State establishes separate school districts

Dear Editor:
The Board of Education had two busy meetings in June. Approved (among other things) District Goals, co-curricular activities for next school year, the Summer Enrichment Program and a new Food Service provider.
The meetings were fairly quiet, however, an interesting question comes up again and again – are charter schools separate school districts? Often a charter school parent will ask about non- district students enrolling in District Programs.
Some mistakenly believe there is a “magnet school” model, where one central board funds and administers all the different schools and programs. It is not. Under the State Charter Act, all four publicly funded districts (Hoboken Public and three charters) are completely separate, independent and autonomous, with their own Board, Superintendent, staff, policies, programming and budget.
As separate and independent districts, each Board receives a limited amount of funding based on State and Federal formulas for their student population. They set their budgets and prioritize the needs and interests of their own students and parents to establish programming for the school year.
I am excited to be part of this process and proud of the many wonderful programs the Hoboken Public School District (Wallace, Connors, Calabro, Brandt, Demarest & HHS) has to offer our students above and beyond the academic curriculum: Theater, Band, Dance, Fine Arts, Summer Enrichment Program, Harvard Model Congress (in San Fran.), TV Production, Culinary Arts, G&T, Tutoring, Laptops for each 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th grader, SmartBoards, after school programs, a wide variety of clubs and more.
Charter schools have a similar process. Their Boards set their budgets and prioritize the needs and interests of their students and parents to establish their programming. They also offer a variety of programs to their students which are open only to their students.
Opening up programs across district lines would mean mingling the funding and administration of all these programs. In some instances purchasing additional equipment (such as band instruments or costumes) in other cases it would mean reserving spots in some activities to offer to students in other schools.
I have had this conversation with many charter school parents over the years. Some have similar questions about opening up their activities to those not enrolled in their schools. Like me, they find it hard to imagine a Hoboken High Band made up of non-Public School District students, an Elysian Rock Band made up of Wallace students, a Hoboken Charter play with the leads played by Calabro students. Who would walk the students from Connors to Hola for cooking or chess?
I do not believe that asking these questions makes anyone a “charter hater” (as some have implied) anymore than it would make the charter parents “public haters”! This is a complex legal and cost issue and parents are interested in fairness and equity for their respective students. Something every parent is interested in providing and certainly my duty and obligation as a board member working for the students of the Hoboken Public School District.

Irene Sobolov
School Board Member

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