In a letter to the editor, Hoboken Board of Education Trustee Alex De La Torre shares his personal view on why he will be supporting the $241 million school referendum.
My name is Alejandro De La Torre, Jr. and I have lived in Hoboken for the past 15 years.
In 2007, my wife, our 3-month-old daughter, and I transplanted from Southern California and like so many others fell in love with this community. Two years later, daughter number two graced us with her presence.
I recall on several occasions, my wife and I debating the pros and cons of returning home versus staying in Hoboken. We were faced with the inevitable question that so many other parents have asked themselves, “Do we stay, or do we go?”
Our conversations centered around all the same topics many continue to weigh today – bigger home, more space for kids, variety of youth sports opportunities, better schools.
It was an easy decision. This is too special of a place; its walkability, its diversity, the proximity to NYC and more importantly, the kinship we felt to the community far outweighed anything suburbia had to offer. Hoboken all the way!
My wife and I are both products of public schools and we strongly believe they are an important fiber of the community. We committed and enrolled our kids in the Hoboken Public School District beginning with pre-K.
That commitment has paid off! My girls have been surrounded by wonderful educators, have been challenged academically, our younger daughter continues to benefit from the special education program, and equally as important, they come home happy!
However, as great as the public school experience has been thus far, the one area that has lagged is facilities. As much pride as we have in our town, we have failed to invest in the area where we as a community benefit tremendously – our schools.
Over the past 12 years, our family has lived through the growth of the school population. As elementary school children our kids constantly moved between Brandt and Wallace due to growing demand.
As students at Hoboken Middle School, they had to eat lunch at 10:30 a.m. due to lack of space in the cafeteria. Now, our Hoboken High School freshman lacks the modern facilities that other students take for granted across New Jersey.
I strongly believe every child, regardless of socio-economic status, deserves and is entitled to an enriching educational experience. Improved facilities throughout the district will provide further exposure, opportunity and preparedness to all students.
Some of which include:
– Eight Science Labs
– Culinary Arts Kitchen, Classroom, & Café
– Collaborative Learning Activities Center (Library Media Center)
– Life and Transition Skills Room
– Six Special Education Classrooms
– Weight Room, auxiliary gymnasium, regulation-size pool
For far too long the needs of our public school facilities have taken a back seat or have been addressed with proverbial “band aids” while other local schools have been updated and modernized.
The long-range facilities plan we are voting for this Tuesday, January 25 addresses so many of the district and community needs. We can create a fourth elementary school, while allowing the current Demarest population to move into a building fit for middle schoolers.
In addition, the referendum creates a new high school with the facilities and amenities – academic, vocational and athletic – that will allow students to be competitive and prepared for the 21st century.
Despite the lack of current resources, our students are extraordinarily resilient:
· $17.5M aggregate academic scholarships in 2021, $1.8M in 2015
· 94.5% average 4-year graduation cohort rate for the class of 2018 through the class of 2021
· 94.0% average senior class college and university acceptance rate for the class of 2018 through the class of 2021
· Hoboken High Valedictorians the past four years: NYU (’18), University of Calgary (’19), Vanderbilt (’20), Yale (’21)
· Award-wining thespian program and debate teams
· 19 different athletic programs including varsity: Swimming, Volleyball, Soccer, Lacrosse, Wrestling
The time is right to elevate our public school facilities. The New Jersey Department of Education has fully approved the district’s plan, interest rates are at all-time lows and there is no need to purchase the one thing that is so scarce in Hoboken – land.
With full community support, imagine the possibilities for the district. As residents, we share an undeniable love for our city and its rich history.
Now is the time to invest in the future generations of Hoboken. I firmly believe that commitment starts with a YES vote on Tuesday, January 25.
Editor’s note: While the author of this letter, Alejandro De La Torre, Jr., is a member of the Hoboken Board of Education, the letter expresses only Mr. De La Torres personal opinions and has not been authorized by or written on behalf of the Board of Education.