LETTER: Honesty & integrity are the most important qualifications of a superintendent


In a letter to the editor, Hoboken resident Denise Guarino details why she believes honesty and integrity are the most important qualifications of a superintendent of schools.

Dear editor,

In Hoboken, issues have come to light that the Superintendent of Schools – Christine Johnson – has been deliberately using the title “Dr.” for the last 13 years without having received her degree.

It was not until August of 2022 that Johnson had her doctoral degree (D. Litt) conferred at Drew University.

She used the title “Dr” while a superintendent in Boonton and she has used the title of “Dr” since being hired in Hoboken in 2015. To be clear, she is a certified superintendent. That is not at question.

But she has been consciously misinforming the public about her educational title and accomplishments.

By doing so she has enjoyed the prestige, deference, honor, and assumed expertise our society and our community places on anyone who has earned their doctorate.

Superintendent Johnson’s deliberate use of an educational title she did not earn for 13 years is a serious and morally bankrupt offense, certainly narcissistic and unethical.

Her other degrees or professional achievements are irrelevant in the face of such misrepresentation. It’s alarming that the Hoboken Board of Education has not made a responsible statement condemning this action.

Is lying the new normal in Hoboken leadership? Are we to believe there are no consequences for misrepresentation?

Educational leaders must exhibit exemplary behavior. Johnson’s actions set negative examples for our students. Every student in our district deserves a leader who upholds moral and ethical standards with integrity.

It’s not a question of whether Superintendent Johnson possesses the necessary degrees or certifications for the job; rather, it’s about issues of honesty, integrity, personal responsibility, transparency and selfishness.

It’s unacceptable that the Hoboken Board of Education would be supportive of such a large breach of the district’s ethical code of conduct.

Superintendent Johnson also showed significant disrespect for the Drew University PhD program by claiming a degree for over a decade, prior to it being conferred. This was not an isolated incident or mistake but rather intentional fraud that had gone on for some time.

Our children are entitled to a leadership team that prioritizes values, principles, and honesty above all else.

To Superintendent Johnson I would like to say, when one engages in deceit and deception, their reputation is tarnished, and they can no longer be trusted. The community is asking you to use this as a teachable moment for our students.

Tell them it was wrong to lie, misrepresent and claim an educational title not conferred. Think about others, not yourself in this matter. You are not being attacked, you are being asked to be accountable for your behavior.

Does accountability matter to you, is it something students should learn?

Assuming Superintendent Johnson and the Board of Education, continue not to address this irresponsible conduct, I am encouraging all Hoboken High School seniors, to use their graduation commencement as an opportunity to protest, by refraining from acknowledging Superintendent Johnson with a handshake upon receiving their diploma.

This would serve as a way to demonstrate to their community and their parents that they have developed critical life skills related to honesty, integrity, and transparency, despite the lack of a positive example from Superintendent Johnson, our students understand the difference between right and wrong.


Denise Guarino
Hoboken resident

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  1. In the current tribal politics of Hoboken the members of the school board who would aggressively criticize anyone else other than their leader Christine Johnson for such calculated deceptiveness fall into lock step silence.
    Dr. Christine Johnson is and was a lier and that should always be remembered and considered whenever she says or does anything in the future.

  2. I didn’t expect such a fair perspective from Denise of all people. She and I disagree on many things in Hoboken, but I have to say on this one we agree. There is simply no excuse for Ms. Johnson to have blatantly lied for over a decade about her qualifications. My husband has filed an ethics complaint with the NJ BOE and I encourage others to do the same.

  3. There are double standards in Hoboken. If you are affiliated with Team BAM (Bhalla, Angley, and Malani) you can do no wrong. If you are against Bhalla everything you do is wrong. Christine Johnson committed fraud, but it’s ok because wealthy parents like the results. If a charter principal lied about having a doctor, all the Jabbour cultists would be calling for the principals head. The HBOE tried to build a $330 sports stadium, but they are only worried about wasting taxpayer dollars when it’s taxpayers filing OPRA requests. Dr. Johnson is going to get away with this because she is part of Team BAM.

  4. It’s nice to see people speaking out about ethics and integrity, qualities clearly lacking in both our BOE and City Council leaders. What Christine Johnson did is inexcusable and there should be consequences for her behavior. Ethics are not transactional and there are certainly double standards in Hoboken government. In addition to filing an ethics complaint, we can help remedy this situation by voting in some new City Council members in November and dissolving the “Team Bhalla” majority. Hoboken residents deserve better, but must turn out and vote in order to effect change.

  5. I could not disagree more with this letter and wholeheartedly believe we should respect each person’s Waheguru-given and inalienable constitutional right to use whatever pronouns, gender, titles – including doctorate – facts, and laws they choose so long as they keep our runways short.

  6. Thanks for saying that and yes I may not agree with everything but it’s clear: I’d think if they dont address this at the next meeting someone else will so they have to acknowledge the above is true, favoritism is alive and well. Between that and no activities for teens this summer the city is partnering with the schools to fail the middle and lower class completely. Only the council can afford cars and shore homes. They want eveyrone to leave and don’t acknowledge when they screw up. And keep up the good reporting John even the mayor has to admit you provide important journalism in this town.