I was elected to the Hoboken school board in 2009 as part of the original Kids First slate and served until 2013. On Nov. 8 I’m voting for the new incarnation of Kids First: Pavel Sokolov, Cindy Wiegand and Donna Magen (6, 7, 8 on the ballot).
Kids First is running against the Leadership that Listens slate backed by the current school board, but the board neither listened nor led during January’s referendum on the $331 million high school and ice rink. The board kept the project secret for years because being transparent is not how they operate, and voters rejected it by a 65% to 35% margin.
But what about academics? The board tells us that it has taken major strides in academic achievement. Yet, there are some shockingly low outcomes in the district.
In 2019, the last year before Covid temporarily halted the annual state tests, only 43% of the 21 8th graders who took Algebra I passed the Algebra test. More disturbing, not one of the 59 8th graders in the regular math class passed the state math exam. That’s a 0% pass rate. So, of the 80 8th graders tested in math that year, only nine were proficient.
I asked the board about the zero-pass rate at the public portion of a board meeting this year. I got no response. After the meeting, two members hustled over to me to say a) “their” children weren’t having a problem, and b) if I got the numbers from the state, they must be wrong because the state always makes mistakes. However, the figures are on the district’s own website.
What other scores are on the website? In the high school, only 3% of the students who took the Algebra I test passed it. In Geometry, the pass rate was 9%. For Algebra II, 18 students took the test and 17% passed it. That’s three kids. Overall, of the 225 high school students tested in math, 8% passed. In all grades, of 912 tested, the pass rate was 30%, down one point from the previous year.
In the seventh grade, a dismal 57% of the white students were proficient in math, and only 16% of Hispanic students and none of the black students passed.
Supporters of the current board boast about how good the schools are now and how bad they were before the superintendent arrived in 2015. However, back in 2013, my last year on the board, 30.3% of the 102 8th graders were proficient in math. That’s nothing to brag about. But in 2019 it was 11.2%, so where is the progress, especially for students of color?
After I left the board and with my children no longer in the district, I stopped following what the board was up to. Then the referendum on the new high school dragged me back in. I can’t think of one other person I served with on the board – including those who are supporting the other slate – who would have conspired for years to keep a multi-million project secret from the community. But unlike this board, we had members who would speak up and challenge the administration. It’s time for some oxygen in our sealed 9-0 school board chamber.