Sandra Rodriguez-Gomez, who has been serving as the principal of Brandt Primary School on Ninth Street and director of Early Childhood Education, was promoted to superintendent of schools at the monthly Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, July 24.
She replaces Gerald Fitzhugh, who just resigned after two years to become the deputy superintendent in Newark.
The Board of Education approved several other new appointments during their regular meeting on July 24, a list that included two principal changes, a new vice principal, and other appointments to posts.
The domino effect
Rodriguez-Gomez has been with the district for the past five years. Superintendent of Schools Christine Johnson described her as a “relentless, positive, intelligent, innovative, and extremely strategic leader.”
Rodriguez made a practice of greeting the students nearly every morning at the school.
At the meeting, Rodriguez-Gomez said that she will help Johnson continue the work she has started in the district. Johnson was hired in 2015.
Since the board moved Rodriguez-Gomez to the role of assistant superintendent, several other positions needed to be filled. The new principal of Brandt Primary School is Charles Bartlett, who has been vice principal of Wallace Elementary School for the past three years.
“His intelligence, commitment to the school district, and dedication to teaching, learning, and curriculum development are something we could not pass up,” said Johnson.
Bartlett said he was eager and excited to continue his work at Brandt and that Ms. Rodriguez-Gomez left “fabulously stylish shoes to fill.”
Brandt currently runs from pre-K3 to third grade.
The new director of Early Childhood Education will be former Hoboken Middle School principal Dr. Sharon Davis.
Johnson said Davis had extensive early childhood education experience, including owning and operating a preschool for approximately 12 years.
The new Hoboken Middle School principal will be resident Harold Abraham. The middle school includes grades seven and eight.
“His intelligence, commitment to the school district, and dedication to teaching, learning, and curriculum development are something we could not pass up.” –Dr. Christine Johnson.
Abraham is new to the district, after having served as the assistant principal and coordinator of RTI (Response to Intervention) in the Piscataway Township public school district.
Johnson said that after a lengthy conversation and a formal interview process, Abraham was the top choice to “take up the reins at the Hoboken Middle School.”
She said he will facilitate a number new programs and curriculum at the middle school including a new afterschool program.
“I look forward to re-launching and enhancing the student experience for all the students at the Hoboken Middle School,” said Abraham.
The new vice principal of Wallace Elementary School, which runs from kindergarten to sixth grade, will be Stephen Dickerson. He served for the past two years as the Hoboken High School dean of students and programs.
“Two years ago, I was the incoming dean of students and I wasn’t sure what to expect,” said Dickerson. “As I grew into my role at the high school, I learned what it means to be in Hoboken. There is a true sense of togetherness and family and belonging and I became a part of the community”
The new director of guidance, support services, data management, and operations will be Damien Arnone, who has been with the Hoboken Public School District for the past 10 years.
“I don’t know anyone who doesn’t see the work that Arnone does, and it’s an honor to be in his presence on a daily basis,” said Johnson.
Johnson said Arnone has taken on every leadership opportunity available since he has arrived, including important data collection, reporting to state and federal education departments, and obtaining certifications and awards for the middle and high schools.
All appointments were approved unanimously 5-0, with board trustees John Madigan, Sharyn Angley, Elizabeth Walker, and Jennifer Evans absent.
The next Board of Education election will be held in November. Check out breaking news on hudsonreporter.com this week to find out who is running.
More than 100 kids on pre-K waiting list
According to Superintendent of Schools Christine Johnson, the district’s state-funded pre-K3 and pre-K4 classes are completely full for the coming year, and there are 140 students on the pending placement list (wait list).
The district received funding to provide free pre-school to 885 students, based on the previous year’s first grade enrollment figures. The funds are given to approximately 30 school districts in the state based on a series of state Supreme Court decisions in the 1970s through 1990s meant to make sure kids in poorer school districts received the same thorough education as those in wealthier districts.
The district is required to provide certain programs including full-day kindergarten and pre-school.
As more families have begun staying in Hoboken, the program has been increasingly popular.
Each spring, the district holds a lottery system for student placement. Lower-income families who qualify for Head Start, children with special needs, and children whose sibling is already in the district receive priority.
Johnson said there are no special needs, low-income students, or siblings on the waiting list.
She said typically, the list has been between 90 and 150 students long. She said if families move away, seats open up.
“We already placed about 24 children who were on the waiting list into seats vacated by families who either moved out of the district or who have decided to send their child elsewhere,” said Johnson. But the list climbed back to the original number of 140 as 24 new families moved into town.
She said the list is updated twice a month, roughly on the 15th and 30th, and families are given a student ID number so they can track where they are on the list.
“It was really important to me that we make the process as transparent as possible,” said Johnson, who added that this is the second year the list was made available online for families to view.
She said families on the list shouldn’t lose hope of being placed, because throughout the year, students leave and families move away.
“The list of students tends to move relatively fast, although the number looks daunting,” she said. “By mid-October we usually have 70 percent of the original placement list placed. Then, the remainder trickles in during the course of the school year.”
Marilyn Baer can be reached at email@example.com.