Archive of Board Meeting Agenda, Minutes and Meeting Highlights

Hoboken Charter School is managed by a Board of Trustees made up of elected parents, educators and community members.  The Board of Trustees meeting dates can be found on our calendar.  Meetings begin at 7:00 p.m. with exceptions noted on the school calendar. The meeting location rotates between the 713 Washington Street and 360 First Street facilities as noted in the school calendar. The 4th Wednesday of the month is reserved for committees which may meet at an alternate time and location.  Changes are communicated via announcements in local papers, City Hall, the school website and weekly school community communications.

Meeting Highlights

February 26, 2019 Meeting

Darren Fusaro and Isabel Del Corral of McIntee Fusaro Del Corral, LLC reported on the school’s financial results for FY 2017-2018 as detailed in the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR). The CAFR encompasses reporting around many items including financial statements, revenue and expenses, payroll, the lunch program, enrollment, special education services, attendance, registration and insurance policies.  Chuck DeMeola of De Meola Zawacki &Co, LLC presented the 990.  The 990 is a tax return for a non- profit which is HCS’ tax classification.

Isabel Del Corral presented on special education, registration and attendance and reported that everything was in good order with no findings.  Darren Fusaro concentrated on the financial statistics primarily and GASB (Government Accounting Standards Board) pronouncements. He also reported that everything was in order and did not have any findings.  He went into a short discussion of why the CAFR was being discussed in February when it is usually before the end of the calendar year. The main reason was due to GASB pronouncements. The Government Accounting Standards Board has established new regulations which all schools and governmental agencies must follow. This is additional information added to the CAFR that does not have any effect on the actual financial report. GASB 68 requires the schools to recognize pension liabilities that were actually the State’s liabilities. GASB 75 requires more details on post-employment benefits reporting (although only a footnote disclosure) that again were primarily the responsibility of the State. In short, this became more of an exercise in “transparency.” Chuck DeMeola discussed HCS’ tax return in relationship to the CAFR. The actual results are the same as previous reporting but does not require the same level of detail for the report. There are more levels of consolidation on the 990.  The bottom line is that there is not any material difference in the final results. One thorny issue is the reporting of the number of employees. The 990 reports on a calendar year and not a fiscal year. In addition, any substitute or program employee is counted as an employee in the totals although they are not full-time teachers/staff.

The school has requested a one (1) year extension of the leases for the upper schools’ two locations. 360 First Street has been granted a one-year extension beginning in July while the City is preparing a renewal document for 124 Grand Street.

The possibility and potential costs around the middle and upper schools attending their own overnight team-building experience in the fall were discussed.  The idea is a separate middle school and upper school trip through which each division (5-8 and 9-12) would have opportunities to bond with peers of their grade as well as across grades within their division.    

Reports from the Executive Director and Principals were given. (See text of reports in the meeting agenda to the right.)

Prior to adjourning the meeting, the Board went into closed session to hear a report on a HIB investigation and to discuss matters related to finance and facilities and reopened to vote on a student discipline matter.

January 22, 2019 Meeting 

Elizabeth Palma, K-8 Principal, and Joanna Weintraub, 9-12 Principal, presented on Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) programming at HCS.  Much of Hoboken Charter School’s Social Emotional Learning work is coordinated by Heather DeSimone, School Social Worker and Anti-Bullying Coordinator.

Ms. Palma and Ms. Weintraub first addressed the question: Why Focus on SEL? Social and emotional learning (SEL) refers to the process by which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to do the following: understand and manage emotions; set and achieve positive goals; feel and show empathy for others; and make responsible decisions.  Students in SEL programs are more likely to attend school and receive better grades and are less likely to have conduct problems. Successful infusion of SEL can result in positive behaviors, increased academic success and caring communities (per the NJDOE).

Social and emotional learning is used to enhance the building of positive school climates and the healthy development of young people. A positive school climate is correlated with decreased student absenteeism in middle and high school and lower rates of student suspension in high school. A positive school climate has been shown to have a powerful influence on the motivation to learn, mitigate the negative impact of the socioeconomic context of academic success, contribute to less aggression, violence, and harassment, and act as a protective factor for learning and positive life development of young people.

Climate and Culture Data at HCS for 2016-2017, 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 was shared which demonstrated a significant decrease in discipline referrals and suspensions across the entire school over the last three years. 

 HCS Schoolwide SEL programming was shared and included:

  • •Peer Mentoring Program
  • •Conflict Resolution Lessons
  • •HIB Training – Staff & Students
  • •Anti-bullying Lessons
  • •Week of Respect – Stomp Out Bullying
  • •School Violence Awareness Week – HC Prosecutor and HPD Visits
  • •School Safety/Climate Team – State Survey, PD for Leaders
  • •No One Eats Alone Day
  • •Mykee Fowlin – Motivational Speaker
  • •Drop In Counseling
  • •Remediation/Mediation following discipline (restorative work)
  • •Pink Shirt Day

Additional initiatives that were HCS K-8 and 9-12 specific were also shared which included:

Grades K-8

  • •Finding Kind
  • •Girls Leadership
  • •PAWS
  • •MindRecess Mindfulness Program
  • •Second Step Program
  • •Skills Groups – social skills, executive functioning skills, positive/confidence groups, identity group

Grades 9-12

  • •Student Ambassadors
  • •Start with Hello Week
  • •Camp Mason
  • •Advisory – Circle Forward, Restorative Circles, College Board
  • •Restorative Justice – Lunch room, conversations, detentions
  • •Cougar Citizens
  • •Cougar Celebrations
  • •Spirit Week/Pep Rallies/School Dances

A member of the Board shared that SEL speaks to the core values of the school and the the school’s commitment to educating the whole child since the school’s inception.  A conversation ensued regarding how we can best showcase this value and reinforcing examples with the HCS community.

Morton Marks, Business Administrator, explained that the State requires the submission of the CAFRA every year. This year, the Government Accounting Standards Board has made some last minute pronouncements that require the auditors to make some additions delaying the final submission of their financial records.

Morton Marks also discussed additional research about the NSLP (National School Lunch Program). According to 18A:33-4, each school district shall make lunch available to all children when the free and reduced meal qualifying student enrollment is over 5%. Some of the benefits of opting out of the Department of Agriculture (DOA) program, he shared, would mean that the school could reduce reporting requirements although reimbursement for lunches would be discontinued from the State. Ongoing research will be conducted to see if there is a way to serve all of our children the best meal options while reducing resources designated to the extensive reporting requirements of the DOA.

Reports from the Executive Director and Principals were given. (See text of reports in the meeting agenda to the right.)

Prior to adjourning the meeting, the Board went into closed session for discussions related to student discipline.

December 18, 2018 Meeting

Elizabeth Palma, K-8 Principal, presented on the feedback she received via parent share sessions scheduled in the Spring, Summer and Fall of 2018 with HCS K-8 families.  Ms. Palma reached out to all 148 2017-2018 HCS K-8 families, and 77 families (52.4%) scheduled meetings with her to share feedback on their experiences at HCS. She will reach out to new HCS families in the new year.

Some key takeaways were as follows:

What do families think makes HCS special?


  • ∎The teachers


  • ∎Safety


  • ∎Relationships between students across grades


  • ∎Small size


  • ∎Sense of community


  • ∎Service learning


  • ∎Differentiation


  • ∎STEM programming


  • ∎Special education services  


  • ∎Academic support


  • ∎Overall quality of education


  • ∎Project based learning


  • ∎Support for the whole child


  • ∎Citizenship focus


  • ∎Field trips

In response to the feedback and in conjunction with observations by administration and staff, the following has been or will be implemented this school year:

    • ∎Revised drop off policy for items left at home  


    • ∎Greater variety in club offerings including new outside providers such as Stevens Math Circles


    • ∎Increased time outside during Extra Innings


    • ∎Use of HCS Google Calendar for communication


    • ∎Revisions to Back to School Night structure to allow for more time with teachers


    • ∎Bios shared introducing all staff with photos


    • ∎Additional anti-bullying/social emotional learning initiatives


    • ∎A PBL period replacing Independent Reading in the middle school


    • ∎More opportunities for students to engage in public speaking as a part of publishing parties


    • ∎Coding in the lower school


    • ∎A revised Spanish curriculum (A new K-4 program will be implemented in January 2019.)


    • ∎Middle school parent teacher conferences to allow for more time with individual teachers


    • ∎Increased use of the HCS library


  • ∎More scaffolding for the middle school transition from 4th to 5th grades  

Next, Mort Marks, Business Administrator, shared changes to the upper school breakfast program with the goal of increasing student participation.  A discussion ensued around Department of Agriculture requirements around the food programs and options for schools around participation.

Reports from the Executive Director and Principals were given. (See text of reports in the meeting agenda to the right.)

Prior to adjourning the meeting, the Board went into closed session for discussions related to finances, governance and legal matters.

November 20, 2018 Meeting 

Jackie Mercandetti presented the MTTS (Multi-Tiered System of Supports) program to the Board of Trustees. This system is designed to support struggling students as they are provided with interventions at increasing levels of intensity to accelerate their rate of learning. Progress is closely monitored to assess both the learning rate and level of performance of individual students. Educational decisions about the intensity and duration of interventions are based on individual student response to instruction.

There are three tiers in the model. Tier 1 support starts in the general education classroom with students receiving interventions and targeted attention. Students who demonstrate the need for additional support and meet eligibility criteria would then access help at the Tier 2 level. This is in a pull out, small group format two-three times per week. Programming is offered in both math and reading using evidenced-based programs that directly address skill deficits using a specific scope and sequence that complements the foundational skills required to access the curriculum. Tier 3 support is provided individually and increases in duration and frequency. Students’ progress at all three levels is closely monitored.

Eligibility for MTSS support is determined through review of assessments including MAP, Fountas and Pinnell reading assessments, Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) and PARCC scores.  To support students in targeted instruction, the lower school uses the Orton-Gillingham method for reading and Do The Math program for mathematics. The middle and upper schools use Achieve 3000 and Orton Gillingham for reading support and Math 180 for math support.  The HCS program is funded primarily through the ESEA grant and is in its second year.

The Board then moved into a discussion regarding the school’s participation in the School Breakfast Program in particular at the upper school. At present, HCS has over 20% of its enrolled students qualifying for free or reduced-price meals with less than 25% participating in the breakfast program.  As a result, the school has been working on a plan to increase participation. The school administered a survey with upper school students to assess how we can most effectively increase student participation.

Reports from the Executive Director and Principals were given. (See text of reports in the meeting agenda to the right.)

Prior to adjourning the meeting, the Board went into closed session for discussions related to legal issues.

October 16, 2018 Meeting 

Several members of the parent community attended the Board meeting.  One parent asked why the weighted lottery was not on the October board agenda and it was communicated that since it is unlikely that the NJDOE would approve an amendment to the charter in time for the weighted lottery to be carried out successfully in the upcoming lottery, the vote has been postponed to after January to avoid confusion with families applying for the lottery for the 2019-2020 school year. A first read has occurred and the recommendation will be made to the board for a weighted lottery to be implemented in the January 2020 lottery.  Several parents shared their concerns about a weighted lottery.

An update was provided on the KMS Development community giveback and the Board expressed their gratitude for the advocacy of our school community in the recent weeks and additionally expressed appreciation to City Council, Mayor Bhalla and KMS Development.  The Board is thrilled that HCS will benefit from the giveback and encouraged by the acknowledgement of charter schools as public schools.

Executive Director Deirdra Grode shared that it has been almost twenty-five years since New Jersey enacted the Charter School Program Act of 1995 and that Governor Murphy has directed the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) to assess the state’s approach to charter schools as it relates to those most impacted by the law.  In October, the NJDOE launched a statewide outreach effort to obtain feedback regarding charter-related priorities that are most important to stakeholders throughout New Jersey.  As part of this process, the New Jersey Commissioner of Education, Dr. Lamont Repollet, announced that he will be visiting eleven charter schools throughout New Jersey with HCS selected as one of the schools.  It was shared that on Friday, November 2, 2018, the Commissioner and several NJDOE staff would tour HCS to learn more about the program and to hear from various stakeholders.  Ms. Grode shared that the school would be coordinating the visit with a school tour and stakeholder-engaged focus session to follow.  In addition to the charter school tours, the NJDOE will hold focus sessions throughout the state.  Feedback from these sessions will be recorded, summarized, and analyzed in a report to be issued by NJDOE at the conclusion of outreach.  The Executive Director participated in one session in Newark and will encourage the entire school community to participate in outreach opportunities beyond the November 2nd tour and focus group.

Reports from the Executive Director and Principals were given. (See text of reports in the meeting agenda to the right.)

Prior to adjourning the meeting, the Board went into closed session for discussions related to finances, governance and student discipline.

Board Meeting Agendas & Minutes