One of the traditions connected to choosing a school in Montclair’s magnet system has been touring the various schools, starting with the seven elementary schools, followed by Montclair’s three middle schools. In the past, kindergarten tours took place in March, but last year, tours were moved to late January. This year, there have been no announcements about when the 2016 school tours would take place, but this morning, an email went out to all Montclair PTA school presidents from PTA Council President Diane Anglin, stating that Montclair will not have physical tours. Copied on the email were BOE president Jessica de Koninck, as well as Felice Harrison-Crawford, director of Operations and School Support Services, and Janice Risimini, Registrar. Harrison-Crawford and Risimini were also thanked by Anglin for “a wonderful meeting yesterday, where I receive the most current information regarding the virtual tours.”
Montclair will NOT have tours like we had in the past. I figured I’d get right to the point.
Instead our district has come up with an innovative way to have every family see our schools and receive the same information. This means that every family will view a quality, comprehensive “video” (it’s probably called something else). Every elementary, middle school, and our high school, will have one available.
I know many of you are saying, “People are still going to want a tour and that is going to fall on the PTA’s”. The answer is, there will be NO physical tours. This is a change. It may take you a few minutes to take all of this in. That’s okay. This is going to work, and we are going to help spread the word about the positive steps our district is taking.
I know that many of you feel that tours are important, and they are. What is more important, is the safety of our schools, communicating the same information to all families, and being able to reach families that are out of the area/unable to come to the school. Families will no longer have to take off from work, and students will not miss valuable instruction time visiting the middle schools. Families will now have the opportunity to view our district schools, over and over and over again.
Also this morning, a little more than three hours after Anglin’s email about spreading the word about no physical tours went out, another email was sent, this time from Interim Superintendent Ron Bolandi, stating that in fact no decision has been made to eliminate the tours.
Bolandi writes (copying all those mentioned in the previous email as well as all the BOE members):
I’m concerned that misinformation was given to Ms. Diane Anglin and then an email was sent this morning to the executive Board. I had all intentions of having a discussion with Ms. Anglin next week during our regularly-scheduled monthly meeting to let her know some discussion has taken place with administrators regarding the possibility of handling tours differently.
At no time and I repeat no time has there been a decision made to eliminate tours. There has been a discussion about the possibility of doing virtual tours or a hybrid of virtual and regular tours. The discussion took place because of the concerns of many parents in the district who have spoken to me. Their concerns are for the safety and security for all during tours and the ability of working parents to have the opportunity to view the schools when they are unable to take off from work to participate.
To be clear, the discussion was started as a response to parents and their question to me about is there a way to do this differently.
We talk about communication in the district but it’s sad when I have to respond to an email when no one had the decency to pick up the phone and call me or copy me on the email that was sent to find our if the information received was accurate. To be frank with you, I could care less about how you do tours. I’m only trying to help the district become more organized and efficient. The way we presently do school tours is inefficient. Hopefully in the future, we can have a dialogue with the person who makes the decision before we create hysteria in the district.
And remember NO DECISION has been made.
So did Harrison-Crawford and Risimini give Anglin misinformation? Was the BOE even aware of discussions about the possibility of changing how parents and students tour Montclair schools? Will a discussion of tours be put on the next BOE agenda with an opportunity for public comment?
And what do parents think? Would you like to see physical tours eliminated in favor of virtual tours, due to concerns about security or accessibility for working parents? Do you think the schools can continue to have physical tours while still ensuring the safety of students and staff? Would a comprehensive video help you determine which school is the best fit for your child? And who are the stakeholders who should be involved in these discussions before any action is taken? Take our poll and let us know what you think. Feel free to elaborate (respectfully!) in comments.