Hoboken Proud: Malani Cadematori & Tom Kleupfel

Official release:

Malani Cademartori has a unique appreciation for the opportunities afforded by public education. Born in Thailand and raised in Australia, Malani’s mother moved her daughters to Philadelphia in search of a better education and more opportunities than would have been available to them as half-Asian minorities in Australia at that time. The move changed the trajectory of her life and her ability to achieve thereafter.

Having been taught by her mother to never accept compromise in her academic performance, Malani attended New York University, where she worked her way through school as a full-time waitress and ultimately earned her Bachelor of the Arts with a double major in Political Science and East Asian Studies. Malani went on to graduate from Fordham University School of Law and was elevated to the position of partner with her current law firm of Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton in 2010—just 10 days before giving birth to the first of her two daughters.

Although Malani has only lived in Hoboken for six years, her husband, Michael, and his family have deep Hoboken roots. Michael’s grandmother and grandfather, Catherine and Rudolf Bahun, were both born, got married, raised two children and ultimately passed away in Hoboken. Catherine Bahun worked in the Wallace school for over 40 years as an office administrator and is said to have known the name, birth date, phone number and all family members of every student she ever met.

Malani’s daughters both attend Salvatore Calabro Elementary School. For her, the choice of the Hoboken district schools for her children was never a question. “When I moved to public school in South Philly, I found a home in the diverse student body. Discovering and learning from our vast differences and experiences was the best part of my education.”

Malani was recently re-elected president of the Calabro PTO. She has worked diligently to enhance the experiences of the school’s students and support the faculty and staff. She has advocated and worked with the district to create a dedicated and safe outdoor play space for Calabro students and founded a monthly career day panel for kids in the upper grades to get them thinking about career possibilities later in life. Malani was also a main organizer of the district’s first district-wide PTO fundraising event featuring the Harlem Wizards and our various schools’ faculty members.

People ask how the team came together. Tom explains:
“I am a long-time and committed advocate for Hoboken public education opportunities. I was a co-founder and first board president of Elysian Charter School back in the 1990s, and have brought equal zeal to the Hoboken Board of Education since I was first elected to the board in 2012. Plus my wife has her Masters in Early Childhood Education, and is special education teacher. It’s all we ever talk about at home — public education.

“As a Hoboken Board of Ed member, I am but one of nine and can take no personal credit for the revolution that is happening in our district schools. Indeed, that turnaround began before my tenure by some strong education advocates themselves. The movement has only gained momentum over the past few years and I am committed to the day when our district public schools have the full confidence and support of a proud Hoboken community.
“Three years ago, when I sought reelection to the board after my first term, my running mates and I faced strong opposition from an opposing slate of which John Madigan was the most outspoken. It was a terribly bitter campaign, but I managed to get elected, as did John, and we found ourselves serving on the board together. I did not like or trust him, and the feeling was probably mutual. At first, we spoke only when necessary, and as little as possible.
“At the same time, we were all witness to the regrettable political dysfunction in Washington, in Trenton, and even here in Hoboken. And I began to make the connection: not talking is definitely NOT how to get things done.
“So I decided to build a bridge to my nemesis. Once I became board president, and despite our past differences, I made John the chair of the Facilities Committee. The next year, I put him on the Finance Committee. And John, understanding the trust I was placing in him, began to trust me. Over the past three years, we slowly came together in our support for the district, its innovative programs, and the budget. Today, there is no space between us on the board issues that matter most.
“And that is the genesis of this year’s Hoboken Proud slate. In June, I did the unthinkable: I reached out to John about the possibility of us running together. This would be a unique opportunity to move past the political animus that we see just about everywhere else in our society and demonstrate the possibilities of working together towards a common cause. 

“Hoboken Proud is John, a life-long resident of Hoboken, joining with me, an aging “yuppie,” and Malani Cademartori, a super-involved district mom and outspoken public school advocate herself. We represent a lot of what Hoboken is about — the old and the new, the us and the them, the energy and the passion. We are proud of how far the district has come, where it is going, and want to rally the entire Hoboken community in support of a strong public school district.”

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