Hoboken BoE Recap 9/18/2007
The Hoboken Board of Education held a regular meeting on Tuesday evening. All nine members of the Board were present.
The meeting began with the Board moving to executive session to discuss the future of school district facilities and real estate issues. The content of the discussions will be disclosed to the public when the need for confidentiality no longer exists.
Report of the Superintendent of Schools
Superintendent of Schools Jack Raslowsky thanked the Board for their work in preparation for the meeting. He thanked the administrative faculty and staff members for their efforts in getting the new school year off to a great start.
Raslowsky referred to litigation brought against the Board by Beth Mason regarding a variety of OPRA and OPMA issues. He stated that he and Mason are in agreement on working toward openness and good governance and are committed to working together to achieve those goals rather than continuing on in litigation. Raslowksy also thanked Mason for making her video recordings of the meetings available for broadcast on Cablevision Channel 77 until the Board of Education has its own video system in place. Video of meetings should begin running in a few days.
Raslowsky spoke about NJQSAC, the state’s new monitoring and evaluation system for public school districts. The state will look at the Hoboken school district’s finances, curriculum instruction, personnel, governance, and operations (facilities, etc.) The state provides a series of questions, benchmarks and best practices that the Hoboken schools must use for self-assessment. Results must be presented to the county superintendent by November 15th who will review the assessment, visit the schools, and perform a number of spot-checks. Recommendations will be forwarded to the state commissioner of education who will report back to the school district with recommendations by the end of January. Target scores of less than 80% will require remediation plans.
Raslowsky mentioned a question from a Board member, presumably Anthony Romano, whom he inadvertently referred to as ‘Anthony Russo’, with regard to visiting the schools to observe classes, perform committee work, etc. He reminded the Board to be conscious of their governance role as opposed to administrative and supervisory roles, and asked that Board members contact school principals and make the appropriate arrangements before visiting schools.
READ THE REST OF THIS COMPREHENSIVE RECAP AFTER THE JUMP:
Even Start Family Literacy Program
Raslowsky invited Patricia Drumgoole, Project Director of the program, to speak to the Board about the accomplishments and future of the federally-funded Even Start Family Literacy Program. The program provides grants to support local family literacy projects that integrate early childhood education, adult literacy, parenting education, and interactive parent and child literacy activities for low-income families. Drumgoole advised the Board that the program will no longer be funded as of October 1, requesting that the Board find a way to continue the efforts of the program. Raslowsky responded that the district would look for ways to cobble a program together using existing resources, but added that he did not think a solution was likely to present itself.
Board member Tricia Snyder, Chair of the Finance Committee, reported that RFQ’s (Request for Quotations) for two legal contracts had been received. Only one RFQ was received for Workmen’s Comp Counsel, though the bid cost from the firm of Florio & Kenny was $40,000, down from $70,000 last year. The firm of Gluck Walrath, whose bid cost was lower than other firms, was awarded the contract for Bond Counsel. The Finance Committee will meet next week to review proposals for the district’s public relations contract.
Board member Rose Markle, Chair of the Facilities Committee, reported that an upgrade for the district’s website is underway. The Committee has been looking into having Hoboken police officers patrol the High School, but a shortage of manpower has put the plan on hold. Pavers at the stadium are being removed within the next two weeks, and repairs to rips and tears in the track necessitate a 24-hour period of non-use, which has been difficult to schedule.
- 2nd Reading of the Drug Free School Policy and Procedure
Approved 9-0 without comment.
- 2nd Reading of the Acceptable Use of Technology Policy and Regulations
- 2nd Reading of the Software License & Software Copyright Policy
- 2nd Reading of the Software Preview/Purchase Policy
All three approved 9-0 without comment.
- Resolution to support H.R. 648, No Child Left Behind Improvements Act of 2007.
Motion carried 9-0. Board member Garcia stated his hope that the schools will not focus on preparations for standardized testing to the detriment of other kinds of learning.
- 1st Reading of the Hoboken BOE School Volunteers Policy
Motion carried 9-0. Garcia recommended placing an advertisement that would notify the public that the district is seeking volunteers to work with the school system.
“Impromptu Discussion of New Policy”
James Farina made a recommendation to adopt a new policy that developed as a result of discussions between Board President Theresa Minutillo and Superintendent Raslowsky. The Board will allow the public to comment on individual agenda items as they come up, rather than in the public portion at the end of the meeting only. The new policy will take effect for the next BOE meeting. Farina, ever the humorist, jokingly took credit for the change.
Resolution to Air Public Meetings on Local Cable Network
Motion carried 9-0. Garcia, a former television personality, remarked that he hopes that student performances, community events and bulletin boards would also be available on the channel (Cablevision Channel 77).
Item 1: Minutes were reviewed and approved for a number of meetings, including executive and special sessions, from earlier this year and from the executive session in 2005 in which former President David Anthony was appointed Board Secretary.
Items 7-11: Salary increase recommendations of 4% were submitted by the Superintendent for five non-union school employees, including Timothy Calligy, Director of Facilities and former Director of Environmental Services during the Russo administration; Carmela Mezzina, Administrative Assistant to the Superintendent and daughter of a former long-time Board member; and Alfred Mezzina, district HVAC coordinator (a $60K position to maintain the district’s AC window units – Hoboken schools apparently do not have central air systems) and husband of Carmela Mezzina. Board member James Farina questioned why they did not receive raises last year, and suggested that they were entitled to retroactive pay, perhaps in the form of larger raises this year. Farina and Garcia seemed particularly troubled that school employees were not receiving their deserved pay. Raslowsky suggested that the lack of raises was possibly an oversight, though further speculation would be unwise. A source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, suggested that overtime pay and stipend pay were allegedly used the previous year to offset the lack of pay raises. Recommendations were tabled with a 9-0 vote until the Board can be provided with official job titles and descriptions, which do not currently exist, for the five employees. It was also recommended that the five become contractual employees.
Item 12: Board President Theresa Minutillo and Board member Markle voted against the appointment of Ivan Ramos as a Disciplinarian. Ramos, a 1995 Hoboken High graduate and football standout, was recruited to play for Rutgers football but was reportedly plagued by academic problems. Markle and Minutillo stated that they had problems with the selection process and thus voted against that process, rather than against the individual. The recommendation was approved 7-2.
Item 19: At Tuesday’s meeting, Superintendent Raslowsky once again recommended Periann Santana, who is related to former Board member Wanda Santana-Alicea, for the position of Food Program Coordinator. Markle and Minutillo voiced their concerns given the lack of experience and qualifications of the Superintendent’s recommended candidate, given the specifications of the job description. Garcia suggested that it is not the place of Board members to “micromanage decisions of the Superintendent or the Business Office.” Farina, Garcia, Romano, and Rhodes-Kearns voted Yes in favor of the appointment; Minutillo, Raia, and Snyder voted No; Gilliard and Markle abstained. The appointment passed 4-3-2.
At July’s Board meeting, Santana, currently a clerk in the Connors Elementary School, was recommended for the position of Food Program Coordinator, at a salary of $47,549. Board members had questioned the timing and scope of advertising for the position, and asked that the position be resubmitted for applications. School clerks typically make up to $25K, so the proposed salary was being called into question. Santana, who began her employment with the district in December of 2003, is already at the top level – Step 14 – of pay for clerical workers at $43,499. The new position adds a $4050 stipend, which brings the position’s salary to $47,549.
The Food Program Coordinator requires administrative or managerial experience in food service, and knowledge of operational principles and practices in food preparation and services. The position requires knowledge and understanding of Federal and State requirements regarding nutrition, food quality, sanitation, health, and accounting. Santana’s current and prior work experience largely relates to clerical and office management duties.
Item 22: Rosita Crespo, wife of Robert Crespo – former Board member and Confidential Aide to Mayor Anthony Russo, was recommended by the Superintendent for appointment as Spanish Teacher for the Connors School. Board members voiced concerns over her lack of working classroom experience. Crespo received her Associates Degree in Business Administration at Berkeley College of Business; completed nine credits at William Paterson College; and in 2006 graduated from Thomas Edison State College, a distance learning college, achieving her degree in Spanish in less than one year. Farina, Garcia, Romano, and Rhodes-Kearns voted Yes; Raia, Snyder, and Minutillo voted No; and Gilliard and Markle abstained. The recommendation was not approved, 4-3-2, as teaching faculty hires require a five-vote majority. Raslowsky stated that her personality, her knowledge of Spanish, and her maturity were more than sufficient to qualify her for the position. He maintained that there was no objective reason not to vote for the candidate, and suggested that Board members apparently have an utter lack of confidence in the school principals, the Superintendent, or both. After some discussion, the vote was re-opened and Board member Frank Raia changed his vote to Yes, thereby approving the recommendation.
School Board Administrator’s Agenda
Item 1 – Facility Requests: Board member Frank Raia questioned why some non-profits are allowed to use school athletic facilities while others, such as church groups, are charged. His questions lead to a somewhat heated discussion of the matter with Board Member Carmelo Garcia.
Former Board of Education candidate Felicia Rubino-Drasheff asked why volunteers for school activities should have to pay for fingerprinting, as per school safety regulations, and suggested that parents should be exempt, particularly when volunteering on a short-term basis. Board Attorney Joseph Romano recommended that the district take a look at parameters for the requirement.
Third-Ward Councilman Michael Russo suggested that the student drug-testing policy should be expanded to include teachers and administrators. He also questioned the motives of members who had voted against the Superintendent’s staff recommendations, and made reference to the hiring of legal firms which have ties to his political nemesis, the Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO).