Departing Guidance Director at MHS Blogs About How Montclair Has Lost Its Way


Montclair high schoolScott White, the Director of Guidance at Montclair High School,  leaving left the district this month after 22 years to take a position at Morristown High School. He’s going with some major criticisms. He has been blogging at “White’s World,” in which he discusses what he thinks are problems in Montclair.

In his post “Montclair Has Lost its Way,” he says: “The desire is to get rid of every experienced, thoughtful teacher and administrator and replace them with compliant, cheap and willing newcomers who do not know what it is like to be treated with respect.” He goes on to say that the same people (education reformers) also have the desire to leave every public school as a “rotting carcass after every student of quality has moved to charter schools and private schools funded by vouchers.”

In his post titled, “Issues at Montclair,” (This  post was removed from his blog after we ran this story) he states, “Morale is as low as I have ever seen it.  Virtually every teacher I speak to, especially the strongest teachers, are planning their exit strategies.  The environment is about compliance and loyalty and there is absolutely no emphasis on strong teaching.” He goes on to say that “the administrative team is extremely weak,” “Teachers are writing lesson plans that are never read,” and “We are being treated as a failing school when there are some highly successful things about the school.”

In his post about Superintendent MacCormack called “MacCormack to the Rescue,” he talks about her training from the Broad Institute and business style and says “Like any oppressive regime, the workers are afraid to speak out and the managers are learning that unquestioning obedience is the only way to survive.


  1. Montclair’s loss, is Morristown’s gain. Another one bites the dust. Mr. White did not want to leave Montclair. After 22 years, it makes little sense to WANT to leave, and accept a similar position somewhere else. But in reading his blog, it makes sense as to why.

    While he will undoubtedly will get torn to shreds by some on this thread, and while I have no doubt the BOE and Super will go into propaganda-mode to either smear Mr. White or downplay his statements, Mr. White has a sterling reputation in this town and community. Parents and students love him and he has bled for this town for over 2 decades. The BOE and Super might want to take heed of what has transpired at the high school and in this town’s schools. He has helped thousands of students get into college, has scheduled students into classes that were best for them, and has had a detailed knowledge of the inner-workings of the high school for years.

    This town needs to hold this current BOE and Super to task for what has transpired due to their “reforms”. Where there is smoke, there is fire. Too much smoke is billowing out of these schools and the decisions being made by this superintendent. When we start to lose people as highly regarded as Mr. White due to these reasons, teachers are sure to follow. This is not good for our children.

  2. “The superintendent spent $28,000 on and scheduling consultant without ever speaking with me about the scheduling process. She put guidance in the high school as one of her highest priorities for improvement but never once spoke to me. Not about guidance, not about anything. She has never spent one second getting a sense of the culture or the schools or community.

    “The super came up with this brilliant plan: offer teachers $1000 to teach courses over 24 students (without providing enough teachers to make this remotely possible) and depend on her view of the greed of teachers to brand them as enemies of education. Guess what? They all wanted the smaller classes instead of the money.”

  3. Scott has been crazy great for MHS and we lose a lot. A LOT.

    I love his signature on emails, “If it’s educationally sound, it’s administratively feasible”

  4. I disagree with above posters. I think the guidance dept at MHS is mediocre at best. I personally witnessed the guidance director YELL at a college admissions counselor at an MHS college fair, which made me finally believe the reports I heard about the secretaries and guidance counselors yelling at students. The college counseling my student received was almost non-existent which, I believe, explains why most parents hire a private counselor.

    I too love the tag line l“If it’s educationally sound, it’s administratively feasible. ” However I did not find he lived up to it. One time I asked him for help on something administratively feasible and educationally sound, and he responded with NO. No reason, no explanation, just NO.

    And has everyone forgotten that Mr. White left once before? And returned….

  5. In my daughter’s experience at MHS the guidance department was terrible. She had to make many requests to get a transcript sent and almost missed an application deadline, I was yelled at for asking for confirmation about a schedule change, my daughter’s “counselor” couldn’t understand that we didn’t need or want a college recommendation from him (he met with her once a year for 5 minutes) and sent one anyway (better none than a bland form letter), etc. Not all parents and students love him. I hope current students have a much better experience than we did.

  6. He might have left before, but we certainly welcomed him back with open-arms, didn’t we? What does that tell you about how integral he was? It certainly tells me that the district recognized his vital importance.

  7. “He might have left before, but we certainly welcomed him back with open-arms, didn’t we? What does that tell you about how integral he was? It certainly tells me that the district recognized his vital importance.”

    No doubt he was welcomed back to MHS, but his one-year stint at Westfield begs the question: what occurred at Westfield that made his stay so short?

  8. The original blog post has already been redacted to remove the most inflammatory paragraph, which was titled “issues at Montclair” and used to follow the first post about the common app. There were lots of names named…might have been considered libelous by some.

  9. For all of his deep “insight,” it surprising that he makes this seem as if the Super- by her own decision- has made these changes. As if NCLF, the Common Core standard, and the incentive to adopt it with “Race To the Top,” had nothing to do with it.

    Likewise, the idea that the evil “business style” management/implementation is wrong. Sadly, most teachers, and counselors– who, don’t forget have TENURE– are loath to change.

    This “business style” holds folks accountable, which prior to NCLB, and certainly before the Common Core, was NOT the case. Remember, no one was ever held responsible for failing students or schools— NO ONE.

    So then I’m not surprised when “experienced, thoughtful” teachers and administrators have low morale, or want to leave. If move from no accountability to (I agree it’s a maze that needs to be simplified) a system of review, assessment and accountability is anyone surprised that folks are upset?

    In truth, like many times when “change” is in the air, the fear of it plays out in many ways.

    (Understand, I write this recognizing that the presentation and implementation of these new standards could have been better. But I also know that data driven decisions are better than decisions based on nothing.)

  10. He was “welcomed back” during a period of absent/no leadership. No one had even been hired in his absence. My experience is similar to that of other parents on this thread — the guidance offices have been largely dysfunctional for years. The kids going to Ivy Leagues might get attention, but the large group in the middle is on their own. I’m looking forward to new leadership in guidance.

  11. OK-what professional writes these kinds of blog posts? What kind of educator thinks this is a great example to his students?

    Yes, standing up for what you believe in is a good example in leadership. Writing up a “burn notice” like this? Not so much.

    I understand that Mr White may have disagreements, different opinions on what works for Montclair education, etc. But this blog just reads like sour grapes. I feel for the kids & families in Morristown if this is how he manages his professional disagreements.

    I get it he didn’t like what was happening, and he has every right to that opinion, I am not going to argue that fact. His opinion is his opinion-whether or not I agree, or anyone esle agrees with him.

    But choosing this method as a sound way of getting it off of your chest?
    I think leaving after such a long tenure would serve as enough of a personal statement, “I don’t like what is happening so I’m leaving.”

    You left the district Mr. White. Your opinion and your very strongly held beliefs about the direction of the town’s schools are mute. Your focus should be on Morristown now. Why look back at Montclair like this if you left? Move on with your career. Focus on the kids in your new district and the direction you want to move towards there. Not your boss at your former district.

    Mr. White- I always found that success in a new position is much sweeter than constantly looking back at the positions I didn’t enjoy so much. New direction, new opportunities to help new kids and families move on with life goals, etc. That should be what you are focusing on here.

    You decided to leave Montclair and not fight for these very strongly held ideas here. That’s ok. That’s life. Good luck on your new path.

    This post is not helping us move forward to find a middle path here in Montclair.

    @oliver- I wonder if anyone has a screen shot if he did in fact edit or remove names from an original posting? If that is the case, I really think it should be shared.

  12. I don’t know who did the editing of the blog, but a large chunk was removed. Much of that missing section was polished up and restated further down the blog, but the names aren’t there nor are specific allegations about certain departments. It read like a rant typed up in the heat of the moment, which was then refined farther down the line. Suffice it to say that he doesn’t have much respect for any of the administrators at MHS. I guess he had second thoughts about sharing the specifics.

  13. What part has been edited? Not sure what is being asked. Has the post been edited and if so, what was edited out?

  14. dherron,

    The blog post “Issues at Montclair,” which we refer to and link to was removed from Mr. White’s blog after this ran.

  15. Good Lord, can it be? @profwilliams and I actually agreeing on something. Of course, now that I wrote this, they will probably change their comment 😉 But, my, oh my. I may just faint.

  16. This confirms what I have been sensing since McCormack took office. It’s a corporate way of thinking that makes students and teachers alike slaves to constant evaluation and testing, to the detriment of creativity, thoughtfulness,and autonomy.

    When my first child was young and filled with curiosity and the joy of learning, I prayed that the school system would not destroy it. Maybe it didn’t entirely, but he soon learned to dislike school. Sadly, this whole educational movement is contributing heavily to that abomination, when all the administration cares about canbe measured in scores on a test.

  17. But seriously, I would be very careful about evoking the “good old times.”

    In looking over the School District’s budget, there is actually clarity as to where the money is going, something we didn’t have with the previous administration for almost a decade. They asked for money, the township gave it to them, nothing got done, and the money would be gone. Then, millions of dollars would magically reappear. Millions!!!

    How about fudging of the achievement gap numbers? Dr. Alvarez left laureled as the person who lowered the achievement gap. It turns out, the numbers were scrubbed and that the achievement gap is actually larger than portrayed. Please.

    And don’t get me started on nepotism, favoritism, and other stuff. Nobody remembers non-district admins and teachers sending their kids to school here? For free?!?

    Furthermore, if Mr. White was so good at this job, why are more kids not going not only to college, but to better colleges? Why are admissions numbers not increasing?

    I said to myself I would not get involved in this discussion, but something had to be said.

    For the record, I haven’t met a Montclair School District teacher, administrator, or an aid I didn’t like.

    Let’s also be clear, we want the school district to improve, not just stagnate. For that to happen, changes need to be made. I mean, look at Yankees. They let Torre go after one of the most successful management runs in history of the team, because he became ineffective. Change, people. Change.

  18. I guess, when we say, what kind of leadership does this show, are we saying, Mr. White’s leadership? I think his blogs are more reflective of the leadership, from the top-down, rather than his own.

    I’d say he felt this “burn notice” was necessary, considering he could never (in his experience) even get a meeting the superintendent to discuss guidance and the department he oversaw, despite it being on the superintendent’s priority list (and one in which she spent thousands on an outside consultant, despite never actually talking with the head of guidance!!!??!!!).

    My question is, when all efforts at communication have been rejected, rebuffed, and shot-down, or just plain ignored, what do we expect? Someone to sit idly by, as the district which he/she has invested in for over 2 decades gets taken apart by someone who has been here less than a year?

    I see it as an actual example of leadership on Mr. White’s part, exemplifying that sitting idly by without questioning, for fear of losing one’s job, is no act of leadership at all. Just look at Congress. How much do we respect those right now who refuse to put the better-good of the country first, rather than their re-election/jobs? A less than 10% approval rating suggests that we would rather have someone sign-off on a “burn-notice” right now, rather than sit idly by as it falls around us.

  19. Selma,

    Let’s be clear here as well, change for change’s sake is no better than stagnation. We have a superintendent who believes in “disruptive reform” (just research the Broad foundation and it’s actually something they “teach” to their disciples). This simply means “change for change’s sake” to give off the appearance of doing something.

    But is this change actually sound, educationally, for our children? I have not read ONE person on here, nor spoken to one person in the schools, calling for stagnation. I have heard people calling for sound educational policy, and change backed by research. And I have heard that people who say that when change has happened without any educational benefits for our children, then yes, maybe the “good ol’ times” were actually sounder than this.

    But no one has suggested going backwards. People HAVE suggested going forward in an inclusive (of ALL people, not just the squeaky wheels) methodical manner, because this is, after all, our children’s education.

    There is nothing about this superintendent’s model that is backed by research, nor is it methodical. Consider the amount of people leaving in the past year, many of them strong educators (aka disruption), and what you’ve got is a scorched-earth policy where the district will be in tatters. Maybe, after all, this is what she wants. I don’t think she really cares that these people are leaving. I honestly believe, as per the Broad’s M.O. that painting Montclair as a “failing” district is priority number 1. That way, she can sell “change” for change’s sake and implement her narcissistic, corporate model of education where dollars, not kids, are valued.

  20. mtclrsown — I couldn’t disagree with you more.

    Like I said, he has a right to these opinions. But he left.

    So the fact that this noise is being made here about his blog posting right now, it doesn’t matter.

    He left. His choice.

    Please Mr. White-focus on Morristown and do good for the people over there.

    But this is all just unnecessary noise for us in Montclair. More sound and fury that doesn’t help us. More finger pointing that doesn’t help us.

    Not leadership.

  21. (@ Selma, a year later, perhaps we’ve mellowed and moved towards a better place. Or, perhaps, we happen to just agree here. Either way yours is a voice I look forward to reading, regardless of whether I agree with you or not.)

    @ mtclrsown, what part of federal law, federal standards do you not understand that has you still assuming that this “Super” has just made all this Common Core stuff up? Perhaps this is all new to you, but some us have been reading and debating these changes for a decade. So, maybe you need to do some “research.”

    …. I just re-read your post and it reads even more out of touch the second time, in part because you seem to be more upset with Broad than anything in Montclair.

  22. It DOES help us to get an insider’s point of view about what is happening in our schools. He describes an atmosphere of fear and intimidation. Perhaps it was not safe for him to talk about the issues in depth while he was still employed by the district. There are clear and serious issues that we need to address, regardless of his absence.

  23. What kind of employee burns their bridges with their former employee who actually hired that same employee twice?

    Good riddance Mr. White.

  24. @mtclrsown, I just don’t believe that he was denied access to the superintendent. Often when people are faced with new policies that will force them to change their approach, they back up into their holes. That is what I have observed Mr. White doing over the past three or four years. He has had ample opportunity to work with the new principal and administration to actually make life easier for students (and their parents!) but he chose silence until the door was closed behind him. I also find it repugnant that he chose to put his commentary on a blog read primarily by students. I imagine he is regretting the whole thing this morning.

  25. The cache of Mr. White’s original blog post is available online, should you wish to read it. Google “issues in montclair” and select the Cached option.

    I’ve refrained from providing the direct link here, given it was his intention to remove the article. However, he should know that nothing truly disappears from the Internet.

  26. As a parent of a elementary school child, I would like to know if this guy is the one and only guidance counselor? If so, then that’s just crazy. My small town hs had 2 guidance counselors for a senior class of 150.

  27. Scott White blog: “Rather than try to find a way to way to continue to do what we do well despite a system from the State and federal government that is meant to destroy quality public education, we have totally allowed the superintendent to change our educational system to adapt to it. We have taken a corporate atmosphere that is hostile to teachers, encouraging to charter schools and voucher and allowed it to infect our school system. We are wasting our most precious asset, our teachers, and allowed our culture as an environment of thoughtfulness and creativity to be damaged.”

    As a parent I think I understand the crux of what both sides see in this debate:

    the “pro-reform side” says we have had massive increases in educational spending over the years and a decent but not great outcome educationally. Financially it has been a poor outcome for the town residents as taxes are now such that many cannot afford to live in Montclair and it is more and more a town of rich and poor with few middle class with a large achievement gap between students from those groups.

    the “anti-reform side” sees tinkering with the way things are done as too-corporate and potentially damaging to the gains their union has fought for and won over the years. So we are at risk of losing excellent educators who won’t want to work within the framework of common core and other programs which will hurt our schools. Testing to make sure that core cirriculum is achieved may be okay but basing teacher evaluations (in any way) on such testing is unfair b/c we all know that poor kids who don’t get support at home will fall behind and teachers should not be expected to raise these kids in lieu of their parents. I agree with all of that – poor kids will continue fall behind as a group until their parents become serious about pushing their kids through the same schools mine and yours go to. Problem here is that poor kids may have uneducated parents who don’t know or care how important this all is or have parents who work 2 or more jobs and can’t provide that type of support. So you have a poverty cycle and it’s not the teacher’s fault that some kids won’t pass these tests but nonetheless they will have poor evaluations because of it.

    But whot bothers me is Scott White’s reaction to this being mandated from the federal and state governments. Apparently we hired a superintendent who will work within the mandated guidelines and also try to bring fiscal accountability to the school system. Scott White does not want to work within any mandated guidelines which he claims are in place to destroy public education. Does anyone really think that the US Dept of Education (which many conservatives want eliminated to leave these decisions to the states) or NJ Dept of Ed really have as it’s goal to destroy public education in this country? Why can’t an anti-reformer argue their point by simply saying, we all care about kids but I think it’s better to do things this way instead and don’t agree with the direction we are going for the following reasons…. Rather, Scott White and those in his camp immediately start by saying things like, “a system from the State and federal government that is meant to destroy quality public education”.

    I can’t take him seriously when he begins by stating that anyone with a reform-minded belief system on this issue has as their big goal to destroy public education. In my mind, you can love and support public education (myself, my wife (all the way through grad school) and our 3 children are public schoolers) and still find fault with the status quo and look for ways to improve it. Scott White was right to take that blog down as he burns a lot of bridges (and his new bosses in Morristown should pay attention), but he is wrong in thinking that those who disagree him on this are only about destroying public education. It’s a to promote fear as means of maintainig the statue quo.

  28. It is true that these changes are mandated given that Christie and Cerf accepted money for Race To The TOP. However, all the state requires is that children meet Common Core Standards. Montclair can teach common core it’s own way, do minimal state mandated assessments required and we could meet state requirements and still be Montclair. The Achievement gap is the reason P Mac and BOE are implementing this system. BUT there is no evidence that this approach closes the achievment gap as per forum I attended last week. As a parent, I have asked BOE to be more imaginitive and true to Montclair history in approaching state mandates. BUT all they know is testing, adding layer of quarterly assessments, now pulling kids out of valuable learning time to drill them on facts. I also fear the costs of all this testing and how will we sustain this when RTT funds disappear. Lots of cuts to programs that can help close achievement gap too. And why do we have so many administrators? I thank Mr White for confirming what is suspected. There are schools in NY that obtained waivers and instead of testing do creative assessments that require understanding, project portfolios, presentations, etc. Truly wonderful. We may be seeing hope in NYC but not in Montclair given BOE and this Broad superintendent.Big challenge for this town as lots of people stand to make money–corporations sell their curriculum and tests, data analysis, etc. WOn’t be easy but can be done as we are seeing across the nation and neighboring states.

  29. Mtclmom: Great post! I wasn’t going to respond to comments about Mr. White, but your comments inspired me!

    Mr. Williams asks the misleading question:
    “What part of federal law, federal standards do you not understand that has you still assuming that this “Super” has just made all this Common Core stuff up?”

    The obvious answer is that many of us question that part of your misunderstanding that says Montclair has to adopt the kind of Broad Academy approach that crams testing down our kids’ throats, while claiming to be the best way to approach “this Common Core Stuff.”

    What part of we get the Common Core stuff but don’t want Broad Academy reforms do you not understand?


    In Mntclmom’s wonderfully clear words: “…all the state requires is that children meet Common Core Standards. Montclair can teach common core its own way, do minimal state mandated assessments required and we could meet state requirements and still be Montclair.

    As for Mr. White, he did a brave thing; he let us in on some of the rather unpleasant educational sausage making that is currently taking place in our fair town. It turns out that the breath of fresh air people thought they were smelling is nothing more than the breeze caused by Montclair educators leaving (or planning to leave) our town. The real stench comes from the new educational sausages, and it turns out the byproducts are as bad as many of us suspected. The other thing I expect to see soon are a lot of angry parents – once the lousy educational sausages are served up to all of Montclair’s students. That thought alone gives me agita…

  30. Mr. White,

    I am happy to say that after reading this opinion statement, I am now thrilled that you are leaving Montclair and my high school. Not only was this piece inflammatory, based on contradictory statements, it depicted a false reality I do not see at my high school. You demonstrated how terribly you understand the changes that are coming to education throughout the nation and how ill-equipped you would have been to guide us, as our head guidance counselor, through them.

  31. Do you know what would be really scary? If the super narrowed the achievement gap utilizing Broad Academy techniques.

  32. I hope Mr White finds the environment in Morristown to be more to his liking.

    One thing that stands out to me is the number of parents describing TERRIBLE experiences with the guidance office. That, and the school system, are supposed to be serving kids, parents, and taxpayers. The fact the board isn’t interested in knowing how services are being perceived is telling, on its own. How does a poorly performing guidance office go on for decades without being overhauled?

    Unfortunately, it can be typical of many bureaucracies, but it shouldn’t be. Even companies that aren’t usually viewed as customer focused, etc routinely survey customers and recent travelers / shoppers. United sends me a survey specific to a particular flight after every third or fourth flight. Why isn’t Montclair doing something similar for users of guidance programs, pre-school, lunch, or advanced math, etc?

    Maybe they’re so caught up in the fad / educational theory of the moment they’re not really interested in knowing how they’re doing? We hear that there’s more to education than test scores, well there’s more to delivering services than just saying you did something or have a sign on a locked door.

    Kids drop out without anyone noticing or caring, kids receive poor or minimal guidance services, and none of this shows up in anyone’s performance reviews or raise recommendations…

  33. I have a couple kids in the high school….while there are some truly wonderful teachers, there are others who really are not doing or good job (or even trying).

    It is truly ironic to read Scott White writing about a conspiricy to create a permanent economic underclass, when the current system is failing the students who are in greatest need, as evidenced by the huge achievement gap that has existed in Montclair for years (before MacCormack).

    Mr. White is basically talking the teachers union position opposing the new testing (aka objective measurement and accountabilty). The facts are Montclair high is ranked pretty low….#99 in NJ School districts, while Glen Ridge is #12, Livingston is #24, and Millburn is #8. We got that way in part because many tenured teachers have been doing the bare minimum for many years (before Penny MacCormack arrived).

    Thank goodness for MacCormack and Earle looking to raise the bar! Change is uncomfortable…welcome to the real world.

  34. Since the number of parents with TERRIBLE experiences stands out here in a format where people like to complain, I will add my two cents and say we had a very good experience with the guidance department. My son got good advice, letters went out on time, and he got into his first choice school Calls and emails to his guidance counselor (not Mr. White incidentally) were returned promptly, and to my surprise, a letter for a scholarship was sent out with less than 24 hours notice when my son realized he messed up the deadline. I’m not sure what to make of Mr. White’s blog, but there seems to be a growing attitude of disrespect for teachers, of judging all by the lowest common denominator, which I’m not sure is beneficial for the system or the many students who adopt similar attitudes to the detriment of their own education.

  35. scott white is brave for speaking out. Montclair High School wasn’t excellent before the arrival of PennyMac, but I don’t see how any of her “reforms” will improve it.

  36. What bothers me the most about this is the not so well hidden astroturfing going on here. As a parent, seeing this ‘discussion’ take shape, it makes me wonder why.

    To the one who said “data driven decisions are better than decisions based on nothing” – do you have any evidence for that? Keep in mind that correlation does not equal causation. The current data set being used to compare teachers has not been proven as incapable of doing so only because it wasn’t designed to do it in the first place.

    To those who are offended by an educator speaking his mind, your statement simply makes the reader wonder why anyone would want to listen to you. Are you more worthy than others to opine?

    To the one who complained about tenure, and called for accountability – tenure is simply due process. It means that administrators can be held accountable. Tenure is the only thing that enables teachers to advocate on behalf of our kids. “Business style” means no accountability for the people at the top, who are at liberty to drive their business into the ground and run away with a personal fortune. Is that what you want for our schools?

  37. What does your statement that…. ““Business style” means no accountability for the people at the top, who are at liberty to drive their business into the ground and run away with a personal fortune” …. have to do with Montclair schools? It seems like a false comparison. The area where there is “no accountability” is the union members resisting performance measurements while getting six-figure pay packages, primo healthcare plans, and working part year.

    There is all this happy talk about stifling creativity and “advocating for our kids”, but let’s get real…it’s about the money, the teachers union, work rules, etc.

  38. This thread shows us well how things stand in Montclair regarding what is currently going on in the town’s public education.

    There is a group that is wanting to speak out on the changes occurring in the district’s education, and there is another group that feels the opposition and discussion is inappropriate. On Baristanet and at the Watercooler the two groups may appear at times equal, but it is indeed the latter group that holds the vast majority in Montclair.

    Montclair is the home of the great pretenders, the place where people mortgaged up to their teeth want to pretend that they have bought the American dream. They like their fake brick crossing walks, their belgium-block curbs next to the potholes and the landscaping over of their toxic ponds. Inside their New York work cubicles they are proud of the number of colors in the pixels of their child’s class picture, showing off just how multicultural and diverse they really are.

    It is amazing to read here the number of parents who have had bad experiences with Mr. White. One wonders why they never complained while he was doing his job or, if they did, what the School Superintendent did in response. The real problem, of course, is his most recent blog that parents are now reading because “it says something bad about, oh my, Montclair.” Just imagine. So we are left reading these off-color faux-parent tongue-in-cheek remarks that say how terrible he is for speaking his mind (and, oh by the way, could someone get the original remarks just so we can further discredit the career educator). Some parents somehow think it is even appropriate to teach their children to bad mouth people who speak their mind.

    This “progressive” group of “middle of the road” Montclairians want the world to believe that what Mr. White and the teachers in Montclair oppose is good education. They want us to believe that a school superintendent with no certification and a board of education with no experience in education (zero) is bringing “change” that is good for education and should be embraced without question. Their knee-jerk reaction has been to publicly look for ways to blame Mr. White, to actively look for flaws in his career and accuse him (and have their children accuse him) of being “inflammatory.” Perhaps these astroturfers who now want to smear Mr. White – by suggesting that he is just an old washed-up pensioned educator who couldn’t stand change and good riddens and hey look even my kids will laugh at you now – perhaps they could take the time to read his years of writing about education, about counseling students, about trying to bring better education and opportunities to Montclair High School’s children.

    Did Superintendent MacCormack ever meet with Mr. White? Even one time? Did she spend the taxpayer’s money on hiring outside consultants for counseling at Montclair High without consulting Mr. White? If so, why? Is counseling high on her “agenda?” If so, why does Mr. White feel so frustrated that after 20 years he is leaving? Has or will Superintendent MacCormack performed an exist interview with Mr. White to try to understand how she could do her job better in the future? Will the Board of Education pose a single question to the School Superintendent regarding Mr. White’s departure? Will the Board of Education meet with Mr. White and try to learn from his departure?

    It is not clear what this group, the large majority, would see as a way for people to express their concerns about the education of children. Should Mr. White have said nothing? Should he just go quietly and pretend (along with all the other pretenders) that all is peaches and cream on a Sunday afternoon in Montclairville? Or should he have gone to a Board of Education meeting and sat there for 4 hours watching the circus and then waited for his three minutes to read a prepared statement while the BOE members walked in and out of the room, joked with one another, or stared tortuously into space . . . only to have to listen at the end to Ms. Kulwin say “Next.”

    unintimidated is correct. There is no accountability by either the School Superintendent or the Board of Education. Those of us foolish enough to waste a Monday evening providing an audience for the BOE shows know it all too well. It is amazing to see that the School Superintendent is seated, not only as a member of the BOE, but in the very center. No one is allowed to question her. Even when one Board member raised the question of her failure to properly (and legally) evaluate the schools’ staff, he was stopped in his tracks by Ms. Kulwin. Ira Shor who raised an excellent question about Superintendent MacCormack creating debt irresponsibly for the town, never received a response – his three minutes were up.

    Superintendent MacCormack will be in Montclair for three or four years as a stepping stone to another career move (and another absurd pension), most likely in politics. She will leave behind an army of Central Office administrators consumed with data that will be extremely difficult to dismantle. She will leave behind a cut and paste curriculum. She will leave behind schools already abandoned by many of the better teachers and educators and where many of the remaining are disheartened. And she will enjoy for the rest of her natural life an income from the Montclair taxpayer that far exceeds the income of many families working several jobs in Montclair. No one can seriously argue that this is good corporate management. No one can possibly suggest that there is any sense of fairness, responsibility or accountability in this.

    Unfortunately, those calling for respect and civility seemed to have forgotten their own pretended values when it comes to saying good-bye to an educator who served Montclair for 20 years and still cares.

    Thank you, Mr. White, for having the courage to look beneath the veneer of the great pretenders.

  39. idratherbeat63 answered the SAT question: In 1000 words, please describe “how things stand in Montclair regarding what is currently going on in the town’s public education.”

  40. “Montclair is the home of the great pretenders, the place where people mortgaged up to their teeth want to pretend that they have bought the American dream. They like their fake brick crossing walks, their belgium-block curbs next to the potholes and the landscaping over of their toxic ponds. Inside their New York work cubicles they are proud of the number of colors in the pixels of their child’s class picture, showing off just how multicultural and diverse they really are.”

    Sorry most of us aren’t as enlightened as idratherbeat63 (“BE AT” 63? or “BEAT” 63? not clear). Anyhow, the reality is that most of us are just trying to live and raise our kids in a nice, somewhat interesting place that is within a reasonable commute of where we work. This is the mundane life most of us lead though – we can’t all spend hours and hours pontificating on internet comment boards to get the message to those below us in society that we know better than they about how to live good lives and be good citizens. Thankfully we have “I’d rater beat/(be at) 63” here to tell us how empty our lives are. Assuming it’s BE AT, I can only imagine how amazing this “63” place is.

  41. idratherbe63 takes an unnecessary, cheap shot at one of my favourite Montclair bands, The Toxic Ponds. Totally uncalled for.

    Its right there in paragraph 3 of this knock-off Tolstoy post.

    And while I admittedly wasn’t paying attention to the degree that idrather was/is, wasn’t Mr. White spending the last few years in the lab making crystal meth with former student Jesse Pinkman?

  42. Really, idrather . . . “great pretenders”?
    As a resident of Montclair, tell us how have you been able to dodge this label.
    Your posts are becoming more self important by the day.

  43. “The reality is that most of us are just trying to live and raise our kids in a nice, somewhat interesting place that is within a reasonable commute of where we work.”

    There have been a lot of posts on Bnet over the years that have claimed to speak for the “silent majority” in town. Not a single one has come close to hitting the mark as impressively as cspn55’s sentence above.

  44. “opposition and discussion is inappropriate”

    This message is a perfect example of the difficulty we’re facing. Nobody is against discussion or even opposition. But so much of the discussion seems to start nowadays with “you’re destroying education in Montclair”, or some other ridiculous attack, that people are often at a loss as to how to respond?

    How can one address nonsense like claims of “astroturfing” (from anonymous posters, I note with humor)? How can one deal with continued repetition of the same misinformation (eg. “the strategic plan is just more tests”)?

    This is why I see shades of the GOP in what’s going on here. The intent doesn’t seem to be to discuss or even to oppose. Rather, it seems more like simple obstruction.

    Dr. MacCormack is a person. A person with extensive experience in education, including as a classroom teacher. To disparage that experience with the simplistic and even childish label of “broadie” is not only both demeaning and counter productive, it indicates that one is operating from a prejudice rather than any real judgment.

    Nobody thinks the strategic plan is perfect. Even the administration expects the plan to evolve over time, as results trickle in. That’s part of what having measurable data is about. Not everything can be measured, but we can measure what can be measured, and use that information to further refine what we’re doing as a district. And even the immeasurable may be captured, however imperfectly, through surveys and discussions and such.

    The counterargument to this is the claim that the administration – the superintendent and the BOE, I expect – is not willing to listen. That’s simply not been my experience. Someone accused Dr. MacCormack of using the initial “listening tour” to spread propaganda, for example. My experience was exactly the opposite: she’d listen, but provide no answers. I recall being frustrated by this, even if I did understand that she’d not yet have all the answers as a newcomer.

    I went to a number of those meetings. I then saw what she took from those that fed into the meetings in which the synthesis of the strategic plan was discussed. I saw issues raised during those listening tour meetings become goals/objectives for the plan. Perhaps it was just coincidence that Dr. MacCormack’s ideas for the district coincided with the issues raised at the meetings, but to me it appeared to be someone responding to the community’s concerns.

    I cannot speak to Mr. White’s disenchantment. It appears as if it predates the new superintendent, though. I’ve read the removed post, and even given my ignorance of the HS – my eldest is just barely in middle school – a few things stick out at me.

    The removed post mentions “Special Ed department, the most expensive and worst in the school”. It’s no surprise to me that a Special Ed department would be very expensive. Having spent a little time looking at the district’s budget, I know that the average spent per SpecEd student is higher than that spent per GenEd student. I’m not clear, therefore, why this point is considered significant.

    As for “worst”, this caught my attention. Again, I know little about the HS. But I do recall a page in last week’s achievement report that showed a shrinking of the gap between GenEd and SpecEd performance on the LA HSPA. The trend was noisier, but still in the positive direction, for the Math HSPA.

    [See the report at

    This doesn’t prove that the SpecEd department isn’t the worst in the school, but it does cause me to question the assertion. At least using this one metric, that department seems to be getting good results.

    The post also mentions having “lost a counselor, a SAC and a secretary to budget cut”. Perhaps these are recent, but most cuts date back to before the current Superintendent’s time. I’m not sure of the timing, but they may even predate the current HS Principal.

    The post included “We are being treated as a failing school when there are some highly successful things about the school. ” Again, speaking as someone with no direct experience, I have heard both good and bad things about the HS. A theme over the past few years, though, from people that do know the HS is that it has needed to improve in some areas. This doesn’t mean that people are failing to recognize the successes, but those successes don’t mean that the areas in need of improvement should be ignored. Still, perhaps Mr. White (and others) are discomforted by the not uncommon references to the HS as “a diamond in the rough”. I can understand that.

    Finally, I am caught by the statement “We have taken a corporate atmosphere that is hostile to teachers, encouraging to charter schools and voucher and allowed it to infect our school system.” Our BOE and Superintendent have stated multiple times opposition to charters in Montclair. The strategic plan includes increased/improved PD and collaboration between teachers. That this “pro-charter” silliness arises suggests that Mr. White’s ire is aimed incorrectly. It seems more aligned with the type of misinformation to which I referred at the start of this message.

    Perhaps Mr. White has merely been caught between a principal with his eyes on his next job, a superintendent still relatively new to the district and in the midst of many changes (and under a lot of pressure, some reasonable and some not), and a charged environment with a lot of misinformation floating around. If so, that would be a shame.

    Either way, I wish him the best of luck in his new position.


  45. Apologies to croigusanam, that was certainly a cheap and totally uncalled pot shot at The Toxic Ponds.

    Much appreciation to agideon for confirming the rest of the post. I was afraid I had missed the mark.

    I have to agree with walleroo, Mr. White would have been much “braver” to have spoken his mind while in office. (Indeed he did. Read his earlier posts more carefully.) Keep in mind that the Superintendent already sent a clear message to the district’s employees this year: You find a gun, you have four kids, I mess up, who takes the bullet?

    So now Mr. White is a meth-head and dope dealer for speaking his mind? The respectful and civil mass in all their glory.

  46. “So now Mr. White is a meth-head and dope dealer for speaking his mind?

    Good Lord! E.D. Hirsch would weep copious tears.

  47. Andrew,
    you write: “This message is a perfect example of the difficulty we’re facing. Nobody is against discussion or even opposition. But so much of the discussion seems to start nowadays with “you’re destroying education in Montclair”,
    Andrew–can you provide evidence of where this model being implemented here in Montclair (many examples around the country and even NY)has worked? What are the outcomes? Achievement gap reduced? Can you show this forum your evidence?
    Andrew, ask yourself, why are parents areound the country and now in NY and NYC so angry with the Bloomberg-style reforms? Are they also just naive? Does Montlcair have anything to learn from their testing experience? Can you tell me the difference between what this superintendent is doing–more tests, increased central office, money for Pearson, expensive consultants, data-driven curriculum–and any of the other strategic plans implemented by other Broad superintendents? Can you tell me how she improved the achievment gap in CT? I am trying to find out because there is no evidence for any of this.
    You also write:
    “How can one address nonsense like claims of “astroturfing” (from anonymous posters, I note with humor)? How can one deal with continued repetition of the same misinformation (eg. “the strategic plan is just more tests”)?
    This is why I see shades of the GOP in what’s going on here. The intent doesn’t seem to be to discuss or even to oppose. Rather, it seems more like simple obstruction.”

    Andrew, can you explain why the strategic plan that imposes quaterly assessments that go above and beyond state mandate is not example of more tests? Why if I have questions and concerns do you think I am a republican? Did you know that ed reform is bipartisan? Hence Christie–Booker–Jeb Bush, among others? For the record: I am a democrat, progressive, no connection to the Tea Party. So, please deal with me accordingly.

    You write: ‘Nobody thinks the strategic plan is perfect. Even the administration expects the plan to evolve over time, as results trickle in. That’s part of what having measurable data is about. Not everything can be measured, but we can measure what can be measured, and use that information to further refine what we’re doing as a district. And even the immeasurable may be captured, however imperfectly, through surveys and discussions and such”
    Andrew, do you have a background in research? Graduate stats and tests and measurements? I do. That is why I know that what they are passing off as quantifiable is snake oil. This is really a curriculum that is driven by the desire to evaluate teachers. That’s right. We then implement a curriculum that achieves those goals–the pedagogy in place is nothing but an HR tool that masquerades as a curriculum. Andrew, what are your goals for your kids? Do you want them to learn to take tests? OR do you want them to be critical thinkers–inspired by broader ideas that motivate them to learn facts? These are not mutually exclusive but if we narrow learning to teach and test, it may preclude the latter.

    Andrew, you talk about Dr MacCormack’s stellar credentials? Just how many years was she in the classroom? Do we have reports of what she was able to accomplish elsewhere?

    Andrew, you write: “The post included “We are being treated as a failing school when there are some highly successful things about the school. ” Again, speaking as someone with no direct experience, I have heard both good and bad things about the HS”

    I believe that what Mr White said is accurate. If you are familiar with education reform across the nation (I am, are you?)then the model being imposed to all Montclair schools is indeed an urban model. Montclair will be the first suburb in NJ (Cerf knows what Montclair means as a community to the rest of NJ)to fall in line.
    You write: “Dr. MacCormack is a person. A person with extensive experience in education, including as a classroom teacher. To disparage that experience with the simplistic and even childish label of “broadie” is not only both demeaning and counter productive, it indicates that one is operating from a prejudice rather than any real judgment.” Andrew, do you follow what Broad superintendents do across the nation? Dr MacCormack is following their playbook. They all begin with a listening tour. Mr White confirmed what I and many other parents suspected: She came here knowing what she was going to do. Please look at the strategic plan and compare it to other strategic plans from Broad superintendents. Find the difference. The Broad Academy is noted for bringing coporate reforms to how schools operate. Run the schools using a charter-like testing model. Our teachers were sent to North Star Academy for training. Here is a link to which showcases the techniques your tax dollars paid for. Please watch these links and tell me what you think? Do you want this for your son?
    And as for astrturfing–Did you know that Broad Academy and Gates have been known to fund pro common core testing groups within communities to silence those parents who dare to ask questions?
    Finally, you may have a good relationship with Dr. MacCormack. I have seen you at Board meetings and she appears to listen to you. But what about all of those parents that have signed petitions against these reforms? They are also wanting the best for their kids. Should she and BOE simply dismiss their concerns, petitions, etc? Why? Now, you may say they are uncivil as I have seen you do in the past. What would you say to all of those parents, say, in NY who are now taking to town hall and board of ed of meetings to register their complaints because none of those officials listened either?Why are they being so uncivil?
    I am not being mean. You may be getting what you need from this superintendent and these reforms- but please do not generalize your experience. What all these forums are suggesting is that many people have concerns and they are not being heard. And for anyone who follows education reform around the country, these parents in Montclair are asking the right questions.
    The testing forum that Montclair Cares About Schools was an eye opener. It was a community gathering that really allowed all of us to ask questions. I’m hoping you attended but I didn’t see you there–you are a bit of a celebrity around town.
    Here is the link to How to Tell if Your District is Infected By the Broad Virus:

  48. “I believe that what Mr White said is accurate…Mr White confirmed what I and many other parents suspected: She came here knowing what she was going to do.

    Since Mr. White’s statements agreed with your “suspicions” (or preconceptions), you believe them to be accurate. Because they are accurate, they confirm your “suspicions”.



    Why is anything associated with charter schools considered an anathema? We don’t want one here for a variety of reasons. Yet I’m perfectly happy – perhaps selfishly – to learn from the experiences of other districts. If they set up experimental schools, is it wrong for us to see what they do and how well it works (or doesn’t work)?

    I don’t participate in drug trials, and I wouldn’t want my kids to need to do so. But I’m fine with using, or letting them use, medicines that have been tested in such programs.

    Since you bring it up, I believe it worth taking a moment to consider the central component of a charter school. It is a school that is outside the control of the local BOE (though funded by the BOE). It occurs to me that all these complaints about the BOE and the superintendent are precisely what one would expect to see from people looking to bring a charter into town. Undermine a BOE, and the ground for a charter becomes more fertile.

    Is that the ultimate goal of the obstruction we’re seeing?

    “Did you know that Broad Academy and Gates have been known to fund pro common core testing groups within communities to silence those parents who dare to ask questions”

    So where’s my money? Where’s the money for the other SATP or PTA or other involved parents that are, if nothing else, willing to give these changes a chance? Our schools could use the additional funding.


  49. Brother Gideon:

    Your response to Mtclmom is almost disturbing. Not only do you not see the forest for the trees, you misidentify the trees.

    Mntclmom wrote a wonderful response to your post and you respond with the usual nonsense about obstruction and opposition to Penny means you want to bring charters into town, etc.

    Please read Mtclmom’s post carefully. Your friendship with the BOE and Penny does not mean you need to dismiss parents who disagree. I completely disagree with most of the board members and Penny, but I take what YOU say seriously – even if I disagree with you.

    I keep repeating on this forum – the left is fighting the left with regards to the so-called reforms (no easy Tea Party target here).

    Finally, you keep pointing to the fact that you are not against discussion. Yet, you refuse to even consider differing opinions. I have read all your posts, but I have yet to read one that suggests you care to understand the other side. You need to give the other side a chance. You are against opposition and discussion. People post long thoughtful posts in response to yours and you come back with these strange diatribes.

    Keep this in mind – the other side understands educational issues too.

    Give the other side a chance; it won’t make you any less of a Penny or BOE supporter.

    Judah MaccB

  50. “You need to give the other side a chance”

    I do. But “the other side” works against this. The circular logic I cited above is one example. In another thread, someone asked “why does every critical response need to be immediately shot down” in response to someone (not me) pointing out inaccuracies in a prior post. Should people simply ignore the poor reasoning, fallacies (eg. using the “broadie” ad hominem as a complaint against the strategic plan), and misstatements and “give the other side a chance”?

    “the other side understands educational issues too”

    Maybe. As long as that understanding remains nothing more than a device serving a predetermined agenda – obstruct the “broadie” – it doesn’t seem to be terribly useful. I’m sure there are some savvy politicians among the GOP members of the House. As long as they remain devices only serving their own agenda, that doesn’t seem particularly useful.

    “the left is fighting the left”

    Again: Maybe. But the techniques being brought to the table – obstruction, disorder in meetings (“Shame”, “You Lie”, etc.), The Big Lie (“death panels” or “the BOE is pro-charter schools”, for example), and so on – are directly out of the radical right’s toolkit.

    “refuse to even consider differing opinions”

    I don’t hear a lot of those. “Testing is bad”? I simply don’t agree. I’ve seen the results of education w/o assessment, and it fails.

    “Too much testing is too much”? I’ll agree that that’s tautological. The central question raised, though, is: how much is too much? Quarterly assessments? The students already had more than this. Why wasn’t it bad before?

    I’ve written this before, but: At Back to School night at Hillside, one of my son’s teachers mentioned the quarterly assessments only to point out that he had always tested more frequently than this and that he’d continue to do so.

    “Testing alone cannot raise scores”? I actually don’t agree with this literally (frequent quick testing can increase retention – it’s one of my younger son’s favorite ways to study), but I suspect I agree with the intended sense. Since the strategic plan involves quite a bit more than testing, through, this is a strawman.

    “Teachers should be free to apply their skills”? Agreed. But nothing precludes this in the changes being put forward. The curriculum defines what must be learned, and roughly by when, but not how. One could argue that the “when” is overly restrictive, but the reality that all Nth graders need to be prepared for (N+1)th grade makes this necessary.

    “critical thinkers are good”? Agreed. I don’t see this precluded. Rather the opposite, in fact: the example comparisons I’ve seen between the old NJ core curriculum and the new one show the latter to require more comprehension of, and ability to use creatively, retained information. Reasoning appears to be given greater emphasis, regardless of the building blocks to which the reasoning is being applied.

    This is a Good Thing.

    Are there any other differing opinions, outside of the various conspiracy theories, that I’ve missed?


  51. Wasilla, Alaska, has its Sarah Palin; Montclair has its agideon. Every town is entitled to a cheerleader turned moose hunter.

    mtclmom, your enormous patience in addressing a world of silliness has won my admiration. But be careful. “A Beautiful Mind” makes for a nice two-hour length tear jerk-er. The reality of delusions is a true house of horrors. Banality that parades as innocence is dangerous.

    jdmaccb, the Montclair Big Brother program needs you. There are more worthy candidates for your time.

    Palin playing agideon to MacCormack’s McCain: “We grow good people in our small towns . . . here in the town of Montclair.” One does have to have some sympathy for the School Superintendent.

  52. While I’m sure Mr. White has his fans, there are also plenty of people who know him to be a bit full of himself. In fact, many teachers at the high school are undoubtedly cringing at his broad declarations and dramatic hand-wringing. Acting like he’s provided some great expose of the dark underbelly of MHS should make the reader wary. There are problems, but nothing that folks are not already aware of. And I couldn’t agree more with those who have questioned why someone who purports to care about kids would write something that casts nothing but negativity on their school (don’t EVEN say it’s to help them…not buying it). If I were Morristown administrators, I’d be wondering who I’d just let in the door. My advice to all is to base your opinions and knowledge of MHS and the MPS on facts and credible voices.

  53. cahlinemasi, you must know a different Mr. White (perhaps the one croiagusanam or profwilliams refer to) or read a different blog. Mr. White actually praised the Montclair schools, teachers, students and even community. He has been blogging for years his praise as well as his concerns. He makes two points, both of which we are already well aware of (as you state):
    1. Superintendent MacCormack has implemented a top-down approach in which listening is only feigned and where schools are run by administrators from a central office who care only about data.
    2. Testing is replacing teaching, and generic scoring is replacing creativity and thinking.
    Your advice is that we look at the facts. That was also my advice: Will Superintendent MacCormack conduct an exit interview? Will the BOE? Will the Superintendent be asked by the BOE to show the 22 years of complaint letters and warning letters in Mr. White’s file (assuming what you and other suggest here is true)? Will the BOE look into the reasons for Mr. White leaving and address those reasons? Will the teachers, faculty, parents and students be informed of this investigation into the facts?
    Or will it be, as Mr. White says, simply top-down, shut-up and get in line?
    Your personal credibility is no greater or less than Mr. White’s. What we should do is investigate the credibility of what you say and what Mr. White says. So let’s do this, openly and transparently.
    What is disturbing is to see these very personal and abusive public assaults on the character of Mr. White for having spoken his mind. It is even worse because children have been encouraged to participate in this character assassination. This does speak badly for Montclair, particularly for those who wrote the opinions and blogs here, for the High School’s SAT, and for the school district’s leadership for not being forthright.

    Whether you buy it or not is perhaps not so interesting, but critical thinking is a skill we would want every child to develop. If Morristown wants to graduate class after class of robot test takers, they have probably chosen poorly for Mr. White. If they want mature and responsible adults graduates that will contribute to a better society, they have chosen wisely.

  54. dratherbeat63!

    You’re right! I’m calling Montclair BigBrother/BigSisters right now.

    In defense of Brother Gideon – he only hunts rabbits and squirrels. 🙂

  55. idratherbeat63, I don’t care if Mr. White blogged sweet nothings for 20 years, all it takes is one rotten one to spoil the bunch. As for credibility – isn’t it hypocritical to put forward your own opinion of Mr. White while claiming that I do not have the credibility to do so myself? I did not say that other people were wrong, I only added my own pov, whereas you have taken it upon yourself to say that I am wrong. I’d work on those critical thinking skills a bit more before hitting the keyboards.

  56. jdmaccb, sometimes we “misunderestimate” those who most admire us. Just who do you think shot the bear in Midland Park this past June?

    “We eat, therefore we hunt.”

    (I hope I got that quotation right. We all have our common sense heroes.)

  57. “Testing is replacing teaching, and generic scoring is replacing creativity and thinking.”

    I’m wondering at what point I should stop using the word “misinformation” and start using the word “dishonesty”. I know that there are some in town still confused, and still thinking that there is *additional* testing going on.

    But this poster has been posting (so one presumes also “reading”) long enough to have caught the fact that four tests a year is not an increase, at least in the vast majority of classes. These are a midterm and final each semester, the only change being that these are now common across the district for a given class. This lets the teachers assure that each student is properly and fully prepared for the next year.


  58. agideon, word choice has never been your strong suit, but do go ahead and use the words that readily come to mind: ‘Refudiate,’ ‘misunderestimate,’ ‘wee-wee’d up’ all you want. After all, “English is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin new words too. Got to celebrate it!”

    Perhaps stick with “disinformation” and “dishonesty.” I don’t think you should venture into the more difficult realms of “properly and fully prepared.”

    I’d have to agree with you on this one point: “there are some in town still confused.” Indeed, I would say most. Your contribution here is large.

  59. “agideon, word choice has never been your strong suit”

    I am pleased to see that we are finally in agreement about something. Still, please continue your personal attacks. You demonstrate your credibility far better than I ever could merely by pointing out where your statements veer from reality (such as the superintendent being responsible for introducing the concept of a midterm and a final in each semester).


  60. agideon, I am quite sure I never referred in any post (or discussion) to “a midterm and a final in each semester,” neither with the words themselves or in any way.

    It is good to see where the straight and narrow really leads.

    Of course, it is all the others responsible for “misinformation.” (And I have to admit, the more you used that word, the less I understood it. But now I think I’ve found the problem: you really mean “false accusations:” agideon, there is a group out there waiting to embrace your rhetoric with open arms. Consider making the leap. We’d all love to see you realize your true inner self.)

  61. “I am quite sure I never referred in any post (or discussion) to “a midterm and a final in each semester,” neither with the words themselves or in any way.”

    True. I’ve repeatedly pointed out that the supposedly excessive testing being imposed in the district is all of “a midterm and a final in each semester”. That is the testing that people are now complaining about, as if we’ve never before had midterms and finals in the district.

    “false accusations”

    I’ve been trying to operate under the assumption that people simply didn’t have the correct information. I’ve been in meetings where people are clearly just repeating what they’ve been told, and are willing to learn what is true and what is not. I would not call their statements of what they’ve heard, even if incorrect, “false accusations”.

    Still, it is tough to avoid the conclusion that some people prefer the misinformation to the truth when the truth is repeatedly rejected or ignored. “False accusation” might apply to those cases where veracity has been deliberately put aside in favor of some other agenda, though I would prefer to use less strong language whenever possible.


  62. agideon, If what I said is true (according to you), then what you said I said was not true.

    Thus, whatever misinformation may be, truth is surely not on your side. So please stick with what you understand and (again) don’t venture into the more difficult realms.

    (Could you provide a list of people who “prefer misinformation to the truth?” This is surely a strange group of people you run with.)

  63. Why is that when someone new comes in and says they want to bring some “accountability” and performance review into a system, the first psychological reaction from many here is “oh no…you’re going to kill the special spirit of Montclair. This is much more important to us than actual performance”?

    Instead of focusing on the criteria being used for accountability and maybe helping to tweak that if not right – the reaction first from some parents, teachers and unionistas is…”oh no…not any accountability”.

    That’s really it in a nutshell.

    Politically correct, former Supt. Alvarez said all the right things to parents and teachers. But in reality, he wasted your money on an unneeded $40 million dollar school to reduce class size, ended up with even lower racial achievement gap scores, lower school rankings and ever more debt. And all the time you believed things were getting better because Alvarez understood Montclair’s “special spirit”. It was the land of oz.

    Rather than knee-jerk attack the new Superintendent who is only now starting to roll out her more performance directed philosophy that yes, will hopefully be able to identify some of the dead wood we have in the system, why not actually look at it. Help modify when needed, but still try to turn things around.

    If Penny M. blows it and she’s not right, pretty soon we’ll see it. But holding on to a mythical warm and fuzzy political past aka Scott White…is only a proven lesson plan for blindness and continued mediocrity. That’s what we’ve all been living with until now.

  64. @ spotontarget, how DARE you bring sense to folks here? I cannot believe that you think waiting to see what happens is a more viable alternative than just FREAKING OUT!!

    Your good sense is taking the specialness away from Montclair.

  65. spontontarget, you would have a hard time hitting the broad side of a barn with a shotgun. Perhaps you have been taking hunting lessons from agideon. (Or did you get personal lessons from your shared mentor?)

    Actually, what many people are objecting to in this fair village is the lack of accountability by the leadership in education. When a Superintendent MacCormack fires someone with four small children because of mistakes for which she had responsibility (and admitted making), where is the accountability? When large sums of money are budgeted and written out in a bond completely irresponsibly by the Superintendent and the Board of Education, where is the accountability? When Superintendent MacCormack does not carry out the lawful evaluations she is required to undertake, but then acts as if she did, where is the accountability? When Superintendent MacCormack lies about class sizes and the BOE is silent, where is the accountability? When one good educator after another leaves the district and there is no inquiry and no follow-up, where is the accountability? Superintendent MacCormack’s first move was to spend more than a million dollars per year on useless, data-crunching administrators for the Central Office, all as a way to put a buffer between herself and accountability. When police officers are teaching English and running book clubs and secretly reading students’ social media and setting up private “tip-lines” at the high school – all without the community’s knowledge or approval – where is the responsibility?

    It is “a not knee-jerk reaction” to object to support “education reforms” that have been shown to fail and that have other interests than education. It is irresponsible to allow policies to be implement that will hurt the education of children. The damage already done by the Superintendent will be difficult to undo – some of it cannot be undone. For someone who costs the taxpayers more than a quarter of a million dollars a year and for whom the town will be paying a pension for the rest of her life, some accountability should be expected.

    profwilliams, don’t worry, your visions of Montclair are still special. Let’s hope they stay special.

  66. idratherbeat, do tell us about how the public schools are having police officers set up secret tip lines and are spying on students on the internet.

    I’d love to hear.

  67. s social worker more cover for the touchy feely “Montclair specialness” defense of our past failures.

    Of course, no one wants to spend money on central office bean counters. But the data crunchers are only a waste of money in the end if the data doesn’t improve. If it does..some here should think about stuffing it.

    And those police investigations you bemoan for monitoring student facebook pages. They’re only really bad if there’s now ‘more’ violence in the schools after…more bullying…more incidents….or if “innocent” kids start getting in trouble for nothing. If not, who cares if the cops read our kid’s facebook crap. Heaven forbid…police who actually might know what’s really going on among the kids and be able preempt something or catch troublemakers. More parents should be monitoring those pages anyway. They’re not.

    So what say you then if student behavioral report numbers start to improve? Then maybe..just maybe all the things idratherbeat63 is whining about – really do need a turn-around.

    The complaint that “good” administrators are running away today from Penny M. — is of course in the eye of the beholder. While I’ve heard many here sing Mr. White’s praises…if you read between the lines….many are also saying that for kids not on a top tier, ivy-league track, his department dropped the ball. So for some of these administrators leaving maybe…just maybe…they are people who really should be going.

    I didn’t hear public screaming when Dr. Cobb – the great principal of Renaissance quit — because he couldn’t stand Alvarez’s political games when they started and successfully ruined Renaissance. Renaissance kids were self-selecting. They were tracking much higher than others when the students were followed up in the HS. That’s likely now over. We of course can’t have one school doing so much better than others. So rather than learn from and replicate the program Cobb was implementing and use it to help other middle school settings…they just turned Renaissance into the rest of the other middling performance programs.

    I for one – having lived through this kind of PC mantra and bs from Osnado and Alverez — where we’re now another $150 million in debt and have lower quality schools in the state rankings – I’m willing to give the new Supt. some time to see what she can really do. At least, hopefully Penny M. won’t throw millions into reducing the racial achievement gap like Alvarez…announce that it’s working and then get shown to be a total “liar/distorter” of reality – as he started walking out the door into his next 250k job.

  68. There is a false dichotomy here that is being ignored. It is possible to get higher test scores in an atmosphere of trust and respect. We do not have to sacrifice morale, or a sense of shared purpose or a community where the students, faulty and administration work together and willingly on shared goals. Will the present plan result in higher test scores? I would think so, for they are being placed as a priority above all else, and in my opinion, at the expense of all else. Is there improved management and control at the high school? Definitely. But this has come at a great cost. We can and should have schools where there is both order and respect, improved test scores and improved morale.

  69. -Could I see by a show of hands how many people have given up reading the gigantic blocks of text that idratherbeat63 posts?

    Ugh! So true.

  70. idratherbeat63 Keep posting your long blocks of text because I have had to endure brother Gideon’s long and incoherent diatribes for weeks. You, however, make sense.

    Here is a post you may enjoy, and it will be a nice change from some of the ‘civil’ crowd I encounter on Barista.

    The junk science of value added teacher evaluations!
    By the way, this guy is an economist and not some hack. I dare Bro. Gideon and the other nice civil people here to read this post:

    The Value Added & Growth Score Train Wreck is Here:

  71. Well, jdmaccb, I accepted your dare and read the blog post you linked to. It was very difficult because I’m not used to moving my lips so much. This guy doesn’t conclude the teacher evaluation models are “junk science.” In fact I would think his stats would be useful is understanding the limits and potential biases of the models, the better to interpret them. The problem seems to be not the imperfection of the models but slavish, unthinking adherence to them. It would be impossible to come to that bit of insight from sampling the hot air being blown around here. Thanks for the link.

  72. Von Klinky!

    If by hot air you mean the fetid Broad Academy hot air that is characterized by the kind of unthinking adherence to a lousy model that has now arrived in Montclair, then you and I agree…again. I am worried that you, and I may be agreeing a little too much.

    Molto affettuosamente,

    Judah MaccB

  73. spotontarget, are you really agideon on a bad day? I never could keep up with all the Palin disguises.

    You jumped through the window with a long lecture on “accountability” in education. We gave you the benefit of the doubt and took you seriously, even went so far as to show just how wrongheaded you are. We asked you why “accountability” has not applied to Superintendent MacCormack or the Board of Education. But then you come back whining about social workers and telling us how happy you are the Montclair Police are reading your children’s social media without you knowing it.

    However, you did throw a serious left hook (I know you would now prefer it to be a right hook) when you mentioned Dr. Cobb and the Renaissance School. That was indeed something that was good for education in Montclair. It offered a real and valued alternative (looloo, read “diverse”) approach to the high school across the street. So you floored me thinking that we agreed about something. (Now I am indeed worried.) You don’t really think that you will see any creative education like this in the future with Superintendent MacCormack running the show from Central Office?

    I suppose you are happy now that the police (who don’t “police” according to agideon) will now be reading the social media of elementary school and middle school children, running book exchanges, teaching all kinds of subjects (in place of those “dead-wood” teachers and “unionistas”) and running private “tip-lines.” It really had us confused as to why Mayor Jackson wanted to build our very own jail in Montclairville, but now it appears much clearer: the town does need to provide a future for its best performing students.

    jmaccb, thank you for the link. It is a more sober view on what testing and data can bring to education, particularly regarding teacher evaluations.

  74. It’s taken me a while to get my thoughts in order. I am a parent of a high school student. And while I want to say that I am appalled at the unprofessionalism of Scott White’s comments, I cannot. Unfortunately, I have experienced his unprofessionalism in every meeting I have attended with him. From our first large scale parent meeting in 8th grade, where, instead of discussing the upcoming high school academics and concerns our children may have about going to the large high school, he instead told us that our children will drink and that we should “smell them at the door”; to another meeting where he made sweeping inaccurate judgments about chances of getting into college, later debunked by Mr. Earle; or in person, where instead of being student-centered, he displayed quite the opposite.

    I agree with Scott that we have issues in the school system, particularly the high school. There are horrendous level inconsistencies within curricula and across classes. Our chemistry program needs immediate attention and administration MUST find a way to ensure student learning of this subject, changing levels and curriculum as necessary (and teachers) so that students do not get turned off to science. Technology needs abound at the HS. The language (minus German) and English programs must be reworked. The poor teachers must be coached and let go, if they cannot engage with students of all learning styles and abilities and keep their teaching skills current. The CGI program should become an international bachelorette program, just to keep pace with the times (we are 3/4 the way there) And mostly…we need to have a STUDENT CENTERED school. Because right now, guys…it is not. Unfortunately, being in the HS is like flipping a coin…and those of us who have gotten “tails” know that due, in major part to the Guidance department, one often cannot get a child out of an academic situation, once the die is cast. the results can be disastrous to the child, as a result…trust me. (and if you have never had “tails” at the high school, count yourself lucky).

    To have the HS become the school it may become in the future, a strong Guidance head is necessary. And so…we need a proactive, non-burned out Head of Guidance, who is a student advocate.

    So, Adieu Scott White.

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