While some kindergarteners aspire to become astronauts or firefighters when they grow up, Madeline Klatt, one of six Hoboken Students of the Month for last month, wants to be the principal of Joseph F. Brandt Primary School on Ninth Street.
“Her teacher shared with me that Madeline is a joy to have in class,” said Superintendent Christine Johnson during the school board meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 10. “She pays attention and responds to tasks in an engaging manner…She always says she wants to be the principal at Brandt School and from what I spoke to Ms. [Sandra] Rodriguez about [Brand’s current principal], she could be.”
One thing that may inspire Madeline is that her school is a much prettier sight than in recent times. After nearly four years, Brandt School removed scaffolding from the building this past week which is part of a $1 million project to give the school a facelift.
Superintendent Johnson explained after the meeting that around the New Year weekend of 2012, a stone slab on the Ninth Street side of the school fell to the pavement below.
“The situation was declared an emergency,” she said.
“People in the neighborhood were complaining about it and it was consistently spending money out of the budget that should’ve been going into the classroom.” – Peter Biancamano
“That move was made out of an abundance of caution,” said Johnson. “What followed was the lengthy process of inspecting all brick work, window lintels, and decorative stone.”
In conjunction with the school’s construction officer, the district decided to reinforce the decorative stone and replace any loose bricks that may pose a problem in the future. Being that the school is in a New Jersey School Development Authority (SDA) district, the Hoboken BOE filed for a project application with the NJ Department of Education (DOE). They were also required to apply for approval from the SDA since the project would exceed the $500,000 spending cap.
“As to why it took so long, that can only be answered by saying that getting NJ SDA approval is inherently a long process,” said Johnson. “Both the district and the NJ SDA were required to prepare construction cost estimates. Reconciling those estimates and agreeing on a scope of work also took time.”
Work on the project began in late September and the beginning stages are near completion. Although at-risk stones and scaffolding has been removed, new stone slabs still need to be installed which will begin construction toward the end of November.
The project, Johnson said, is fully funded by the SDA.
However, the SDA will reimburse the school district for those funds which accumulated to over $1 million.
Resident and former school board candidate Brian Murray praised the board for making good on the removal of the scaffolding, saying the new vibrancy in the area is evident.
School Board trustee Peter Biancamano (who recently ran for a 2nd Ward City Council seat) chairs the Facilities and Wellness Committee that also oversees the project.
During the four years that the district waited to hear back from the state agencies, it had to dish out $7,800 from the district budget every six months to rent the scaffolding.
“This is a good thing,” said Biancamano. “People in the neighborhood were complaining about it and it was consistently taking money out of the budget that should’ve been going into the classroom.”
And that’s good news for students like Madeline Klatt.
The other five Students of the Month include: Aaliyah Johnson (sixth grader from Salvatore R. Calabro Elementary School), Adriana Duncan (second grader from Thomas G. Connors Elementary School), Ariana Feola (second grader from Wallace Elementary School), Ashley Aiken (eighth grader from Hoboken Junior High School) and Alfredo Veloce (12th grader Hoboken Senior High School).
On statewide violence list
On another note, numbers released last month by the New Jersey Department of Education (DOE) place Hoboken No. 81 on the top 100 school districts with violence (from schools with highest rates per 1,000 students).
The Commissioner’s Annual Report to the Education Committees of the Senate and General Assembly on Violence, Vandalism, and Substance Abuse in New Jersey Public Schools added up the cases between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015.
The mile-square city, which has a total of 1,888 students in its district according to the state, had 42 cases from 2014 to 2015 that made it to the state-sanctioned Violence and Vandalism Report: 30 cases of violence, 1 of vandalism, 1 of weapons-offenses, 4 of substance offense, and 9 of HIB (harassment, intimidation, and bullying).
However, the statistics are contingent upon districts reporting the incidents properly. In past years, districts like the New York City public schools have been accused of underreporting their statistics.
Other nearby districts were reported to have more cases of violence, but due to a substantially larger student body, they didn’t make the top 100 because the rate per student was lower. For instance, Jersey City, which has an enrollment of 27, 810 students in the district, had 249 cases. And in Bayonne, which has as many as 9,611 students, 32 cases were reported.
The list that includes Hoboken has, at the top, districts like Beverly and Cumberland.
“I would prefer not making any comment on the article about NJ DOE report until the district delivers the report at the next BOE meeting,” said Johnson. “This report will include a breakdown of statistics and district-wide activities.”
She said that during the next meeting, which will be held Dec. 8, she hopes to have state PARCC test results as well.
With a fairly straightforward agenda, the school board approved the installation of a Sick Bank Committee that allows teachers to bequest their sick hours to a colleague. The committee that will oversee the “sick bank” includes Superintendent Christine Johnson, Dr. Miguel Hernandez, Principal Joseph Vespignani, Gary Enrico, Rosanne Versaci, and Christopher Munoz. Johnson made clear during the meeting that the program, which already exists in various school districts, is not as clear-cut as it appears. The committees that typically oversee them are asked to err on the side of caution and only grant requests under dire situations.
“The Sick Bank Committee is in place but it will not convene until an issue arises and a staff member applies for consideration,” said Johnson after the meeting. “In the meantime, the staff will be given the opportunity to donate personal sick days to the bank.”
The meeting was the first since the recent Board of Education election for three seats.
Tom Kluepfel recently won re-election and was at the meeting. Board President Ruth Tyroler is leaving, as is board member Jean Marie Mitchell. They were also in attendance.
The other board winners were John Madigan and Britney Montgomery, who ran on the opposition slate to Kluepfel’s ticket. Both were present at the meeting but did not speak during the public comments portion. They will assume their positions in January 2016, meaning the board will have one more meeting in December with the current trustees.
Steven Rodas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.