LETTER: ‘The time has come to elevate our public school facilities,’ says Hoboken administrator BOE

In a letter to the editor, Alex De La Torre, trustee of the Hoboken Board of Education, shares his personal perspective on why he will support the $241 million school referendum.

Hoboken Board of Education Alex De La Torre. Facebook picture.

Dear Editor,

My name is Alejandro De La Torre, Jr. and I have lived in Hoboken for 15 years.

In 2007, my wife, our 3 month old daughter and I were transplanted from Southern California and, like so many others, we fell in love with this community. Two years later, girl number two graced us with her presence.

I remember many times my wife and I debated the pros and cons of coming home versus staying in Hoboken. We were faced with the inevitable question that so many other parents have asked themselves: “Do we stay or do we go?”

Our conversations touched on all the same topics that many continue to weigh in on today – a bigger home, more space for the kids, a variety of sports opportunities for young people, better schools.

It was an easy decision. It’s too special of a place; its walkability, diversity, proximity to New York City, and most importantly, the kinship we felt with the community far exceeded anything the suburbs had to offer. Hoboken all the way!

My wife and I are both products of public schools and we strongly believe that they are an important fiber in the community. We engaged and enrolled our children in the Hoboken Public School District beginning with pre-K.

This commitment has paid off! My daughters have been surrounded by wonderful educators, overcome academic challenges, our youngest daughter continues to benefit from the special education program, and just as importantly, they go home happy!

However, as great as the public school experience has been so far, the one area that has lagged is facilities. As proud as we are of our city, we have failed to invest in the area where we, as a community, benefit immensely – our schools.

Over the past 12 years, our family has experienced a growing school population. As elementary school children, our children were constantly moving between Brandt and Wallace due to increasing demand.

As Hoboken Middle School students, they had to have lunch at 10:30 a.m. because there was no room in the cafeteria. Now, our freshman at Hoboken High School lacks the modern facilities that other students take for granted in New Jersey.

I strongly believe that every child, regardless of socio-economic status, deserves and is entitled to an enriching educational experience. Improved facilities throughout the district will provide additional exposure, opportunity and preparation for all students.

Some of them include:

– Eight scientific laboratories
– Culinary arts kitchen, classroom and cafe
– Collaborative Learning Activity Center (Library Media Center)
– Life and Transition Skills Room
– Six special education classrooms
– Weight room, auxiliary gymnasium, regulation size swimming pool

For too long, the needs of our public school facilities have been sidelined or treated with the proverbial ‘band-aids’, while other local schools have been updated and modernized.

The long-term facilities plan we are voting on this Tuesday, January 25 meets many district and community needs. We can create a fourth primary school, while allowing the current population of Demarest to move into a building suitable for middle school students.

Additionally, the referendum creates a new secondary school with the facilities and amenities – academic, vocational and athletic – that will allow students to be competitive and prepared for the 21st century.

Despite the current lack of resources, our students are extraordinarily resilient:

$17.5 million in total scholarships in 2021, $1.8 million in 2015
94.5% average cohort graduation rate over 4 years for the Class of 2018 to the Class of 2021
Average upperclass college and university acceptance rate of 94.0% for the class of 2018 to the class of 2021
· Hoboken High Valedictorians over the past four years: NYU (’18), University of Calgary (’19), Vanderbilt (’20), Yale (’21)
· Award-winning theatrical program and debate teams
19 different sports programs including college: swimming, volleyball, soccer, lacrosse, wrestling

Now is the time to elevate our public school facilities. The New Jersey Department of Education has fully approved the district plan, interest rates are rock bottom, and there is no need to buy the one thing that is so scarce in Hoboken: land.

With the full support of the community, imagine the possibilities for the neighborhood. As residents, we share an undeniable love for our city and its rich history.

Now is the time to invest in future generations of Hoboken. I firmly believe that engagement begins with a YES vote on Tuesday, January 25.

Editor’s Note: Although the author of this letter, Alejandro De La Torre, Jr., is a member of the Hoboken Board of Education, the letter expresses only the personal views of Mr. De La Torres and does not not been authorized by or written on behalf of the Board of Education.

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