A letter from Tom Kluepfel

Dear Editor:
I am a candidate in the November 6 election, running with Ruth McAllister and Jean Marie Mitchell on the Kids First ticket for positions as trustees on the Hoboken Board of Education. I was also a co-founder and first board chairperson of Elysian Charter School. Despite this apparent incongruity, people who know me totally get it—they know my longtime commitment to Hoboken and to public education.
However, I do get asked: “You? Hoboken Board of Education? I thought the district hates charter schools.” This is just not true. The Hoboken Board of Education, to the extent possible and where it makes mutual sense, has a history of working cooperatively with our city’s charter schools. (I know, because I was the one who went to the Hoboken Board of Ed in 1996 and asked to rent space and then signed the lease.) Such cooperation continues today.
Despite these relationships, it always bears repeating: the very concept of charter schools is that they are completely independent of their local districts. Although they are funded with Hoboken taxpayer dollars, they have their own boards, their own budgets, and their own visions of what makes a successful school. Indeed, it is these differences that make all the difference.
So when one expects the Hoboken district to “support” charter schools, or to share the resources and programs that define and make the district special, one not only denies the district its own points of differentiation but also negates the entire concept of charter schools and school choice.
This is what I believe: Although we all have a shared responsibility for the children of Hoboken, school board trustees—whether they serve on the Hoboken Board of Education, or the board of a charter or a private school—have one, and only one, allegiance, and that is to the students and schools they are elected or appointed to serve and nurture. The students in each school deserve nothing less than proud, strong advocates on their boards.
That was my job fifteen years ago when I was involved with Elysian. As a proud Hoboken High School parent and trustee, I will work on behalf of district students and families to continue to build on the profound progress that Kids First has made in just three years. Our city will only be better for a strong and thriving public school system— and one that includes independent charter schools—of which we can all be proud. A way to help make that happen is to vote K-L-M, the Kids First ticket, on November 6.

Tom Kluepfel

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