The Montclair Board of Education meeting started with a presentation by Peter Coyl, director of the Montclair Public Library. Coyl spoke about a partnership with Toni’s Kitchen and Partners for Health that helps produce meals for students during the summer, to fill the gap when the free and reduced school lunch program isn’t available during summer break. Coyl said the program is open to anyone under the age of 18 and there’s no need to prove residency or income. Kids can come and get a free lunch and so far, during the eight weeks that the program has been running this summer, the library has served over 2000 lunches.
Coyl also highlighted other supports the library offers students, including databases for students to get homework help after school, where they can log in and get help from a certified teacher on tutor.com in real time, Coyl says.
Following Coyl’s presentation was a report from interim superintendent Barbara Pinsak, who began by mentioning that administrative retreats were underway this week, with staff reviewing goals and looking at next steps for the district’s Undoing Racism program.
Pinsak then listed numerous repairs and upgrades to various school, including floor repairs at Bradford School; carpeting and painting at Hillside School; and replacing of toilets and lockers at Montclair High School, as well as renovations to the high school parking lot.
In addition to sprucing up schools, the district has been busy with staffing, from before end of school year through to September. Pinsak introduced Mr. D’Andrea as business administrator and board secretary and a new district director of special services, Tom Santagato.
“This summer to date, we’ve employed approximately 20 new staff members and we were able to recall nine teachers and one secretary, not because we are adding positions, but primarily due to retirement or resignation,” Pinsak said, pointing out that Montclair has stayed within budget. Pinsak said the district did add some positions — two full time and one half time special education teachers based on student’s IEP needs. A social work position was added for the Academy at Glenfield pilot and one math teacher at Renaissance based on new algebra initiative at the middle school.
“The other good news,” Pinsak added, “is that I’m pleased to report we were able to recall over 30 of our full time and four half time paraprofessionals for the district.” Pinsak said five additional para positions were also added based on new student needs.
Another critical element or summer planning, says Pinsak, was the continuation of Montclair’s equity work. “We’re still finalizing expectations and parameters for the student advocacy position so for now that position is on hold,” Pinsak said, adding that she was proud to be able to appoint Gayl Shepard, as a teacher on special assignment to Dr. Johnson, the assistant superintendent for equity. Shepard previously served as president of the Montclair Education Association.
“Ms. Shepard has a wealth of knowledge about our district, knows our town, and more importantly, our students and parents. She’s done a lot of research on her own on successful positive behavioral supports and restorative justice programs. I believe she will serve Montclair students in the role of program evaluation and development as well as in the role of advocate for students.”
Search For New Superintendent & Public Forums on School Climate and Funding
BOE president Laura Herzog offered an update on the search for a new Montclair schools superintendent. The district is advertising and actively recruiting. There are almost 30 new applicants to consider and the pool is expected to keeps growing. The goal remains to choose a finalist early in the new year with a start date of July 1, 2018.
Board member Eve Robinson invited the public to give input at a meeting on School Climate and Culture on Sunday, September 17, from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Bullock School’s library.
Another public meeting — a school funding forum — is scheduled to tentatively take place on Monday, October 30. The forum would address how school funding works, with the Mayor Jackson talking about the role of the Board of School Estimate and an opportunity for questions and answers. The location of the meeting is to be determined.
During public comment, Montclair High School rising senior Alissa Brown, who was involved in a recent youth town hall event, questioned why a Montclair High School student was not represented on the board who could provide the youth perspective and how other districts, such as Newark, do have students who participate on the Board of Education and represent other students.
Board member Jessica de Koninck said having a student representative on the board had been proposed previously and that she would like to see the item, which had been put on hold, be put back up for board discussion.