Hoboken BOE candidates talk budget, superintendent issues at debate

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As the Nov. 4 school board election trickles closer, budgetary deficiencies, segregation within the Hoboken School District and the revolving door for superintendents were the main topics of conversation during the two-hour Hoboken Board of Education forum Wednesday night at the Elks Lodge at 1005 Washington St. 

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By Katherine Guest/Hudson County View

The Hoboken Quality of Life Coalition joined with the Hoboken Elks Club to sponsor the BOE candidates including: Sharyn L. Angley, Peter Biancamano, Lynn Danzker, Antonio Gray, Brian Murray, Frances Rhodes Kearns, Monica Stromwall and Patricia Waiters.

In a written statement directed towards Stromwall, Kids First majority member Helen Manogue, Hoboken QLC’s coordinator, said:

“In the interest of providing the general public information about the intent and plans for which Partners for Progress stands, I hope that at least one of your colleagues will be present at the forum.”

Angley, Gray, and Stromwall – members of the Parents for Progress slate – were unable to attend the debate due to the two-week notice of the date change.

Murray, an Empire Realty Group real estate agent, opened the forum with a prepared statement explaining how, “As a real estate professional [he] see(s) too many families and friends head to the suburbs” due to the failed school systems within the community – “This needs to change.”

“We must demand from the BOE, [to improve] the school system, where families stay for the schools [and] not leave because of them. We have students with much untapped potential…but we must change by stopping the revolving door of superintendent administrators which severely hurts student’s test scores.”

According to Frances Rhodes Kearns, a BOE incumbent, and other candidates on the forum, there has been up to six superintendents thus far and due to the reputation of the Hoboken school district’s inability to resolve reoccurring problems, including budget issues, it has been nearly impossible to keep a top school administrator in the Mile Square City.

Instead of promoting within the administration, the districts are outsourcing assistant superintendents and superintendents who aren’t quite familiar with the facilities’ procedures and policies, said Peter Biancamano, another BOE incumbent.

Because of frequent budget challenges due to decreases of federal aide, a decrease of funding by the state and the expansion of charter schools, with $65 million allotted for the BOE budget, management remains significant for students and families in the community.

“Some people don’t realize we have that 2% cap, however, there are areas in our budget that doesn’t go under that cap such as: debt service, capital improvements, health coverage, insurance and pensions—which is something to look at.”

“I will also petition the state legislators about funding the charter schools and get them funded the way they should be,” said Rhodes Kearns, after agreeing with Biancamano about the non-educational spending.

“Raising taxes without diminishing programs or reducing staff members in order to fulfill the quota, is possible for all five candidates – since per every two dollars only one of those dollars are used towards the classroom,” explained Murray, noting that  there’s an entire dollar of overhead.

Lynn Danzker, the President of The Hunter Group LLC and former President of Management Recruiters International, explained how segregation was addressed to the board and should be addressed to the U.S. Justice Department as a civil rights issue instead of spending taxpayer dollars to fight a lawsuit.

Even with a tax increase, charter school enrollment did not rise because of lack of awareness prohibited by Kids First majority.

In prior years, as a result of an insufficient student count, the Board of Education produced $200,044 in order to legally preserve the positions of kindergarten aides, Danzker alleged.

Patricia Waiters, a law enforcement and public service professional, plans to tackle financial issues by directly speaking to federal officials in Trenton since the public’s right to vote on the budget was removed.

The BOE candidates said they expect to reintroduce a vote by ballot on the budget and how it’s spent in the Hoboken School District.

According to Murray and Rhodes Kearns, a science and math academy, liberal arts academy, and a vocational academy – where students can focus their energy on a specific topic – were advocated to partner with Stevens University, but the discussions remain at a standstill for the time being.