Hoboken Charter School goes global Featured on South Korean TV as ‘leading charter school in America’

Never has the Hoboken Charter School’s motto of “big world, little school” been more appropriate than it was last week, when a crew from the Korean Broadcasting System was there to film a segment for its “The Morning of the World” program.

The program, which was described as a South Korean version of “Good Morning America,” will show a day in the life of the teachers, students, and parents at the charter school.

Harim Song, a producer for show, said South Korea does not have anything like charter schools, but viewers are interested in alterative forms of education.

“The Hoboken Charter School is one of the leading charter schools in America, and we absolutely fell in love with school, its teachers, and students while we were here this week,” Song said Tuesday. She said that she was particularly impressed with the amount of parent involvement, and the school’s “service learning” curriculum.

During the week, the film crew shot a parents’ association meeting, sat in on an art class, interviewed parents, students, teachers and administrators, and filmed one student at his home. Don De Pascale, director of education at the charter school, said that having the film crew there was a good experience.

“It’s really a great honor to be featured on South Korean television,” De Pascale said. “I think we have a good thing going here, and we certainly enjoy sharing our story, not only with our community here in Hoboken, but with anyone else who’s interested. Although never in my wildest dreams did I think our message would make it to millions of people in South Korea. That’s really special.”

What is a Charter School?

Even in America, there is a large portion of the public that doesn’t realize what a charter school is and how it functions.

The Hoboken Charter School (HCS) is a pre-K through 12 school with 259 students. It’s a public school that is mostly funded through the Hoboken Board of Education by state and local taxpayer money. The difference between charter schools and other public schools is that charter schools do not report to city’s Board of Education. The school has a board of trustees that handles curriculum and administration. They don’t charge tuition, but they can hold fundraisers.

No brain drain

The Hoboken Charter School, one of two charter schools in town, opened its doors in 1997 after parents wanted an alternative to Hoboken’s public schools. The previous year, another group of parents had opened the Elysian Charter School. Both schools stress community involvement. There is misconception that charter schools act as a brain drain on the district, siphoning off the smartest students. HCS does not select its students according to academic performance. Every student in the system who wishes to enroll in the school can enter a lottery before the school year starts. Names are drawn at random, and the students are selected with no preference given to any socioeconomic group or skill level.

One of the guiding tenets of the Hoboken Charter School is teaching social responsibility and activism. The catch phrase is “service-learning,” a method through which students learn by volunteering in the community.

Each year, HCS hosts community-wide events such as the “March on Washington Street” in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. and the “Empty Bowls Supper” to raise money for a local homeless shelter and to elevate awareness of global hunger.

Another cornerstone of a charter school education is that parents are expected to be involved in their children’s education.

Heidi Conlin, who is president of the school’s Parents Association, said that when parents are involved in their child’s learning, the child benefits in many ways.

“The parents at [the Hoboken Charter School] take a great deal of pride in the fact that they are a participant in their children’s education,” said Conlin, who has a third grader at the school. She added that parents’ involvement includes visiting classes, tutoring students, helping out, and initiating and developing special projects.

Tom Jennemann can be reached at tjennemann@hudsonreporter.com


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