Home LifestyleCareer A Q+A With This Year’s Hoboken Board of Education Candidates

A Q+A With This Year’s Hoboken Board of Education Candidates

by Hoboken Girl Team
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November is just around the corner here in Hudson County, which means Election Day — on November 8th — is quickly approaching. Local Hobokenites will soon decide who will fill the three vacancies on the Hoboken Board of Education. Before voting + before election results can roll in, it’s important to get to know the candidates and their beliefs on a variety of issues. Eight candidates are running for the Board of Education this year: three are part of the Kids First Slate, three are part of the Leadership That Listens slate, and two are running as independents. The only debate will be occurring on October 28th at AJ Demarest Middle School at 7PM — and it will be available both in person and via livestream. We had a conversation with these candidates to help you prepare for Election Day 2022. Read on to learn more about the Hoboken Board of Education candidates. 

Please note: The Hoboken Girl has contacted all candidates for whom we had contact information. We covered the answers of those who replied to our questions. 

hoboken board of ed candidates

The Candidates

Only one current board member is running for reelection: Trustee Alex De La Torre. The two incumbents, Trustees Sheillah Dallara and Joyce Simons, did not file to run, per Hudson Reporter

This means there are three seats available for a three-year term. De La Torre is part of a three-person slate, Leadership That Listens, and is opposed by another three-person slate, Kids First Slate. There are also two independents running.

Kids First Slate

  • Cindy Wiegand, who has experience in consumer insights and has been involved with education-related non-profits
  • Donna Magen, who has a background in sales, negotiation, and works for a hospitality corporation
  • Pavel Sokolov, who has experience as a Certified Public Accountant and has lobbied in Trenton + Congress for higher education funding. He is also the chairman of the Hudson County Young Republicans

Leadership That Listens

  • Alex De La Torre, who has served as a BOE Trustee for 3 years after being appointed as a Board Trustee in 2018
  • Antonio Graña, who has worked with school administrators and the BOE on improving parent engagement and has experience in business management and governance in the private sector
  • Leslie Norwood, who has worked as a securities attorney and federal lobbyist focusing on infrastructure finance

Independents

  • Patricia Waiters, who is a local activist and a perennial candidate
  • John Madigan, who is a former school board trustee who served one term from 2016 to 2018

For more information on the Board of Ed, click here.

There will be a debate on Friday, October 28th at AJ Demarest Middle School, located at 158 4th Street, at 7PM. Per Hudson Reporter, this event will be in person and livestreamed on Hudson County View’s Facebook page.

A Q+A With the 2022 Candidates

Hoboken Girl: What made you want to run for the Board of Education?

Alex De La Torre: I want to run for reelection because I have witnessed first-hand the tremendous progress in this district, and I want to see that growth continue. I have always been a passionate advocate for public education, and I wanted to use my position as a parent of children in the district schools, a taxpaying member of the community, and an expert in financial planning and analysis to support this growth.

Antonio Graña: My daughter has been in public education since Pre-K and is now a 6h grader at Hoboken Middle School. In that time, I have been heavily engaged in my daughter’s school and the district at large including running a campaign for the recent high school referendum. Hoboken is a fantastic place for kids and public schools. The district has been growing consistently welcoming new families while keep the needs of a diverse student population front and center. I believe my experience in the public, private, and non-profit sectors can help make a difference to the governance role of the Board of Education.

Cindy Wiegand: I am grateful for the great education I received and being on the BOE is a way for me to give back to the next generation. Serving on the BOE is a way for me show (and not just tell) my own three kids how important education is. Excellent public schools elevate and stabilize communities. I want to help make our schools be the shining star of education in New Jersey and a reason people choose Hoboken as their community. I have long been interested in education and cost of living issues in Hoboken. The lack of transparency in the January referendum and the need to strike a balance between education needs and fiscal responsibility are other reasons why I got involved. We have an obligation to do both to bring back trust between BOE and the community. I have a background in gathering community feedback and coming up with creative, actionable solutions—so my new perspective will be a helpful addition to the Board. I think it is important for the Board to be made of people with a diversity of experience and ideas. Discussion and debate can be respectful and productive, versus our current Board that mostly votes 9-0 on all agenda items. I want every student who goes to Hoboken schools to leave prepared for an independent future and have the best academic education possible. I think learning should be joyful, and I will bring this enthusiasm to my BOE service.

Donna Magen: My “ah-ha” moment came during Covid when I felt that I did not have much of a voice to advocate for my children. Once I started to understand the impact the BOE can have to affect change, I was energized to be a bigger part of my children’s educational future. The HS referendum’s lack of transparency was another inflection point in which I felt people should have been made aware. I truly believe that with community input, some better decision making could have happened that would have satisfied everyone and still improved facilities and educational outcomes.

Leslie Norwood: The HPSD has made significant progress in the last 7-8 years, and I want to ensure that trend continues. As a lawyer and trained advocate, I can properly champion for the children in the Hoboken Public School District to make sure they have the resources they need to foster the best academic outcomes possible. When I moved to Hoboken in 1998, the deferred maintenance on the Hoboken Public School District caught my attention. My eldest child entered the HPSD in 2016, and while I was impressed with the program, the need for more funding through the district was clear. In 2017, I joined the Hoboken Public Education Foundation to help raise private money for the public school. My experience as an inquisitive and involved district parent has shown me areas where I believe the district could improve, as all organizations can always do.

Pavel Sokolov: I am a firm believer that public education is the great equalizer. It allows people to pursue their passions, further their career goals, and become well rounded members of society.  As an immigrant, I benefited greatly from attending a high quality public NJ high school and then continued on for undergraduate and graduate degrees at public institutions of higher education, Rutgers University and Baruch College. I want to be a part of the solution and drive public education to new heights here in Hoboken. Additionally, I was very disappointed with the Board of Education trustees and their handling of the $241 million referendum. We all believe the facilities need improvement and we all want a top notch school system for our kids and the community. What the broader community did not support, myself included, was the approach of secrecy. The board quietly put together a $241 million dollar plan without broad community discussion and input. The plan was outrageously expensive, the community was never asked to weigh in on the cost or the spending priorities. I am motivated to be part of the board of education because I want to help bridge a partnership with our residents, all of our residents, through transparency and collaboration.

HG: What is your own experience with public education?

Alex De La Torre: I have two daughters that have been in the district school system since Pre-K3; they are now a sophomore at Hoboken High School and an 8th grader at Hoboken Middle School. My wife and I are both products of public education and attribute much of our success to that upbringing. It was important to us that our children had that same experience. I am happy to say, first-hand, that my daughters are challenged, exposed to a variety of innovative programs, and come home happy every day.

Antonio Graña: I am a product of public schools in multiple cities. K-12. The best experiences have been those that balance three elements. academic rigor, diversity, and community engagement. 

Cindy Wiegand: I went to a large and diverse public high school, with a graduating class of over 500, which served as a springboard for my higher education and professional and personal development. When I think about the high school I went to, it tracks closely with a Kurt Vonnegut quote, “High school is closer to the core of the American experience than anything else I can think of.” I am constantly telling my kids anecdotes about my public school, the academic and social lessons I learned, and the variety of people who were at that school. I am grateful for the amazing teachers I had at my high school and that they were invested in the success of their students. My peers, my teachers, and the community at my high school shaped so much of who I am. I am motivated to give back to future generations the blessings that I had as far as education.

Donna Magen: I grew up in Tenafly, NJ, one of the top public school systems in the state. When I think back on what made elementary through high school so wonderful for me, it was not the facilities themselves (we did not have an Olympic sized swimming pool or an ice-skating rink) it was the pride in our educational system: in our teachers and after-school programs. I always felt like Tenafly parents were on the same page: collaborative and nurturing. Family and community support generate successful outcomes. I am very grateful for the experience I had in the Tenafly school system. This is exactly how I want my two sons to feel about Hoboken.

Leslie Norwood: I have two children at Brandt that have been in the HPSD since Pre-K3. I personally attended public school in Summit from K through 12. As a first-generation American, the importance of a good education was of utmost importance, and I am raising my children with that mindset as well. Good public education is a critical part of a vibrant
community, and an essential way for anyone to get ahead in life. When my youngest had learning differences that were eventually diagnosed as dyslexia, literacy teaching and tools because a passion project of mine. I continue to advocate for additional services that will benefit all the district schoolchildren.

Pavel Sokolov: I attended public school in Edison, New Jersey (John P. Stevens High) and our NJ State public university, Rutgers where I served as student body president. I later attended Baruch College for my masters degree which is part of the New York City public university programs

HG: If elected, what will be your top three priorities for the district?

Alex De La Torre:

1) Continue to improve the educational outcomes of every student. Specifically diagnosing the reason for low test scores and implementing programming to handle the root causes.
2) Invest in our facilities, training, and teachers while maintaining fiscal responsibility.
3) Create more community involvement – whether that be by livestreaming meetings, partnering with the city to spread the word, etc – we want to hear from the community we serve.

Antonio Graña: In addition to the primary role of providing governance and oversight, I would like to be part of a much broader dialogue in the city about pride in our schools, the unique challenges facing schools in Hoboken, and the case for continued investment.

Cindy Wiegand: Making sure that we prepare all types of learners for an independent future whether they plan on going to 4-year college, 2-year college, vocational school, or a different path and working through any learning loss from the past couple of years, whether it be academic, social/emotional, or motor skills. Creative problem solving for our infrastructure needs that balances academic needs with cost of living. Increasing community buy-in, enthusiasm, and collaboration around our district schools. My dream is that things like Friday night football games or debate tournaments are the talk of the town. I want to involve the larger community in education and unite students from all types of schools as one Hoboken invested in what is going on with our district schools. If we work together and support each other and bring our students along doing the same, we will see incredible results.

Donna Magen: Transparency and communication is something I would prioritize and be personally committed to should I be elected. Addressing pandemic learning loss would be a top priority as well. And lastly, creative problem solving regarding our capacity and facility issues. I want to hear and entertain more solutions to the structural issues we are facing.

Leslie Norwood: 

1) Focus on continuing to improve academic outcomes by enhancing teacher tools such as updated curricula and training, as well as increasing literacy assessments, and supports.
2) Address the facilities needs of the HPSD in a fiscally responsible manner, taking into account decades of deferred maintenance and growing enrollment.
3) Increase community engagement by livestreaming meetings, developing and publishing a 3-to-5-year strategic plan with community input addressing topics including facilities; and improving Board transparency by posting interim financials and public documents filed with NJ DOE.

Pavel Sokolov:

1: Repair the trust between the Board of Education and the community at large.  I want to not only open up the board of education meetings via live stream but encourage attendance. Newsletters and updates about clubs and program successes should continue. But in addition, we need to invite the community into the conversations that also impact them including financial and facilities challenges as these are decisions being made on their behalf.

2: Address the lack of space and adequate facilities in the elementary and middle school grades, as well as work on a plan that involves all stakeholders to either renovate or construct a new Hoboken High School. Asking everyone to fund hundreds of millions of dollars is not the only way to support our children. The best solution will come through community input and by applying creative and strategic resource management. We can do better, together.

3: Reach out and build collaboration with all educational stakeholders in town, City Hall, Library system, Housing Authority, non-profit orgs, public charter schools, and independent schools. We are all Hoboken residents in a mile square town. It is time for the BoE to role model inclusivity and collaboration. We can all thrive together, sharing the best of all of our schools and by connecting our kids through collaborative programs, we can unify our community and our school system.

HG: What do you think should be the top priority for the long-term benefit of the school district?

Alex De La Torre: Investing. Our kids deserve the best trained teachers, modern facilities, and higher education or career pathway training that ensures their success when they leave Hoboken schools. These initiatives cost money and we need to ensure that each taxpayer dollar is used wisely and effectively.

Antonio Graña: Normally I would say that it’s a combination of the last three items I mentioned: excellence, diversity, and engagement. However, now we are at a critical turning point in terms of our infrastructure and funding. With 27% growth in the 8 years and buildings that are all between 50 and 115 years old we need to help the district and community navigate how and where we will house our district school children. This is a priority. 

Cindy Wiegand: Making Hoboken a place where people come and remain because of the public schools. A thriving school district makes our town more desirable, even for residents who do not have children. Excellent public schools lift and stabilize the entire community. The more community support there is around the schools, the more benefit to the schools. Educational excellence for all types of learners, collaboration, transparency, accountability, and being mindful of taxpayer dollars are all facets that will bring additional community enthusiasm around our schools.

Donna Magen: I think cohesion is a big one and frankly the one thing the board has yet to rally around, yet it something we can do at low cost with potentially high impact. Sure, there logistical and operational challenges to address but working together seems like such an obvious way to better the experience for everyone and it remains disappointing that we function quite the opposite. We recently met with Doctor Johnson and asked her what she believes is the number one issue facing our schools today. She unequivocally said division. I want to bring charter, public, and private schools together in a way that promotes all our children growing up together: sharing facilities perhaps, after-school programs, theatre, visual arts etc. Coming together as one town will only encourage more and more families to stay and send their children through 12th grade.

Leslie Norwood: Student achievement is my number one concern, and there is always room for improvement. Over the past 8 years, the curriculum, test scores, and other programs focused on academic outcomes have all significantly improved. Between our AP class offering and the Albert Platform; STEM programming, such as Project Lead the Way and Riverkeepers; and additional programs such as Passport to Learning, LEAP and the HHS’ new academic support center; we are focused on the holistic experience that we know will not only improve outcomes, but set our kids up for success in whatever
pathways they choose. As improving academic outcomes will always be the top priority, I would be remiss to not mention the facilities challenge we face in the district. Our district will be strained to provide safe and adequate space for the over 3,000 students it must educate from pre-K to grade 12 in the next few years. During Dr. Johnson’s tenure as Superintendent, student enrollment in grades K through 12 has risen 26.33% from 2014-15 to 2021-2022, which equates to about 500 students. We cannot separate academic outcomes from facilities, despite how others may frame it.

Pavel Sokolov: A top priority is addressing the drop off in enrollment at the upper grades. We need families regardless of which schools their children attend in the early grades to feel confident that Hoboken High School is the best choice for their children. I believe that the division fueled by the BoE is impacting the enrollment in high school. I am excited to be part of the change to bring our families together and work in partnership to help all our schools and students excel and then see them all join together for an incredible high school experience.

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HG: How would you describe the ideal relationship between the school district and the community?

Alex De La Torre: A symbiotic one. Every day, the community trusts us with their children, and we take that job very seriously. In order to foster this relationship, we need to do more work to involve the community to participate and provide input. Our sincere hope is that the community reciprocates by engaging with us and learning more about its schools.

Antonio Graña: It really depends. One reflection is in the enrollment rate and the number of families who are staying in Hoboken and keeping their children in the public school district. I find that school district parents have a great relationship with the district, and this is a natural bond. However, there are many other stakeholders in the community such as charter school parents and taxpayers without children in the public schools. I feel that these relationships need to be nurtured further.

Cindy Wiegand: The district and the community should look at each other as partners in the mission of educating the next generations. It is our responsibility to make sure that there are academic opportunities available to our students that will prepare them for the future. We also need to provide our residents with transparency, input, and a commitment to fiscal responsibility. While students are our focus, our schools are funded by the entire community and the voice of everyone is important. In an ideal world, the community would see the schools as the core of the city and a valuable investment, and the district would try to involve the community as much as possible. The school district should also be mindful that decisions they make can have a financial impact on all our residents. Therefore, whenever the district is making a decision that will affect residents financially, it should be clear and transparent about what it is seeking to do and why.  We also have residents who would happily share expertise, knowledge and experience and we should encourage more community input on a regular basis so we always provide the best ideas and solutions. The Board serves as an advocate and as a leadership team but there is no reason why all the ideas need to come from the Board—let’s work together with the community.

Donna Magen: I certainly do not think that the school district needs to involve the community on every decision. But when it comes to major decisions such as the HS referendum, community input should be welcome and encouraged, frankly it should have been required. We have wonderful resources right here in Hoboken that should be tapped into to address challenges we face with school facilities for example. The ideal relationship is one of mutual respect and collaboration, something that is very much lacking as it stands today.

Leslie Norwood: The ideal relationship between the HPSD and the community would be one of understanding, support and cooperation. We have an amazing amount of talent in Hoboken, and I’d like to see a broader group of people take an interest in our public schools by volunteering their efforts in some way. With that said, we need to do a better job of getting the word out and encouraging participation and input at all levels.

Pavel Sokolov: The ideal relationship would be one of trust and collaboration. We need to have an open line of two way communication between the Board of Education and the public at large. Everyone should feel welcome to voice their concerns and their opinions. We need all our residents, parents and non-parents alike to recognize the importance and value of investing and supporting our public school district. And in return, we need a board who understands that all voices matter including all of our residents who do not have children in the system as they are helping fund programs for their neighbors.

HG: What do you believe is the single most important issue or challenge facing the school system and what specifically do you plan to do to address it if you are elected?

Alex De La Torre: Due to our growing enrollment, we are running out of space. Given that we are a one-
square mile city with extremely limited space and very old buildings, our infrastructure needs are what keeps me up at night. We heard from the community that the last plan for our facilities was unacceptable. We are committed to go back to the drawing board and find the path forward that puts our kids at the forefront while considering taxpayer implications.

Antonio Graña: I think I answered this question above but there are really three.  1) ensuring that that our curriculum fosters an environment of academic excellence and inclusion of our diverse Hoboken community. 2) Broadening the outreach within the community. 3) Working with the community to solve our problems of lack of physical space in aging buildings. There are a number of studies that demonstrate a direct correlation between the quality and health of school buildings and academic performance. In a sense, these cannot be separated. 

Cindy Wiegand: We have a diverse set of learners with a diverse set of support systems. Our goal in public education is to make sure we prepare all our students for an independent future. Therefore, we must be learner centered in approach and be partners with parents and the community. We must tap community, county, and state resources —both financial and human — to be sure all learners are getting the education and support in and out of school they need to succeed. And we want the entire community to rally around our schools, whether or not they have children, which includes getting community buy-in for any infrastructure needs.

Donna Magen: Right now, I listen to my fellow parents talk about pandemic learning loss. This is a huge issue that must be addressed and made a top priority.  We have the resources to impact change. We have an incredibly high budget and need to allocate resources differently. We have a highly educated community where we can create high impact after school and tutoring, We can call upon our community for volunteers leveraging our retirees and our local Stevens University students. We can also create partnerships with Hudson County colleges. We simply need to reach out and put these programs in place. This is what our slate hopes to achieve, partnership with the community so that we can help all of the kids catch up and thrive.

Leslie Norwood: Our biggest challenge in the near term is going to be rising costs and inflation. When the same goods and services cost more, they are going to have a significant impact on the budget, and therefore the programming and services we can offer. We will need to manage through this, while considering that taxpayers are also feeling their own budgetary pinch. The reality is that old buildings are costly to heat and maintain, the costs of all supplies are rising, and the teacher contract needs to be renegotiated this year. Given my background and experience, I want to ensure the budget is carefully reviewed and that we squeeze as much as we can out of every tax dollar, while also looking to outside funding sources to defray costs.

Pavel Sokolov: From a facilities perspective, I believe we need to address the expanded facilities needs for our elementary and middle school students. We need to communicate and build consensus to ensure we have the support to repair and expand our facilities. I propose more frequent town halls, moderated focus groups, and joint task forces with community and board members who have expertise in development, funding, logistics, resource management so we ensure we think through every possible scenario. We also need to work diligently to get a commitment to secure additional funding from the School Development Authority.

HG: How do you believe the pandemic impacted education locally? What are your thoughts on how to ensure that high quality education persists through uncertain times?

Alex De La Torre: I don’t think the aftermaths have been fully diagnosed, considering the pandemic only recently “ended.” With that said, I think our district comparably saw considerably less learning loss, given we were able to fully reopen our doors in September 2020, with only 4 months of complete remote learning. Pandemic or not, we have always prioritized learning. We are committed to ensuring teachers have the tools to support different types of learners, giving kids experiential learning opportunities even if they don’t have access to our buildings, and providing both teachers and students with the technology & training to ensure a seamless transition from in-person to virtual class learning, if ever we need to do it again. We need to have a plan that ensures we are ready for the unexpected, but based on what happened the last time, I think it is clear we are putting both educational needs and safety above all.

Antonio Graña: Through amazing effort, our Hoboken public schools were able to offer both an in-person and remote offerings to students during the height of the pandemic. Nevertheless, the COVID 19 pandemic was hugely disruptive to everyone. The normal evaluative cycle was suspended during this time and so the most recent test data we have from the state is for 2018-2019. As new benchmark tests are received, we need to analyze the results very carefully so we can plan on how to close any gaps that may have resulted from the disruption.

Cindy Wiegand: I know from first-hand experience with my kids that there was learning loss, not just on academic subjects but on things such as motor skills and social interaction. Our kids’ education and social emotional needs should be a top priority for any future decisions. Included in that is soliciting parent input, being transparent with decision making, and prioritizing in person learning.

Donna Magen: According to the NYT, the pandemic has erased two decades of progress in reading and math. We need to take this seriously and give our children and parents everything they need to catch them up. As far as the future goes, I very much appreciate the board’s decision to get children into classrooms more rapidly than the rest of the state, but we must ensure that we are doing everything we can to give them a normal educational trajectory.

Leslie Norwood: I do believe that students are suffering from an achievement gap due to the pandemic, although admittedly less than in other districts which were fully remote for longer periods of time. There are several efforts that I believe are or will be helpful to teachers and parents to handle any pandemic-related academic setbacks. I have advocated to have the HPSD train elementary and upper grade resource teachers in the Orton Gillingham method. I was a Board Member of the Hoboken Public Education Foundation when that training was funded. The Orton Gillingham method is a teaching tool to assist teaching children with dyslexia and other learning differences how to read, but it also benefits all children learning to read. Academic excellence starts with reading as the foundation for all learning, and this additional teacher training fits squarely in the goal of continuing to improve academic outcomes in reading/ELA. I also believe that DRA reading assessments should not stop in second grade, and that such assessments should continue until students “test out” and prove literacy. The addition of math specialists at each school, much like there are currently reading specialists, could be helpful as an additional support. Finally, non-evaluative in-class teacher trainers will be helpful to assist with implementation of new teaching tools and curriculum, as well as differentiation of the curriculum to different levels of students in the same class. As an aside, the pandemic has impacted many students’ social and emotional development. I believe the recent adoption of social-emotional learning programs like Rachel’s Challenge, that focus on kindness and inter-connectedness, will be helpful after the isolation of the pandemic. I will note that the HPEF also funded the implementation of Rachel’s Challenge.

Pavel Sokolov: We need to address the learning loss and the mental health effects of the pandemic on both children and professional staff. We need to involve mental health specialists, counselors, and educational experts, to ensure that there is adequate support for our students and our staff.

HG: What do you think is the purpose of public education?

Alex De La Torre: The purpose of public education is three-fold – 1) we want to send our community’s
children into the world ready to be productive members of society 2) give them the ability to critically think and make informed decisions and 3) provide social mobility though increased opportunities. American public schools are the great equalizer, and I support that mission wholeheartedly.

Antonio Graña: A wise person once told me that one of the chief jobs of any civilization is educating their young. The purpose of public education is laying a foundation for that education which is both to improve the opportunities of our young but also to invest in the strength of our democracy.

Cindy Wiegand: To prepare all our kids for an independent future and to instill a love of learning and inquiry.  Public education should provide the academic rigor to prepare students for an independent future and should be a path for any student to better their life no matter what circumstances they come from. In addition to core academics, we can provide support for critical thinking, financial literacy, and other skills that will help students transition more successfully to adulthood.

Donna Magen: Public education is giving everyone in a community an even playing field. It is an amazing way to give children of all backgrounds, races, creeds etc. the opportunity to excel together. As a product of an amazing public education system, I always knew I wanted my children to be given the same opportunity. Public education is ever-evolving, which is why it is so important for parents to have a voice and to be informed of what is going on in the classroom.

Leslie Norwood: The purpose of public education is to give every child, no matter what their circumstances, a good education and solid foundation for the future.

Pavel Sokolov: Public education exists to educate our children so they have the skills and knowledge to be successful, respectful, and engaged members of society regardless of socio economic status. Public education is the cornerstone of the American Dream.

HG: If elected, what excites you the most about serving?

Alex De La Torre: If I am reelected, I want to supercharge the progress we have made so far, which has been tremendous over the last 10 years. While I respect the Charters, Independent, and Private schools in town, many of them provide a very specialized experience that may not be right for every learner or may be financially out of reach. This is why I want to ensure that the district schools are considered a preeminent choice for education in this town, full stop.

Antonio Graña: Giving back. Over the last 10 years I have had the wonderful opportunity to augment my professional and personal life to focus more on community service and giving back to Hoboken. I have been fortunate and blessed to be able to do so through all kinds of volunteer and community engagements as well as serving on municipal boards. Service Is being part of and helping to make a community.

Cindy Wiegand: I am excited to bring a new perspective and new ideas. My background involves finding creative solutions to problems, and I think asking questions and looking at things in a unique way will be a benefit to our district. I think learning should be joyful and that the community and parents should have a voice. I will bring that community-oriented mindset to the Board. I have been fortunate to have amazing educators that helped me succeed throughout my life. In adulthood I have stayed involved in education working with a variety of non-profits, including going into schools to help with literacy. Board service would be a continuation of my interest in giving back to our future generations.

Donna Magen: If elected, I am excited to continue to learn about current issues (especially with regards to facilities) facing our schools. I completely agree that it is one thing to say “the HS referendum was not transparent and therefore should be voted down” and another to be open to creative problem solving. I am very open-minded to all sides, and I look forward to hopefully collaborating with the board and the community at large.

Leslie Norwood: If elected, I want to ensure that the HPSD continues to improve and it poised to handle the changes that the next 3 to 5 years will bring. It is important to me to leave my community better than when I found it!

Pavel Sokolov: I want to be part of the change. I want to be part of a board that bridges relationships and truly collaborates. I want to show our students and our community that we can all thrive together.

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HG: What is your favorite thing about Hoboken?

Alex De La Torre: Hoboken is a truly special place. Even though we number 60,000, it feels much smaller. The strong sense of community and pride is something that makes our city so unique and endearing.

Antonio Graña: Oh my goodness. I think we all know that is too long list to provide here. But let me keep it relevant to the schools. My two favorite things are the fact that my daughter can actually walk to school and become an individual in a safe, nurturing community. The second would be the diverse set of friends my daughter has made over the last 9 years of her educational experience. 

Cindy Wiegand: That I can walk to the pediatrician.

Donna Magen: I love the diversity that Hoboken offers. People come from all walks of life, countries, backgrounds and I love being a part of that. Hoboken is a small city, but has such an enormous presence and personality. This is the energy that attracts so many families here. I want us to be a community of people who do not want to leave (even for the temptation of space and parking) because the education offered in Hoboken is progressive and top notch.

Leslie Norwood: Honestly, it would be so hard to narrow it down to one thing because there are so many things that make Hoboken special. It warms my heart to see the community rally around someone in crisis. Or when we band together to get a lost lovey back to an inconsolable child. We take care of our own here. All you need to do is open your door to make connections with others. If I had to boil it down, what I love about Hoboken is its diversity, sense of community, and connectivity.

Pavel Sokolov: The residents that live in Hoboken are what makes Hoboken most special. We are a cosmopolitan community with people from all over the world, but due to our small size, it can also be a small tight knit community.

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