HOBOKEN MATTERS: Board of Education Candidate Malani Cademartori


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?

We have lived here for a little over 6 years having moved to Hoboken in summer 2012. At the time, we had only one daughter. We have since had another daughter and both now attend Salvatore Calabro Elementary School (our district’s smallest public school) in kindergarten and third grade. My husband’s mother’s family were long time Hobokeners (Hobokenites?). His Nana worked for over 40 years in the Wallace front office and lived in Church Towers until she passed in 2009. We often came to have dinner with her here so we were very familiar with Hoboken before we made the move.

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?

I honestly feel that there are certain people, who are unfortunately some of the loudest voices, who benefit from the misconceptions that our schools are failing and riddled with incurable and institutional issues -- either because they directly profit from moving families out or because it fits their narrative and what they thrive off of for whatever reason. I’m also not sure why our public schools are so “controversial.” Among other things, we have incredibly small class sizes compared to most urban public systems, give attention where needed in special situations and for our kids with special needs, and the FACT is that amazing progress and changes are happening at our middle and high schools for what are, frankly, an incredible group of kids. The truth is that we have really great teachers and a very innovative and flexible administration – one that sees the issues and addresses them in a methodical and careful way. If people are looking for perfection anywhere, then they are living in a fantasyland. If people think things can change overnight, then they are simply being unreasonable. But, most importantly, if people think they can stand aside and complain, without actually making a positive and constructive contribution and impact, then they only deepen the misconception. What people should be focusing on is the dedicated pursuit of excellence, progress and innovation. We have that in abundance!

Our biggest issue is lack of involvement and information. Come to the Board of Education meetings, see what the district is doing, support the administration, hear the amazing stories, and listen to what we are up against in terms of negative views.

I will add one more thing, if our schools were as “controversial” as people are saying, you can be sure there would be a lot more negative voices at the Board of Ed meetings. When people are unsatisfied with what they are getting, they let you know. When they are satisfied, they sit back and let it happen. Our district serves thousands of families and there are very few people at meetings complaining. In fact the loudest complainers are people who do not have kids in our schools any more, and in some cases, don’t even live in our district.

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

As I have said many times, I am a product of inner city, public education, having grown up in Philly and graduated from public school before coming to New York for college. I went to school with an incredibly diverse group of people. All walks of life, personalities, socio-economic backgrounds, races, religions, etc. It was the best part of my education – it instilled me with empathy and a deep sense of openness and understanding of people that have had a very different experience than I may have had. I don’t know if you get that really anywhere else. It’s a huge part of raising a good citizen.

Quality public education is of course important in itself– it should be our equalizing force and I truly believe that this administration under Superintendent Johnson believes in that as well and has that as its main goal. I wouldn’t be where I am if not for a quality, public education. My father grew up in the Bronx in public school and went to City College (when it was free) and made it to where he was, as a tenured professor, because of his public education.

In terms of running for the Hoboken Board of Ed, there are a few things that led me here and one specific event that sealed the deal for me. Generally, I am very active in my daughters’ school and am in my second year of being president of our PTO – our PTO strives to provide educational enhancements to the school – career days, planetarium experiences – and strives for equal footing with the other schools – which is sometimes hard because we are so small. In being involved with the school, I got to know the administration and the sitting Board of Ed members and I find them and the work they do inspiring. I find a passion in them that also exists in me, and I want to be a part of that progress, a new and different voice with different experiences, but the same goals and interest in equality of our kids. More specifically, I began attending Board of Education meetings last year and hearing the extreme negativity – which was a little surprising. At one particular meeting, a slew of high school students showed up to defend their school against these words and attacks. They struck me as some of the most passionate and eloquent people (not just kids, but people), I had ever had the chance to hear speak publicly. It became clear to me that these acerbically negative attacks weren’t just words, they were affecting these kids personally, the kids we serve. That was it for me, I had to do something and running for BOE seemed like the most important next step.

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 it as both. I was a waitress all through college and law school – it was the best and most fantastic job, while simultaneously being difficult and draining. It gave me a thick skin and taught me to take it and to, frankly, serve. I see BOE service as very similar. We are in the middle, but play an important role to both sides. If I am elected, I would continue to be a representative of the community and taxpayers in general, and also for the people who actually send their kids to the schools, and finally for all of the kids in our schools. To really focus on the needs of the kids with the biggest needs. But I also think a big part of my position would be educating the public and community that I represent. Getting them involved and telling them what is happening in our great schools, as well as listening to concerns. Supporting our superintendent and creating support around her.

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

Having not yet served, I know a large part of what we do is supporting the administration, reviewing programs and making sure we maintain the budget to support innovation and progress. For me, I think the biggest challenge is getting people involved and informed about what is going on in our schools. The improvements and places where we are focusing on improvement. How issues are being addressed (where appropriate) and making sure the tax-paying public realizes how far we have come.

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 narrative is so old and outdated, and yet it persists, while our schools, and the middle and high schools undergo vast changes. I addressed this issue above in various ways, but basically, I would answer this question with a series of questions, including asking whether people that feel or think that way (1) have spent time in those schools recently, (2) have met and spent time with the kids in those kids, (3) have made any personal efforts to make a difference in those schools or (4) are informed of the vast changes and program innovations in those schools. Statements like those -- they aren’t informed and they aren’t helpful. They are hurtful to those kids and our hard-working teachers. We have a ways to go and nothing is ever going to be perfect, but spend some time there - the energy and excitement for change and investment in these kids and that these kids feel is palpable. Do yourself a favor, and go see for yourself what’s going on, try to get a little involved, and then let me know what you think.

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?

Having not yet served, I am not going to pretend that I know all the nuances, but I think the relationship, for this particular superintendent, has to be support and critical review of the administration’s policies, keeping in mind the common goals for our schools and kids and dealing with a budget, that by its very nature, is not limitless. The BOE hired this superintendent to implement its goals and policies and, given what I have seen thus far, needs to act in support of this superintendent’s methods and innovations. As an elected position, I would think our board members need to ask the hard questions and consider the different issues, not to be difficult, but to be thorough, but ultimately, we need to do that with an eye to believing in the expertise and vision of the professionals that we have hired to do a mammoth job.

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?

I have dealt with this, more often than I thought I would, as a PTO president and, frankly, although I am a helper and problem solver by nature, its not really my place or position to address a lot of the things that are asked of me in my current, very non-official position. I know this implicitly, but have learned through my drive to address issues and concerns that there is a protocol that must be followed and PTO president is not in the chain of “command” – nor should it be. If I am elected, I will never shed the open-ness to peoples’ issues, suggestions and complaints, but I know that my first order of business is finding out where the information goes and how it best gets there. So, in a way, taking a step back to make sure I can take the step forward for such things efficiently. Board members are not the people who will “fix” the problems of individuals – that is not their place – but we can help to define the protocol for our constituents.

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

One of the things that I really love about the Hoboken school district is the attention paid to our kids with special needs. I know people who have moved from private and charter schools in order to get their children, who have special needs, the resources they need and which the Hoboken district provides so well. I truly believe that the aim of public education, from the board through the administration and down to the individual teachers, should be to provide each student with the resources they need to succeed and to understand the needs of the children they serve.

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?

I love taking my kids to the many parks, bumping into people we know and spending an impromptu afternoon out with other families. We love to go out the restaurants and try something new, and no day is complete for me without a few trips down Washington to run errands and look in our shops. Just the ability to walk around and see people we know and say a quick “hi”. The sense of community is such a calming and relaxing constant.

Read responses from other BOE candidates

Please Note: Patricia Waiters declined to participate in this questionnaire


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