Montclair School district announced earlier this week, in an email to parents, the creation of an online document to share the specific questions brought up at BOE meetings, and to address these inquiries with responses. The document has since been removed, but below are some questions asked at the last BoE meeting on October 20, that were answered on a Public Comments page by the district.
The text of this post with excerpts of some of the questions was copied and saved before the document was removed. We didn’t include all the questions, as we were providing a link to what we believed would be a live document and that readers would be able to read all questions and answers in full on the Montclair Schools website. When we hear back from the district with any explanation regarding the document’s removal, we will update.
Marcella Simadiris asks …
I want to know who chose to make the High School wait until August to get a Director of Guidance? Stop running from question. Did it have to be a national search? Who decided that leaving the HS without a director of guidance, despite all the scheduling concerns that were brought up during BOE meetings, and putting the HS at risk was worth waiting for Mr. French?
Dr. MacCormack, Mr. Earle, the District’s Chief Talent Officer and the formal search committee for the open position worked together to recruit, interview and select the High School’s new Director of Guidance. Their collective experiences in these matters are deeply respected and highly regarded and addressing a national search like this takes a great deal of time and effort.
No one chose to wait until August; rather the district took the necessary time to find the best possible candidate. District hiring practices are not dictated by deadlines alone, the top priority is finding the best potential employees that can serve our students and represent the values of our community. Our students deserve nothing less. From speaking to parents across the district, Mr. French has received very positive feedback transitioning to his new role and we believe the district’s investment in him serves our students and our parents well. Marcella, prior to your question, Superintendent MacCormack offered to meet with you personally to ensure all your concerns were fully addressed and you refused this meeting. If there is a change of heart, please know she is available.
Laurie Orosz asks …
Do we have a PARCC opt-out policy/procedure like last year’s opt-out policy – so opting-out students don’t have to stay home and can be teacher’s helpers? In addition, can the district please detail all PARCC-related MHS graduation requirements for 2016?
We fully understand there are concerns about PARCC. We hope you please review this communication from Superintendent MacCormack that hopefully provides some fair context and updates. In addition, the District will be holding a series of PARCC forums, which we hope you will consider attending. Please click here for the dates and times.
Regarding High School graduation requirements, as you have likely read, the state recently announced the creation of a plan regarding PARCC and students graduating from High School. Specifically, the state has determined that passing PARCC may be used to meet graduation requirements. In addition, the state is also planning to offer students the opportunity to “substitute” a minimum score on the SAT or use some other college entrance exams, as well as the option of going through an appeals process to meet graduation requirements. It should be noted that not passing PARCC will have no effect on whether a student is able to graduate. These options will be available to students in the classes of 2016, 2017 and 2018, after which the state will plan to reevaluate the policy. For students graduating in 2015, the state will use High School Statewide Assessments (HSPA) as a determination for graduation.
Regarding your question to opt out, the State has recently provided direction on this issue, which can be found by clicking here. We are currently reviewing all options within the district and will follow up shortly with additional information.
Jim Zarilli, Michelle Fine and Maia Davis all asked a version of this question:
Why are we picking on the lowest-paid employees in the district? Why showing paras such disrespect?
We believe you are referring to the Union President’s contention at the last Board meeting that all paraprofessionals should be paid immediately for attending our district-wide development day for all teachers and staff.
As the MEA contract states, paraprofessionals attending the professional development day would be paid on an hourly basis for the actual days and hours scheduled and worked. The pay for our paraprofessionals are calculated assuming there are 184 days scheduled and worked. To be crystal clear, if at the end of the year the paraprofessionals have worked more than 184 days, they will indeed be paid for any additional days, including their attendance at the district’s development day.
While we are more than willing to discuss new ideas and additional options in future contracts, the district office must following specific procedure defined by the current MEA contract, which is all we are doing.
It should also be noted that the Superintendent, the Board of Education and the community of Montclair hold our paraprofessionals in the highest regard. While Montclair’s previous School Boards and Superintendents have allowed widespread cuts to our paraprofessionals, we have prioritized their valuable work in each of the recent budgets. We view each paraprofessional as an integral member of the district’s education team, so much so, the district wanted to ensure their participation in our district-wide Professional Development (PD) Day.
Please note if the union disagrees with how we are handling this specific issue, it is well within their right to file a formal grievance.
Regina Tuma asks:
What about the data in the academic presentation are we celebrating and why are we awarding merit bonuses based on single year data trends that could be one-time aberrations or fluctuations? What’s material? How many of the changes in scores are actually meaningful?
The purpose of the academic presentation is to provide transparency and specific information that parent’s request from the district and, in some cases, made mandatory by state law. For those who did not have the opportunity to review the presentation, it can be found here. We believe there are many great results of our schools that we can celebrate, but fully respect your point of view. Regina, the Assistant to the Superintendent Matthew Frankel, has attempted in the past to outreach you regarding your concerns with the district presentations. He is available to listen to any specifics issue you may have. If you need any further follow up please let us know.
Alana Schreiber (Student) asks:
Why is a progressive town like Montclair supporting a “Powder Puff” football game and a “Gender Role Reversal Day,” both of which stem from a premise of binary gender identity and which actually reinforce the idea of fixed gender roles by making such a big deal about flipping it.
Both the district and Mr. Earle completely agree with this point of view, which is why after many years, the High School has made some significant changes in regard to this issue this school year. The “Powder Puff” game has been officially changed to the “Flag Football” game. In addition, the cheerleading component is now open to everyone, with participants learning actual cheerleading routines. We believe these changes are significant and have helped insure that this event is focused on being inclusive to everyone. We deeply value your activism on this issue.