Hoboken Board of Education member Monica Stromwall tearfully announced at Tuesday’s monthly school board meeting that after three years on the board, she had to resign. She said later that her family can’t afford to remain in Hoboken, and is moving to Connecticut by Aug. 30.
“It is with a heavy heart tonight that I submit my resignation as trustee of Hoboken public schools,” said Stromwall at the meeting. “I am moving out of state and I can no longer serve the great city of Hoboken.”
In an interview the next day, Stromwall said she would have preferred to stay in Hoboken but unfortunately it is “not in our budget. “
“We cannot afford to purchase in Hoboken,” said Stromwall. “An average brownstone is about $2 million.”
She has a son and daughter and she doesn’t want them to have to keep sharing a room in the family’s two-bedroom apartment.
More families are staying in this mile-square city than 10 years ago, but three-bedroom dwellings, particularly affordable ones, are hard to find.
She said that over the past three years, she has served on every committee, and for the last two years she has chaired the negotiations committee. She said she was able to increase the school day by 30 minutes a day. She said the extra time is a direct benefit to the children and their educational experience.
Stromwall said that the district is “making great strides” and that she believes that the district’s new programs and initiatives far exceed those of other school districts in the state.
“When we decided to move, I looked at the curriculum in the surrounding areas, and they are not as good,” said Stromwall the next day.
She said that she believes that Hoboken’s school district will be exceptional in five years and that she is sad to have to leave before that time.
“To my future successor, whoever you are, I hope that your decisions are based on providing educational opportunities for our students.” –Monica Stromwall
She said that as a parent and board member, “The programs that have evolved over time and the new initiatives are far superior and will change the many lives of the Hoboken public schools.”
During her resignation announcement, she advised her colleagues to remind themselves why they are a part of the board and that they are there for the best interest of the children of the district.
Stromwall also offered some advice to her future replacement.
She said, “To my future successor, whoever you are, I hope that your decisions are based on providing educational opportunities for our students and know that sometimes the best decisions are almost always the hardest to make.”
The board has 65 days to appoint a new member. If they fail to do so the County Superintendent steps in and appoints someone, said board member Peter Biancamano. If she had resigned prior to this date her seat could have been part of the upcoming school board election in November.
There are eight candidates running for three spots on the board in November.
Candidates interested in filling Stromwall’s position may apply to the board and are then interviewed during closed sessions, Biancamano said.
Several members of the board and the public said that the district would miss her and that they were sad to see her go.
Biancamano said Stromwall’s resignation surprised him and, although they have run against each other, they had a good working relationship.
“She put her heart and soul into this position,” he said.
President of the Hoboken Education Association Gary Enrico said, “I’m really sad to hear this… I’m shocked. I didn’t see this one coming…I wish you luck.”
Sharyn Angley, a member of the board said, “Thank you so much for your hard work and dedication.”
School board Vice President Jennifer Evans said, “Years ago, when we were at an event, I said, ‘Hey, there is this opening on the board’ and Monica said ‘Yeah I’d be interested’ and that just personifies her can-do, up-for-it attitude and I didn’t know her too well but I’m really impressed by her commitment, her energy. She’s really straightforward.”
“I am sad to see Monica leave the Board of Education,” said Superintendent Christine Johnson later. “ I had only known her for a short time but found her always to be fair and focused [on] our students and academic programs.”
After she finished her resignation statement she was met with a standing ovation and a round of applause by about 25 audience members of the public and members of the board.
Assistant superintendent hired
During last week’s board meeting, several new employees were hired. Among them was a new assistant superintendent.
Assistant Superintendent Gerald Fitzhugh II was principal of Thomas G. Connors Elementary School the past four years and will do well in his new role, according to Superintendent Johnson.
“I interviewed other candidates and I felt that Mr. Fitzhugh would definitely be the best fit for this position,” said Johnson. “He has certainly proven himself in the Connors School community and as a result of that to the entire city of Hoboken.”
Johnson said that Fitzhugh is a hard worker and a great leader.
“He is a fearless, compassionate leader,” said Johnson. “He has a work ethic that is unmatched and he is continuously thinking. The one thing that I know is probably the most telling is the fact that the two of us probably communicate more at 6 o’clock in the morning on the way to work than any other two people do.”
Fitzhugh thanked the board and administration for the opportunity and said that he will try to make every school in the district a school of excellence and that he looks forward to beginning his new role.
“I am extremely excited about the work that’s going to continue under our tutelage,” said Fitzhugh. “And again I thank each of you for believing in my talent.”
Marilyn Baer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org