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Letter to the editor: Protect the school district and support the new superintendent Mark Toback

Jean Marie Mitchell, a Hoboken resident who previously served on the BoE for a one year term and ran for a four year term but lost last month submitted this letter to the editor:

To The Editor:
Does a gifted history teacher get to write his own “permission slip,” pile his students into his car and drive them off on a “field trip?” What if they are broadsided by another car?  What if they check into a motel overnight and a student gets hurt or worse?  Who is responsible? Who pays the doctor’s bill or the legal judgment?  What about a football coach whose stars get opportunities for college scholarships otherwise far out of their reach?  Does it matter if the championships are won by playing kids who are academically ineligible?  What happens to the standards for those kids’ education? What about the kids who didn’t get to play?  What about the teams they beat?  Do the ends really justify the means?

Most everyone –  students, parents, the public, the Board, and Superintendent Dr. Mark Toback  – supports the theatre program at Hoboken High. We’re all proud of the great performances Paula Ohaus has inspired our kids to achieve, but even her fans have acknowledged problems with the tactics by which she has achieved these goals. They acknowledge the sleepovers at her house, the financial irregularities, the out-of-district students getting major roles in a school play, and the unauthorized trips in private cars but they defend Ms. Ohaus’s good intentions.  Doesn’t a great artist deserve a second chance, or even a third?  Maybe, but there have been many chances under three superintendents and Ms. Ohaus has been very clear about her contempt for the rules she flouts. She stated publicly that she intends to continue the sleepovers and other practices. She is not looking for another chance; she wants the rules to change, at least for her.

Ms. Ohaus would have us believe that her practices are minor problems, but they are not.  They are clear violations of common-sense rules we have in place to protect the district from legal liability and students from harm. Her actions imply that the district is wrong, for example, to require background checks on adults in close contact with teenagers or to prevent those teenagers from spending the night in her private home. I think the district board is right to require these safeguards. If something tragic happened, a judge would be well within his rights to throw the book at us.  Never mind what the parents would say.

I believe that learning to live by society’s rules and learning to excel within reasonable boundaries is part of becoming an adult.  I believe that lesson is as important as winning a game or getting a standing ovation. Our new superintendent, Dr. Toback understands this.  He is raising the bar.  He is committed to a great theater program, while also protecting our children and our district. I also believe that as a community, we need to stand up and let him know we support him.  Please call him (201-356-3601) or email mark.toback@hoboken.k12.nj.us to let him know that he has your support to lead our district.

Jean Marie Mitchell
Hoboken School District Parent

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