Hoboken Principal Cella Resigns
This week, Hoboken High School Principal Lorraine Cella submitted her resignation effective March 15, 2010.
One Hoboken parent shares their thoughts:
Hoboken lost a diamond in the rough
“I heard a rumor about this several weeks ago. Dr. Cella is the best thing Jack Raslowsky did during his tenure, other than the curriculum review. She was the first administrator hired from outside the district in over a decade. She took what many consider the biggest challenge in the district (Hoboken High School) and began to turn it around. She did have the benefit of having most special education and “high risk” students moved to the alternative high school at Demarest, but she took on and significantly improved curriculum and infrastructure issues that had been neglected for years.
I can’t say for sure what’s driving her decision other than Raslowsky’s departure. He went out of his way to protect her; he would not transfer her out of the high school, for instance, while other administrators are moved around the district involuntarily. This provided the high school with stability, a welcome change for a school that had little of that for several years before she arrived with several leadership turnovers and even Superintendent Pat Gagliardi doing double duty as superintendent and high school principal for a couple of years. The improvements at HHS may also be a function of all the money she allocated to upgrading computer and science labs. Some people criticized her for this, but in my opinion these are tangible improvements that are are serving students well. I found her always accessible (if not always willing to grant my requests, she was available to meet and listen every time), and she always returned phone calls and emails, something I cannot say about some members of the Guidance Department. She cooperated with members of the community (notably Irene Sobolov) in efforts to “sell” the high school to the city’s residents, although she at first did not understand the need for it. Her experience in public schools was in communities that supported their neighborhood schools, and she was a bit slow accepting the role of PR person in addition to her duties as educator, but she eventually signed on.
She has a PhD from Columbia’s Teachers College, so I am wondering if she applied for the position of superintendent and got snubbed. That is only speculation, I don’t know if that’s the case but I believe she would have made a fine superintendent. We had a couple of interesting conversations about education philosophy and how the district could be improved that showed me that she was extremely competent, thoughtful and caring.
Another speculation is that I think she butted heads with Roe Markle several times. Since Acting Superintendent Peter Carter appears to be Roe’s guy, that dynamic may have made her life difficult over the past several months. Ms. Markle holds grudges and personal biases that have been openly displayed at meetings and in several of her votes as board member. She will vote against an appointment simply because she does not like the person or has had a disagreement with them. As board president, she is a very powerful person right now.
The timing of Dr. Cella’s resignation makes one or both of the above scenarios a strong possibility, or in the best case she has an attractive offer elsewhere. She has high qualifications and should have no problem finding another position.
It will be interesting to see who replaces Dr. Cella. I wonder if the board will conduct a search outside the district or if Roe and the board majority have someone in mind. I have heard rumors that Charlie Tortorella may be interested (he is also rumored to be a candidate for superintendent). Tortorella’s time as Wallace School principal made him very popular with the moms that are currently driving the agenda at the board, so we’ll see how that plays out.
If Dr. Cella’s resignation is the result of petty politics rooted in what some people may have perceived to be her status as Raslowsky’s “protege,” then today is a very sad day for Hoboken students, parents, and taxpayers alike. The current board has a tall order finding a replacement for her — I can only pray that we get someone as good.”