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

September 17, 2018 Meeting 

Much of public comment was devoted to the topic of a weighted lottery that was on the agenda for the Board to conduct a first read.  NJ administrative code states that charter schools shall “to the maximum extent practicable, seek the enrollment of a cross section of the community’s school age population including racial and academic factors.  A charter school may seek approval from the Commissioner to establish a weighted lottery that favors educationally disadvantaged students, including but not limited to, students who are economically disadvantaged, students with disabilities, migrant students, limited English proficient students, neglected or delinquent students, or homeless students, in an effort to better represent a cross section of the community’s school-age population.”  Deirdra Grode shared that the amendment to the charter presented tonight would provide a second entry in the lottery for Hoboken residents whose children were applying for K-8 vacancies at HCS and who could provide evidence for living in poverty according to participation in certain federal programs.  Three HCS parents shared individual concerns they had with the fairness of a weighted lottery and the impact it could have on fundraising in particular.  “HCS is not obligated to keep the policy permanently,” a board member added, “and the school would assess its impact and the school’s fulfillment of the mandate of the NJDOE.” Another board member added that “the right policy might not be a uniform policy for different divisions.”

An HCS parent expressed her concern with having to pay for afterschool clubs and shared that she felt the school was being too restrictive in granting need-based scholarships for participation of clubs and should broaden the criteria to include more ways to qualify for scholarships such as participation in NJ FamilyCares.

Chris Kunkel, Testing Coordinator, provided a PARCC standardized testing overview of the 2017-2018 school year.  In his presentation, he explained the five levels of scoring and reported on the data by grade level and course.   As a whole, the school scores are up, he shared. He reviewed not just individual class and course score reports but additionally information on performance of cohorts as they progressed over the years.

Executive Director Deirdra Grode and Upper School Principal Joanna Weintraub shared progress on their strategic planning work.  Data collection that occurred via stakeholder meetings and survey completion this past school year had informed four aspirational focus areas of the strategic plan: Mission, Value Proposition, Community and Communication.

Regarding the focus area of Mission, student voice and interests are informing the development of more learner-centered experiences and the creation of more independent studies and student schedules at the upper school as we build upon the school’s mission to create global citizens through individual inquiry. The Social Justice Lab has been extended for student participation across grades 9-12. Project Based Learning and Social-Emotional Learning work is foundational to this work; teachers are receiving training and support and these practices are being embedded within the curriculum.

Supporting the work to differentiate our upper school in the competitive high school market, the focus area of Value Proposition, HCS has been focusing on developing a personalized program informed by student voice which uses service learning and learner-centered practices as strategies to deliver an educational experience unlike any other program in the area.  At the HCS upper school, students are encouraged to: “Bring your passion. Grow. Make a difference.”

Essential to the focus area of Community is the goal of clarifying the K-12 HCS learning experience, further developing a community identity and establishing a sense of home for our students.  In an effort to do so, HCS has expanded the Student Ambassador Program and established a role for them within the FoHCS and expanded peer mentor programs to develop relationships and increase visibility via class advisors and buddy projects.  Upper school teachers were engaged this summer in a process to develop a Cougar Creed underscoring school core values.

Under the focus area of Communication, HCS has established the goal to refine messaging to amplify the full HCS experience. Work has begun in showcasing K-8 and 9-12 experiences in both weekly communications. The website is now highlighting social justice experiences in coursework across disciplines and grade levels K-12.

Exemplar programs around the country that are achieving success around these focus areas are being further explored and we look forward to sharing periodic updates to our work.

Reports from members of HCS Administration were given.  (See text of reports in the meeting agenda to the right.)

August 21, 2018 Meeting

Policy

The board meeting began with a discussion on proposed new school policies.  First readings were conducted around a revised Dress Code policy, the 9-12 Electronics and Recreational Equipment Policy and the K-12 Attendance Policy.  Deirdra Grode, Executive Director, shared that the revisions to the dress code were made to support equitable educational access and to prevent the reinforcement or increased marginalization or oppression of any group based on race, sex, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, cultural observance, household income or body type/size.  The revised Electronics and Recreational Equipment Policy allows for more flexibility in technology use than has been allowed previously in the upper school with greater clarity on allowable usage. The Attendance Policy revisions engage upper school families and students in action planning after fewer late arrivals than previously. Policies that had previously been presented to the Board (Code of Student Conduct, School Lunch/Food Policy and the K-8 Electronics and Recreational Equipment Policy) were approved.

Educational Planning

The upper school is moving to the use of an agency to deliver world language instruction to its students.  A course preference survey was conducted with students and this feedback informed language programming decisions for this coming school year.  The upper school is excited to offer Spanish and French this coming school year and is exploring additional languages to offer in the future.

Finance

Business Administrator Mort Marks shared that the medical plan for the staff is coming up for renewal. The finance committee is exploring options to improve the high deductible plan to save costs while improving coverage. Making the high deductible plan comparable in benefits will enhance school savings for the future and potentially save staff on their contributions to the plan. Board Trustee Tony Felella offered to speak with the staff at orientation the following week about the plan.

Board of Trustees and Staff Reports

Joanna Weintraub, Upper School Principal, presented to the Board about current initiatives in the upper school.  In order to promote a positive learning environment, the upper school will be promoting social-emotional learning (SEL) through developing relationships and a growth mindset this school year. The goal is to improve student achievement through a comprehensive plan to increase student voice and therefore engagement resulting in a positive learning environment. First steps towards this goal include: changing the schedule to include room for more electives, more effective and comprehensive Tier II supports, restorative practices, student group meetings and academic support; adding new courses such as Chemistry, Criminal Justice, Studio Art, Media Art, Forensics, Civics, Intro to Psychology, Journalism, Physics of Superheroes, French and an internship program; revising the advisory program to include more SEL skill components; expanding upon the tradition of senior projects by allocating the time and resources needed to make them meaningful reflections on personal growth and plans through a service learning and social justice lens; and including opportunities for students to make choices in their work through inquiry-based and learner-centered education.

Lizzie Palma, Lower and Middle School Principal, shared that she had reached out to all lower and middle school families to set up parent feedback meetings. She has met with sixty-one families to date and will be meeting with more in the coming weeks. Parents have been sharing their feedback around academic and extracurricular programming; school climate and culture; communication; policies and procedures and other general areas. As a means to further support HCS’s mission of learner-centered education, as well as to meet the needs of our advanced learners, the K-8 program will be focusing on project-based learning (PBL) for the 2018-2019 school year. In middle school, students will have a dedicated PBL period (replacing independent reading) that will allow them to research and present projects around meaningful questions. PBL will also be infused into instruction in the lower school. HCS will be working with Rutgers University this year to provide professional development to staff on PBL practices.

Deirdra Grode discussed having a first read at the September board meeting of  a proposal to weight the lottery for candidates living in poverty. In 2014, the U.S. Department of Education issued updated guidance that expanded the circumstances under which public charter schools may elect to use a weighted lottery in admissions. The weighted lottery specifications are still under consideration, but some criteria are: the child is living in public or Section 8 housing or qualifies for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits.

July 17, 2018 Meeting

Policy

At the July board meeting, there were motions on seven new policies.  Three motions were approvals required for HCS to participate in the National School Lunch and Breakfast Program.  Three motions were approvals for school evaluation systems- the school leader/principal evaluation system, the tenured and nontenured teaching staff evaluation system and the Chief School Administrator evaluation system. The board also conducted a first read of the school’s Code of Student Conduct (CSC) which removed dress code violations as its own category from the CSC and added infractions related to vaping/possession of a vaping device, causing harm to another student and insolence. A question was asked regarding what “causing harm” entails, and Deirdra Grode expressed that this encompassed emotional and physical harm.

Educational Planning  

The board approved the school’s use of Swing Education Services to increase our pool of substitute teachers. A conversation continued from the June meeting about finding ways to accommodate staff members’ time off while also ensuring that we have the best people in the classroom during teachers’ time away from the classroom and also not burdening the onsite teachers unreasonably.

A new state law requiring a twenty year criminal history review secured by previous employers (extending beyond the criminal background checks currently mandated) was discussed.  Challenges including liability issues surrounding this new law were discussed.

The school’s annual report, which was approved at the meeting for submission to the NJDOE, reviewed social justice and service learning work that occurred across the three divisions this school year with greater detail than in many years’ reports, and the school is working to create a document to illustrate for our community what service learning looks like in action across all content areas and grades.  Deirdra Grode expressed that the school is looking to find more opportunities to share with all of our stakeholders what our mission realized looks like in the classroom.

The HIB Self-Assessment score of 78 of 78 possible points as determined by the School Safety/ Climate Team was shared with the Board for approval.  The scoring rubric and process to determine the score was reviewed in advance of the vote.

Personnel

With the approval of three new teachers at the board meeting, Travis Novack, Chloe Sosa-Jarrett and Kiersten Fran, only one part-time position remains to be filled for the 2018-2019 school year. The HCS administrative team has reviewed hundreds of resumes and found some exceptional candidates. They are excited for such a strong team of K-12 staff this coming year.

Finance

The new FOHCS lease was discussed and approved and will be sent to Fulton Bank.  The closing on 709 Washington Street is anticipated to occur no later than early August 2018.

Closed Session

School safety procedures were reviewed.

June 19, 2018 Meeting

An HCS upper school student Elisa-Marie Rivera expressed that she has been in the Hoboken Charter School since kindergarten and always looked forward to the future at HCS upper school.  She mentioned that she was aware of turnover of staff members for the upcoming school year that disappointed her as she and her classmates have such strong relationships with the teachers at the upper school.  She urged the Board to find ways to improve compensation for HCS teachers and staff moving forward to reduce turnover.

HCS teacher Matt Gregory thanked the Board for increasing the pay scale five years ago. He then stated that he was here to address the issue of class coverage when a teacher is out as staff members cover for one another when a substitute is not available.  He asked the Board to consider a new policy through which the money that is set aside for substitute teachers who do not provide coverage when unavailable be distributed to teachers when their prep time is spent covering a colleague’s class.

Executive Director Deirdra Grode presented her strategic plan work to the Board.  She stated that Hoboken Charter School’s 20th year was one of reflection and envisioning for its future as a K-12 leader of service-learning, social justice and learner-centered education.  Considerable reflection was informed by insight from surveys and focus groups which covered a wide range of stakeholders including 7th-12th grade students, K-12 faculty and staff, K-12 parents, alumni, parents of alumni and board members.  Feedback fell into four aspirational focus areas, Mission, Value Proposition, Communication and Community.

Mission – HCS will recommit to and reimagine learner-centered education and service learning as the core elements of the HCS mission and affirm the crucial role that social justice education has as a lever for creating powerful service learning experiences.  HCS will engage in systematic program review to ensure alignment with the mission and our commitment to learner-centered education and service learning.  HCS will also design space at 709 Washington Street to best align with our vision for learning.

Value Proposition HCS will establish our upper school as a differentiator in the competitive high school market and seek out and engage students who are passionate about social justice education and service learning and who seek something more than the traditional high school experience.  HCS will use its small size as an opportunity for connecting students to the community through authentic and relevant learning projects that seek to solve pressing problems; fostering the development of meaningful relationships; and providing unique opportunities for personalized learning.

Community HCS will develop programs and context for collaboration that clarifies the thirteen-year HCS learning experience.  To unify the school community, HCS will unite stakeholders around the mission in meaningful, relationship-building ways that create a consistent sense of home for our students; create more opportunities for purposeful collaboration across “divisions;” and design 709 Washington Street with unification in mind.  Additionally, we will tell the story of the full HCS experience through refined messaging.

Communication  HCS will acknowledge, celebrate and share the extraordinary quality of our K-12 teachers and K-12 student learning to K-12 families and beyond; train faculty to communicate a “one school” mentality and to become champions for all of HCS; and better communicate the school mission to our current and prospective families.

A discussion followed through which a timeline for implementation was discussed (end of summer with piloted programs starting in the 2018.2019 school year).  One board member asked if data from the surveys would be shared, and Deirdra Grode stated that she would be happy to share trends but identifying information would not be shared.  Discussion ensued regarding clarifying the mission without deviating from the core elements of the mission and seeking ways to ensure that our families are here for the mission.

Upper School Teacher Ian Costello presented on the Upper School Advisory Program.  He expressed that our current advisory program is a socio-emotional and academic support program that occurs four times a week for thirty minutes a session with two teachers to twelve to thirteen students. The ultimate goal over a four-year period is to get students ready for college and career. For the 2017-2018 school year, the sessions focused on study habits, college and career readiness work and socio-emotional work.  Advisory has served well to offer a venue for non-academic needs and school wide culture initiatives in addition, he stated. All students feel like they have at least one adult in the school to trust which is critical for building community.  Advisory teachers have recommended that advisory become three sessions per week with the addition of restorative circles.

Business Administrator Mort Marks introduced a first read of three policies supporting the school’s participation in the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs.  After one revision made regarding the implementation of an offer versus serve policy at the upper school, the first readings were approved.  Motions involving the renewal of Brown and Brown Metro, LLC commercial insurance plan for the FY 2018-2019, the 2018-2019 Vendor Contract between HCS and Karson Food Service, Inc. and the acceptance of the 2018-2019 ESEA and IDEA Grant Awards were presented and approved. Cash balances are still high and the school is on target with its budget.

The Executive Director recommended the acceptance of employee resignations and approval of new hires Victoria Gemma, Math, and Samantha Glass, English.  She shared that the school has been actively engaged in interviewing candidates for instructional vacancies for the 2018-2019 school year.  Students have been engaged in demonstration lessons and have shared feedback with administration.

Joanna Weintraub, 2018-2019 Upper School Principal, spent a day at HCS last week and attended a FoHCS Parents Meeting, met with several key personnel in the K-12 program, participated in interviews and held focus group sessions with 9th, 10th and 11th grade students.  She looks forward to her visit later this week through which she’ll have an opportunity to meet with the rest of the 9-12 team and begin planning for the upcoming school year.

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 communication, finances and discipline.

Board Meeting Agendas & Minutes