LETTER: ‘Leadership that Listens’ BOE team is the best choice for Hoboken voters


In a letter to the editor, Hoboken resident Marla Decker explains why she feels the “Leadership that Listens” board of education team is the best choice for local voters.

The Leadership That Listen Hoboken Board of Education slate. Photo courtesy of the LTL campaign.

Dear Editor,

I’m Marla Decker and I have been a Hoboken resident since 2003 and our public schools are the reason we are still here.

My two boys have been in the Hoboken school district since they were in Pre-K, and now one is 5th at Wallace and one is in 7th at Hoboken Middle School.

My positive experience with the public schools and my desire to see people who support the current Board of Education and Superintendent Dr. Johnson are the reasons I (along with my husband) support the Leadership that Listens slate of Leslie Norwood, Antonio Graña, and Alex De La Torre for the Hoboken Board of Education (#2I, #3I and #4I on your ballot on November 8).

My husband and I are both successful products of public school education: mine in a small town in Western New York, which led to a journey to college and law school and an international career.

I often marvel that the granddaughter of an immigrant who came to the U.S. as a 15- year-old laborer without knowing any English could see the opportunities that I have.

Public education paved the way for my father to earn a college degree and stable career, and paved the way for me to do the same.

The ideals of public education to educate, elevate and expose children to diverse ideas and people and instill in them a vision of what’s possible can be realized.  And I believe in the Leadership that Listens slate to do it in Hoboken.

We live in a unique city that is representative of America’s diverse economic, social and cultural demographics all in one square mile, and our public schools are a great unifier.

We didn’t start our children’s education with a commitment to Hoboken public schools.  When our older son entered Pre-K at 3 years old, we, like many, had a “try and see” mentality.

But we were immediately impressed at the method-based early education he was getting, the committed teachers and the district’s desire to meet the needs of our son and every child without a “one size fits all” education.

We haven’t been disappointed since, and we continue to live in Hoboken because we can’t imagine a better place to live and raise kids or a school district we would prefer.

We were lucky that early in our children’s education, a group of parents transformed the Board of Education to make it student centric.  Since Dr. Johnson has become the superintendent, I have felt lucky to have her leading us.

She and the Board of Education members were unfairly vilified during the vote on the referendum, but the false narrative opponents of the referendum (including by other candidates currently running for the Board of Education) advanced could not be farther from my experience.

During the early days of the pandemic, for months Dr. Johnson sent an update email to parents in the district every day with updates and encouragement.

The Board of Education surveyed parents in the summer of 2020 to gauge preferences for in-person versus remote learning.

As a result, during the ‘20-’21 school year, ours was one of only a few districts in the state that offered full-time in person learning while also offering remote learning for those families who preferred it.

When I asked my sons today what they like about Hoboken schools, one said “that we stayed open for school during Covid and they kept us safe.”

There are countless examples of the innovative ways our schools have progressed under the current leadership.

One is the introduction of the “Physics in a Box” program last year in the Middle School, making it the first district in the state to include physics in its middle school science curriculum.

The investment paid off – Hoboken Middle School students participated last spring in the national Physics Olympiad, competing against over 700 schools, and our students earned 13 of the 56 (23%!) top awards given.

I support the Leadership that Listens slate because they have already shown commitment to these successes and our schools and understand the community-school partnership that must exist to achieve those successes.

Their status as parents of children in the district give them necessary perspective and aligned incentives.

And only the Leadership that Listen slate supports the current Board and Dr. Johnson, which I think is essential to our continued growth as a school district.

Regardless of how you voted on the referendum, we can’t let that divide obscure the progress and set back our schools.

Leslie Norwood, a mother of two boys at Brandt, has been a volunteer leader of the private community-based non-profit Hoboken Public Education Fund.

Since 2015, the HPEF has raised over a million dollars from individuals and businesses in our community, which has gone towards things like funding Chrome books for every child in the district and funding college tours for high school students among other examples.

Leslie, through her work on the HPEF, has already worked hand in hand with the Board of Ed and Dr. Johnson, to determine and meet the needs of the district.

Antonio Graña was a founding member of the Parent Teacher Organization for Connors Elementary school where his daughter attended (she is now at Hoboken Middle School).   Antonio recognized then and now that education is most successful when parents take a stake in the outcome of their children’s education.

Antonio has also served our community on the Hoboken Zoning Board.

Like Leslie and Antonio, Alex De La Torre has a history of community volunteerism.  He has already devoted nearly 4 years to the Board of Education.

He has also committed to our public schools by sending his two daughters, including one now in high school, to our public schools.

Alex is proud of the Board’s successes across many areas, such as expanding the advanced placement program at our high school, which enables our students to choose from 14 AP courses and earn college credit.

Nine years ago less than 5% of students earned college credit eligible scores upon completion of those courses.  Now, roughly 60% are, and that number is expected to rise.

I believe the slate of service-minded education-focused parents of Leslie, Antonio and Alex are suited with the right intentions, have the necessary experience and perspective, and are the best choice for board of education members to continue the successes and meet our next challenges.

I hope you will support #s 2I, 3I & 4I on November 8th.

Marla Decker
Hoboken parent and resident

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  1. “She and the Board of Education members were unfairly vilified during the vote on the referendum, but the false narrative opponents of the referendum (including by other candidates currently running for the Board of Education) advanced could not be farther from my experience.”

    No, they were not unfairly vilified. The referendum lost by 2:1 with double the normal turnout for such elections. The BOE and the superintendent spent millions and years crafting a plan in secret that they then tried to sneak through in a low-turnout special election in the dead of winter. They disrespected our community, taxpayers, and voters by deliberately excluding them from any input into their plan.

    The worst part is that there is a dire shortage of space for our students. They failed to craft a solution that our community would accept because of their insular groupthink. Now, our children won’t have libraries, music, or art rooms for years to come because of their failure. They are the opposite of Leadership That Listens. They didn’t lead, and they certainly didn’t listen.

    Let’s not reward failure and incompetence. Do not vote for LTL.

  2. Sure your kid is doing well with a school district that has only 9% proficient in math
    You have the money to pay for tutors if needed, the ability to nurture them and help them yourself
    But for parents of lower means in Hoboken, the district is failing them.
    A Fancy high school helps your kids look good to Lehigh, but it doesn’t do a damn thing to help kids who don’t have millionaire parents that can send them to Kumon, summer camp and finance anything a kid needs.

    The BOE deserved to be vilified and this year deserve to see a huge loss.

  3. This is the most obtuse letter I’ve read so far. Wrongly Vilified? They should have been run out of this town with what they attempted. The BOE deserve even less respect than they’ve been given. An honest Mayor in any other town would have asked for all their resignations.

  4. “She and the Board of Education members were unfairly vilified during the vote on the referendum…” Really? I don’t think so. What they did was unconscionable. There was an election last November and not one of the candidates shared the fact that they were working on a $240 million school proposal. And not a peep from our Mayor, either. Shame on all of them. Vote Kids First on November 8.

  5. Another member of the Dem executive committee breaking their promise not to get involved. The liars keep lying. Marla made such a big deal About wanting the new HS and now writes this letter. The BoE and its supporters have clearly learned nothing and are bordering on delusion.

  6. Anti-teachers union, anti- Dr. Johnson board members are NOT good continuing the fantastic work happening in Hoboken classrooms , and upwards academic achievement. Simple-minded, ideological, political partisan KF thinks they have all the answers, but in fact have never been involved with the Hoboken school community. Hoping enough voters see through the KF charade.

    • Where do you get your proof?
      I mean we know LTL are mostly white elitists and millionaires
      Probably many are bigots too … so heck why not assume that ? you’re saying whatever you want so can others without proof
      But there’s proof on other things like Leslie’s husband Facebook page
      A city ABC commissioner with ” patriot” as a self described title and a bigoted meme against Kapernick taking a knee…

      Based on the actions of LTL and Blanos attack on a Black NFL player
      I wouldn’t want the spouse if a bigot on the board
      If you marry a right wing extremists chances are …