLa is a free charter school and part of the local public school system, although it will be run independently of the school board’s supervision. There is an application process for acceptance to the school, and there will be an annual lottery held each January to select new students.

Although the school will open with K-2 classes this year, one new grade level will be added each school year until HoLa goes through grade 5.

E-mail E. Assata Wright at

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