Hoboken schools superintendent didn’t receive doctorate until Aug. ’22, records show


For at least 14 years, the current Hoboken Superintendent of Schools Christine Johnson went by Dr. Johnson, however, she did not receive her doctorate until August 2022, according to public records.

Hoboken Superintendent of Schools Dr. Christine Johnson. Twitter photo.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

Until that point, documents and publications such as annual financial reports, minutes of school board meetings, and yearbooks routinely referred to her as Dr. Johnson – the same way she would sign letters to parents and what her nameplate at school board meetings said.

Last August, Johnson received a Doctor of Letters in historical studies from Drew University, earned after submitting a dissertation on August 19th on the failure of a 2002 state law that aimed to add more black perspectives to public school social studies classes.

The Hoboken school board hired Johnson in April 2015 and it acknowledges now that she did not have a doctorate at the time.

There is no state requirement that superintendents hold doctorates, but many do and the one other finalist whose name became public had earned a doctorate.

Responding to an inquiry from HCV, Johnson said the course work was completed years ago and that “unforeseen personal circumstances” prevented her from receiving her degree immediately.

“… I had completed all of the required coursework, Joy of Scholarly Writing and dissertation courses for the degree years ago. Due to unforeseen personal circumstances, I did have to maintain my matriculation and update my work for much longer than I had ever hoped. That is now behind me and had/has no bearing on my credentials as superintendent of the Hoboken public schools.”

Before coming to Hoboken, Johnson had worked as the Boonton schools superintendent since 2008 and also had left the impression there that she had earned a doctorate.

In the Boonton district’s 2014-15 budget, for example, she is referred to as Dr. Christine Johnson.

Under her picture in the 2009, 2010, and 2011 Boonton High School yearbooks, she’s listed as Dr. Christine Johnson. In their 2012 yearbook, other administrators note their highest degree, but although she’s listed as Dr. Johnson, no corresponding degree appears.

After Hoboken hired her, she quickly started being called Dr. Johnson. The district’s 2015-2016 budget book – published just before she started work on July 15, 2015 – listed her as Dr. Johnson.

In all 75 of the board meetings she attended until last August, she was also referred to as Dr. Johnson.

At no time did she or the board discourage the use of the inappropriate title, video recordings of the meetings show.

Furthermore, in her response to HCV, Johnson indicated that she hadn’t submitted her dissertation before applying for the Hoboken job, saying only that she had completed the other work for the degree.

But in answering an Open Public Records Act request for information on Johnson’s background, Board President Sharyn Angley and Vice President Malani Cademartori asserted that Johnson had also finished all the work for the degree, including her dissertation before 2015, but didn’t receive her degree until she paid off her tuition.

“While finished with her requirements for her Doctor of Letters, the superintendent maintained matriculation in order to continue paying owed tuition. Once Dr. Johnson finished paying her tuition, her diploma for that particular degree was released,” they wrote in the January 18th email.

However, her dissertation raises doubts about this claim. Johnson’s dissertation, dated August 19th, 2022, indicates that it was researched and written several years after the board hired her, not before.

It contains nearly 100 references and footnotes to books, articles, and other sources published in 2019 or later.

It also mentions events that occurred well after 2015, such as the launch of the 1619 Project in 2019, legislation that Gov. Phil Murphy (D) signed in 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition, the three-page resume Johnson submitted to the board as part of her application for the job makes no mention of her working on a doctorate.

Angley, who was also a board member in 2015, and Cademartori said “her resume at the time of hire did not refer to her completed doctoral coursework, scholarly writing requirement or dissertation as those were not pertinent to nor required for the position.”

They also mentioned that Johnson is currently enrolled at the Wharton Aresty Institute of Executive Education, through the University of Pennsylvania, for a six-week long certificate program in the area of Executive Presence and Leadership Development.

A year of tuition for a D.Litt. degree from Drew was $59,040 last year, but the 45 credits required for the degree would need at least two years to complete.

Johnson earned $157,500 in her first year as Hoboken’s superintendent, back when the state set limits on school chiefs’ salaries. This school year, her salary and bonuses total $233,052.

Johnson, 52, who lives in Denville, has her loyal fans as well as her critics. She’s beloved by a passionate group of parents who have raised $1.5 million for extra-curricular programs since 2015.

And now finishing her eighth year as superintendent, she’s given the district some stability after five superintendents and interim superintendents came and went over the previous eight years.

She also received national praise for managing to consistently keep students and teachers inside classrooms during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Still, some parents pushed back against the a district’s vaccination-or-testing mandate on students 12 and over for the start of the 2021-2022 scholastic year and the policy was eventually scrapped.

She also was an outspoken supporter of building a $331 million high school on the current high school football field, but in a the citywide referendum early last year, the proposal was voted down by a 2-1 margin.

Last week, the Hoboken Board of Education declined to address the heart of the doctorate matter, but was highly critical of the residents who had been looking into Johnson’s background, specifically claiming that two OPRA lawsuits, both won by the district, were taking money out of classrooms.

“The board believes that the superintendent’s resume and track record speak for itself and will not entertain these personal attacks, which take important resources away from the students of the public school district, including the attention of our talented administration,” the nine-member volunteer board said in a joint statement.

“These spurious implications have absolutely no bearing on the progress of the district and the programs that are important to our students under the very capable leadership of our superintendent, and the diversion created by them are translated into a waste of taxpayer funds.”

Warning: A non-numeric value encountered in /home/hcvcp/public_html/wp-content/themes/Hudson County View/includes/wp_booster/td_block.php on line 353


    • While it’s embarrassing and cringe-worthy that Jill Biden insists on being addressed as Doctor, she did not lie for years about having gotten her EdD.

    • She lied and it could be cause for dismissal. I don’t think your remarks about the degree she holds are necessary or add anything to the conversation. Her degree is in Education, which is the field she has a career in.

  1. Who cares?

    It’s like the mayor ignoring the fact that he said he wouldn’t take another job. Then doing it anyway!


    You can be anything you want is Ravi World! Men can get pregnant. Women can’t be defined, until we need to support “women’s rights” (which aren’t really “rights” according to the United States Constitution), and you can be any gender you want – even a hairball like Phil Cohen.

  2. This has been a firing offense in other districts around the country. I wonder how seriously the board will take this. Even if it backs her, it’s clear Johnson will lose the trust and respect of the community.

    • The Hoboken Board of Education short of Ms Johnson shooting a child in the school yard on video will never move against her for her lies. Notice Mayor Bhalla and his political crew have been and will remain silent on this very serious. That is how tribal politics in Hoboken works.

  3. This is precisely the reason I took another job uncle John Allen’s firm: to prove I am who I say I am, an uneducated, unethical, state-censored attorney.

    Schenck, Price, Smith & King have done the needful in exchange for Hoboken taxpayer funded contracts in giving me the job so I can get the monies to pay for my daughter not to attend Hoboken High School a few blocks away.

    Why would Bindya and I want her to attend that not good school? There is absolutely no hockey rink and it therefore it doesn’t improve our property values!


  4. She should resign or be fired. She flat out lied for years. There is no excuse or way to rationalize going around for years telling and expecting people to call you Dr when you are not one. What a fine example for the kids. Also, giving her a pass bc “she’s done such good” is absurd. Certainly there is another person out in this world who could have filled the position and done the same job without deception.

  5. Far from “spurious”, these allegations, which no one seems to be denying, are yet another example of the bad behavior that continues to permeate City Hall and the BOE. When will it end?! People work very hard for the honorific “Doctor”, and for the now Dr. Johnson to have assumed this title long before it was earned is not only a disgrace, but is fraud. She should be fired, immediately.

  6. Another Republican caught falsifying her background, par for the course. No wonder our school district can’t educate our high school graduates.

  7. Although not common, it is not unheard of for students pursuing a doctorate degree to use the “Doctor” honorific. Here, the Superintendent never lied about whether she had finally obtained the degree or submitted her dissertation. On balance, considering the incredible work she has done for our community and progress our schools have made since she took over our schools, I am willing to stand by her.

    • Yep trying to blindside th taxpayers of Hoboken with her bloated 300 million dollar sports club with high school attached she came up with was NOT truly great work. Thankfully the honest people of Hoboken saw it for what it was and overwhelmingly voted NO.
      I and most of Hoboken are more than happy to wave good bye to her.

    • But, Loneliest Troll, Johnson did lie. She ordered — and the district paid for — a nameplate that called her Dr. Johnson and that sat in front of her for more than 75 board meetings before she actually became a Dr. She signed letters to parents as Dr. Johnson. Her name in budget documents that she signed off on all called her Dr. Johnson. This went on for years and years. She apparently told the board president and vice president just in January that she had finished her dissertation before she applied for the job in 2015, which she knew wasn’t true.
      But to top it off, she’s been a terrible super. There’s been no progress. The district has gone backwards. Just look at the test scores and compare them with where they were before she arrived.

    • Well, if I read the timeline correctly it appears she did lie. And as far as those using Dr before having obtained their doctorate, perhaps. No one truthful or aware of the harm to their standing & if exposed.

  8. Was she being paid for her degree all those years? If a teacher is going for a master’s degree that teacher does not move up on the pay scale until the paperwork is done and the degree is in hand. She should be held to the same standards

  9. There is no reason that Ms. Johnson should have been called Dr. at the time of hiring. That title is earned, and deserved. Glad that a doctorate is not required in NJ in order to be a Superintendent. So why is it that Ms. Johnson felt it necessary to misrepresent her education in the first place? THAT speaks to her character. No matter how many fans she has, no matter her good contributions, the question is of character in an academic leader. We need examples for our children and young people. It’s admirable to complete a Masters’ degree and a college degree. It’s a question of personal integrity, transparency in truth, character and INCOME to misrepresent your educational level. I’d suggest accountability for the now Dr. Johnson means Hoboken is owed the difference in funds between what the district paid for someone with a Doctorate in excess of what was correctly earned by the present Superintendent with a Master’s degree. Simple. Dr. Johnson owes the Hoboken school community money not earned until more recently. This would also hopefully, help hold Dr. Johnson harmless in any case of wire fraud in the event her enhanced salary was directly deposited to her bank account.

  10. Isn’t the BoE, either as individuals or collectively, in some way accountable to the public here? Who did the background and reference check? Did anyone speak to an academic advisor at Drew? The Board might be considered as guilty, whether it be for neglect, incompetence or deception. Yes, Ms. Johnson should be fired, however we may want to dig a little deeper, not as a witch hunt, but more to understand how the BoE allowed it to happen.

    • Absolutely agree, “And Another Thing….” The BoE should also be held accountable as they seem to have been complicit in this charade.

  11. I can understand exactly how this happened. Many doctoral programs take forever, especially nowdays. If you are in a graduate program now, the number of courses you must finish, and the money involved changes. It has become very unaffordable. This is very, very different from becoming President of a Community College with no PhD. and editing credentials to say you do. Now that would be a story. This is not.

  12. Regardless of whether you liked her, as this excellent report tells us she lied for many years and a kid would not be able to get away with it. Her excuses are kid-like too. She lied and then the board refused to give the information so maybe they were trying to hide it? And Bhalla needs to defend her because she keeps running summer programs for kids to try to make up for the fact that year after year he has 100 percent REFUSED to have a recreation department that even starts to meet a need for more sports and arts programs for kids in summer. A year ago do you remember when he hired a new person who promised in Nj.com to have more recreation arts programs and the number they have added is ZERO. I know many parents have been complaining about this RECREATION ZERO program and I wish the press would do an anniversary look to confirm that the new recreation director has not added a single summer arts program and nothing new or additional for older kids or the many kids who would like to try programs like that. Even the sports are the same as last year and very few. Johnson doesn’t make up for all of it but she provides some programmes and so Bhalla needs her to confuse people about his biggest failure. Also I’d love to see Hudson County View get a copy of Jabbours last newsletter she sent out that went out of its way to say “Community Lifestyles summer program is for those kids in the Housing Authority” which is not true, its for more but can’t accommodate anyone and can’t do what a rec program does. Why did she say that? Maybe Hudson View as part of its excellent work could take a look at the last newsletter where she made this mistake, and also ask about why the city has not added new summer recreation art programmes. My friend at Wallace said they refer to this as RECREATION ZERO.

  13. What is best for the students in the district of Hoboken? I would argue that what is best for the students vis-a-vis the superintendent is a superintendent that has the support of teachers. After all, the superintendent is their leader and the teachers have the greatest impact on the lives of the students. If I were a teacher, I think I would want Superintendent Johnson removed. Why should she be able to benefit from a decade of lies? Think about how you would feel if this was your colleague at work. As for the board defending OPRA requests and then arguing that it’s a waste of tax payer dollars and administration talents, I have one suggestion: comply with the request. The defense is costly so, don’t waste time, money, etc. trying to restrict transparency. Not a good look Hoboken BOE.

  14. The surprise 300 million dollar new high school January referendum and massive tax increase it would have cause to Hoboken taxpayers was said to be Christine Johnson’s LIES OF OMISSION. This recent revelation of her 13 years of outright lying about Christine Johnson’s professional qualification is outrageous and she should be terminated ASAP.

  15. There should be fraud charges. Holds no credibility. Wrongfully enforcing face masks and holding terror school drills on children. Nothing done about it.