More HoLa Program concerns…


Another letter added to the HoLa pile!

Hoboken resident and mother Rachel Goldberg wanted to submit her point of view about the HoLA Dual Language Program:

hoboken board of education wasting money - More HoLa Program concerns...

Open letter to Board of Education

“Dear Hoboken School Board Members,

Happy Holidays! I writing to you to ask you to vote no on the Hola program. I am coming to you as an educator and as a school administrator, an active voter and Hoboken resident. Most important, I am the mother of a 6-month old daughter that will one day enroll in Hoboken Public Schools.

I am asking that you vote NO on the Hola program for the following reasons:

(It’s a bit too long to display in it’s entirety on the home page)

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(Vote NO on the HoLa Program, continued…)

  1. It has not achieved the buy-in it needs to be successful.
    Because this program is new and untested, it will have a variety of missteps along the way. This is normal for large scale programmatic offerings, but in this case, each misstep will be capitalized on, and ultimately give reasons for your constituents to find fault with the program, its curriculum, its pedagogy, and its administration. In the end, it will go from being a bilingual immersion program to a hot topic in the next school board election or the basis for legal challenges. Our students will be the victims. If parents buy-in, they will be able to support the program throughout its development, and support the development of strong educational programs for Hoboken’s students. It is worth it to encourage the programs’ owners to take some time and address the community before rolling it out.
  2. We need to allocate funding for all students, not just a few elementary school students.
    Education research have proven that our students success is dependent on a school system that focuses on instruction. In fact, the Harvard PELP group has identified this as the “instructional core”- the relationship between the student, the teacher, and the content. Every policy that you passes does, in some way, affect the instructional core. The question for each decision should be whether you are strengthening or weakening the instructional core. With $150,000 (just the initial cost for the “consultants”) we could provide the following for our teachers:
    • 30 Teachers to take part in an intensive summer development program to build instructional knowledge at Harvard University
    • All of our H.S. teachers to be trained in a week long AP course
    • 15 Sessions with Tony Wagner, Bob Keegan, Richard Elmore, Grant Wiggins, or Richard DuFour (these are a few of the education sector’s leading voices)
    • Two year-round Professional Development Staff Members (at 75K per member) that can guide teachers (all content/ all grade levels) in teaching ESL students
    • An all expense paid trip (at least one night) to Washington, D.C. for all of our high school students (and their museum costs)
    • Multiple curricula from the College Board that has already been aligned to NJCCCS and the SAT (that would save the stipends of the eternal curriculum planning project)
  3. Our students at the Middle and High School need the support.
    Let’s face the facts, our elementary schools are diverse, exciting environments, the test scores have gone up, and enrollment has climbed. At the same time, there is a clear achievement gap, and that gap only increases once our students go into the MS and HS. Our enrollment at the MS and HS has decreased. We have strong teachers that have the capacity to help our students, but they clearly need additional support and policies directed toward growing their capacity. Not enough of our students graduate with an IB diploma, not enough of our students score in the “average” percentiles of the SAT, not enough of our students pass the HSPA, and not enough of our students graduate high school. If the extra monies in our funds need to be spent, there are a wide variety of programs that we can invest in to help our high school and middle school teachers and students.

We must approach our students’ futures with urgency. I wish that we were in a place where we could offer “laboratory school” status, but our assessment results are clear- we do not have the luxury of presenting an untested program to see if it will work. Please, before we expend upwards of a million dollars, make the program prove that it is worthy of our students.

Happy Holidays!
Rachel Goldberg

See previous correspondence from other residents below…

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1/11/2009 Update:

This HoLa Dual Language program situation in Hoboken is getting a bit frenetic! I wasn’t sure whether to start a new thread – or bump an existing one. I did the latter.

Below is a letter that Barbara Martinez, a leader in the pro-Hola faction, wrote this weekend to various members of the Board of Education, as well as the Superintendent and staff. You can see that she is incredibly fixated on getting this up and running so that HER child gets this free dual-language school and she can quit paying tuition. She also makes it clear that she won’t put her kid into the regular public school. In addition, her husband, Jason Griggs, wrote the self-serving, patronizing pro-HoLa letter in yesterday’s paper.

hoboken hola board of education money pit - More HoLa Program concerns...

Does this letter sound self-serving?

“I’ve taken the past two days off of work (I’m a reporter at the WSJ) because the Hola program is so important to my family. Today I spent a lot of time outside Conners and Wallace – getting signatures of people who would be thrilled to send their kids to a dual-language immersion program.

I met many Hispanic and African-American moms this morning whose faces lit up when I told them their children could be fully literate in two languages by the time they are in third grade. Many are planning to attend our information session this Sunday at Jubilee Center.


The private school my daughter attends needs to know in early February whether she will be returning in September 2009 for first grade. What am I supposed to tell them?

By the way, they want me to give them $1,000 if I want them to hold her spot. Several weeks after that, I have to commit to a full-year’s tuition. What am I supposed to do?

Parents in Hoboken are making their decisions for next year NOW. If you put this off again you may lose people like me. My stomach has been in a knot for the past two months as the entire city debates this valuable program.

How much more talk is needed?

Jen and Camille have told me they are willing to walk away from the money, the contract, etc. They are stripping away all the non-essentials from their budget. There won’t be a need for an RFQ. They won’t be getting a cent.

Why can’t we put this to bed already?

PLEASE. Take action on this so we can get our school started. Or if the action is negative, at least we can move on with our lives and make other plans.
But to make us wait like this, for no apparently good reason, is quite unnerving and cruel.

Sorry to sound so dramatic – but this is really something that will affect my daughter’s future.

Thank you,
Barbara Martinez

Most Hoboken Moms disapprove

Additionally, the Yahoo Group for Hoboken Moms (over 2300 members) – recently had a poll on their site:

If your child made it into the HoLa program would you stay in the school system and send your child to Hoboken High School?
() Yes
() No

Over 76% of the mothers said NO.

You be the judge!

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1/6/2009 Update:

This letter was sent to the Superintendent and the Board on Dec. 31st.

Why is Superintendent Jack Raslowsky ignoring the advice of his own legal council?

Adios HoLa?

Board Members and Superintendent Raslowsky:

Thank you for the calls and wishes during my recovery. Hope you and your families had a good holiday. Also, thank you for forwarding to me the various e-mails that you have received regarding the “Hola” program and your phone calls regarding “Hola”.

Please accept this email/letter to you in my role as the attorney for the Board and its members, and with all due respect to Superintendent Raslowsky, who has in good faith been a proponent of the Hola contract award.

As I complete my recovery, and due to the fact that I did not have the opportunity to address the Board directly due to my surgeries and illness, it has become clear to me that the all of you may not be aware of my recommendation regarding “Hola”.

While the concept of a dual language program has been identified as a worthwhile goal by Superintendent Raslowsky and many of the Board members, I do not want anything to get lost in the translation here.

Starting with the original “Hola” agenda item and vote at the November meeting, and also keeping in mind that the Board is a public body subject to intense public scrutiny, there is no question that the Board will incur litigation relative to the “Hola” contract.

Therefore, as a follow up to my conversations with Superintendent Raslowsky and Assistant Superintendent Petrosino before the December meeting, wherein I respectfully expressed my reservations in following through with the “Hola” award, and my similar my e-mail response to President Rhodes-Kearns’ inquiry of earlier this week, I am recommending that that the Board permanently remove the “Hola” contract and award from any agenda and that it be done immediately (via press release).

The listing for the “Hola” program which is currently on the website should also be immediately removed, as no such program has been approved by the Board.

I again apologize for my general unavailability during the past few months, and I of course accept responsibility as Board counsel.

However after careful consideration. there is no question that the Board needs to act swiftly and decisively as set forth above.

Best wishes for a happy and healthy new year.

Respectfully submitted,

Joseph R. Morano, Esq.
Board Counsel
Hoboken Public Schools

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You remember Hoboken Committee person Ravinder Bhalla, right?

Well Ravi, who represents the 2nd Ward, 3rd District, is also an attorney, and feels that that no-bid Hoboken “HoLa Dual Language Program” has been improperly referred to as “approved for 2009” (when it hadn’t been yet) as well as other questions regarding the qualifications of those intended to implement the program (conflict of interest, relationships, etc.)

“(The HoLa Dual Language Program) smacks of favoritism for its approval by the Board…”

Take a look the letter he sent to the Board Councel regarding Superintendent Jack Raslowsky.

hoboken hola board of education money pit - More HoLa Program concerns...

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009 7:34 pm

Forgot to answer your question. He was not wearing a uniform.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009 7:33 pm

It’s a very simple story, really. I was walking past the park, and about to cross the street with my stroller when I heard some pretty vile language. I turned around, and there was the child looking right at me. His mother (or a female caregiver) was right there next to him, but talking to another woman in Spanish. She was not phased at all by the scenario. I was pretty startled, so I just gave the kid a look and kept moving.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009 6:05 pm

I’m fascinated. What school was the child from? What would prompt a kid to curse at you and your baby in front of his mother? Was the child wearing a uniform? There has to be more to this.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009 5:16 pm

I just don’t understand how any reasonable person could believe that a program that would bring in 50+ new students was going to cost the district in total $30K as B. Martinez claims in her letter to the Reporter, considering that it costs almost that to educate one child in the district today? Wouldn’t this new program have required teacher training, special textbooks, etc. Who was going to pay for this? But the Hola people didn’t really care, because we were all going to be sharing the load, I guess.

I also had a concern about whether this program was right for this district. These dual language programs work best when you have a fairly high level of kids fluent in both languages. Most people in Hoboken who classified as Hispanic don’t speak Spanish as their first language. So how was that going to work?

I think getting a charter for this is going to prove very difficult. Wonder if the Hola ladies have gotten real educators to plead their case in Trenton.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009 1:41 pm

[quote comment=”126873″]It’s ALL about you, Barbara.

[quote]Parents in Hoboken are making their decisions for next year NOW. If you put this off again you may lose people like me.[/quote]

Oh, my. And what would the Hoboken public school sytem do without “people like you”? Yes, I am sure that “people like you” are of great importance to, well, people like you. Your letter says everything that needs to be said about… “people like you”. “People like you” who would never consider public education because your princes and princesses would be among the offspring of…. people like us; those who believe in public education, who are fighting for programs that serve all of our children instead of crafting boutique educational taxpayer-funded programs to serve “people like you”. How nice that your little darlings will be attending a parallel program where they will not have to blend with the public school population, but with bells and whistles our kids don’t get (why should they? we are not “people like you”). I gladly lay my 47% tax increase at the alter of your self-importance and inflated view of your value to our public school system.

My advice: keep your child in private school; public education is not for “people like you”.[/quote]


Very well put! 😆

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