Questions regarding Kindergarten Placements

Dear Editor:

Our daughter will be attending Kindergarten at Connors this September. As Southwest residents we are excited for her to attend our neighborhood school. 

I tuned into the June 13 Board of Education meeting to hear about kindergarten placements. I was surprised when Dr. Johnson mentioned that Connors would only have two sections of kindergarten for the 2017-2018 school year, and 27 of 42 seats would be taken by siblings of current students. Touring the school in February I distinctly remembered 4 sections, an expansion over previous years to meet demand. I was also surprised to hear reference to “choice” for school placements; at the kindergarten visitation day the “neighborhood” nature of placements was strongly emphasized.

We are flummoxed as to why there will only be 3 kindergartens south of 6th street, serving approximately 62 students between Connors and Calabro, and over 250 seats uptown between Wallace and Brandt. Add to that the wild disparity between the percentage of economically disadvantaged students at Connors (90% for 2015-2016) and Brandt (8% for 2015-2016) Wallace and Calabro are much more representative of the socio-economic realities of the district. Trend lines take years to shift and if kindergarten seats are removed from Connors the trend line is far less likely to change.

As parents, we know our daughter will have a great experience at Connors. As homeowners and taxpayers in SW Hoboken, we are infuriated that seats are being added uptown, and reduced at Connors. It is as if the District is signaling a tacit agreement with playground whispers among parents of advantaged children that Connors simply isn’t the right choice, or that despite it being close to their homes, it is somehow lacking in comparison to other district schools. Segregation disguised as “choice” is not something that we should be perpetuating. Connors suffers a PR problem that the district has done very little to combat. The overall improvement in recent years at Connors is deserving of recognition, yet leaves the school looking lackluster on paper.  

The best advertisement for Connors was the Art Showcase held in April. Attendees could feel the excitement and potential of the students in attendance. Additionally forward thinking parents organized an informal Q&A for families interested in Connors. There was no outreach from the district to parents within walking distance of Connors, no effort to explain to parents that the focus, performance, and culture of Connors is one in which all students will be able to thrive regardless economic background.

We would like to see an explanation of why kindergarten seats at Connors were removed, where seats were added, and the percentage of free/reduced lunch for incoming kindergarten classes at all four elementary schools. We would like to hear from the district what its plans are for making all schools more representative of the socio-economic realities of the district population. The segregation of advantaged and disadvantaged students not only impacts school performance, but it also has the potential to adversely impact property values in SW Hoboken.

We hope this can be the start of a dialogue.

Kind regards,

Ailene McGuirk & Matthew Shoemaker