Suddenly, parents, students and teachers at Hoboken’s schools have lots to be worried about, judging from the performance of new Superintendent Jack Raslowsky at the Wallace PTO meeting April 3.
Parents had been nervous since word spread last year that he would be taking over. During several years on the school board, he wasn’t seen pushing for reforms or opposing the vested interests in town. His children went to Stevens, whose progressive philosophy is anathema to Wallace parents. In fact, he gave every indication that he regarded the city’s fine public schools with disdain.
But he had attended and worked at one of the best high schools around, St. Peter’s Prep, and last year he switched his children to St. Francis in Union City, an excellent school with the same traditional philosophy that Hoboken follows.
So he deserved a good chance to prove himself.
But in front of Wallace’s most involved and committed parents, Raslowsky got off to a bad start.
Appearing arrogant, he demanded at one point that your reporter, Madeline Friedman, not take notes – in an open public meeting! – and then added that he controlled your former reporter, Tom Jenneman, and he would control her.
When it came to policies, he seemed indecisive about what to do and unsure of what he truly believes in. When asked about the school-uniform policy, which Wallace parents want strictly enforced, he just filibustered, offering anecdotes and education jargon.
By now he should have an opinion on whether to enforce or abolish the policy.
With the issue of the many illegal, out-of-town students in Hoboken schools, he passed the buck. But isn’t he the superintendent now? I would guess that 75 of Wallace’s 700 kids are illegal – costing taxpayers money. Will he crack down? Will he charge them tuition? One parent, polite to a fault, pointed out to him that his answers were “nebulous.”
Most disturbing, however, was his apparent ignorance of what Hoboken’s traditional curriculum entails and how successful it’s been. The city’s high school, middle schools and grade schools punch far above their weight when it comes to test scores, given their demographics. In other words, the schools here take their students further than just about any schools in the state. But instead of not fixing what isn’t broken, he spoke favorably of long-discredited “whole language” methods for teaching reading. And he approves of “Chicago math,” though last fall the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics – faced with a mountain of evidence that this and other progressive curricula have been a disaster – decided to urge schools to switch to traditional methods.
And why would he consider foisting whole language and Chicago math on Hoboken’s children while making sure his own children are learning with methods that work?
Parents learned many things about Raslowsky, things that they – and the board – should’ve learned before the job was filled. But he’s been on the job only seven weeks.
If he tones down the arrogance, shows that he’s willing to learn and honestly grapples with the real issues, he should prove to be a fine superintendent. If not, our schools are in trouble.