The textbook definition of a Superintendent of Schools is to oversee their school district’s operations, but Hoboken Superintendent Christine Johnson does so much more than just that. We had an opportunity to speak with Christine about how the Hoboken school district has addressed COVID-19 safety precautions in classrooms, accomplishments she’s most proud of, how the district creates a positive and inclusive environment for students, and more.
About Christine Johnson
Like many Superintendents, Christine started her career in education as a high school teacher, coach, and college professor, and her passion for teaching never wavered. “I started my career as a high school history teacher and varsity basketball and volleyball coach. My teams won conference, county, and state championships. I loved my time as an adjunct professor of history at Caldwell College,” Dr. Johnson told Hoboken Girl.
She then served as a content area supervisor for social studies in the Livingston School District, where she did extensive work in the areas of curriculum, instructional coaching, and professional development.
That’s not all. Christine’s extensive experience continued for several years before landing her current position in Hoboken. “I was the Assistant Superintendent of Schools for the Highland Park School District and the Summit School District. Following, I served as Superintendent for the Mendham Township School District and the Boonton Town School District in Morris County before coming to Hoboken. I have also served as an adjunct professor of graduate school education for Montclair State University since 2005,” Dr. Johnson explained.
With a resume like that, passion and commitment are the words that come to mind when considering what would inspire one to pursue a decades-long career. “When I became an Assistant Superintendent of Schools and began working closely with my first Superintendent and mentor, Marylu Simon, I knew that I wanted to aspire to that role. I saw the importance of service to a community-at-large,” she says.
She continued, “The Hoboken Public School District possesses the three paramount ingredients needed for a successful educational community: cooperation, patience, and partnership. I could not ask for a more committed collection of parents, guardians, staff, and board members.”
Creating a Positive and Inclusive Environment
“The Hoboken Public School District is committed to a positive and inclusive environment,” Dr. Johnson explains. “We are also committed to global learning and diversity and equity, which contributes to positivity and inclusivity. Last school year, we launched an office dedicated to this mission. There is no doubt that our schools are vibrantly diverse.”
The district is involved in different organizations and councils that foster an inclusive and safe environment for schools. “The Hoboken Public School District welcomes all students regardless of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, ancestry, disability, age, sexual orientation and/or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic status, or any other individual characteristic. As a district, we are members of the North Jersey Consortium for Excellence and Equity and Kean University’s Diversity Council,” she says.
The Hoboken district has also implemented several initiatives that encourage students to be independent and forward-thinking. “This year, we could not be more pleased to introduce the Best Buddies Program at Hoboken Middle School. Best Buddies International is a nonprofit organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development, and inclusive living for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” she told us.
The Board of Education believes that all students deserve to enjoy all extracurriculars and have access to the same information and resources, regardless of the student’s economic situation. As Dr. Johnson puts it, “There is not a program offered in the Hoboken Public School District that is not either free to all children or fee scaled for those children that qualify for free or reduced lunch. Whether it be world travel after school programming or summer camps, all have equitable access to all students.”
District Accomplishments To Be Proud Of
Over the past five years, Dr. Johnson is most proud of the district’s accomplishments in S.T.E.M learning, the award-winning Fine and Performing Arts Program, Global Learning within the curriculum, the Public Policy and Advocacy in Training Program, and various educational clubs like the Hispanic Culture Club and the National Honor Society.
“In 2020, our District was awarded as one of the Best Communities for Music Education by NAMM after reporting numerous awards at middle and high school music festivals and county and state-wide teen arts and thespian competitions,” Dr. Johnson shared.
Introducing other cultures and teaching the core values of those cultures, like learning their language, for example, is a priority for the district. “The Hoboken Public School District services children from eighteen countries across the world. At the elementary school level, our children take either Mandarin Chinese or Spanish as their World Language of study. At the middle school level, they may choose between Mandarin, Spanish or French.”
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Hoboken students can most impressively take the information of other cultures they learned in the classroom and experience it first-hand. “We are so proud of Hoboken High School’s Classrooms Without Walls Program, which brings the world to students of Hoboken regardless of their socio-economic background. Since 2016-2017, Hoboken High School students have traveled to France, Spain, Italy, England, Portugal, and Japan to date,” says Dr. Johnson.
Additionally, encouraging students to be innovative, give-back, and to be involved in their communities is another example of how the district helps mold these students to become their best selves through educational activities like mock trials and competitions. “Hoboken High School is quite serious about training students to be public advocates and servants. In 2019, the Harvard Model Congress Team from Hoboken High School received five international awards of excellence at the HMC Competition in Spain. Hoboken High School is also the 2020 Hudson County Mock Trial Competition Championship Team.”
What Makes Hoboken’s School District Stand Out
There are many reasons why the Hoboken Public Schools’ stand out from others because of how the district is always creating new learning experiences for students.
“Last year, our Office of Innovative Programs introduced a Passport to Wellness Program at the Middle School and High School level, as an accompaniment to our elementary level Passport to Learning Program,” Dr. Johnson shares. “This new wellness program brought golf, archery, wrestling, rugby, rock climbing, swimming, tennis, pickleball, cross country, yoga, kickboxing, and ice hockey to our middle school students, as well as stand up paddleboarding, kayaking, and hiking programs for students at Hoboken Middle as well at no cost.”
“Currently, the office is working to complete the Living Classroom, a model estuary boasting a large touch tank and a number of smaller tanks that will be home to Hudson River marine life that will be located in Middle School,” she says.
How the District Adapted to COVID-19
Like districts across the nation, Hoboken was forced to rethink their strategy so that their students and faculty would remain safe but still provide the same quality education. “My administration worked collaboratively with staff and families to develop a full-day traditional onsite learning plan, a full day remote learning plan, and a hybrid learning plan. We wanted to be sure that we were completely prepared for every potential scenario. We used survey data to best understand everyone’s intent and tried best to honor our staff members and families’ feelings,” Dr. Johnson says.
She added, “To date, the implementation of our plans has gone well. With the cooperation of our support staff and teachers’ union, the Hoboken Police Department, and the Hoboken Department of Health, we have been able to open full school days, five days per week.”