Is Hoboken Superintendent Guilt-Tripping Parents During COVID To Salvage State Aid?

Hoboken Superintendent Christine Johnson just sent out an email to all Hoboken public school parents (full copy below) regarding the district’s reopening plans. Unlike many New Jersey districts offering hybrid plans –a blend of in-person and remote instruction (barring this proposed Assembly bill)—Hoboken students must choose between entirely in-school instruction and entirely remote instruction. And this is serious: parents have to sign a “Declaration of Intent” by August 7th.

Superintendent Johnson seems really worried that her most desireable parents are going to cut and run to one of the city’s 9 private schools or create micro-pods, perhaps taught by a teacher taking early retirement to avoid contamination. (Example from wealthy parents in Montclair: “Two Facebook groups, Montclair Area COVID Schooling and Montclair Parents Considering Microschooling/Homeschool Pods, have formed, with over 1,000 members signing up in just weeks.”)

If parents elect this option for their child, the district’s enrollment will drop. So will its state aid. Thus Johnson writes (emphasis my own),

There is one thing that I would like to make very clear. The full day remote learning model allows for your child to stay enrolled in the district and maintain the seat in the school that he/she is currently assigned to. Since your child would remain on our rolls, state aid would not be lost. If an alternative is chosen such as private home schooling or registering with a for-profit company or private school for the purpose of “pod” learning, your child would need to disenroll from the district; thereby resulting in the loss of state aid even if your child re-enrolls after the pandemic ends. In addition, we may not be able to guarantee placement back into the school that he/she is currently assigned to.

Whoa, Nellie! The superintendent is trying to guilt parents into not rejecting the district’s reopening plan because she’s afraid of losing state aid! (Hoboken, by the way, is the most over-aided district in the state.) She’s arguing that parents should cede the best choice for their children in favor of the greater good! What’s up with that?

Let’s start with this: In Hoboken City overall, the median household income is $136,402 a year and the median house value is $711,825. The city was just rated as one of the top 10 “hip suburbs to move to this year.” The traditional public schools are okay, scoring either slightly below or at the state average.

And indeed some parents that level of wealth are sending their children to Hoboken district schools, or at least one Hoboken district school.

At Joseph Brandt Elementary School, which serves children K-2, 12% of students are economically-disadvantaged and 82% are white or Asian. Brandt houses the district’s gifted and talented program, offers Mandarin and Spanish, and offers “Project Lead the Way”s STEM Curriculum.”

But the other elementary schools —which, by the way, are K-6— have far more low-income children and far fewer white and Asian students. This pattern (according to the DOE database) continues through Hoboken High School where 65% are low-income and 14.3% are white or Asian.

How many kids are enrolled in the high school?

A grand total of 408.

Somehow I think students can be pretty certain they’ll be a spot for them.

Here’s the email:

Dear Parents and Guardians of the Hoboken Public School District Community, 

The Hoboken Public School District has worked diligently to create comprehensive plans for the reopening of our schools on September 8, 2020. After months of intense planning, we have determined that we will offer families the option to select a full day traditional onsite learning model or a full day remote learning model for our September opening. 

Below, you will find links to our plans for both options: 

Full Day Traditional Onsite Learning Model Choice or Full Day Remote Learning Model Choice

In order to most effectively staff and logistically plan for intended reopening learning models, I respectfully ask each family to complete a Declaration of Intent for each child no later than August 7, 2020. Families will receive a Declaration of Intent by school and grade for each child in the home. The educational model selected for each child does not have to be the same. Our goal is to provide families with flexibility. 

This Declaration of Intent covers the period from September 8th through October 9th. As opposed to asking families to make a long term commitment on an educational model, I have determined that Declarations of Intent will be done on the basis of one-month time periods until the pandemic ends. 

If your family chooses the full day transitional onsite model, there will be a number of health and safety precautions implemented. If your family chooses the full day remote learning model, you will see improvements and added features based on the feedback received at the end of the school year. 

There is one thing that I would like to make very clear. The full day remote learning model allows for your child to stay enrolled in the district and maintain the seat in the school that he/she is currently assigned to. Since your child would remain on our rolls, state aid would not be lost. If an alternative is chosen such as private home schooling or registering with a for-profit company or private school for the purpose of “pod” learning, your child would need to disenroll from the district; thereby resulting in the loss of state aid even if your child re-enrolls after the pandemic ends. In addition, we may not be able to guarantee placement back into the school that he/she is currently assigned to.

Families, we are prepared for September. However, all of these plans are living documents. We will continue to study them and determine additional ways to improve upon our learning models. Although our intent is to provide families with a choice between the full day traditional onsite learning model or the full day remote learning model for September, we are also prepared with contingency plans if we need to shift to a hybrid learning model for all students or even a remote learning model for all students if the local conditions in our area change due to spikes in positive COVID-19 cases. Plans for both the Hybrid Learning Model for All and the Remote Learning Model for All by Executive Order are posted on our district’s website. If either of our contingency plans need to be enacted, you will be notified immediately. 

Just days ago, our Office of Early Childhood Education was notified by the New Jersey Department of Education that all former Abbott Districts’ preschool programs must open in September using a hybrid learning model which includes a combination of onsite traditional learning and remote learning. Please note that this is not a local decision. The Hoboken Public School District is mandated to direct our providers (HOPES and Mile Square) to design a schedule that meets these state requirements for PreK 3 and PreK 4 children. All communication regarding preschool program plans and schedules will be sent directly from the Office of Early Childhood Education. 

As a family, please review our two K-12 learning models and declare intent for your child by selecting either the full day traditional onsite learning model or full day remote learning model from September 8th through October 9th, no later than August 7, 2020. 

This Executive Summary and accompanying hyperlinks transparently present our plans and expectations. This will be a year of complex and unique challenges. It will take a considerable amount of teamwork as we navigate what could be changing realities throughout the school year. Remember, we are all in this together. With your help, we can overcome any obstacle. 

Sincerely,

Dr. Christine A. Johnson

Superintendent of Schools

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