Fatal Accident Involving Hillside Student Not Bike Related

When Jen Savitch wanted a place for her son to lock up his bike on Hillside School property, she learned that principal Michael Chiles did not want kids biking to Hillside.

Savitch, who subsequently organized a bike protest on June 20, says Chiles told her the 1993 death of a Hillside student was the reason.

“Mr. Chiles and I share our concern of safety regarding biking to Hillside. Mr. Chiles expressed to me as a big part of his concern, a child that died biking to Hillside school about 20 years ago. He said a tree was planted after her death on Hillside property, and the bike ban began,” says Savitch.

In an article published the day after a “bike-in” at Hillside with support from Bike&Walk Montclair, superintendent Frank Alvarez told the Montclair Times Chiles has agreed that if parents want to allow their children to bike to school that would be “acceptable.” Alvarez said Chiles had discouraged students from riding their bikes due to traffic safety reasons because of the school’s location at the intersection of Orange Road,  Hillside Avenue and Church Street. In the June 21 article, the Montclair Times also refers to the school as the site of a 1993 accident in which Hillside student Kia Carnegie was killed in an accident while riding her bike to school.

However, police reports and a May 1993 issue of the Montclair Times both indicate that Carnegie was not riding a bicycle and was nowhere near Hillside School, when she was hit by a car.

According to the police report, the fatal accident, on April 28, 1993, occurred when Carnegie was crossing Bellevue Avenue on foot at approximately 8:04 a.m. after buying bagels from a nearby store.

“Whatever his process may be, safety in biking to Hillside remains my primary focus,” says Savitch. “I look forward to hearing from principal Chiles, to begin finding a safe and convenient location for a bike rack on Hillside property for the students.”

Chiles and superintendent Frank Alvarez have not responded to requests for comment.

According to Bike&Walk Montclair, The Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Program – an initiated township SRTS Task Force to get more kids walking and bicycling to school for health, safety, environment and community — helped Montclair Township win over $600,000 in grants for infrastructure improvements, increased enforcement and encouragement activities at seven elementary and three middle schools.


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  1. Great job guys!!!

    This just shows that our schools, like our great town is not run by the best… Or even the okay. Heck, at times I think we are run by the drunk at the end of the bar….

    That our Super and a Principal (or does he go by “Our Leader”?), have traded in this untruth to the point of a parental and community backlash, this is telling.

    GO SAVITCH!!!!

    She has my vote for either Principal or Super.

    And I have no reason to think she wouldn’t be great!

    Please, Jen…….. Your Community needs you….

  2. I still think it would be really cool to get a bunch of kids from Hillside School to crash the 4th of July Parade and sing Queen’s Bicycle Races …. I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike …..

  3. In the end of all of this, for me, it’s about biking safety, policies, and rights. There was a rule we thought should be changed. I went through the board of education and the system worked. Dr. Hoover and Dr. Alvarez did what they were supposed to do as figure heads. I asked, they let me know we were allowed to bike. We presented at the board of education meeting, they again changed the rule with principal Chiles to allow biking and get a rack- pointing me through the proper channels. The next step is deciding where a rack can go on Hillside property. I am happy so far in what we accomplished, and I support the board if education in assisting me in doing so. If Mr. Chiles is understandably concerned with safety, I am with him where ever his fear stems from. It does seems tough to swallow he used this particular death to discourage biking- but safety the same.
    I like the Queen bicycle song post. Can’t get it out if my head.

  4. Thank you, Jen, for doing the investigative reporting to uncover the true story. While we are all concerned about student safety while riding to and from school on bikes, it would be sad if the tragedy of a young girl’s death many years ago had been used to prevent our students from biking to and from school. With the alarming rise in childhood obesity and all the resulting health consequences, parents and educators should be working together to encourage students to get more exercise, not less. It is very gratifying that, after a long and possibly unnecessary hiatus, students will again be biking to and from HIllside School. Kudos to Jen and all the parents and educators who made this a reality.

  5. You’re off base here, ROC. Civil disobedience is a tradition in these parts. As long as you’re willing to do the jail time without whining, you’re golden.

  6. Baristanet got a tip from someone, and did the reporting.
    I can understand why reporting needs to report on what’s hot at the time, and that is their job as reporters.
    For me, I still am focused on only discussing where the bike rack goes at Hillside, working with Safe Routes To School and Bike Walk Montclair to make it safer before the start of the year, and involuntarily singing the Queen song in my head.

  7. Bike&Walk Montclair is happy to be a resource. We’ll help with bike safety education and a Safe Routes plan. I’d like to challenge Hillside parents to come up with ideas to reduce the number of cars at morning drop-off – my guess is that’s a huge part of the safety issue around the school (and Hillside is not the only school with this issue)!

    And if you’d like to march in the parade, you’re welcome to walk or bike with us. Singing optional.

    -LT, BWM

  8. If true, then it is disturbing (to say the least) that Chiles and the school would create and enforce an anti-biking policy based on completely incorrect facts. This becomes more than a tussle over a single bike rack. Whenever our local officials appear to be imposing a policy based upon their own arbitrary whim, we should all be concerned.

  9. I agree with @hipflask’s comment regarding “incorrect facts”, though I’m not clear from what’s written here that the Principal or anyone else associated with the school ever directly connected the 1993 accident with the Principal’s personal ban on biking.

    If that is true – if the clearly unrelated accident was cited as a basis for this policy – then we’ve a completely separate issue. Politicians today are given free reign to lie in public. See Kyle’s lie that over 90% of Planned Parenthood’s activity is devoted to abortions for just one recent and well-publicized example. More importantly, note the nonsensical excuse that his statement was “not intended to be a factual statement.” It was an intentional lie used to sway policy? At least Clinton’s “I didn’t have sex with her” had consequences of a sort and wasn’t used to define policy.

    That’s bad enough, and I’m disturbed that nobody really seems to care. But if we’re now getting this type of nonsense from local school officials, it is within our power that there be consequences. How do we imagine a Principal would react to a student making up excuses for missed classes? How can someone lead our schools and demand honesty from our children while giving up credibility?

    As I wrote above, I’m not clear that anyone at either Hillside or Central Office directly associated the ban with that accident. But if this did occur, we need to take it seriously above and beyond the banning of bicycles.


  10. Andrew,
    “Mr. Chiles and I share our concern of safety regarding biking to Hillside. Mr. Chiles expressed to me as a big part of his concern, a child that died biking to Hillside school about 20 years ago. He said a tree was planted after her death on Hillside property, and the bike ban began,” says Savitch.

    To be clear the plaque at Hillside (pic above) is under the tree planted in Kia Carnegie’s memory.

  11. @HollyKorus Ah! Thanks for clearing that up. Though…I really wish it had gone the other way.

    So, just how do we as a community respond to this?


  12. As of right now, there is not a bike rack at Hillside. I presented at the board of education meeting with some great supporters. Dr. Alvarez has asked me to go through the School Action Team at Hillside to decide on the area where the bikes can go on property. I called the school and last years head and found and the team is principal Chiles. The team “dissolved” according to last years head. So, as soon as principal Chiles responds to my email, and messages – we will decide together where the rack goes. One place suggested was along the outside railing sidewalk side. The supporters and I feel the 60 degree drop into the school just on the
    other side of the railing and fire safety would be a problem. Any thoughts I am welcoming them all. My thought is looking at the school from Orange, on the left side corner is a nice little cutaway of the building. No landscaping needed, the location has sidewalks from both sides and a place I measured that fits a standard bike rack perfectly. It’s safe, it’s convenient, and on property. Just plunk it down.

  13. @Jensavitch Ignoring the issue of honesty…Now that the ban has been overridden by Central Office, I hope that the next step for you and the school is looking at “calming” traffic around the school. Some good and simple ideas were posted in https://baristanetnew.wpengine.com/2011/06/hillside-cyclists-come-out-of-the-closet-bushes/ – a large bite would involve simply some traffic law enforcement around the school for a while. This should literally pay for itself in fines and such until the problem disappeared.

    Of course this isn’t just a problem around Hillside, but what a fine place to start! Perhaps like “drug free zones” with increased penalties for violations, we can have “car abuse free zones” with increased penalties for violations. I’ve seen signs advertising such in construction zones; why not in school zones?


  14. Ms. Savtich:

    So, the one person that was the big obstacle before is the sole avenue through which you need to go finalize this. Perfect. Just perfect. Good luck with that.

  15. Agideon- I did address above how dishonesty is tough to swallow. I also addressed it is essential to focus in order to accomplish what I want, which is safety in biking and a bike rack. With Safe Routes To School, assembly at Hillside with Bike Walk Montclair, dishonesty, obesity, the board of education sending me right back to my original problem (unknowingly or knowingly I don’t know), good role models for students, police ticketing, and singing Queen—– I can guarantee you taking a step at a time and only dealing with exactly what you want, one thing at a time is the best approach. If I addressed it all at once there would be six meetings regarding when the next meetings would be, and three meetings to establish what they will talk about in these meetings.
    And, if this route doesn’t work… Ask Safe Routes To School (SRTS) …. There’s always another route. I will be prepared to take it.

    I read and liked those suggestions for calming traffic. After the bike rack is installed, I plan on working with the organizations that can help accomplish what we need to making it safer.

  16. @Jensavitch I have to say that I find reading this quite encouraging. We’re far enough that my kids ride the bus, but I still think this a terrific effort. And if it helps make biking safer – and more convenient – throughout town, we all stand to win.

    I also feel like this will somehow yield a good result at Hillside separate from the biking. I’m not quite sure what that means, and perhaps I’m being overly optimistic, but I feel you’ve created a space for solving problems (like the broken Action Team) that have been kept hidden for a while.


  17. I don’t know Mr. Chiles at all, but is it possible that to him it’s pretty much all the same tragedy whether the child who died was on foot or on bike or scooter — he just thinks all those things are unsafe? Sure, mindsets need to change and traffic needs to be calmed, but accusations of dishonesty seem a bit harsh.

  18. If you had known Kia, you would understand that Mr. Chiles was remembering not so much the details of her tragic death, but more the incredibly dear and endearing child that she was. I remember Kia in my kitchen at my daughter’s 9th birthday party, keeping me (another mommy) company. She was special and I will never forget her.

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