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.
December 16, 2019
A presentation was given by Darren Fusaro and Isabel Del Corral of McIntee Fusaro Del Corral, LLC regarding the school’s annual Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) and Auditor’s Management Report (AMR). Chuck De Meola of De Meola Zawacki Mingione & Co., LLC presented on the School’s Form 990.
The Board voted to approve the Family and Medical Leaves and Benefits policy as can be found in the posted agenda.
Approvals as found in the agenda to the right were made around personnel, educational planning and finances. Reports regarding the K-12 program can be found in the meeting agenda as well.
Lisa McIntyre provided an update on work with Enrollhand toward extending highly effective middle school STEM programming through the upper school and creating additional interage experiences in STEM for our K-12 students. Extensive data collection has occurred and has been shared with the organization in this initial phase of the project.
Deirdra Grode shared that upon return from winter break, all K-12 students will engage in lessons designed to familiarize all HCS students with the school’s mission and key principles of social justice education, service-learning and learner-centered practices. By the end of the month of January, all students across K-12 will have shared language around these principles.
November 19, 2019
The Board conducted a first read on a proposed Family and Medical Leaves and Benefits policy as can be found in the posted agenda.
Approvals as found in the agenda to the right were made around personnel, educational planning and finances. Reports from the Executive Director and Principals can be found in the meeting agenda as well.
Lisa McIntyre provided an update on work with Enrollhand. The School has decided to focus initial grant-writing around extending STEM programming through the upper school and creating additional interage experiences in STEM for our students.
Mark Silberberg and Deirdra Grode updated the Board on ongoing strategic planning work. Information on a weeklong mission week at the upper school and the new middle school mission labs were shared.
Amanda Grant shared updates on the Capital Campaign work.
Lauren Calmas provided an update on the construction of 709-711 Washington Street. Demo has been completed, excavation for the rear extension has started and foundations have been poured. Next to come are the footings, walls and block work. We are still on track to have the building ready for a September 2020 opening.
October 15, 2019
Chris Kunkel, Schoolwide Testing Coordinator, presented on Hoboken Charter School’s 2019 New Student Learning Assessment scores. Overall comparisons were made of each class against their previous year’s scores as well as against the State averages.
Sivan Noy, Friends of Hoboken Charter School President, presented an update on fundraising initiatives for the year.
The Board approved a contract with Enrollhand, a company that supports organizations with grant research and writing services.
The Board also approved hiring Salma Malik, who has been working with the school on an interim basis over the past few weeks, as K-12 School Nurse.
Reports from the Executive Director and Principals were given. (See text of reports in the meeting agenda to the right.)
Deirdra Grode, Executive Director, discussed the school’s recent work, led by the Mission and Integration Team, to establish user-friendly universal definitions for the school’s core principles as well as related implementation and communication planning. Ultimately, every student and family member at HCS should be able to define social justice education, service-learning and learner-centered education and articulate what these principles look like in action in their classrooms and school.
Joy Wheeler, Facilities Committee Chair, shared an update on 709 Washington Street. The construction is continuing with the demolition complete, the excavation and foundation work being addressed this week and the masonry wall work starting next week. We are still on track to have the building ready for a September 2020 opening.
Prior to adjourning the meeting, the Board went into closed session for a discussion related to discipline.
September 17, 2019
The HCS Board of Trustees approved two new members. Joy Wheeler, a parent of an HCS graduate and a middle school student, brings vast experience in real estate, operations, sales and project management and will be a valuable addition to the board as Chair of the Facilities Committee. Amanda Grant, parent to a lower school student, has extensive experience in asset management and executive recruitment, serves on an advisory board of Pace University and will be a critical contributor to the Joint HCS and Friends of HCS Committee as they embark on a capital campaign.
A parent asked about efforts to coordinate security and communication with other schools in town and the City. Deirdra Grode shared that the school leaders of all K-12 schools in town (public and private) have begun to meet with the Mayor’s office, with the HPD participating in one session to date, and that improving communication and coordination across schools was a goal of these meetings and is happy to share updates in the future.
Board Member Lisa McIntyre shared information on the school’s historical approaches to grant-writing as well as research she has been conducting over the last months around grant options for the school. This information is being shared with the Joint HCS and Friends of HCS Committee as they embark on a capital campaign.
Further reports from the Executive Director and building principals were given. See text of reports in the meeting agenda to the right. In addition to the agenda report, Deirdra Grode shared that the leaders of the four public districts in town (the HBOE and three charter schools) met with the Mayor’s office and Councilwoman Jabbour to explore ways in which we can better coordinate efforts to best serve Hoboken’s most economically disadvantaged students. Also discussed were ways in which the City can help disseminate information regarding public school options in town. The City of Hoboken has since posted information about all public school options in town on their website. Deirdra Grode also spoke about strategic planning work particularly around the articulation and communication of the school’s mission. Joanna Weintraub spoke to ways in which the school was working to design an upper school experience that is meaningfully different than what is found in other schools in the area.
August 20, 2019
The Board of Trustees approved amendments made to the Comprehensive Equity Plan for the 2019-2022 school years, and they authorized submission of the plan to the NJDOE with a commitment to its full implementation. Additionally, the Board of Trustees approved the NJDOE-recommended Suspected Gang Activity policy. New hires and the July and August financial reports were approved.
July 9, 2019
Deirdra Grode introduced Michael Falkowski, HCS’s new School Business Administrator, to the Board. He attended the meeting and offered insight on how our operations appear to compare with other charter schools and districts he has worked with based upon an initial review. His diverse experiences will prove very valuable to the school.
Ms. Grode reviewed the process for the annual report submission which the Board had time to review in advance of the meeting. The report will be submitted to the NJDOE this month. It was shared that some of the narratives about mission-aligned work would be interesting to some of our families to read. Deirdra Grode later outlined a future communication plan and included this recommendation.
As per administrative code, the Board reviewed the School Safety and Climate Team’s 2018-2019 Self-Assessment Grade and the accompanying rationale and were notified that the NJDOE has accepted the score for the 2017-2018 school year.
The Board conducted their annual review of school leader and teacher evaluation systems and conducted a first read of the NJDOE-recommended Suspected Gang Activity policy.
The administration spoke about a commitment to increasing the salary scale for its faculty and the Board discussed options to increase revenue. Joanna Weintraub spoke about new partnerships with Saint Peter’s University and Hudson County Community College to increase offerings for our upper school students that provide college credit. Lauren Calmas and Deirdra Grode spoke about a meeting the previous night with the two other Hoboken charter schools’ leadership with the goal of working collaboratively around outreach and advocacy.
Deirdra Grode outlined a communication plan to increase understanding of the mission among all HCS stakeholders.
June 18, 2019 Meeting
Deirdra Grode reviewed with the Board the NJDOE mandated three-year Comprehensive Equity Plan, its corresponding needs assessment and the process through which the plan is created. The Board discussed goals established via the plan and areas outside the plan to address access and equity. The Board committed to the implementation of the plan.
HCS will start contracting for School Business Administration services with School Business Office, LLC. They will work more remotely in this position with some onsite responsibilities being reassigned.
A further discussion on the strategic plan ensued around the six key focus areas: 1. Student Learning, 2. Community, Culture and Character, 3. Faculty, 4. Financial Foundation, 5. Facilities, and 6. Communication. The board asked that the Executive Director prepare to share more regarding a communication plan at the July meeting.
Further reports from the Executive Director and building principals were given. See text of reports in the meeting agenda to the right.
May 21, 2019 Meeting
Each member of the Roboken team, the HCS First Tech Challenge Robotics team, presented on critical aspects of their work on the grade 7-12 team such as coding, problem-solving, strategy and collaboration. They also shared their experiences working on a cross-division team, the learning process over multiple years as well as their business plan. A highlight was when the team had the robot do a demonstration for those in attendance.
The Executive Director proposed the approval of NJDOE-mandated policies on medical marijuana and medication administration as well as authorization to request to the NJDOE an amendment to the HCS charter to provide for a 3:1 preference for economically disadvantaged Hoboken residents applying for grades K-8. An alumnus of HCS spoke on behalf of the weighted lottery and the benefits he imagined to the program as a result as well as how a weighted lottery would be in line with HCS principles. The board discussed ongoing outreach and communication if ultimately approved by the NJDOE.
Additionally, the Executive Director shared an outline of ongoing strategic initiatives around the areas of Student Learning (mission-aligned practices, 21st century and post-secondary readiness); Community, Culture and Character (personal growth/SEL, inclusivity and diversity work, parent and alumni engagement, K-12 integration work); Faculty (satisfaction and retention, professional support, teacher leadership); Financial Foundation (core area support while ensuring access and equity, collaborative work with Friends of HCS); Facilities (campus unification, maximizing space use); and Communication (particularly around mission and integration for families, students and beyond).
Further reports from the Executive Director and building principals were given. See text of reports in the meeting agenda to the right. In addition to the report found here, the Upper School Principal reported that the class of 2019 college acceptances spanned over 35 universities with over 2 million dollars in offered scholarships and grants beyond need-based aid. College acceptances included a wide variety of public and private universities across the country. Every graduating senior has a post-secondary plan in place.
May 14, 2019 Meeting
Upon the start of the meeting, a teacher commented on the tenure process and requested consideration for a salary increase corresponding with tenure as an acknowledgment of this accomplishment. In other comments, the teacher expressed her enthusiasm for the shared campus in 2020-2021 and is excited to see the collaborative work across schools and the benefits the students will gain from a shared campus.
Tony Felella of the Finance Committee shared that the cash and fund balances are higher than usual and there appears to be a potential for a greater surplus. Certain departments have not had as many expenses as budgeted leaving the possibility of additional money which can be used for upcoming priorities. The new medical plan has been in effect starting January of 2019. There have been cost savings but the plan has been only in effect for four months and ongoing savings will be assessed. The actual run rate needs to be established for better predictability but there is initial savings of $10,000 a month in the difference of premiums.
Deirdra Grode, Executive Director, shared strategic work that occurred this year around the focus areas of mission, community, value proposition and communication. A Mission and Integration Team composed of K-12 teachers, staff and administrators has been reviewing anonymous data collected throughout the school year from students, families and faculty/staff via interview and surveys to inform future planning work.
The Board conducted a first reading of two NJDOE-mandated policies: Medical Marijuana and a revised Medication Administration Policy. The board also conducted a first read of a proposed amendment to the HCS charter to provide a 3:1 preference in the school lottery to economically disadvantaged Hoboken-resident students applying to the K-8 program starting with the 2020-2021 school year. A few parents expressed their concerns with fairness around a weighted lottery. The Board, administration and parents engaged in a discussion around the matter with the Executive Director and Board referencing statistics and NJ administrative code which 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.” Additionally addressed was the School’s belief that this amendment is mission-aligned.
Another parent asked the Board for clarification between the roles and responsibilities of the Friends of HCS and Board of Trustees and requested more information on the school budget and school financing. The Board discussed finding an opportunity to present such information at a Friends meeting.
Prior to adjourning the meeting, the Board and Deirdra Grode went into closed session as part of the annual review process of the Executive Director.
April 16, 2019 Meeting
The Board of Trustees will have a special board meeting on Tuesday, May 14, 2019, at 713 Washington Street through which personnel, two policies mandated by the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) – Medication Administration Policy and Medical Marijuana Policy, and professional development requests will be reviewed. Additionally, the board will conduct a first read of a proposed amendment to the Hoboken Charter School charter to authorize HCS to provide a 3:1 preference in the school lottery to economically disadvantaged Hoboken-resident students applying to the K-8 program starting with the 2020-2021 school year.
The board voted to approve the 2019-2020 budget to be submitted to the NJDOE. This was the second discussion on the budget. Although there were no new questions, Morton Marks, Business Administrator, presented a more detailed summary of the annual budget in response to questions posed in the March meeting. This summary will be a template for future annual meetings. Key highlights were graphs on revenue showing the effect of Hold Harmless on revenue generation despite changes in student enrollment. It was shared that expenditures of salaries, benefits and rent affect 80% of the budget.
The board approved the renewal lease with The City of Hoboken for the space leased at the Hoboken Multiservice Center, 124 Grand Street, for the period of 7/1/19-6/30/20. The terms of the lease remain the same including the rent at $1,683.54 per month.
Reports from the Principals were given. (See text of reports in the meeting agenda to the right.) In response, a discussion ensued regarding HCS engaging schoolwide in composting. Currently, the HCS middle school engages in composting during the school day and is considering extending the practice to more grades.
Prior to adjourning the meeting, the Board went into closed session to discuss a legal matter.
March 19, 2019 Meeting
The majority of the meeting was devoted to a first reading and discussion of the 2019-2020 budget. Two sets of documents were presented. One was the original DOE budget and the other was a more detailed spreadsheet referring to the State’s budget. The projected revenue is similar to last year’s totals. Since enrollment is stable, enrollment funding will become stable. HCS is under the law of Hold Harmless which keeps the revenue stable. If HCS would lose students or gain students, an increase of enrollment funds from a district is met with a decrease in State aid and vice versa. The problem becomes to maintain rising expenses for the future with non-increasing revenue. This coming FY, three key areas of expenses contribute to 80% of the school’s costs. The three areas are Payroll, Rent, and Medical Expenses. The budget for the new fiscal year will be the same as last year.
An important note to the 2019-2020 Lottery is that there were twelve Hoboken residents (approximately 50% of the 9th grade class) applying for the ninth grade. With their matriculation in September, the changing district of residence will now move toward Hoboken. This culminates in the continual efforts of the upper school to attract Hoboken residents. This has been a long term goal of the school. Additionally, there were eight siblings of current HCS students applying for 9th grade and several HCS 8th graders interested in exploring our upper school for their high school.
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 reopened to vote on the HIB recommendation.
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:
Additional initiatives that were HCS K-8 and 9-12 specific were also shared which included:
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.
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?
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:
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.
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.
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.
Prior to adjourning the meeting, the Board went into closed session for discussions related to finances, governance and student discipline.
Board Meeting Agendas & Minutes