Montclair Board Talks Budget, Police Out of Glenfield School, Strategic Plan & Common Core

BY  |  Tuesday, Nov 19, 2013 11:38am  |  COMMENTS (57)

boe 013Monday night’s Board of Education meeting covered a lot of topics, had presenters from Nishuane School PTA and Nishuane School teachers, and had primarily positive comments from the public and did it all in a little over four hours.

Superintendent’s Report: CCSS, Strategic Plan, Resources, Police at Glenfield

Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Penny MacCormack took the time to discuss many things during her portion of the meeting.

She gave some background on Common Core State Standards and the new state assessments called PARRC, which schools will take in spring of 2015. Much of her discussion was a repeat of the CCSS background she gave the the district CCSS parent workshop. She stressed that our students will face a more rigorous test. “The bar has been raised,” she said and explained that the district’s Strategic Plan was created to prepare students. She went on explain that over 100 Montclair teachers worked over the summer to develop collaboratively develop curriculum and assessments. She stressed that they knew that implementing new curriculum would not be easy and the intention was to allow for constant input and feedback to address concerns, tweak things that may not work, and make clear that it would be an ongoing process.

She explained that through the feedback and after several assessments were leaked online, the common unit assessments will move to school wide, rather than district wide.

She spoke of the lack of resources and explained that, while they have addressed these  issues, that she believes that at this moment of transition to CCSS, we’re headed toward more electronic resources for information, such as iPads.

She announced that after the concerns from the public, the board met with Dr. Putrino, principal of Glenfield Middle School, and Detective Williams, the police Sergeant at the head of the Community Police Unit, and came to the decision to have to have the police withdraw from the school. She said that the police are working on a plan for a better situation and will present it for consideration.

School Budget

Ray Sarinelli of the Nisivoccia firm presented an audit report for the 2012-2013 school year.

The district’s budget fund balance, or surplus, at June 30,2013 was $12.865,360. Sarinelli said the surplus dropped more than $1.1 million, going from $13.9 million for the year ending June 2012 to $12.8 million a year later.

Update with some clarification on numbers by David Deutsch: Board member David Deutsch explained that even though the fund balance was $12.8 on June 30, 2013, at July 1, 2013, the board allocated $4.8 million into the school budget reserve. $2.8 million was allocated for capital reserve, $750,000 for maintenance reserve, (Deutsch said we were working with 10 building out of 11 that were old and in constant need of repair, so it’s important to allocate funds), $2.2 operating reserve, and $2.25 million is surplus that will be applied to the budget in 2014-2105, which is required by law.  So by the end of July 1, 2013 the fund balance or surplus was actually $7.5 million, to which Sarinelli said “You’ve position yourself with some nice reserve going forward.”

Sarinelli commended the board for reducing the amount of tax revenue saying, “I think that’s a significant accomplishment and it needs to be pointed out. ” He added, “There is no other district that I deal with that can say that the tax levy is less than it was four years ago, let alone on average, about $10 million bellow what the cap would have otherwise provided for.”

Nishuane School Teachers’ Report

nishuane teachers

Ms. May, a kindergarten teacher at Nishuane, spoke on behalf of Nishuane teachers to give a report on what’s working and what’s not working for teachers. She began saying that the 2013-2014 school year can best be described as “The year of change.” May went on to say that some of the changes have been beneficial, while others have left teachers feeling “exhausted, unprepared and constantly trying to keep our heads above water.”

On a positive note, they spoke highly of principal Jill McLaughlin and said the new common planning time been beneficial, had great support from the PTA, and a helpful staff council have created a “great sense of moral in the building, and we enjoy working with one another.”

She said that changes such as the state mandated SGO’s and new teacher evaluation system, along with learning the new CCSS,  has them feeling overwhelmed. She said it would be helpful that they had less staff meetings, allowing them to have more time to work. Teachers also requested that they receive units earlier, so they have time to prepare. She said they are happy to have the principal do more evaluations, put it requires more paperwork, taking more of their time. Teachers requested that Report Cards be changed to reflect the new standards and possibly be made as pdfs. They requested that an effort be made to bring back Aides in all classrooms to support teachers.

May ended saying “You’ve been giving us more chance to voice out opinion and we respect that a lot. We respect the individuals at the board and together we hope to form a more collaborative relationship among ourselves allowing us the clarity to make up our minds and the comfort to speak publicly about out opinion.”

Public Comments

Charles Rosen

Charles Rosen

The public comments last night were overwhelming in support of Dr. MacCormack, the board and the Strategic Plan.

Pat Leonard, a 14 year resident who put two children through the Montclair school system, said her work experience of over 30 years in higher education publishing and corporate ed. and workforce development, has shown her that students “don’t have the skills needed.” “I wish the strategic plan and focus on Common Core started years ago,” she stressed. She thanked the board for such a “thorough search for our superintendent.”

Debbie Villarreal-Hadley, mother of 4 students and longtime volunteer, said she came out to “Show my support for the district and strategic plan and Common Core standards.”  She said it has been put out there that because many parents haven’t shown up at past board meetings to show support for the Board and Superintendent, that that support doesn’t exist. “That is not the case,” she said.

Charles Rosen, a father of two at Hillside and Glenfield Schools, said “I stand tonight to show my support for the strategic plan, but more importantly, I stand to make a request that our teachers, our administrators, our board and our parent volunteers work together to actually implement that plan to the best of their abilities.”

Betsy Harris, mother of two MHS students, said she “Felt confident in our educational experts and we need to give them a chance to try and let this work.”

On the other side, Ira Shor, father of one, came to the podium and chided the board for the accumulation of “enormous surplus and refusing to spend it on our children.” He  asked, “Are we Camden? What is going on with you people?” He said every year, the board was boasting  how much money they saved on the budget to satisfy an “anti-tax” crowd. Shor said,”You can organize a crew to come here to say how wonderful you are, but the worst thing that has happened yet to Montclair public schools is the Common Core, which has never been vetted by any research, never been tested, and has been shoved down our throats, and forced upon us to make guinea pigs of our children.”

Regina Tuma, founder of Montclair Cares About Schools, spoke of other parents, teachers and districts who were fighting back against the Common Core State Standards and testing reforms. She said “Montclair parents need to know that we can reach Common Core Standards and close achievement gaps by providing learning experiences that are rich and where teachers and students are responsible for learning and knowledge.”

The next public meeting of the Board of Education will be held on Monday, December 16 at 7:30 pm at the MHS auditorium on 100 Chestnut Street.


  1. POSTED BY profwilliams  |  November 19, 2013 @ 12:36 pm

    Thankfully, the US Secretary of Education let everyone know what Montclair’s problem is with the Common Core Standards is all those “White Suburban Mothers” who fear that their kids aren’t “a as brilliant as they thought they were.”

    If those dumb, entitled, “White Suburban Mothers” would just pipe down with all this “fear”-mongering. Later, he added, “they need to be quiet like those Single, Black Inner-City Mothers.”

    Just kidding.

    Had he said “Black,” he’d be fired. For slagging “White Suburban Mother’s” he needed to do is what he did: claim he used “clumsy phrasing.”

    For his words, I would fire him! And I hope Obama does. It’s hard to preach racial and gender equality, when your Education Secretary trades in racist and sexist speech meant to demean and subjugate.

    (Sadly, Obama won’t. And “Liberals” will come to his defense because, you know, he didn’t really mean it…..)

  2. POSTED BY croiagusanam  |  November 19, 2013 @ 1:13 pm

    Oh absolutely, prof! Duncan should be fired! Because we all know that there are NO white suburban mothers who are discovering that their children aren’t brilliant!

    And we know that there are no black kids mired in single-parent homes, living in poverty, with absent fathers providing nothing in the way of financial or emotional support.

    And ANY politician who suggests otherwise should be FIRED!!!

    We DO NOT want any uncomfortable truths, after all.

  3. POSTED BY meccamagic  |  November 19, 2013 @ 4:06 pm

    There is a $12 million surplus that will NOT be used to address the so-called achievement gap, such as after school programs with transportation, text books and other materials, research into successful innovative curriculum, and strengthening of the STARS program in-school. Our low income students have become expendable political pawns to fatten the bonus checks and pad the resumes of superintendents. When Dr. McCormack can say that the lack of textbooks for low income students to prepare them for common core, PARCC, and just everyday learning, is no big deal, because they can go on Wikipedia, and in five years, students will have IPads. We will be having the same conversation in five years, ten years, etc. because it is not in the interest of the superintendent/BOE or Town Council leadership to seriously address an issue which keeps certain people well paid and moving up the corporate education ladder.
    And I see no mention of David Cummings extensive statement re: the politically transient nature of common core/PARCC, and the large sums of money being made by a few people off of an educational policy that has no basis in education.

  4. POSTED BY iteachthereforeiam  |  November 19, 2013 @ 5:46 pm

    prof, et al. – actually, true “liberals” have been calling for duncan’s head since day one… we want hom fired for 1000 reasons beyond the dumb comments…

    and here is, in a way, a distillation of the major problem facing education and humanity at large: “Sarinelli commended the board for reducing the amount of tax revenue saying, ‘I think that’s a significant accomplishment and it needs to be pointed out.’ He added, ‘There is no other district that I deal with that can say that the tax levy is less than it was four years ago, let alone on average, about $10 million below what the cap would have otherwise provided for.’ ” this is NOT a good thing – they should be run out of town for this, not commended!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  November 19, 2013 @ 6:05 pm

    Based on these numbers, I’m setting the 2014-15 tax levy over/under at 2.9%.

  6. POSTED BY mtclrsown  |  November 19, 2013 @ 6:05 pm

    Wowwweeeeee….ex-Mayor Fried’s dinner party showed up in full force last night to support the BOE and Superintendent!!!! Why wasn’t I invited to that dinner party? Shucks…could it be that I don’t think the job of the BOE is to simply lower taxes? Could it be that I don’t see eye to eye with Mr. Fried, Karen Turner, and the rest of their ilk who pat themselves on the back for this? Could it be that I’m just the average Montclair citizen whose money doesn’t go that far?

    Also, lest anyone be fooled by the backslapping and handslapping (don’t think I didn’t see you School Action Team member!!!) at the “implementation” of the Amistad curriculum and the $12 million surplus…Amistad curriculum has been used in Montclair Schools for over a decade. The BOE’s act that they are forward-thinking and care about the “other” Montclair and the achievement gap is pure PR. Is anyone surprised that Karen Turner (she of the Tea Party, whose children don’t go to MPS) supports this BOE whose claim to fame is simply lowering taxes…at the cost of education of countless children’s education? Well, at least they have textbo…oops…no they don’t….well, at least they will have iPads…in 5 years…

  7. POSTED BY qby33  |  November 19, 2013 @ 10:26 pm

    Glenfield has police, hard questions were asked, then the police were gone. Are you all surprised that there was no transparency on this?? Just *poof* gone!

  8. POSTED BY montclairpublic  |  November 20, 2013 @ 7:05 am

    “Is anyone surprised that Karen Turner (she of the Tea Party, whose children don’t go to MPS) supports this BOE whose claim to fame is simply lowering taxes…at the cost of education of countless children’s education?”

    this gets to the heart of it all…the rage of the rich and (mostly) white….who could give a damn about educating everyone’s child (they’ll use the achievement gap as a weapon but never talk about early childhood development) and would love to charterize Montclair to relieve the township’s pension obligations along with their tax burdens. it does follow the pattern in America of widening the income gap (the only gap they care about), does it not?

  9. POSTED BY montclairpublic  |  November 20, 2013 @ 7:07 am

    One moe thing…The Mayor (not Jerry Fried, who is despicable), is showing his true developer’s colors (green)

  10. POSTED BY profwilliams  |  November 20, 2013 @ 8:33 am

    (prof shouting into megaphone at montclairpublic, who’s standing on the ledge, about to jump).

    “montclairpublic, don’t do it. Stop screaming about things that don’t matter here: TEA PARTY, RICH, WHITE, “CHARTERIZE” (?). It’ll be okay. There are many fine folks who disagree here- no need to make them evil with underhanded motives. SOMETIMES FOLKS DISAGREE- THAT DOESN’T MEAN THEY DON’T WANT WHAT’S BEST FOR OUR KIDS—- DON’T JUMP!!! YOU HAVE A LOT TO LIVE FOR…..”

    (Oh, and I seem to remember the Charter movement losing almost every battle here in Montclair, so this fear-mongering choice is as odd as screaming TEA PARTY!!)

  11. POSTED BY idratherbeat63  |  November 20, 2013 @ 8:45 am

    The photograph that leads this article is perhaps the most revealing of all that is said in the article. Three people seated behind a banner announcing the “Montclair Board of Education.” Only one of those people behind the banner, however, is actually a member of the Board of Education. The other two are present illegitimately and without competences. They are pretenders, which indeed makes all three and the entire BoE part of the great pretending.

    Rarely do profwilliams and I agree, even if we do have a most valued friendship. This time, however, we need to pay good attention to what he is telling us. The Common Core Curriculum (or, Common Core States Standards Initiative), which is driven by a small rich private elite and supported by a group of Washington and state politicians, has driven its campaign toward the poorer and under-achieved people in the country. It has the veneer of a liberal agenda with a core of elitism. It promotes race as a fundamental identifier and as a measure of one’s ability to achieve. It heightens feelings of racial tensions and leads, at times, to outright racist remarks.

    It is difficult to have a discussion of local politics, or local concerns about what is best for children, without somehow ending up in Trenton or Washington, DC, and getting divided along CNN and Fox News lines of narrative. However, it is also near impossible to understand Superintendent MacCormack’s agenda / strategic plan without understanding the background she brings and narrative she has borrowed.

    The Common Core Curriculum (CCC) does not raise the bar for learning and achievement; rather, it creates a real barrier, especially for the poor and those who have traditionally had trouble achieving in school. It treats all children as if they are the same, need to learn the same things and need to behave and think in the same ways. It is a bureaucrats dream, and a tool for those who want public education to fail so that more money can be turned to private enterprises.

    This is not a struggle against Superintendent MacCormack or the Board of Education; it is rather a struggle for good education for children. Montclair, however, does not seem to be a community that can be at the vanguard of this discussion. There are real structural problems with the way education is managed in the district, and there is a complete vacuum regarding responsibility and transparency. As the BoE President Kulwin has said, smacking her gavel, “This is not a dialogue.” Without dialogue a community will never arrive at what is best (or even the least bad). Without dialogue education is simply not possible.

    One can only feel disheartened to see how BoE Meetings are increasingly staged. One feels sympathy for the teachers that put on a brave face, but yet still fear too much for their jobs to speak up for their profession. Surely there are people who have bought into what Superintendent MacCormack came to sell to Montclair, and these people even have their own good reasons for that. Outside of the MEA, Montclair Cares about Schools and Baristakids, no one is engaging a dialogue.

    Superintendent MacCormack should be congratulated for having removed the police from Glenfield School. The only place there was an open community dialogue on the issue was here on Baristakids, and we know she follows this closely and responds at times. This should be appreciated. Principal Putrino’s letter has shown itself to be what it was. He allowed himself to be used politically by Superintendent MacCormack, and this is unfortunate. The police officer at Montclair High School, who according to news reports praising her, teaches English there, follows students on social media, and operates a private tip hotline. This should also come under review by Superintendent MacCormack.

    If Mr. Mark Tabakin has indeed issued subpoena’s, then there must be a hearing scheduled by the Board of Education. But seeing that the Board of Education has not announced such a hearing and that it is very questionable if it has legal authority to hold such hearings, then probably most of the town will want to have more transparency regarding this investigation before simply believing the fear creating remarks.

    The reaction from Superintendent MacCormack to revelations by teachers and parents (the latter here on Baristakids) that basic textbooks are systematically missing throughout the district is extremely disconcerting. Firstly, taking away textbooks without providing anything in their place, even if only for a year, is entirely unacceptable. Toward the long term, however, the situation is even more worrying. Do parents want their children in 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th grade learning mathematics on an Ipad? Do they want their children spending the greater part of their day in school in front of a computer screen? We all know that computers need to be a part of education. Is there, however, any evidence that computers should entirely replace textbooks?

    “Every child left behind a computer” might be good for corporate America and the Chinese economy, but is this how we want to educate children? Perhaps Superintendent MacCormack hopes to leave Montclair in 3 years with the legacy that the Montclair School District was the first to achieve “every child left behind a computer” in New Jersey, but what kind of an achievement will that be for the children?

    For those who are interesting to understand what is behind Superintendent MacCormack’s actions in the Montclair School District, they might want to follow the discussion started by Montclair Cares about Schools:

    The quotation profwilliams begins the postings here with is disturbing just as is the photo that leads the article. Montclair probably cannot stop this from happening, as The Star Ledger editorial threatened. No worries, Thanksgiving is approaching and we have so much for which we should be righteously thankful.

  12. POSTED BY montclairpublic  |  November 20, 2013 @ 10:19 am

    Prof (to borrow from another poster here),
    that the best you’ve got in an attempt at levity?

  13. POSTED BY montclairpublic  |  November 20, 2013 @ 10:22 am

    Prof, go to a meeting and see who lines up in praise of the superintendent. and then tell me there isn’t a class component to this division.

  14. POSTED BY montclairpublic  |  November 20, 2013 @ 10:34 am

    I have no problem with a conversion to digital learning. It’s inevitable and, yes, it will be more affordable. So the superintendent is technically not to faulted for that line of thinking. however…..
    she was quoted in a recent Montclair Times story as saying she had no knowledge of the textbook/learning material shortfall, and essentially called out the teachers for waiting too long into the school year to complain (which was a fabrication, emails are available proving otherwise) and then choosing the wrong forum (a public BOE meeting, is she kidding?) to vent their frustration.
    from that position we have evolved to, well, not a big deal, we’re transitioning to ipads at some undisclosed time, anyway. so which is it? a miscommunication that was not the fault of Central Services or an overall plan to move away from print? the double talk is stunning. and only D. Cummings on that smirking board had the sense and courage to say, fine, develop a plan for the digital future but what about the children who are dealing with the shortfall right now?
    Prof., you have an answer (please use upper case so we’ll know how serious and sagacious you are…

  15. POSTED BY State Street Pete  |  November 20, 2013 @ 11:48 am

    Wow, when was the last time you saw someone stand and speak in support of the the Board or Super, let alone a series of people speaking in such glowing terms?

    I’ve spent my share of time at my local BOE meetings, some routine, some contentious. Generally you know that things are going okay when people don’t say anything. The more crowded the meeting the more issues there tends to be. One person making positive comments is notable, but four or five, or more, that might just be unpresidented.

    Golly, I wonder how it was that so many people came to speak in favor of the the Board and Super in one night. The wave of community support is heartwarming. They must be doing a hell of a job.

  16. POSTED BY walleroo  |  November 20, 2013 @ 2:45 pm

    Having been out of town for a while, it is gratifying to come back and see many of the same windbags carrying on, but also some new windbags just cutting their teeth, and even some ancient windbags resurrected from the dead (I’m looking at you, cro).

    Life is good!

    Carry on…

  17. POSTED BY State Street Pete  |  November 20, 2013 @ 3:53 pm

    Nice to see you too roo!

  18. POSTED BY mtclrsown  |  November 20, 2013 @ 5:09 pm

    I see walleroo and “prof” have added a lot to the actual discourse. Great defense of the actual “reforms”.

  19. POSTED BY nomo  |  November 20, 2013 @ 7:29 pm

    Why is it that when all of the commenters at Board meetings have negative comments, that’s ok. But when a number of people stand up to ask for civility and to note that the changes might actually be a breath of fresh air, suddenly it is a nefarious plot hatched by the Board? Why is it so hard to believe that there are many many people who do not agree with the condescending, inflammatory accusations employed by many? I was at the meeting and I couldn’t even understand what points people like Ira Shor were making. They just wanted to rant. They were angry that others had arrived ready to voice opinions that differed from their own. And then they said that the differing, positive opinions were “intimidating.” Huh? One more thought, to montclairpublic — how in the world are you able to make judgements about class distinctions based on seeing people stand in front of a podium? Stop judging, start listening.

  20. POSTED BY iteachthereforeiam  |  November 21, 2013 @ 12:27 am

    montclair – take a look:

    “Superintendent Capone’s qualifications for his current position were questioned throughout the evening. Many wondered aloud if his lack of previous Central Office experience caused him to make hasty decisions in the first 50 days of his tenure that a more seasoned professional might have thought through more carefully. There were pointed comments made directly to Capone, some questioning if he is the right fit for a progressive district like Highland Park where there is deep support for our teachers and their union….Capone was hired fresh out of one of the NJDOE’s Broad funded Regional Achievement Centers….prior to being the Executive Director of the Region 4 RAC he was a ‘turnaround principal at a Race to the Top school in Delaware.

    Capone’s history was deeply concerning to me as someone who has been immersed in the state and national debate over education reform and policy for more than two years. When Capone was hired I tried to keep an open mind, but I was nervous.

    And now my community is nervous too.”

    right, but we’re crazy…

    and nomo – to answer one of your questions (without eviscerating your post point-by-point as it deserves), history has shown us that when regular folks organize and speak truth to power, those in power launch counteroffensives that are organized to look spontaneous/organic, etc. (which, unfortunately, often applies to wars, but that’s a different post i guess)…and there is always something fishy and unseemly – something qualitatively different – about those in already in control of the system doing it…

  21. POSTED BY iteachthereforeiam  |  November 21, 2013 @ 12:35 am

    and the photo – seriously – remember when alvarez sat off to the side with dana sullivan? and when there was no lawyer at the table? and then when there was a lawyer, he started out on the edges, too? now…well…you see…

  22. POSTED BY nomo  |  November 21, 2013 @ 7:47 am

    Iteach – again, your concern for your side of the issue has lead you to make assumptions that are unfounded. The district is not organizing parents. If like-minded parents encourage each other to let their voices be heard, how is that any different from what your group has been doing? Are you suggesting that the parents who spoke out are “in charge” of the system? My sense is rather that there has been tremendous frustration with the schools for some time, with a sense that no one was listening. Volunteers who have been beating their heads against a wall and are finally being let in the door. If you paid attention at the meeting the other night, you would have heard that the Superintendent is listening and responding at every one of those meetings. The teacher from Nishuane who spoke did not sugar-coat her message. She may have been nervous, but she did an amazing job articulating real concerns — not the fabricated ones your group tends to resort to. And clearly she was heard.

  23. POSTED BY idratherbeat63  |  November 21, 2013 @ 8:55 am

    @nomo Broadway is 10 miles from Montclair. The people in Montclair know a good show, a good actress, when they see one. They also know when actors are tripping over their lines, when the plot is thin, props fail and the director has made a mess of it.

    When people from Montclair go to Broadway, they expect to see a good show that is convincing and worthwhile. When they go to a Board of Education or Town Council meeting, they expect transparency, forthrightness, truth and dialogue.

    Perhaps Monday nights are better spent on Broadway.

  24. POSTED BY walleroo  |  November 21, 2013 @ 9:01 am

    The trouble, nomo, is that it is possible to write these comments at home alone in your underwear. Or worse.

    At the risk of indulging in self flattery, FWIW I include myself as a member of this site’s inglorious gasbags.

  25. POSTED BY idratherbeat63  |  November 21, 2013 @ 9:34 am

    @walleroo That was a bit too much of your personal information in an attempt at inglorious self-flattery.

    Or were you trying to refer to Les Misérables?

  26. POSTED BY complainerpuss  |  November 21, 2013 @ 11:14 am

    “Perhaps Monday nights are better spent on Broadway.”

    Word of warning: most of Broadway is dark on Mondays.

  27. POSTED BY montclairpublic  |  November 21, 2013 @ 11:28 am

    “On the other side, Ira Shor, father of one, came to the podium and chided the board for the accumulation of “enormous surplus and refusing to spend it on our children.” He asked, “Are we Camden? What is going on with you people?” He said every year, the board was boasting how much money they saved on the budget to satisfy an “anti-tax” crowd. Shor said,”You can organize a crew to come here to say how wonderful you are, but the worst thing that has happened yet to Montclair public schools is the Common Core, which has never been vetted by any research, never been tested, and has been shoved down our throats, and forced upon us to make guinea pigs of our children.” — Ira Shor

    Nomo, what is it, exactly, that Shor said here that you fail to understand?
    and s for what I see at meetings, it’s also what and who I know. The overwhelming number of folks lining up for the superintendent just happen to be — how shall we put it? — rather well off. some of them have children who have never stepped foot inside our public schools. some of them have children who have gone through the schools and now merely seem to be defending their friends, mortified by what they call “vicious attacks.” I have said this here before: actions — not challenges to an agenda — are vicious attacks. vicious actions like stripping health benefits from your lowest-paid full-time employees and sitting stone-faced or smirking while they beg for them back. vicious actions like trying to intimidate the union president in public. many of the same folks defending the super/board are part of the anti-tax crowd, yet they don’t want to know how much it’s costing the taxpayers for open-ended investigators or deans on top of principals in every school or hundreds of thousands for tests copied from state DOE web sites. however, anyone who stands up — like Ira Shor — to say that surplus money should be invested in missing textbooks and smaller class sizes, you don’t understand. your problem is you don’t want to understand. sorry, but it’s the BOE and the super who caused all this by turning a deaf ear to the sizable part of the community that just asked to go slower and not jam an unproven agenda down everyone’s throats. to those who resent the push back, and those who sneer like the smug Prof on this board, too damn bad. it ain’t going away.

  28. POSTED BY njgator  |  November 21, 2013 @ 12:41 pm

    From where I am sitting on the sidelines…and I am sitting on the sidelines since I jumped ship over the border to GR….what is apparent are that lots of folks are unhappy. People are unhappy with the BOE and Super…you read the threads over on the main BNet page and see that people are unhappy with the running of the Police Department, people are unhappy with the Parking Utility and the way the Town Manager is running that.

    On the school side we have a BOE that is not directly elected by the voters and therefore is mostly accountable to the Mayor. On the township side, we have a Faulkner style of government which has a Manager Executive and severe limitations on the controls that the Mayor and Council, who are directly accountable to the voters, can have over the way the township is actually run. The Township Manager is pretty much all powerful and all the Mayor/Council can do is replace the Manager. Every 4 years people get frustrated by the lack of progress on the part of the Mayor/Council and pretty much throw all the bums out.

    Why doesn’t Montclair consider doing away with all that and setting up a form of Government where the voters have more of a direct say in how the town and BOE are run?

  29. POSTED BY nomo  |  November 21, 2013 @ 12:42 pm

    First, I disagree that the majority “just” wants them to go slow. In fact, the majority of the community has been asking for action for years.
    Second, It is very dangerous to make judgements about anyone else’s circumstances. Apparently you don’t know the people who spoke. Only one did not send her kids to Montclair Public Schools. So? One woman stated that her children had just graduated and spoke as an educational professional. The rest made clear their vested interest as parents of students in the school system. The only snobs I see are those who insist that some people don’t have the right to speak.
    Third, investing $12 million in textbooks that will be obsolete by the end of the year is a ridiculous idea. Most of my kids’ teachers through the years have used textbooks sparingly because they are not effective teaching tools. Why should we remain in the dark ages? I think I “understand” all too well, no matter how condescendingly you approach the discussion.

  30. POSTED BY idratherbeat63  |  November 21, 2013 @ 2:47 pm

    @montclairpublic This time perhaps some sympathy is appropriate for nomo. Ira Shor does his homework and he does his math. He understands the enormous political machinery behind the Common Core Curriculum and just why these assessment tests are so near and dear to Superintendent MacCormack and the Board of Education.

    Ira Shor knows how this has been sold in Washington by elite billionaire businessmen (and men it was) with almost no input or support from professional educators. He knows how different states have picked this up, including Cerf & Co. in Trenton, and he knows how Ms. Penny Elizabeth MacCormack became Dr. Penny MacCormack and then, almost in the same breath, School Superintendent in Montclair.

    Ira Shor also reads too many (and too deeply) BoE documents that the BoE would prefer the public never saw (just like the assessment tests). He can do the math. He knows that textbooks do not cost anywhere in the range of $12,000,000 per year for the district. He knows that the town is better off with textbooks, smaller class sizes, dedicated and motivated teachers, teaching assistants and pre-k programs that are public than it is hiring overpaid data crunchers in Central Services that interfere with teaching and learning.

    The discussion is complicated. And for those who care about children learning, all children learning, it is at times passionate. There is only so much you can explain to actors and actresses in a 3 minute time slot.

    No wonder nomo does not understand. Probably the majority of love fest people recruited from among the elite at private cocktail parties cannot understand. So we need to be patient with them. Hopefully, like nomo, they are also listening and not just judging preemptively.

  31. POSTED BY stu  |  November 21, 2013 @ 3:00 pm

    I’ve never been invited to one of the private cocktail parties. Yet I support educational reform. Hmmmm.

  32. POSTED BY croiagusanam  |  November 21, 2013 @ 3:14 pm

    Well stu, I knew Ira Shor. I served with Ira Shor.

    Stu, you’re no Ira Shor!

  33. POSTED BY nycmontclair  |  November 21, 2013 @ 4:34 pm

    I just want to add, it is possible to support Educational reform and not support the Common Core or high stake testing. Last I checked, they were not synonymous with the term reform. I am extremely opposed to the testing and the Common Core for many reasons that have already been articulated by such people as Ira Shor. But I am certainly for reform if you are talking about progressiveness. If the Common Core is so wonderful why aren’t prep schools embracing it? Why are many in the Catholic Church opposing it? Why did Maya Angelou, Judy Blume and more than 120 authors and illustrators send a letter to President Obama urging him to curb policies that promote this excessive standardized testing? Are we all just against reform? I could on and on naming members who form an eclectic group of people who oppose the Common Core and the accompanying testing. We are not anti change. We simply don’t believe this change will be good for our children and we are willing to fight for them.

  34. POSTED BY meccamagic  |  November 21, 2013 @ 6:59 pm

    Teachers are NOT complaining that they don’t want to use textbooks because they will be outdated; every school that has come before the BOE is stating they do not, do not, have the materials/books needed to teach a brand new curriculum. Mr. Cummings tried to get a response to lack of materials and how this will affect low income students and their learning (you know, the achievement gap), and Dr. McCormack responded about Wikipedia (Wikipedia! This is her idea of research?) and that in five years, students will have IPads. This lack of textbooks and other materials would appear purposeful, because it will insure that those students who make up the achievement gap, will remain there. More and more questions and concerns are being raised about CCSS/PARCC across the political spectrum-NJ Republican State Senators are the latest group.
    At the beginning of the school year, a group of parents and educators came to the BOE with civility, and asked that the BOE/Superintendent take this year to review the new curriculum, teachers could see what they needed to make the curriculum work, best practices, etc. The response was a banged gavel, and that the BOE did not engage in dialogue. So, now the dialogue is taking place, all over town, and it is not supportive of the educational experiment that is CCSS/PARCC being pushed on Families and Children. Probably not what Robin Kulwin had in mind when she banged that gavel.


  35. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  November 21, 2013 @ 7:20 pm

    njgator – 3 very good reasons:
    1) we have a 70% apathy rate going back decades
    2) it will serious reshuffle the unelected power bases
    3) depending on your perspective, either the law of unintended consequences or the devil you know.

  36. POSTED BY stu  |  November 21, 2013 @ 9:51 pm


    Never said I was. Now about those private cocktail parties…How does one get an invite?

  37. POSTED BY montclairpublic  |  November 21, 2013 @ 10:20 pm

    at least 500 people — or according to other reports 1000 — signed the petition asking to slow this down. the teachers were also supportive of not moving too fast — thought I’m sure you would cynically suggest they would only being selfish. whatever the numbers were, majority or not, a sizable portion of our district was concerned that it was all happening much too fast. the listening tour was a tone deaf tour. when you ignore people and step on their values, what do expect? as for the private school folks — ahem, Jon Alter — i said some….and I wasn’t limiting it to the last BOE meeting. and to say that Shor was suggesting that $12 million be spent on books is a gross distortion of his message. i, too, believe that digital learning is the future. but as Mr. Cummings said, what about right now? wikipedia? she shoudl be fired just for saying something so willfully disrespectful or just plain stupid.

  38. POSTED BY croiagusanam  |  November 22, 2013 @ 6:24 am

    Stu, I will speak to my pal Ira Shor (the deep-reading polymath) and she if I can’t get you on the list.

    Keep in mind, however, that you will be relegated to the kitchen and compelled to drink domestic beer until you demonstrate an ability to carry on a conversation with Ira Shor!

  39. POSTED BY idratherbeat63  |  November 22, 2013 @ 6:49 am

    @Frank Rubacky You are right in that an elected Board of Education is not a guarantee against the kind of mess the town has now. Regarding your reasons, your first reason seems overly generous. The comparison in Montclair elections is always made between registered voters and the number that turn out to vote. In fact, national-wide only two-thirds of eligible voters are registered voters. So it is likely that the apathy rate in Montclair is closer to 85 or 90 percent.

    Your third reason, “unintended consequences or the devil you know,” is one that has been all too familiar in recent town elections (and resulting appointments).

    Your second reason is the most interesting: “it will serious[ly] reshuffle the unelected power bases.” This seems to be the one that has the knickers of stu and croiagusanam all in a twist.

    What is/are that “unelected power bases” in Montclair? How would the election of school board members reshuffle it?

    @stu Calm down. You are making all the right noises and you are doing it in the right places. Nobility is always slow to recognize its own. Perhaps a word of caution on the company you keep.

  40. POSTED BY njgator  |  November 22, 2013 @ 10:18 am

    Frank – All I know is that the Devil that we do know has brought us $30M+ additional debt for a school of questionable need while kids in the district are going without textbooks. All while people are paying close to $20k/year in property taxes. Who cares if Bullock is LEED certified if we don’t even have enough books for our kids? If E-Books are where we’re heading, then that $30M would have bought a heck of a lot of ipads and kindles. Where are our priorities?

  41. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  November 22, 2013 @ 11:15 am

    It was actually $40MM debt. But, I think you are assuming cause and effect. An elected board might have rejected a new school or it may have spent more by putting in the Bullock swimming pool and other enhancements. You will recall the Bullock price tag was close to $49MM at one point. As to taxes, I doubt you would see a reduction in the school levy just because of an elected school board. I don’t know.

    I can’t recall how an elected school board works vis a vis the annual school budget and whether voters have to approve it each year. I also don’t recall how the board representation would work, e.g. all At-Large, geographically or a combo. Would the elected seats be staggered every November once converted over? These mechanics would likely create unforeseen consequences.

    I understand one of the biggest complaints today is the number of education experts on the BOE. What makes a good education policy person does not necessarily make a good campaigner. Does this mean a trade-off in the elected BOE would be more likely to be better representatives versus having high educational expertise?

    Lastly, the impact of voter apathy. Under a scenario of an elected board referendum passing, the post-changeover result could be that voter apathy levels could steadily increase over time – especially if elections are held at a higher frequency level. Who knows?

    Hence, my unintended consequences reason.

  42. POSTED BY idratherbeat63  |  November 22, 2013 @ 2:48 pm

    nomo Perhaps the following article is worth a read by you, for listening and not judging:

    “Broad and his foundation believe that public schools should be run like a business. One of the tenets of his philosophy is to produce system change by “investing in a disruptive force.” Continual reorganizations, firings of staff, and experimentation to create chaos or “churn” is believed to be productive and beneficial, as it weakens the ability of communities to resist change.

    . . . .

    “A hallmark of the Broad-style leadership is closing existing schools rather than attempting to improve them, increasing class size, opening charter schools, imposing high-stakes test-based accountability systems on teachers and students, and implementing of pay for performance schemes. The brusque and often punitive management style of Broad-trained leaders has frequently alienated parents and teachers and sparked protests.”

  43. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  November 22, 2013 @ 5:32 pm

    And Broad also espouses a vegetarian Thanksgiving.

  44. POSTED BY idratherbeat63  |  November 23, 2013 @ 7:00 am

    What Eli Broad does espouse, alongside “investing in disruptive force,” is being unreasonable. This makes dialogue difficult, especially when people insist on being themselves ridiculous.

    @nomo This might also assist your listening before judging:

    This is not just a side dish of cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving. The New Jersey Department of Education (thanks to Commissioner Chris Cerf & Co.) is actually an official partner of The Broad Center Academy

    Indeed, New Jersey is consider by The Broad Center as one of four key states to institute its business, managerial style of education. You need to read carefully this memo regarding meetings in Newark with representatives of The Broad Center and NJ Education Commissioner Chris Cerf

    While reading the memo attained by The Washington Post look carefully at the dates and recall where Penny Elizabeth MacCormack is in her doctorate training, her Broad Residency training, and where she is working at that time. Recall as well that on February 7th, 2012, Superintendent Alverez announced he would be retiring from the Montclair School District. (You might also remind yourself in what town Chris Cerf lives?)

  45. POSTED BY iteachthereforeiam  |  November 23, 2013 @ 9:21 pm

    actually, frank, if broad espoused a vegetarian thanksgiving, i would have a sliver of an iota of shred of respect for him/them amidst what is otherwise contempt and rage… and i share concerns over who would run for elected BOE seats and that better campaigners (time and money chief among the determining factors) might win – but make no mistake, those campaigners would not win at the expense of educaiotnal expertise on the BOE — BECAUSE THERE IS NO SUCH EXPERTISE ON THE BOE…. which has made them all the more susceptible to the nonsense from cerf, uncommon schools, dr. m, svengali, sauron of mordor, et al. — not that they are innocent dupes – some of them espouse kernels of the bulls**t themselves…

  46. POSTED BY idratherbeat63  |  November 24, 2013 @ 1:40 pm

    Thank you to Montclair Cares about Schools for cross-posting some of the links here. It helps people who are listening to better understand where the Montclair School District is headed under its present leadership.

    Not everyone out there is acting silly:

  47. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  November 24, 2013 @ 9:12 pm


  48. POSTED BY State Street Pete  |  November 25, 2013 @ 10:31 am

    It is VERY significant that Massachusetts, a state that ranks high in educational achievement, has now decided not to implement the PARCC test. The PARCC test is the heart of the Common Core rollout and Mass was a founding state in the PARCC.

    “If Massachusetts, which has been known for having the most rigorous education standards of any state, doesn’t feel like it is ready to hold students — and teachers — accountable by Core-aligned test scores, it raises questions about what other states can reasonably do.”

    Damn skippy!

    Mass joins a growing list of states backing away from the Common Core and the PARCC. Last week Bobby Jindal, who is a big proponent of reform, announced that Louisiana was going to delay the rollout of PARCC and make significant changes to the process before any implementation. Florida, which is at the heart of the corporate school reform movement, recently announced it was leaving the PARCC.

    States that have been highly supportive of the whole reform movement are coming to the realization that implementing the Common Core / PARCC is expensive and disruptive, and may do little to improve educational achievement.

  49. POSTED BY idratherbeat63  |  November 25, 2013 @ 5:09 pm

    Not a problem for Montclair? Let’s see. There has been a charter school waiting in the wings for the past few years. Cerf, MacCormack & Co. should be able to keep this threat at bay.

    Will Mayor Jackson’s ratables be helping the cause?

    Who took down the “For Sale” sign in front of MHS? Now this is worthy of a Tabakin investigation.

  50. POSTED BY stu  |  November 27, 2013 @ 11:31 am


    Did you see this one?

    I’m just curious. Are your kids immunized?

  51. POSTED BY Cary Africk  |  November 27, 2013 @ 4:18 pm

    Love the piece you referenced, Stu!

    Parents complain there’s too much homework, the school year is too long, the school day is too long, the pressure to get into college too much, the AP scores too low, the kid didn’t get the lead in the play ….. whatever!

  52. POSTED BY idratherbeat63  |  November 27, 2013 @ 4:20 pm

    @stu Thanks. It is a good opinion piece/blog. I appreciated the read. I agree with Frank Bruni that we sometimes play too much on building self-esteem in children without them actually earning it. As you might guess, I have a different view on the Common Core Curriculum. In fact, I think it does just what Mr. Bruni wants it not to do. The idea that it “raises the bar” or “sets higher standards” has been shown to be completely false. The CCC does not educate children to be their best; rather it trains them to be uncommonly average.

    Still I appreciate that others are reading on the CCC and thinking about it too. Thank you.

  53. POSTED BY tryintosurvive  |  November 27, 2013 @ 9:59 pm

    Ah, the “you disagree with my point of view so I must react with personal attacks and name calling response”. Knew it would come out before long.

  54. POSTED BY nycmontclair  |  November 29, 2013 @ 12:53 pm

    For what I consider to be an excellent rebuttal to the Bruni piece

    If you are truly going to access the common core than you need to actually read what the standards are and you also need to read what educators and psychologists think about them,unless you are yourself an except in child development. Experts in the field of early childhood development strongly feel the k-2 standards are developmentally inappropriate. Educators feel the standards for the older kids are not rigorous enough and do in fact dumb it down for them. No educator was involved in writing the Common Core. These are just a couple of the issues for those who oppose it, yet no supporters actually address those issues.

    And how about the common core writers deciding literature is no longer important. That informational texts should supplant great works of literature? That cursive is an outdated method of writing and should no longer be taught? Again, I have read nothing addressing these concerns.

    If you support the common core than please do your due diligence and research exactly what it is you are supporting. I had no opinion until I did extensive research. As a parent I am worried for my children and will fight to end corporate involvement in our public education system as well as corruption. The whole thing is making me sick.

  55. POSTED BY stu  |  November 29, 2013 @ 10:10 pm

    Cursive is a colossal waste of time and effort. What skills are gained by learning to write the alphabet in an alternative and infrequently used font?

  56. POSTED BY nycmontclair  |  November 29, 2013 @ 11:10 pm

    Stu, so glad you asked. Here is an informative link that includes 10 important reasons to learn cursive. Additionally, I would like to add that without cursive, the next generation and beyond will not be able to read many documents written in cursive, including those written by our founding fathers.

    Personally, I find cursive to be much faster than printing and much more professional looking. I still write thank you notes in cursive. I always perceived cursive to be a more adult form of writing and print to be primarily for children. But I guess getting rid of cursive is part of the dumbing down process.

  57. POSTED BY walleroo  |  December 02, 2013 @ 10:46 pm

    People still write thank you notes?

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