Guttenberg Superintendent Joseph Ramos, along with some members of the five-member school board, introduced himself to a part of town that actually provides very few students to the public schools.
The goal on Sept. 24 was for the school officials to meet Galaxy Apartments residents and other guests who often opt to send their kids to private schools.
Out of approximately 300 children in the Galaxy Apartments, only 15 attend the local public schools.
“From what I understand, there kind of has been a disconnection [in town],” said Ramos after the meeting. “You have the Galaxy and then you have the town of Guttenberg.”
The luxury Galaxy apartments sometimes rent for $4,000 per month or more.
The informal meeting allowed residents to question Ramos, who was previously the director of bilingual, English as a second language, and world language programs in the Jersey City school district. Ramos also had served as principal of his alma mater, Dr. Michael Conti School of Jersey City.
The Guttenberg School District really only runs one school – the kindergarten-through-eighth grade Anna L. Klein School. High school students in the district attend North Bergen High School.
Klein Principal Pedro Garrido was also present at the event. He had attended Klein as a child and started off as the school’s guidance counselor.
Residents asked questions about the school’s overcrowding, the future expansion of its building, language programs, and how it competes in the state of New Jersey.
“[Parents] need to know what we’re doing here,” said Ramos after the meeting. “They need to know what is happening in the building. They need to know that we have a large population of students here and that their support is instrumental to their success.”
Both administrators spoke about the numerous changes that Anna L. Klein had already undergone this past school year. Ramos, who took his position last spring, has already instituted uniforms, a computer-based curriculum, and labs with brand new Apple Mac computers.
Ramos said that “infusing technology” into the curriculum would make learning more interdisciplinary and “project based.”
Ramos said that children are more apt to learn by doing. “It better prepares them for life in general,” said Ramos.
Allen Frost asked if asked about the current problem of overcrowding at the school was due to “no additional teachers in those classrooms, [or] a budget issue.”
Administrators responded that due to state funding statutes, they did not have enough students to qualify for more teachers, nor additional room.
Garrido said that the overcrowding is not throughout every grade level, but in grades like kindergarten and seventh grade. He said that they try to give as many resources to the children as possible, like teacher aides.
English as a second language
Ramos said that approximately 14 percent of the student body that who enter with English being their second language, but that this should be seen as strength rather than a weakness.
He implemented a dual language program at his last school, where students from pre-kindergarten through fourth grade were immersed in Spanish and English, alternating every two weeks.
Galaxy resident Wanda Arriaga and her husband said they had made the decision to only teach their son Spanish in the home, as he is already learning English. Ramos understood that sentiment.
“We have many students in our schools that speak a second language, and I think it’s really crucial that we help them develop those skills, but with the understanding that in this country, you have to have equal knowledge in both languages to be successful,” said Ramos.
Ramos said that the feedback he received after the meeting and the next day was positive. Ramos sees a lot of potential at the school. This year, the school will be adjusting to a newly added pre-K program. Also, the Town Council is purchasing a corner lot to build a community center with additional classrooms.
“This is the first time I feel invigorated myself,” said Board of Education Trustee David Hepperle. “We’re on a mission here.”
Galaxy resident Anrita Pardasani said she would consider sending her children to Anna L. Klein, but was worried about the temporary trailers that will be installed for pre-K next year.
“I have three kids, so private education does cost a lot of money,” said Pardasani. “I just wanted to see what it was all about. I feel good about what I heard.”
Comments can be sent to TriciaT@hudsonreporter.com.