Members of Original Kids First: “We endorse the Leadership that Listens slate. No affiliation with New Kids First”

Dear Editor:

As members of the original Kids First movement, we are writing to express our wholehearted support of the Leadership that Listens slate of candidates for Hoboken Board of Education: Leslie Norwood, Antonio Graña, and Alex De La Torre. We’d also like to take this opportunity to put to rest any confusion that we are associated with or support the slate currently running under the Kids First name.

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When Theresa founded Kids First in 2006, the District was in disarray, enrollment was down, and many families chose to leave Hoboken or enroll in other schools when their children reached kindergarten age. Funds were not directed to the students or classrooms, facilities were in disrepair, textbooks and technology were out of date, and much of the staff felt demoralized and unsupported.

Theresa was inspired to run for the Board of Education after meeting with Hoboken High School students about a new program she was introducing there, Senior Prep Day. The program introduced students to career options by bringing in professionals from various fields to talk to the students. Theresa found the students perplexed by her interest in helping them. When she pressed as to why this was, they replied simply, “No one cares about us.”

Well, Theresa sure cared and so did the many Kids First candidates and BOE members who followed, and the results for the District have been nothing short of transformational. Over the past 15 years, funds have been directed appropriately and effectively, resulting in new programs and services for all students, such as the K-12 Project Lead the Way science curriculum and Passport to Learning after school program that provides students with safe, high-quality activities and academic support, regardless of economic or educational need. Students and staff have access to updated technology and classroom materials, teachers are supported and have continuing education, and District facilities have been improved.

The results are real: student achievement is up, enrollment is up, staff morale and enthusiasm are up.

Much of this has been accomplished in partnership with Superintendent Dr. Christine Johnson. After years of accusations of a “rotating door” of school administrators, Dr. Johnson has been with the District since 2015, providing the stability and vision needed for transformational change and unrelenting progress. In addition to introducing many new programs and services, she also reopened our District schools for 5 days a week, in-person learning in September 2020 for all families who wanted that choice – a feat achieved by few, if any, districts in New Jersey, and earning praise from Governor Murphy. We wholeheartedly value and support Dr. Johnson, and know that Leslie, Antonio, and Alex do too.

The challenges are different now than when Theresa founded the Original Kids First. Classrooms are no longer empty, instead the District now faces a facilities crunch. Enrollment has increased due to excellent staff, rigorous academics, amazing co-curricular programs, and excited District parents. The reality is that our Middle and Elementary schools have run out of space for our burgeoning enrollment. Yes, the High School has some space – for now – but was built in the 1960’s and is an out-of-date facility. Our children deserve better, and so does Hoboken.

Leslie, Antonio, and Alex are ready to face these challenges, engage with our community and school administration to find solutions, continue the amazing progress, and make our District schools the asset our community deserves. As members of the Original – and True – Kids First, we ask that you join us in voting Leadership that Listens – 2I, 3I, 4I for Board of Education on Tuesday November 8th.

Theresa Minutillo, Irene Korman Sobolov, and Jennifer Evans

Jennifer Evans

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