Governor Chris Christie’s visit to the Roy W. Brown Middle School in Bergenfield to tout the pilot of his new teacher evaluation system brought back fond memories for me. I attended the school from 1969 -1971.
The Bergenfield school system has a long tradition of excellence and out of the box thinking. It is appropriate that one of their schools was chosen for the pilot program.
Senator Loretta Weinberg, whose district includes Bergenfield, and Senate President Stephen Sweeney used the occasion to issue a snarky partisan statement that has nothing to do with the merits of the teacher evaluation system.
Snark is par for the course with Weinberg, but I didn’t expect her to make such a blatant gaff about Bergenfield’s history and the history of a New Jersey Hall of Fame member, Jersey Boy Frankie Valli.
Weinberg and Sweeney opened their statement as follows:
“It is great to see the governor visiting the wonderful schools in Bergenfield, home to the outstanding music program where Frankie Valli got started.
Bergenfield does have an outstanding music program. It has for decades. But that is not where Frankie Valli got started. Valli grew up in Newark.
Bob Gaudio, Valli’s partner in The Four Seasons and the writer of most of the group’s hit songs, got his start in Bergenfield. Gaudio had his first hit record, Short Shorts, at the age of 15 while still a student at Bergenfield High School.
Guadio and Valli met in 1958 while they were both touring with different groups. Two years later they formed The Four Seasons.
Weinberg should know this. Not because it is Bergenfield trivia, but because she attended Gaudio’s honorary graduation from Bergenfield High School only two years ago in 2009.
That Gaudio didn’t graduate with his class is an example of the long history of out of the box thinking for Bergenfield educators. Paul Hoffmeister, then-principal of Bergenfield High School, helped Gaudio convince his parents to let him drop out of school to pursue his musical career, according to the Jersey Boys Blog:
But, in 1958 he was only a 15-year-old kid who had tasted the success of “Short Shorts” and knew in his gut that music would be his life.
Now he only had to convince his parents that it would be a good idea for him to leave school so that he and the Royal Teens could go on tour with the Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry.
Though it was an easy decision for Gaudio, he knew it would be a hard sell to his parents.
But an ally came to his aid from a very surprising corner during a meeting with Bob, his parents and Paul Hoffmeister, then-principal of Bergenfield High School.
“My parents were very concerned,” said Gaudio, “and this meeting was my last resort to try and convince my dad, in particular, to let me go.”
“But I didn’t expect what happened,” he said. “I thought the principal would side with my parents, but he didn’t; and he shaped my future.”
“It was very astute of him,” said Gaudio, “and I think he was very tuned in to what kids were thinking and how they’re feeling at that stage in their lives.”
“I don’t know if he gave that type of advice to other people,” he said, “but it just made sense to him and was definitely the right decision for me, though I’m sure a major part of it was that I already had a hit record — I wasn’t just going to quit school and twiddle my thumbs and throw darts.”
Not only was Gaudio’s life shaped by Hoffmeister’s risk. American culture was shaped by it.
Weinberg and Sweeney should get their facts straight if they’re going to be snarky.