Ethics complaint divides school board

Superintendent reports an increase in academic scholarship; students honored

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The Hoboken Board of Education honored the December students of the month last Tuesday Jan. 17.
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The Hoboken Board of Education honored the December students of the month last Tuesday Jan. 17.
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The Hoboken Board of Education honored the December students of the month last Tuesday Jan. 17.
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The Hoboken Board of Education honored the December students of the month last Tuesday Jan. 17.

The Board of Education remains divided over whether to agree to pay the legal fees for three members and a former member who are targets of an ethics charge which the board has declined to discuss in public.
The ethics charge has been brought against Board of Education Trustees Irene Sobolov, Thomas Kluepfel, Jennifer Evans, and former trustee Leon Gold. When asked about the charge, including who initiated it, and the substance of the charge, the board members said they were not at liberty to disclose the details.
At the request of member Peter Biancamano, the issue was tabled due to a hung vote. Klupfeul, Evans, and Sobolov abstained, while Sharyn Angley, Sheillah Dallara, and Mark McNamara voted in favor of the item’s approval, and Biancamano, Madigan, and board member Britney Montgomery voted to remove the item.
“I am well aware that our administration code says a board member fighting an ethics charge is entitled to reimbursements,” said Biancamano. “But what this seems to be saying is that we are giving them a blank check for reimbursements of legal fees without knowing what those costs might be. It just seems a little early to me.”
Biancamano said he thinks the board should consider waiting towards the end of the legal process, “so that the public would be more aware of how much is actually being spent.”
Board member John Madigan said he would like to know what the ethics charge is regarding.
“Shouldn’t I, as a member, see these ethics charges, and do my due diligence before there is a vote?” said Madigan.
Sobolov said there are protections in place, such as confidentiality. “It was my understanding they would remain confidential until the issue was resolved because anyone could make up an ethics charge.”
Angley said that this is only a vote stating that the board will provide legal support, not an approval of an actual bill.
Biancamano said he would prefer to see a bill towards the end of the ethics process than see it incrementally “buried” in the boards list of bills and fees for approval.

Superintendent’s report

Superintendent Dr. Christine Johnson updated the board on a variety of developments with a Power Point presentation.
At the NJ Thespian Festival held at Robbinsville High School, Hoboken High students won in the national categories of Duet Acting and Contrasting Monologues. In Duet Acting, Hannah Mack and David Rivera placed first, followed by Brandon Lyons and Te’Janea Bradley-Johnson in second place, and Danny Safanova and Anthony Sparacino in third place.
Brandon Lyons won first place in Contrasting Monologues followed by David Rivera and Danny Safanova.
Other students were awarded in non-national categories including Cassandra Ek Marrufo and Raul Hernandez for Monologues, Malcolm Cummins and Da Xia Serrano in the Legging and Platform Technical Challenge, David Rivera, Brandon Lyons, and Rebecca Weintraub for best supporting actors in the Chapter Select Category.
Johnson also reported on the high school’s progress at the Harvard Model Congress in San Francisco.
“Hoboken High School’s team of students has authorized more bills this year than in past year,” said Johnson. “From how I understand it, they need to get as many bills as they can written and passed in both houses.”
She said students Arianna Santiago and Anegelen Veloce were able to get bills passed through both the house and the senate and that student Amanda Hichez was awarded national honorable mention for her leadership in committee and full session.
Johnson also gave a class of 2017 scholarship update.
“The work our guidance department has done with the class of 2017 is amazing,” said Johnson. “ Our students are overly prepared for the college process.”
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“We have had a tremendous growth in academic scholarship.” – Christine Johnson.
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She said the district has worked hard to “get as many colleges and university to meet our kids and interview them in person. It has helped tremendously with acceptance and scholarship rates.”
Colleges come to the high school and host information sessions. If a student is interested in the school, he or she is interviewed and their file is reviewed, and are either given an offer or not on the spot. They will also “administer a letter of scholarship right then and there.”
“We have had a tremendous growth in academic scholarship,” said Johnson.
She said the academic scholarship funds offered to students have increased over the years.
Last year, the class of 2016 received a total of $4,279,500 in academic scholarships from colleges and universities.
Johnson said the district’s goal was $6 million and they have already exceeded it.
This year the total academic scholarship amount for the class of 2017 is $6,210,552 so far.
“We had an image of a thermometer on the wall that would get filled in as the students received academic scholarships and now they need to get a bigger thermometer, “ said Johnson.

Students of the Month

During the meeting the board recognized one student from each public school for their academic achievement and school spirit.
The students of the month for the month of December were kindergarten student Michael Uttariello of Joseph F. Brandt Primary School, 4th grade student Gianessa Serpa of Salvatore Calabro Primary School, and kindergarten student Andrea Mendoza of Thomas G. Connors Elementary School.
At Wallace Elementary School, 2nd grade student Azaad Bhalla was student of the month, at the Hoboken Middle School, 8th grader Davion Delgado was honored, and at the Hoboken High Junior School Brandon Lyons was awarded student of the month.

Marilyn Baer can be reached at marilynb@hudsonreporter.com.

SIDEBAR

Hoboken announces new middle school for fall, expands pre-school

The Hoboken public schools have announced plans to create a middle school separate from Hoboken High School next fall.
The two schools presently share a building, although they are considered separate. Some parents have, in the past, said they would like the younger kids to be in a separate place from the older ones.
In a newsletter from Superintendent Christine Johnson forwarded among parents, Johnson wrote, “I am thrilled to announce that plans are underway to open a stand alone, comprehensive Middle School in September 2017 for 7th and 8th grade students at the Demarest School.
“Currently, we are discussing specifications for the building and work that will be completed to get the building ready for the opening of school. I am beginning the search process for the hiring of a principal and will further discuss program development with the Board of Education, administrators, staff, and families.”
The Demarest School is located next to Church Square Park on Fourth Street. It was once the city’s high school and Frank Sinatra briefly attended before dropping out to pursue his singing career.
She also announced that Brandt School will add a second grade, and will continue to have a first grade. The school already has pre-K, kindergarten, and first grade.
“We are currently assessing projected kindergarten enrollment numbers for next school year to determine how many sections of kindergarten we will operate in each of our elementary schools (Brandt, Calabro, Connors, and Wallace),” she said.
She added, “The New Jersey Department of Education has approved our request for preschool expansion for the 2017-2018 school year. As you may know, our preschool program is funded by the New Jersey Department of Education. Over the past few years, interest and registration numbers have exceeded the number of seats made available to us. Please be assured that we have successfully advocated to add classrooms each year. During the 2011-2012 school year, the Hoboken School District Operated 38 preschool classes. We are currently operating 55 preschool classes. Next year, the New Jersey Department of Education has approved and agreed to fund 59 preschool classrooms for the Hoboken Public School District.”