Complaint / review text:
Dedicated to Father "Frank Rose" (a.k.a: "Rev. Frank Rose") Saint Peter's Parish School in Belleville, New Jersey and formerly from "Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish", Newark, New Jersey.
Saint Joseph of the Palisades High School was a private, Roman Catholic high school located in West New York, New Jersey. The high school was under the tutelage of the Catholic Archiodece of Newark, Bishop David Arias Perez. The purpose of this article is to show a different side that non-students, non-alumni knew of St. Joe's to which was rather unprofessional, dark, uncreative, limited, poor, underpaid, hostile, biased, deceitful and narrow minded.
Over the years, the catholic high school's student population was dwindling for unexplained reasons. For the 2005-06 school year, the school had an enrollment of 291 students and 19.4 classroom teachers (on an Full Time Employment basis), for a student teacher ratio out of 15.0. On February 27, 2009 it was announced by Msgr Gregory Studerus that the school would close at the end of the 2008-09 period.
St. Joseph of the Palisades was created in 1931. The school had been accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools since 1961. Also it was also a member of a so called “National Honor Society”, and accredited NJ Interscholastic athletic association. From an alumnae point of view and through reading the school's records, the institute had many changes and developed managerial changes over the years. And Under the guidance of Father Gerald Walsh, the two departments merged to become the co-ed school located at 5400 Broadway Avenue, West New York, New Jersey.
For anyone reading this, it is known by searching through the media that St. Joe's, home of the blue jays, closed on June 2009. The student body numbered 222 as 275 was a claimed financially solvent requisite that was not met. Apparently there was school's budget shortfall of $400, 000.00 dollars, and the parish was in debt for $1.5 million, incurred as a result of supporting the school. There was a protest that took place prior to the high school's closing, mainly alumni and related people who gathered a small amount of donations that was not enough to salvage the high school whose claim was of catholic, quality education values.
Before the internet because a popular tool for technical literate and illiterates, there was the word of mouth about the quality of a product that would slowly create a loyal following if the product was commercially worthy.
Saint Joseph Palisades high school was a high school that was known to have a small lineup of achieved professionals such as some who became important state directors of enforcement agencies, government specialists, and Ivy League graduates. But not all of these success stories or experiences were ideal.
However, when compared to other high schools such as: Memorial High School, Union Hill, North Bergen High School, High Tech, this private high school was one of the worst high schools of them all. Poor leadership, disrespectful students, low test scores, and questionable parental support. This was where you send your kids if you want them to go to prison when and if they graduate. The administrative board should have been fired, they didn’t even acknowledge parents complaining about the mistreatment some students had with some bullies that had connections and ties to alumni who donated. Some students were rude, disrespectful and get away with mischief if they had some connection to a staff member or a relative, literally.
The school student decline might have been caused by various factors:
1) Alleged drug enhancements sold by some faculty mentors. (Gabby "Gabriela Lazzara")
2) Some boys reported sexual acts by religion teacher, Rev. Frank Rose, and his mysterious departure from the high school in 1999.
3) Msgr "Peter Cheplic" (Peter Cheplic), a pastor who has taught at Saint Joe's, was known to have drugged and performed sexual acts to some high school male students during the 1980's. and was transferred out with the support of Father Joseph Petrillo (1942-2013)
4) Accreditation auditing hardly ever took place along with the lack of external teacher performance of the course curriculum they taught.
5) During the mid 1990's and to its near end in the late 2000's, students had a negative or a neutral opinion of the school nicknaming unofficially: "Saint h*e's"
6) A reported claim by a number of students that a female teacher by the alias of Ms Labamba had sexual relations with a student and eventually became pregnant.
7) The high school gained a reputation of accepting deviant registered students that were kicked out from other high school in order to graduate with a diploma.
8) Its clubs, sport societies, as depicted on its annual yearbooks were not real and were only functional when the annual yearbook photo sessions happened, while throughout the whole year there would be no actual events
9) Alleged rape caused by the class of 2000 that was covered up immediately.
10) Reported orgy at the high school’s swimming pool during 1994-1995 year and gym teacher did not take action (Slawson)
11) Rumored affair of high school principal "Michael Musante" with a foreign female student that took place in the mid 2000’s.
12) Harassment toward student(s) by former teacher "Alex de Rojas" ("Alex DeRojas" St Joe’s 2000).
13) Former teacher "Gail Juzdan" left the high school caused by toxic activities from students harassing her physical appearance.
14) The high school hired non-certified teachers to lecture physics, biology, art, music, English despite the hired person’s lack of experience. It was possible favoritism took place.
15) Students transferred out to other high schools when they found out that there were out dated books, unclean bathrooms with the smell of cigarettes, hostile class clowns who constantly took away a lot of teaching time.
16) Some teachers were lacking in skills and backing to take are matters in isolating problem makers.
There are different claims of the St Joe’s experience. Some may be good, bad, neutral, or horrible. But for the most part the private high school kept itself private from any public criticism by retaining their religious image of acclaimed values. But from an internal point of view, a former student, the school failed to deliver the diversity, opportunities, support, and quality of education that its rival, Memorial High School had.
Saint Joe’s high school often worked only one floor for its high school population. The 2nd floor and 1st were used mostly for the grammar school population which rarely conflicted with the pranks the high school students made.
People wore uniforms, and had to perform a morning prayer at the mentor classroom before the daily classes began. All seemed ethical and morally controlled. But the real part was that most teachers had little or no control of the troublemakers and bullies that roamed the school. The principals, Mr Michael Musante, Joseph Petrillo, and Mr Seagall, did more or less controlled different situations which resulted on some students to fill the room after school for various charges and complaints.
There was something noticeable – St Joe’s staff members were great to parents who grew up there themselves. They think it's the best and want the same for their own children because they don't know any better. But for those of us who have experienced other districts and know what else is out there – St Joe’s paled in comparison.
PreCalculus: It was a 4th year of high school subject as a non-mandatory requirement to graduate. By then most of the class clowns, jocks, and other cliques not interested in education at this point don’t enroll.
Algebra: A first year math class required subject all must take. Some teachers were very effective or had no idea how to teach at all. Some students had the chance to have acquired Mrs Darlene Fisher (a St Joe’s Math veteran) who has taught all levels of mathematics while effectively adapting student mindsets that allowed her teachings be comprehensible to the most incapable student.
History: This 3rd year subject was covered by the vice principal according to a school policy. Mr Doyle was among those who claimed, according to some alumni, that he was less tolerant to verbal insults and harassments caused by rebellious students during the early 1990’s. However, on the case of Mr Scott D. Gillette he was heavily insulted often to the point that some classes, either class of 2003, 2004 or 2005 drove him to depression at one point.
World History: It was probably a 1st year subject covered by Michael Scerbo. He basically selects a chapter at a time of a specific topic and uses the teacher handbook test sampler for students to take the test. It is very likely the swimming team will always find some support towards him because he was their coach for 2 decades. He is seen as a person with objective views on how he teaches, but it really seems he was just using scanned sample exams to students to take the tests. And still, some students would fail the exam for not reading the material. Was the subject easy to pass? Yes, if you read the specific chapter but some, even those who were from the St Joe’s grammar school system, won’t pass due to not studying.
Biology: It was a strange subject covered by random staff members who managed to have gotten Memorial High School’s science curriculum and featured this subject for the sake of having an “additional” science even if the instructor lacked the credentials to cover it. There was a complaint that a “Joseph Fedor” was a drama graduate student who sought a job and somehow taught at St Joe’s with little or no credentials. It was known that Joseph Fedor eventually managed to persuade his way to work at Public School Number 2 with whatever interview skill he had. Also was another by the name of Martha Miscavige who was an Art major and taught the same course of Biology in the 1986-1989 eras with little or no credentials.
Spanish: According to claims from students of the 1991-2003 era, it was seen a “study period”, meaning, it was a free period class which had little or no preparation which had a series of free grading to all those who befriended the Spanish teacher. One of the known cases was that of the name Iliana Marti, who eventually began to teach at Memorial High School during the 1997 year once she left St joe’s and her reputation was that she never really taught Spanish since the majority were a Hispanic population and barely had a a curriculum on how her classes were. It is likely her professional attitude changed the moment she was given a job at Memorial high school and had to comply to the NJ State board of education certified rules.
French: from 1998 to 1998, Sofia Ionita was the French teacher until it was passed to a female Egyptian instructor named Mrs El Raka, who reported a series of harassment from an Arab student named Abu Hussain from Union City for mistreating, harassing, molesting students and grammar school students alike during his period.
Gym: When compared to Memorial High School’s strict policies that sports and activities had to be done during this 45 minute period, the St Joe’s gym teacher basically did nothing and told students to walk around and so something just to satisfy student policy criteria. Eventually, Damian Kennedy, a mathematics teacher became the gym teacher and was known for harassing students who were not part of his jock clique. Somehow, Damian Kennedy, did manage to have altered his resume work papers and became the “Bogota school district” Principal.
Theology: This subject was originally covered by priests, pastors, nuns, and ultimately non-religious teachers. Notable abusive teachers were “Frank Rose”, “Peter Cheplic”, to name a few recorded complaints connected to sexual abuse by students.
Study Period: There used to be a “free period” in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s which was removed due to some students doing their homework during that period before classes started.
AP (Advanced Placement): Advanced placement was normally taught by the Principal and some senior or tenured teachers on the selected courses (1) AP Spanish (2) AP English (3) AP History. (4) AP Physics. The courses were rather weak according to some sources since in the end the students had to register to a college level exam course which would or could certify them into acquiring college credits…. Now, these credits would have some weight depending on the field of study you wanted to follow and might have been counted as one of the “free elective courses” but in a general sense those credits might count depending on the relevance of your university field of study.
Internships: there was none. It was false advertising. On 2006 there was a UPS agreement but it was noted as a volunteering but not actually as college credit that would for university purposes. Although the main excuse as proposed by Kennedy was that as long as students get some experience such as some that had some favoritism to work at Office Depot, it was just in practice just a summer job and not some college credit project which could have been altered when writing a cover letter to impress universities.
1) Computers: the computer room had outdated windows 3.1 Computers between the years 1994-2003. The only usable computers that had functional browsers were custom made non-brand computers located at the library and were normally hacked by random students. By the early 1990’s there was no computer course even if years later during the parent night tours for potential students to enroll guaranteed there was such courses just for the sake of enrolling students.
1) Art/Dance: There was no “dance” clubs, nor even an art “club”. There was an art club which had a teacher whose background did not match.
2) Cheerleading: It was a poorly executed concept which was rarely practiced in the mid 1980’s and rarely during the late 1990’s. There was a low budget management which the girls had to pay up front for their uniforms
3) Drama Club: This club ceased to exist in the fall of 1993 and due to the start of a decreasing population at St. Joseph high school.
4) French Club: A struggling club which was existing throughout the 1980’s and revived with the help of Mrs Dalia El Rakaybie. However, due to the lack of interest and effort the society dissolved for the 2005 year. Mrs El Rakaybie however encountered harassments from some Arab wahabi students and some French speaking students for unknown reasons which led to her to leave the school in mid 2000’s.
5) Forensics: An old club that existed during the early 1980’s but shut down during 1986 due to a lack of demand from students.
6) Key Club: It was a failed club that was shut down in 1992 but revived briefly on the late r 1990’s after a teacher was an affiliated member of the Kiwanis society but after his departure the key club stopped existing due to lack of knowledge from other teachers how to manage it.
(7) Modeling Club: It was a club moderated by Nathy Labatta. The club managed to create some fashion shows with the support from students. It was probably the only club the populated alpha males and alpha females endorsed to making sure it was always functional.
(8) Music Club: The high school was financially challenged that the music club came to existence due to budget issues and was not able to afford to buy musical instruments nor even start a marching band due to a decreasing population of students.
(9) Quiz Bowl Team: The club was monitored by Sister Anne James Guerin. The team was inexistent by 2006, due to a lack of interest from students and a request from Sr. Anne James claiming a series of verbal harassments from students throughout the years.
(10) Student Council: It was a selected group of students who were voted by their peers to represent their views in the administrative actions of the school. In practice it was a society that had little or no voice of what was happening in the school. Also with the help of some council members it was discovered the actual wages of the faculty. Which was drastically lower than the average salary of a part time and full time teacher from a public high school (1989-1999, 18% less). It is also through this council that it was discovered that the masses held on Sunday by Saint Joseph of the Palisades were using its donations to balance the expenses caused by Saint Joseph of the Palisades high school.
SCHOOL’S ETHICS (what it really meant) Directly from the now defunct Saint Joseph high school website.
(1) “Religious And Moral Development”: (having a theology class cover a bias view of Christianity and punishing those who would debunk its core teachings. Most students by the time they reached year 4 had some type of moral development but not in the way Bishop David Arias Perez would have wanted. Some were pulling girl’s skirts, swimming team members trying to indoctrinate some of their new members with sexual acts)
(2) “To foster awareness of Catholic identity through a specific curriculum of religious education”; The only religious education was Theology, and that was mainly lectured in the beginning by priests or nuns who lost their temper at how disrespectful and vile the students took with no regard of respect to their teacher and students. The course which was repetitive for 4 years was useless and impractical to apply in anything realistic in academic terms since a majority never was spiritual to begin with.
(3) “To exhibit the ideals of Catholic concern and service”; the track, swimming, tennis teams bullying other students who were not part of their clique was a service of a true two faced standard the school carried.
(4) “To provide a variety of liturgical and spiritual activities”; there was a mandatory confession time that students were ordered or pressured to have a 1-1 session with the priest to confess sins. Also by senior year, a mandatory dinner with Bishop David Arias Perez was necessary otherwise the student would not be allowed to graduate.
(5) “To present clearly a Catholic value system”; Attempted murder at the swimming pool by the swimming team.
(6) “To prepare students to meet the moral and spiritual challenges of our society” Such as having an untrained counselor like Ida Martinez prepare the college forms to a small selected number because of the favoritism those selected students had because of family ties with the school.
(7) “To encourage the learning, sharing, and spreading of Gospel values.” There were no signs of gospel values even its final years from 2005 to 2009. Records and complaints were shattered by some teachers who turned out to be alumni of the year 2000 and managed to delete any of their notoriety records. The vice principal at the time, Damian Kennedy, was surrounded by an inexperienced, cost effective lineup of former graduates who managed to get hired to become coaches and teachers. Overall to some claims of students of that time, did say the lack of professionalism, respect, and dedication from this new wave of teachers only worked to make sure to meet standards and campaigning that the quality of the High School was better than state school management.
Students were exposed to a small office that had outdated college pamphlets were they can apply to study. While some had no formal knowledge and what career to follow, some were supported and supplied updated college applications by Ida Martinez, while others were dismissed and research on their own how to obtain an updated form. Eventually most of the elite few ended up with a hefty scholarship to Montclair State University, Saint Peter’s College, New Jersey City University, and Rutgers. Also Mrs Martinez did not submit all of the transcripts to Universities on time or didn’t at all which led some students get rejected from their first college choice. Oddly enough she was the one who managed the scholarships and loan programs.
AWARDS AND CERTIFICATIONS
The high school did gave away awards and certifications that had no value outside the school. For example, if you had 2 years for being a member of a club or a sport, you would then receive a printer paper that said “This is to certify….” The High school had no competitions against other schools when it came to clubs and societies. In Sports, the only continuous group that had some credibility was the swimming team. But depending on the era you were in, the experience and results would vary. While some alumni from the 80’s have said there was a brotherhood among members that demonstrated teamwork, it was during the 90’s that there was reported gay activities that were done unwillingly to members who did not want to engage in sexual shower acts.
Were the certificates useful? Not really. If you were between the ages of 16 to 18 and was looking to make a resumé to a University or a summer job, it would not have helped you at all…In fact one could have scanned the template of the award form or buy the paper straight from an Office Depot and make your own awards and submit or show it off to anyone that would care. That’s how useless it was but it did make some students (especially jocks) very proud of the high school to the point that they would still wear their Blue Jays jacket many years later.
GRADUATION & OVERALL EXPERIENCE
By the time the student managed to stay at Saint Joseph or also known as “St Joe’s” by their fourth year, they find out that some problematic students who were suspended, kicked out from other schools such as Memorial High School, Union City, North Bergen High School, Sacred Heart, St Anthony Academy, ended up at Saint Joseph as a last resort for the rejected student to finish his or her studies.
Finding the right University was also challenging to some seniors who probably had no clue where to apply, and if one attended the graduations one would have realized that when the name of the student is called, it was then said the name of the college or university they would be attending. There was a small number, however, such as the top 5 students who were guided where to apply and how to.
The Mandatory evening dinner with Bishop David Arias Perez was a highly unnecessary, waste of time that was enforced by the Principal for students to meet the bishop on separate days. Normally the dinner was at the 64th Street chapel around 7pm and it was just a dinner with an old man who had no idea what was going on with the high school. He seemed very proud that everything was going fine and under control, but he appeared condescending and ignored the moment someone would start criticizing the uncontrollable issues students had. He retired in 2004 possibly not knowing how poor the high school was compared to other academies.
There was nothing Catholic about Saint Joseph of the Palisades high school. Only the cross, a theology class that everyone passed a perverted swimming team and an isolated policy that banned students from leaving the school during lunch time. The social cliques were very limited that non-clique students were subject to be bullied. There was a secretive drug issue, and it was a hit or miss with teachers. Some were good, but others were boring or completely didn't care. Administrators were unhelpful and often unavailable. They would rather turn their heads and pretend issues don't exist and assume the students are innocent and perfect. The athletics were terrible because it lacked the proper coaches, uniform, equipment and limited qualified athletes which led to their constant losses.
Was Saint Joseph of the Palisades High School worth the investment? Not really. The problem for most of the pre-internet era was that parents thought that because it was a religious, uniformed, strict, serious, and respectful school which their children would grow up to become great professional and moral products of society. There were no online reviews and the Opening night for prospective applicants had students who were the hypocritical types that would have discouraged the potential applicant to transfer out had they enrolled. Unfortunately the damage was done to some students, some top students never pursued anything beyond high school, some low ranking students struggled to enter a university, class clowns of the classes of 1986, 1992, 1998, 2000 who felt they lived at the height of their lives started their academic and professional lives many years later or have a 9am to 5pm job. If you had money to burn and wanted to study at St Joe’s, then this could have been a great choice but if you wanted a more populous, diverse high school that offered actual clubs, societies, sport groups that competed around the state so you can find your talent, then Saint Joseph Of the Palisades isn’t for you.
The good news is that the high school building now belongs to the West New York Board of Education and finally it has been put into productive use.
p.s: "Damian Kennedy'' is not really worth the Principal title that was given to him in "New Jersey." It must be a bit strange what kind of things he must have put on his resume' and also the advantage potential to claim anything he has done in a private sector school. Then again, the St joes Echelons protect themselves very well among each other.