The Montclair Board of Education held an uncharacteristically short and sparsely attended workshop meeting on September 6, the last day of summer vacation for the students. The board spent much of its time discussing an item on the agenda regarding public use of school facilities and voting on rote business office issues.
Board member Eve Robinson asked about bringing preschool education back to the district. She said the state budget this year allocated money for preschool funding for districts that were permitted to apply, but Montclair was not one of them. Robinson proposed it be returned to the budget in the hope of qualifying for state aid when the state’s 2018 budget is worked out.
“I would like to keep it in your district goals so that we can be continually be working towards being able to responding when the expansion comes out and goes out to other districts,” she said. She specifically asked the Interim Superintendent Barbara Pinsak include it in the district goals.
Superintendent Pinsak asked if including preschool funding as an official goal would help keep it from getting pushed away. Robinson said it would, noting that has gotten pushed back in the past. She made it clear that there should at least be a plan in place should state preschool funding be expanded. The board will likely discuss it at a workshop in the near future.
Superintendent Pinsak reported that there were difficulties with communicating school bus schedules and apologized for any inconvenience that may have been caused, and she added that they district was working on the situation and resolving the issues quickly. She also reported that individual scores for the students who took the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests to their parents with a letter explaining how to interpret them. It will be posted on the district’s Web site on September 7.
The one major agenda issues was a review of Regulation 7510, which governs public use of district resources and facilities. Board member Joseph Kavesh asked if there was any concern with the rule requiring the parties interested in using district facilities to submit a certificate of insurance for bodily injury at a minimum of $1 million, with the suggestion that it should be higher. Board President Laura Hertzog said it could be raised for some special events using school facilities, like a gymnastics event, and Robinson cautioned that raising the minimum would have a detrimental effect on non-profit groups wanting to use the facilities, since they were unlikely to be able to afford anything higher than a million dollars. Board President Hertzog stressed the district could be flexible in determining what the minimum should be, depending on the group involved. No action was taken on this discussion topic at the meeting.
Only two people participated in public comment. Student Noah Gale, a Montclair Hugh School senior and a regular student resident at the board meetings, praised the board for their fine work and welcomed back everyone, including new Business Administrator Emidio D’Andrea, for the 2017-18 school year. Jordan Thompson said he believed there should be two student advocates to address discrimination who are neither district employees nor union members who report discriminatory acts by the staff to the assistant superintendent’s office.
On the search for a new superintendent, Board President Hertzog acknowledged the ad recently placed in the Star-Ledger posted for a superintendent, which showed forward motion on the issue. She said she was pleased with how the search firm Hazard Young Attea & Associates (HYA) has been helping to find a permanent superintendent. The interim superintendent, meanwhile, announced that the community was starting a food drive to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey during the second full week of September, and she encouraged people to get involved. Also, Robinson had an announcement of her own. She informed the board and the audience that there will be a meeting of the School Climate and Culture Subcommittee at the Charles H. Bullock School library to discuss respect for diversity, emotional and physical safety in the schools, and participating in school life, among other topics. The meeting is at 1 P.M. on Sunday, September 17.