HOBOKEN MATTERS: Board of Education Candidate Ailene McGuirk


It is election season again and there are several seats up for grabs in Hoboken's Board of Education. These individuals play a crucial role in the growth and success of our school system and as a thriving and growing school district, this election is a very important one!

To gain a better understanding of the candidates, LH contacted each one and sent the exact same questions. The responses are 100% unedited & unchanged in any way. Ailene McGuirk and Patricia Waiters are running as independents, while Tom Kluepfel, John Madigan and Malani Cademartori are running as a slate.

Please note: Candidate Patricia Waiters declined to participate despite several attempts.

Order of listing does not reflect any endorsement or preference.

This is a non-sponsored post, and serves informational purposes only.

For more information on any candidate or slate, please click the top photo to visit their

website and/or FB pages. To read responses from another candidate, please click on

their photo at the bottom of this post.

Election Day is TUESDAY NOV 6th

PLEASE VOTE !

How long have you lived in Hoboken, and do you have children in the Hoboken Public School system?

I first moved to Hoboken in 1999. My husband Matt and I spent three years up the hill in the Heights, and returned to Hoboken in 2012 after our first daughter, Grace, was born. She is now in first grade at Connors after attending public pre-k at Demarest. Late in 2015 we were blessed to welcome a second daughter, Siobhan, who will start public pre-k next autumn.

Hoboken Public schools are a controversial topic, with many transient Hoboken residents citing the schools as reason for moving to suburbia. What do you think is the biggest misconception about our schools, and what would you like the community to know?

One of the biggest misconceptions about our district, to me, is when people try to make an “apples to apples” comparison between Hoboken and suburban NJ school districts. I think it is important for all parties here in town to keep in mind that the Hoboken Public School District has undergone a complete transformation in the last decade. There was a time when our district was not well run, and many parties were misusing taxpayer dollars. That is not the case anymore, and this progress was achieved by the hard work of Board of Education Trustees who put our kids and community first. Trustees who insured that our tax dollars would be spent in the classroom. It is the result of having a responsible, visionary Superintendent in Dr. Christine Johnson. Unfortunately this was not always the case, and while those times are in the rear view mirror, you can’t take progress for granted. I was here when this journey started, and I remember what the “not so good days” looked like. We cannot go back. Each family that places their children in district schools is a part of the progress, as is every resident who speaks up on behalf of our students and schools. Many families decide to continue their journey in the suburbs, but I see the schools as having shifted from being the main reason families move, to being one of a host of factors, including the increasing cost of Hoboken properties.

What motivates you to become a member of the BOE, and what is your experience in public education?

I was motivated to run for the Board for several reasons, the main one being my own daughter’s wonderful experience at Connors. The sitting Board has many parents of Wallace students, as Wallace is the largest of our elementary schools. I think it is important to have parents from a variety of schools on the Board so that it’s perspective can be shaped by voices and experiences from all of our district schools. I graduated from a public HS, and I believe that public education is the single best resource we have against many societal ills, including poverty and racism.

As a member of the BOE, do you see yourself as a representative of the community or of the school system? What does that mean to you?

I see BOE Trustees as having a responsibility to represent the community when making decisions about our schools but also to serve as the face of the district in the community. The Board of Education has responsibility and oversight of a good portion of the municipal tax levy, and that responsibility requires the Board to answer not just to students and parents, but to tax payers as well. The entire community benefits from thriving, diverse public schools.

What do you think is the school system's greatest challenges right now, and what are your plans to address this?

The district has short-term and long-term challenges. I see the biggest short-term challenge as communication. The communications program needs to be revamped for the modern era. It is too hard for families joining our district or moving into Hoboken to find crucial school information without going to third party sites like Little Hoboken. It is also challenging for parents and community members to find out all of the things that are happening, good or bad, within the district without watching BOE meetings or closely following the district twitter page.

Long-term our greatest challenge is space. As more development grows in Hoboken additional school space will need to be planned and paid for. The BOE and District need to be a part of conversations around development so that we plan properly for the future of all our kids.

One of the most common comments/questions we hear about the school district is, "The elementary schools have improved, but I don't know if I want my child staying in the public district for middle or high school." What is your response to this?

This is definitely one of the most common questions I get from parents. It is imperative for parents of kids of any age to take advantage of events like the “High School Showcase of Excellence” to get a feel for what Hoboken HS is about. Similarly it is important for parents to do the same for Hoboken Middle School. Meet the students and the families, hear about the wonderful schools the recent graduates have gained acceptance to. The current freshman class at Hoboken High School started kindergarten in the fall of 2009. Irene Sobolov, who just stepped down after nine years of Board Service was just starting her first term then. We are only just starting to reap the true benefits of work that was started a little over ten years ago. When I look at my own kids I can’t help but think with so much has improved in the last 10 years, how much better can our district be in 2023 when Grace enters Middle School? What will Hoboken High School look like in 2030 when Siobhan will be a freshman? So much of that will be determined by the folks who are elected this year. Every seat on the Board of Education needs to be filled by a person who is committed to working through the inevitable changes we will face to keep the process moving forward.

What is your view of the relationship between the BOE and the superintendent of schools? What is your ideal relationship between the two offices, and how will you work to achieve that?

The most important job that a Board of Education has is hiring and retaining a Superintendent with the proper skill set and vision to run a District. The ideal relationship is that of a Board of Directors and a CEO – setting goals and tracking the progress against those goals for both the District and the Superintendent. I have worked closely with Dr. Johnson as Co-Chair of the Connors PTO and many of our conversations are reflected in new kindergarten placement process that was implemented for this year. I hope to continue this positive working relationship if elected.

If a parent, teacher, principal or even a student comes to you with an issue, suggestion or complaint, what do you see as your role in addressing this?

Board Members should be accessible to the community. It is also important for parents, students, and staff to follow the proper chain of command when there is an issue or complaint. Teacher, Dean of Students, Principal, Assistant Superintendent, Superintendent, and finally the Board of Education. Suggestions are a different story – I would hope that anyone and everyone would be open to bringing suggestions to me with the understanding that I am one member of a nine member board, and an understanding that if the suggestions is school-specific the proper chain of command should be followed.

What is your philosophy of special education and how will you support the needs of special needs children?

I am so proud of the Special Education Programs that we have in Hoboken. I am pleased that Dr. Johnson has been extending the range of support services available in each of the elementary schools, which reduces the need for all students in need of services to be placed at Wallace. I want our district to continue to do everything that we can to make sure that families of students with special needs receive everything that their young learner is entitled to, while also supporting the recommendations of each students IEP. Recently I have heard concerns from parents of students with IEPs that there is room for improvement and if elected I want to make sure that those families are heard.

Let's end on a fun note- when you aren't campaigning and have some down time, where do you like to go in Hoboken?

There are so many wonderful places to go in Hoboken! We love Jackson Street Park, Church Square Park, and all summer we had a blast at Tuesday night music in the SW Park. My kids’ favorite restaurant on the planet in Northern Soul, and last weekend we just checked out G. Millz Boken Roadhouse. When the adults get to do the decision making we head to Northern Soul, Sorrelina, Bin 14, La Isla, House of ‘Cue, Leo’s, The Elysian and Del Frisco’s. I am a big fan of Coffee from Bwe and find the croissants at Choc-o-Pain to be as good as Paris. And we can’t forget sandwiches! My personal favorites are the Roast Beef and the Corned Beef from Fiore’s, the Meatball Parmesan from Losurdo’s, and the Vito’s Hero from Vito’s. Still hungry? The egg sandwiches from Café Sophia on Monroe Street are divine. Maybe I should write a food column if this Board of Education thing doesn’t pan out…

Read responses from other BOE candidates

Please Note: Patricia Waiters declined to participate in this questionnaire


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