News Alert
Skydiver ID'd After Fatal South Jersey Fall In…

Task Force Sought in Response to Low H.S. Ranking

Board of Ed seeks volunteers for group to examine ways to improve Hopatcong High School

The public took center stage at Monday’s board of education meeting as parents questioned 's ranking in New Jersey Monthly magazine. Board members agreed with the need for change, defending recent efforts that have gone into improvements over many areas. Audience turnout was one of the largest the board has seen, they said.

Board President Cliff Lundin announced the creation of a new task force whose focus will be on the “high school of the future.” The task force will include members of the public, school board, administrators, principals and students. The deadline to sign up is Sept. 15.

“I want this to be as inclusive as we possibly can,” said Lundin. “And I challenge the people who berate us daily on the Internet to come out and be part of the process, or to stop berating us."

Lundin said the task force will be publicized, and posted on the district website.

The board will also hold a curriculum meeting on Sept. 5 at 6 p.m. Public attendance is requested and input will be welcome. 

Former board member Peter Ecklund pointed out during public participation thatHopatcong High School's new ranking of No. 289, down from 200 last year, places it two points under Camden.

"It would appear to me there are some people who are not doing their job adequately in what the contract and their general obligations are to do for the student body," Ecklund told the board. "There’s a fault someplace—either on that table or in the building." 

I am absolutely appalled by the ranking," school board president Cliff Lundin said. "That ranking was in fact based on the high school proficiency test and attendance rates. How Camden can have a better attendance rate than us, I don’t know. It’s not good." 

"I, like you, am angry," Lundin told Ecklund. "But as a board member, I am sitting here extremely frustrated. There are steps that we have taken all along the way to identify this. We have done a complete vertical realignment of the curriculum K-12 in math, science and reading. Ultimately, that should in fact address the test score issues, and it is fully aligned with the state curriculum."

Over the past three years, the board has rewritten all curriculum across K-12 to align with state and national core standards. More than half a million dollars has been invested in the replacement of old, outdated textbooks with new materials to support the new curriculum. The board hired a new high school principal to start in September, and did a lateral reorganization of administrators in four schools to bring a new perspective in educational leadership. The facilities received updates over the summer to make them brighter, greener, cleaner and safer.

“Hopatcong High School can hold its own in the state of New Jersey based on a multitude of factors,” Superintendent Charles Maranzano said. “But when you parse out one or two factors like your high school total graduation rate, your attendance factor and your overall average HESPA test scores, and we’ve got a lot of students with special needs, it’s going to be difficult for us to hold our own when you use narrow criteria.”

"The state keeps changing directions on us," Lundin said. "That’s not to say other schools aren’t facing the same thing. I’m not making excuses. There’s a problem and we’re going to take a long hard look at it."

At the mention of the task force, members of the pubic immediately jumped into action with questions. Is it just about the high school? Will lower grades be addressed? Lundin said the original plan involved the high school, but the board is open to the community’s suggestions.

"I have a second grader and I’m concerned about her future,” resident JackieTurkington said. “I’m looking to get involved at an early age.”

Several others voiced agreement.

Nancy Boehm, a parent, asked about the vision.  

“Do you see it as a parent organization working with the board of ed, the teachers, the principal, the students? Where do you see this task force, and how big do you see this task force?" 

Lundin said he needs to see how many people sign up, but noted that it will be kept at a fair number.

"The task force cannot function on its own,” he said. “It’s got to have members of the board, members of the administration, and members the high school leadership and students."

Boehm said she wants to be on the task force to help improve academics. She says Lenape Valley offers more than Hopatcong, as far as curriculum is concerned. 

"Lenape Valley’s curriculum is 68 pages long. Hopatcong’s is 36. How come we don’t offer the classes here?" she asked.

"In part because we lost 29 teachers two years ago," the board responded. "And over $8 million in the last 10 years."

Parent Colleen Mayer said her eighth grader is considering applying to Lenape, against her own wishes.

“I try to explain that Hopatcong has wonderful things," Mayer said. "She says, ‘Mom, they don’t have this.’ She’s an excellent student. She’s the one that’s looking at it.

"You need to talk to these kids. You need to catch them before they get in here."

Lundin said the most frustrating part of the job is state limits on what boards can do, despite what they do to help.   

"Yes there have been positive changes that have come out of Trenton. They don’t go anywhere near solving the problems, I can tell you how frustrating it is to have our hands tied behind our back," Lundin said.

Gina Cinotti, director of guidance K-12, said it is harder than ever for kids to get into college because of lower acceptance rates and more kids applying.

“Even our best kids get rejected from some of the top schools, where three years ago they were getting in," she said. “When I saw the New Jersey Monthly article, I wanted to know what criteria are they using to assess us. It’s school environment, test scores, student teacher ratio, how many AP scores did you have. I wasn’t wholeheartedly convinced, but it’s something we’re going to work on, and look at."

Resident Attila Kiss has a second grader. This was his first time at a board meeting.

“When I saw those test scores, my heart just dropped. I will not have my child go into a school district where there’s no potential for her to learn.”

Kiss told the board they aren’t getting their message out.

“I came to learn what your plan is. How can we get involved and start doing something about this town?" Kiss said. "People are berating you because you’re not out there in the public telling these people what’s going on in the school system. They hear bits and pieces. Without the truth, people are gonna make assumptions.”  

Lundin told Kiss that the board would speak to any group in Hopatcong, and that good things are happening.

“What you read in the New Jersey Monthly and Inside New Jersey Magazine is an outsider's view based upon crunching numbers,” Lundin said. “If I thought my kid wasn’t learning, he would have been pulled out of here years ago.”

Board member Richard Lavery teaches in a private high school. He has four children in the Hopatcong school system. He says they are all getting a fantastic education.

“I make sure as a parent that I’m involved in the process. I also make sure that they stay excited about school," he said. "The kids have to have that internal drive and want to succeed. And, of course, the school system has to give you quality teachers, quality programs and constantly be evaluating themselves. And that’s what we’ve been doing."

Lavery said the board is looking for constructive input.

"We want people to work with us to improve our schools," he said. "We don’t need people bashing on the Internet when they don’t know the facts, anonymously, and all they do is whine and complain. We need people to come to the meetings who care about the school and want to improve it."

"Please encourage your friends to come here, be participating in the school district," he said. "We want constructive parental input. If you’re on the Internet and see the bashing, talk about the good stuff you see here."

The meeting ended on an uplifting note suggesting positive change and unified hope, ideas shared by people with similar goals. Each of the board members thanked the public for attending and urged continued participation.

Roll Back Our Tax August 30, 2012 at 11:21 AM
Tammy...I like you are a frustrated taxpayer. So are 11 others who opted to send their children to Lenape this year. http://thealternativepress.com/articles/board-forms-task-force "Parents attending the meeting said many students are opting into the school choice program and attending Lenape Valley Regional High School in Stanhope. The board’s data indicates 11 freshmen from Hopatcong will enter Lenape Valley next month" Also once again Lundin (like the Mayor) MARGINALIZES the issues here in Hopatcong. "Lundin pointed out anonymous blogs attacking the school district have exaggerated the problem". Exaggerated? The borough is bankrupt and the Mayor thinks I'm exaggerating too!. Furthermore, $ doesn't buy you a better education like Maranzano claims. It only goes to salaries, pensions and benefits. "Superintendent of Schools Dr. Charles Maranzano explained, “when the budget is voted down, it hurts the district geometrically; it reduces programs and opportunities for students over the course of several years." Finally, this statement is INcorrect by Passerini. "Special education students, “take the same test,” Passerini said". They are NOT the same test given the general populous. http://www.state.nj.us/education/parents/special.htm "All special needs children are give "limited" English and Math proficient tests. They are NOT the same test given the general populous". Now you know why I don't attend these meetings.
Roll Back Our Tax August 30, 2012 at 11:27 AM
Where's the teacher's contract Cliiff? I think Lundin keeps stalling because of the "wording" of it. It was suppose to be posted here. http://www.perc.state.nj.us/publicsectorcontracts.nsf That won't be posted until after the elections in November. Cliff wants reelected. Also, where exactly did over $2 MILLION go in Hopatcong ($1.7M to the BOE) from the Federal Recovery Act? http://www.recovery.gov/espsearch/Pages/advanced.aspx?data=recipientAwardsList&State=NJ&AwardType=CGL&zip=07843&RecipName=hopatcong The simple fact "$ doesn't buy you better schools" which we proved in Hopatcong with the 3rd highest cost to educate in Sussex county should tell you something.
Roll Back Our Tax August 30, 2012 at 11:39 AM
Jason...the whole administration needs to go with test results "below average" vs state and worse than they were in 2008. http://hopatcong.patch.com/articles/report-high-school-sats-below-state-average "In 2008-2009, the typical Hopatcong student (1,504) actually scored just better on the SATs than the average state student (1,503)". This was before Superintendent Maranzano was hired. What personal and professional accomplishments was he most proud of? http://hopatcong.patch.com/articles/maranzano-take-action-to-improve "Attaining four college degrees including my Doctorate from the College of William and Mary are a personal triumph, and leaving the schools I worked for in better shape as a result of my contributions a professional triumph". Leaving schools in better shape? He'll stick around to hire his replacement. http://hopatcong.patch.com/articles/hopatcong-superintendent-to-retire-in-2013 "The Board of Education accepted Maranzano’s retirement at its meeting Monday night at the administration building. The 64-year-old, whose four-year contract expires June 30, 2013, said he isn't willing to take the $20,000 pay cut state law would require to stay in charge of the district". This borough will continue to slump in performance yet reward with raises. The only thing that isn't raising is our property values. http://www.zillow.com/local-info/NJ-Hopatcong-home-value/r_52570/ One of the reasons we are moving before it's too late.
Roll Back Our Tax August 30, 2012 at 12:07 PM
Beach Bum..this school district will continue to slump in performance yet reward with raises. Yes...the only thing that isn't raising is our property values. http://www.zillow.com/local-info/NJ-Hopatcong-home-value/r_52570/ Housing values have been going down for 10 years long before the recession hit in 2008. We are now down to 2003 values. It's going to continue to go down yet we're having a reassessment despite the opposition. http://hopatcong.patch.com/articles/reassessment-approved-despite-residents-opposition I told the Mayor at that meeting "the best thing we can do is claim bankruptcy". Renegotiate all these employment contracts and eliminate $61M debt. This will provide us with lower taxes, paved roads, etc. Also, we get to keep the new cars and trucks, new structures and improvements we made to buildings, etc. We can't kick the can any further down the road. Furthermore, with 53% of our tax dollars going to the schools, we can pay another school district to take over ours and manage it better (like Lenape). Finally, it will buy us time.
Lurky Loo August 30, 2012 at 02:34 PM
We can fix our schools but we need kids who want to learn so we need teachers who will engage them. Www.Digitallearningnow.com. I have issues cutting and pasting on my tablet so I cannot post everything I want but this CAN be done! So tired of hearing how our lazy white trash kids don't want to learn. Tired of hearing excuse after excuse! why ALL of our scores keep going down. We need new dogs willing to learn new tricks instead of saying, they just don't want to learn. How about finding ways to get them to WANT to learn?? This program can change all of it. The way teachers teach to the way kids learn it. This program has been successful everyplace its been implemented. What do we have to lose at this point, teachers who don't really care? money? risk of more down grading? I mean we've pretty much hit rock bottom when Camden beats you so really what's this going to take, time? We can change all the schools around in about 3 years, we just have to want to succeed.
Watson August 30, 2012 at 03:32 PM
More inaccurate garbage from Roll Back Our Taxes
Roll Back Our Tax August 30, 2012 at 04:13 PM
Watson...what part is garbage? You just joined. Please complete your profile.
Abe Lincoln August 30, 2012 at 07:06 PM
RBOT you say: "Special education students, “take the same test,” Passerini said". They are NOT the same test given the general populous. http://www.state.nj.us/education/parents/special.htm That link talks about special needs as well as ESL students and only mentions limited testing for ESL students only as well in English only 'In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king'
Roll Back Our Tax August 30, 2012 at 07:56 PM
Abe...keep it up. So what are you saying? It's same test? It isn't. So keep responding. The Attorney General is now watching site.
RBOT RealBadOnTruth August 30, 2012 at 08:18 PM
Christine: I would hope those who have been most vocal with comments and opinions will join in this meeting. The best of luck.
Kimberly August 30, 2012 at 11:33 PM
As a mother of a child in special education....YES, they do take the SAME test as the regular population...the only stipulation is that he gets extra time to complete his work (however, if it's too hard for his "slower thinking" brain, it's really not going to matter how long you give him)! So in theaory, YES our test scores are lower because 35% of opur students are classified, taking hte same test, and many are not passing it!! NJ needs to find a more accurate method of testing our children in the special education program!!
james August 31, 2012 at 01:28 AM
Watson August 31, 2012 at 12:14 PM
You tweet Christie and the AG is watching this site? Talk about illusions of grandeur... As much as I don't like Christie, even he isn't dumb enough to listen to your rhetoric. If you're going to move, do us all a favor and do it soon.
Abe Lincoln August 31, 2012 at 01:24 PM
Kimberly: Thanks for confirming that special needs children DO TAKE THE SAME TEST. Yes, that a problem when so many of the students are special needs; the figure I heard at the board meeting was 24% special needs in town versus 14% average in the state.
Roll Back Our Tax August 31, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Kimberly...enough excuses for this school district. As Sherlock would say to Watson "it's elementary, my dear Watson, elementary". We have overpaid school district employees with an underperforming school district.
HHS Graduate August 31, 2012 at 03:19 PM
This is exactly why my child went to private school and now exercises her right to go out of district to a higner ranking school through the school choice program. Finally, my tax dollars going to something of value - a better education out of district.
Roll Back Our Tax August 31, 2012 at 05:24 PM
HHS Graduate...the BEST thing you can do for your children is to send them to private school if they can afford it or to Lenape if they can get into their program. But the WORST thing you can do for your children's future is send them to Hopatcong's schools. This school district is a waste of taxpayer money, a drain on everyone's budget and a negative impact on home owner's real estate values.
Roll Back Our Tax August 31, 2012 at 09:19 PM
No one wants to buy a house in this borough! School performance biggest issue. High taxes 2nd biggest issue. Loss of home value 3rd biggest issue. Then we have ethics violations, poor roads, no new business, water quality bad, high sewer fees, no services, etc. But there are three things I can count on for next year if we don't sell our house this year. The schools will be no better, real estate taxes will go up and home values will go down in Hopatcong.
Edubb September 03, 2012 at 04:44 AM
Dont worry Hopatcong you can send your kids to the higher ranking school right next door but paperwork needs to be filed by Nov 16th.
Roll Back Our Tax September 03, 2012 at 07:19 PM
Kimberly....can you give me the site where you found out your information "the SAME test as the regular population"? What I have found is that your child gets the much needed attention he/she deserves. But am I to assume they still can't pass test even though MORE time is given? What are we paying all these aides, therapists, teachers, etc for? This is NJ's special education site... http://www.edlawcenter.org/assets/files/pdfs/publications/Rights_SpecialEducation_Guide.pdf Alternatively, when their IEP specifies exceptions to certain graduation requirements, children with disabilities who are unable to satisfy all general education graduation requirements may earn a high school diploma by completing the special education program and meeting the graduation requirements set forth in their IEP. What is an IEP? http://specialchildren.about.com/od/specialeducation/f/iepfaq01.htm "IEP stands for Individualized Education Program (alternatively called an "Individualized Education Plan," "Individual Education Plan," or some combination thereof). This is a legally binding document that spells out exactly what special education services your child will receive and why. It will include your child's classification, placement, services such as a one-on-one aide and therapies, academic and behavioral goals, a behavior plan if needed, percentage of time in regular education, and progress reports from teachers and therapists. The IEP is planned at an IEP meeting".
Kimberly September 04, 2012 at 03:59 PM
RBOT: I don't have to show you a site where I got my information!! I am a parent and that is how I know what test my son takes!! You are completely in left field if you think I don;t know what goes on in my child's education. No matter what therapies my son has, if he doesn't get it, he doesn't get it! And until you have a child in special education don't assume you know the abilities of their brains!! You are very ignorant when it comes to children with special needs!
Kimberly September 04, 2012 at 06:41 PM
Also, my child MAY not have to score as high on the state tests (like other children, they have to show progress and learning) to graduate but he still has to take the SAME test AND yes it's still counted towards the schools average and that is a fact!!! Copied directly from your link above: "Additionally, children with disabilities must participate in district and statewide assessments (tests)"......
Roll Back Our Tax September 04, 2012 at 07:05 PM
Kimberly....I am Roll Back Our Tax. Some one else took the name RBOT (RealBadOnTruth). I don't know you and you definitely don't know me. Before you prejudge me look at my profile. .... http://hopatcong.patch.com/users/roll-back-our-tax?logout=true "Helped raise a special needs brother after mother died in 1969". So I think I have some experience with this subject. My brother was older than I. So when my mother died I was 13 and my brother was 18. He had a 3rd grade level mentality. But he was very independent. He died in 2005 at the age of 55. My Dad and sister took care of him most of those years. I was off raising a family by the time I was 20. But I never lost my ambition to be involved in community things that matter even though I was miles away from the opportunity. I am an active member of ARC of Mercer county, PA http://www.mercerarc.org/. Better know as "Advocacy and Resource for Citizens with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and their Families". So is my sister. So don't tell me "until you have a child in special education don't assume you know the abilities of their brains". So I asked a simple question again "can you give me the site where you found out your information the SAME test as the regular population"?
Roll Back Our Tax September 04, 2012 at 08:41 PM
Kimberly, so again show me the part where it says...."it's the same test".
Roll Back Our Tax September 05, 2012 at 02:04 PM
Obviously they don't take the same test.
Watson September 06, 2012 at 06:50 PM
So where does it say they take a different test?
Roll Back Our Tax September 06, 2012 at 08:25 PM
My dear Watson..."How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth"?
james September 07, 2012 at 09:56 PM
frances ave mother of two October 04, 2012 at 04:10 PM
RBOT I am a special education teacher and have administered the exact same test to special needs students as the regular students for the last 10 plus years. The only students who are exempt from the test are those with the most severe handicapps and even they must complete an alternative proficiency exam that adheres to the same standards. This despite that fact that most of them need to learn to tell time and count money, not read and interpret a vertex edge graph. In fact I just finished administering the HSPA to students who did not pass it last year- students with special needs. So you are correct some students are assessed differently, but the vast majority are required to take the exact same test with very few of the same modifications they are required to get in the classroom to be compliant with their IEP.
frances ave mother of two October 04, 2012 at 04:18 PM
Once again it is the same test. The site you are referring to is discussing how the school district will decide the level of proficiency in the english language for students whose native language is something other. Even those students are given the same state test, however their version is in spanish and the proctor is spanish speaking. Please double check your facts before assuming everyone is lying to you. I believe even the attorney general could tell you that.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something