Montclair BOE: More Allegations, Questions And An “Enemies” List of Names From Assessmentgate


Public comment turned to mostly public outrage at Monday night’s BOE meeting as educators, parents and tax payers approached the podium and demanded answers. Stating an investigation into leaked assessments in 2013 by the Montclair BOE was both unnecessary and harassing to employees and private citizens, many speakers referred to an “enemies” list of staff as well as private citizens and asked what criteria was used to create the list. Some called the investigation a witch hunt, many asked “Was I on the list?” while others called for the resignation of BOE members who were on the board during the investigation.

Montclair BOE: More Allegations, Questions And An "Enemies" List of Names From Assessmentgate

Interim Superintendent Ron Bolandi started the meeting by announcing that school tours had begun and he plans to attend to see tours himself and speak to parents. He also announced teacher-generated committees would be presenting at upcoming meetings and they would be expanding undoing racism workshops, with three more for staff before the year is over. Additionally Bolandi announced BOE would talk about capital projects and vote on a budget that would go to Board of School Estimate, including an immersion pilot program in Mandarin at Nishuane School. He then mentioned that after news of lead in Newark school buildings, the district took a proactive step to test all its school buildings for lead. Business Administrator Brian Fleischer reported the EPA action standards is at 15 parts per billion, and the vast majority of samples taken in Montclair had no detectable amounts of lead. But there were three that had some detectable lead well below the standard — kitchen sinks in Hillside, George Inness Annex and the Montclair High School. Fleischer said district plumbers would replace fixtures in those sinks over the next week and retest water from them to see if the lead has been eliminated.

BOE Offers Committee’s Initial Findings

Before public comment began, BOE president Jessica deKoninck turned the microphone over to board vice president Anne Mernin to report on the committee formed to look at an investigation that resulted from the availability of the assessments online. “The committee has taken this work very seriously and is not ready to report out in a final way. At this point we can say a firm was engaged by board’s prior legal counsel [Weiner Lesniak] to assist with the technical side of investigation and that firm, Kroll, looked at several computers. The MEA raised concerns that an MEA computer had been looked at. Kroll advised board that only district owned computers were looked at,” said Mernin, adding the committee was continuing to look into the investigation and would share more, including an accounting of the total cost of investigation.

Then, one by one, speakers came to the podium with more specific details about what transpired during the investigation and with more questions about what the board knew.

Margaret Whitsett, a parent and educator, spoke of how she had been present when news that the assessments were found online and asserted the documents had been posted without password protection by the Central Office. “The board authorized a wide net investigation into who leaked the test. Colleagues were subpoenaed and their integrity questioned,” said Whitsett, adding that there was no teacher wrong doing uncovered and no apology. “Where is the truth?”

Alicia Wells, a technology teacher at Mount Hebron stated computer mirroring or imaging makes an exact copy of the data on a single device that can then be used at another location. “The district tech coordinator had the ability to monitor district employees, so why was an outside forensics firm asked to do this,” said Wells, asking what criteria was used for identifying individuals to be investigated and how does the district know how the data extracted from computers by the investigation was used.

Syreeta Carrington
Syreeta Carrington

Syreeta Carrington, who identified herself as the teacher who first alerted the district to the availability of the tests online, read a letter for Casey La Rosa, which described ongoing harassment by the attorney for the BOE during the investigation period, including La Rosa being read her Miranda Rights during a class break and repeated harassing emails and phone calls which resulted in her experiencing panic attacks.

Tom Manos
Tom Manos
Montclair High School teacher Tom Manos referenced McCarthy hearings and Watergate and said “in a civil society there cannot be progress without open, honest discourse and you cannot have reconciliation without truth.” Manos asked if the “costly and unnecessary investigation” was the result of a “manufactured crisis to justify mirroring of computers.” He then asked if his name appeared on the list and were any employees targeted for speaking publicly, especially at BOE meetings. “I can’t believe what Montclair has become. In the name of decency, transparency and civility, stop waiting two weeks to deliver a crafted non response. You know the answers. Rip the band-aid off, answer the questions honestly and completely.”

Petal Roberston reiterated her previous question to the board, asking who among them were complicit — aware of questionable acts (monitoring/mirroring) and had ability and responsibility to do something but chose not to.

Gayle Shepard asked whether the board had received a sworn affidavit that Kroll did not mirror any of the MEA computers, something that Mernin confirmed had been requested, but still not received. Shepard also asked to be on the committee reviewing the investigation.

Laura Herzog also spoke to Shepard, responding to public comment, by saying the committee looked at the invoices which detailed the specific computers, which shows four computers housed in the Central office and used by administrators.

Shepard then mentioned knowledge of emails stating that members of the monitoring team were allowed to access the high school and Mount Hebron [where her office is located] after work during evening hours to search computers.

David Herron, who came to the podium playing Queen’s “Another One Bites The Dust” and carrying a shovel, proceeded to tell Bolandi that the following comments did not apply to him. He then said “We know what you’ve done. My grandmother used to say ‘tell the truth, the truth shall set you free.’ We know what happened, you know what happened, some of you on board, if what’s suggested you did, probably broke first amendment rights, fourth amendment rights.” He then asked why his name appeared on a list of names, when he has no children or relatives in the school system. “Did you have some reason to suspect I did something illegal? We’re talking about private citizens.” Herron, called out both BOE member Robin Kulwin and Brian Fleischer, and gesturing to his shovel said “if you haven’t found it, you haven’t dug deep enough. Well, I’ve got the shovel.”

Mark Egan, a Montclair parent who added he was the husband of Rachel Quinn Egan, likened the use of Kroll, a national cyber security firm, to having “Goldman Sacks count your lunch money.” He referenced a November 4, 2013 email to Mark Tabakin, written by Brian Fleischer that had Flesicher saying “I fear David Cummings was right” regarding the assessments not being leaked at all, but instead available online due to error. [Baristanet did not receive said email in a recent OPRA request because all emails from Mark Tabakin to Montclair schools officials were not released, because of “attorney client privilege.”]

Latifah Jannah, who said she was one of the private citizens singled out, asked why she was placed on the list. “Was it because I spoke before board, or wrote letters to the Montclair Times about Common Core? Do I not have the right to speak?”

Regina Tuma asked “What is the basis for targeting people on the enemies list? Why is my name on the list – when I come here year after year and tell you what I think? It would appear that by November 5th you knew that although teachers needed a password to get into the assessments, the url themselves were not protected. There were township documents also on Gobookee — that should also tell you something.” She then asked if the previous board used the investigation to go after critics.

Chris McGoey echoed Timas remarks about the urls being available and said that on October 26, Alan Benezra said the assessments were never password protected.

Rachel Quinn Egan called for the resignation of BOE members, specifically David Deutsch and Robin Kulwin.

On Monday, Baristanet received a copy of an email (below), dated December 20, 2013, indicating how wide the net was cast by Montclair Schools before they suspended their investigation when OFAC took over. An email from Roy Locke of Weiner Lesniak to Carlos Cordova of Kroll and Mark Tabakin, also of Weiner Lesniak, instructs Cordova, as part of the investigation, to review Montclair School employee Felice Harrison’s computer for a number of items, including any and all emails coming from a list of 28 individuals, some who had been critical of the Superintendent and BOE.



Back in June 2014, the Office of Fiscal Accountability and Compliance (OFAC) of New Jersey had stated when it “completed its investigation into a potential data security breach,” that “the initial “release” of the assessments that allowed posting to a site accessible to the general public could only be accomplished by an individual/s possessing a district-issued user name and password.”

Despite two investigations by the BOE and OFAC, no statement has been released to show any specific findings of foul play or misconduct by Montclair schools staff.

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  1. “The forgoing list of names will probably be the key list of names for future searches you may want to create a macro or somehow automate these names into a search term for future searches.”

    Really? For what? For opposing Common Core and PARCC so that my children and all of our children may have a better education? Guilty as charged.

  2. This is the first time I’m seeing this letter. It is not as was described in the meeting.

    Speakers at the meeting expressed great outrage at invasions of privacy and such. The letter above makes it clear that the information searched merely includes email sent to/from district staff. In other words, these are emails owned by the district. If one sends an email to district staff at their district email accounts, it should be expected that other staff members may see the message.

    That was never made clear in the meeting, and the outraged tone is completely disconnected from the stated cause. It makes me wonder about the purpose of last night’s little theater.

    I’ve never spoken at a meeting about my outrage over the fact that emails that I’d sent to, or received from, the district were OPRAed. That is, they were seen not merely by district staff but also by some unknown other(s).

    I’ve never done so because such outrage would be silly. Excluding specifically protected information (ie. about my children), I’ve no reason to expect privacy involving email sent to or received from a public entity such as a school district.


  3. So just to start tallying up the list of outrageous behaviors and decisions here:

    1) The board asked its own attorney to conduct an investigation which included a member of the board as a target.

    The counsel retained to represent the board – Tabakin – could not ethically serve as both board members’ advocate and as the head of an investigation in which they might be imperiled.

    The board members who didn’t like Cummings asked the district’s attorney to take on a conflict of interest… and rather than recuse himself, he agreed.

    2) Despite having counsel, the District then retained EVEN MORE COUNSEL (Weiner-Lesniak) to assist with the witch… umm, I mean, investigation.

    How many attorneys does it take to screw in a light bulb? Only one… but it then takes dozens to find someone Penny could blame for the first one burning out.

    3) The second counsel (hired by the first counsel) then sought EVEN MORE COUNSEL from a billion-dollar security consulting firm, Kroll…

    …and since this was all so very on the up and up, the District Office helped sneak the growing band of, umm, investigators, into the school AT NIGHT.

    4) And finally, since no self-respecting witch hunt would dare making singular and narrow accusations, our high-integrity leadership and its agents first played a spirited game of “Which Witch is Which?” and managed to come up with TWENTY-SEVEN potential witches and warlocks – each of which was so very powerful and menacing, that they might have somehow been involved in the (((cough))) leak (((cough))) despite in many cases:
    1) not actually being an employee of the district
    2) having no actual access to the district’s systems; and
    3) having demonstrated no reason to suspect they might actually be sophisticated intelligence operatives masquerading as moms dropping their kids off each morning.

    Oh, and just because this whole Keystone Kops Play KGB drama isn’t an absurd enough farce just for the reasons above, while all of this was going down, the district’s own superego-who-went-along-with-the-ids – the very same man who stood up at last year’s budget meetings and explained how we couldn’t afford to keep all of the aides who care for our most in-need kids – was quietly penning off emails to his colleagues essentially saying “I fear… I fear… I so dreadfully fear that this may not have been a leak at all…” while marching along in lockstep nonetheless as those aide’s salaries financed counsel, and counsel’s counsel, and counsel’s counsel’s counsel.


  4. Yes, Andrew – absolutely. Last night was pure theatrics and silliness from the MEA members and parents who spoke. Overreaction, lies, and “fiction”, as Montclair Reformer called it. Ridiculous! BTW, the service that you’re providing for the BOE (and also provided for Dr. MacCormack) is invaluable. They must be overjoyed that they can rely upon you to consistently come to their defense!

  5. Andrew, there is a vast difference in simply knowing that your correspondence is open to being reviewed, and being specifically targeted, not because you’re suspected of wrong doing, but because you’re a perceived enemy of the people in power. That’s clearly an enemies list.

  6. I personally preferred Lotus Notes. It was the devil you knew. Microsoft Exchange? The Microsoft label says its all. Both called their enemies list by a different name. Damn blind copies. So misunderstood!

  7. Who is this Sarah Holt and why is she first. I’m offended.

    Seriously, this is truly chilling. This is an enemies list, plain and simple. It includes former teachers, principals, teachers, parents, etc. One has to ask what gets one on this list. Why are principals Earle and Chiles, teachers Ford and Manos, parents Similaris and Egan, MCAS members Fine and Tuma, union members, community activists on this list?

    We had a bad season in education in Montclair and hopefully are moving on from this. But part of the healing process is learning what went wrong and why to prevent it in the future. A witch hunt is unhealthy but a thorough analysis of what occurred and why it is necessary, even vital, to insure we do not go backwards.

  8. “That’s clearly an enemies list.”

    So I’m apparently on someone’s “enemies list” as I was specifically targeted? Someone whom I don’t even know?

    Sure, I imagine that I could feign outrage too.


  9. SSP, while logical, your point will likely meet with the same fate as many previous efforts to convey why behaving in underhanded, shameful ways is both underhanded and shameful.

    When the defense is “but it wasn’t illegal”, it’s safe to say that one side is having a conversation about expectations of adults within a community and the other is trying to help someone beat a speeding ticket.

  10. Please reference last line of memo:
    “The foregoing list of names will probably be the key list of names for future searches so you may want to create a macro or somehow automate these names into a search item for future searches.”
    This was going to remain an active search list, because the endgame was always about more than the alleged leaked assessments.

  11. It is always so interesting to see people read, but refuse to comprehend what is written. The enemy list revealed on Baristanet is toxic. It clearly shows that individuals were signaled out, targeted, and their emails identified and intercepted based on a name metric. That is vastly different than simply reading emails sent to district employees. This prompts several questions. Why only the emails of those on the list. Who decided who would make the list? How were these individuals chosen and by whom?
    And who knew and authorized this action?

    Keeping in mind, that the BOE as recently as last night had said that such allegations were baseless; baseless until the list was read. So now comes the spin. Won’t work.

    In the Civil Rights world, everyone must know by now, targeting anyone, using any criteria, is a violation of Civil Rights laws. We do know that folks, don’t we.

    Lets shift, to why it’s not acceptable, shall we. Well lets see, it violate the 1st Amendment, the 4th Amendment, and the Electronic Computer Privacy Act of 1986, The Wiretap Act of 1986, plus about 8 other state and federal laws.

    Reading and reviewing of emails that are on a public server is permissible, but according the Electronic Computer Privacy Act-“the intentional, actual or attempted interception of electronic communications, (emails) are prohibited.

    The BOE’s actions were deliberate, they were designed to chill pubic debate and quash opposition. Make no mistake, it is an “enemies list”, and such actions are illegal, without a warrant. Illegal as in, this can get you into trouble, illegal.

    Well, who wants to roll that dice?

  12. You were cute with your shovel. How are all those other ethics charges of yours David? All dismissed, right? Well done.

  13. Andrew, your most recent post is a masterstroke: by implying that teachers, Montclair residents, and parents “feigned outrage” at last night’s Board of Education meeting, you managed to hit the trifecta: you dismissed them, condescended to them, and called them liars. THAT. IS. AWESOME! Robin and David D. (as well as Leslie and Shelley) will be so pleased. They’ll be sure to show you the approval that you seem to very much crave and need from them!!!

  14. i’m amused the “enemy lister” helpfully suggested a macro.

    dherron, thanks, as always, for elevating the discourse with your little shovel stunt and your ramblings. You are INCENSED, OUTRAGED, and INDIGNANT, so you decided to demonstrate the gravity of the matter with a sound track and props? btw, which of your ethics suits are still in play, and what’s your win-loss record?

  15. Glad to be able to elevate. The shovel was a good touch. Never ramble. But just getting started, the best is yet to come. Certainly no one thought that this was the end. Did they.

  16. My goodness. I cannot believe this. I knew this BOE crew has been malevolent over the last 5 years or so, but to target teachers, educators and citizens of our community is beyond despicable. I watched the last BOE meeting and was shocked by the revelation. But, what came out of this meeting has floored me. I think some members of this board, cannot be trusted, and faith in them has most certainly been compromised.

    I am just as appalled by some of the comments on this thread. To refer to the response to what has happened as “silliness”, “theatrics”, “overreaction”. How dare you. How DARE you. Can you imagine what the people on this list must feel by seeing their names in print in an exchange between a major law firm and a major firm based out of New York City whose description states that they are “focused on helping clients improve operations by uncovering kickbacks, fraud or other forms of corruption”. For what? What did these people do? Ask a few questions? Stand up for themselves? These are good people in our community. I am ashamed that they are being treated this way.

    Ask yourself honestly how you would feel if Kroll and Weiner Lesniak were discussing you or someone in your family.

  17. I am floored by this.

    This type of enemies list with a request to have them electronically followed is enraging when done by the authorities. It is inherently anti-democratic. It is mind-blowing that this type of tactic was being used by a public board of education. Which part of this is to help educate our kids? I remember that being the mantra at the time…

    I completely understand the MEA’s calls for assurances that this has stopped, and I hope that the full depths of this are revealed by the board as they make sure to, wherever necessary, clean house.

  18. This is bad. Very bad. It may not just be limited to the holdovers from the days past if you read between the lines of Ms Shepard’s request to be on the committee investigating this. That is a vote of no-confidence of those committee members – Laura Hertzog, Anne Mernin, and Eve Robinson – who were not even present during Assessmentgate. There is a undercurrent here that leads up to present day issues. I don’t see a solution anytime soon. Mr Bolandi expression in the photograph is not good. He looks like a man thinking about his options. Maybe the Mayor could help by announcing his appointments early like last year.

  19. Watching “Good Night, and Good Luck”…in light of Montclair’s current foray into McCarthyesque tactics, it seems the more we learn from past history, the faster we rush to repeat it.

  20. Agreed, Frank. Much subtext, strong undercurrent, and a board that shows no inclination to try something new and different like transparency and candor.

    Among the little subplots that stand to turn this from a brush fire into a total rager is the fact that each new little breadcrumb provides a fresh opportunity to go back and re-examine past statements.

    For example, we now know:

    1) Kroll was actively conducting “enemy recon” months after the leak had ceased looking leak-ish; and
    2) Even after OFAC had been brought in, Kroll was not only still engaged, they were creating “macros” as if the spy-op was not only staying in full gear, it was streamlining operations

    Now, bearing those two in mind, go back and re-read the OFAC letter to Penny which was so ballyhooed as proof of the elusive WMDs. The one line that was quoted over and over was that the release of the assessments had to have begun with someone with password access.

    When you re-read it under the bright light of the new info, it’s hard to miss the lines where the letter specifically points out:
    1) The scope of OFAC’s investigation was limited solely to the security of private student data – NOT the assessments or a search for a “leaker”
    2) The OFAC investigators were briefed by “the private firm the board had engaged” (AKA Kroll presumably)
    3) It’s comments about a leak having occurred beginning with someone with a password were based on the information provided to them (again, by the district and/or Kroll) rather than as a result of even having attempted to investigate the topic.

    So, Penny and co. marched the useful one-liner around as if it was unequivocal validation – when we now know that it was actually a byproduct of their scheming rather than proof of someone else’s…

    …and this may well have just been the “cold open” on Law & Order. The drama is only starting.

  21. You guys have to stop reliving the past and seeking revenge. It god awfully stupid. My point was that NOW is screwed up. You prolifically use warfare terms as does your brethren because it is now personal, adult to adults stuff. It’s a mini version of the Democrats and the Republicans conducting brinkmanship like a stupid game of chicken down a busy highway with the brake pads down to steel. I have said this time and time again. Both sides really are fixated to the point there is no solution – just outcomes that smell like personal vendettas. The seasoned educational stakeholders on both sides – well know to all – are doing this for personal gain. Why do I say this. Because the Montclair Public Schools are, and have been for many decades, unable to educate a full spectrum student body of our size. We don’t have the skills at the top or in the classroom. We don’t have the leadership. We don’t have a clear vision. And it will get worse. Our facilities are 2nd rate. The obvious next step is an elected school board. I have always wavered on the idea, but it can’t be any worse than this mediocre school system we have now. It is really bad from where I sit. The students are ok. It’s the rest. We all blame the predecessors and that’s ok. It is not a big accountability era. It’s an entitlement/give it to me now era. So, I’m coming over to your side. Not because anyone over here has a clue what to do if they had real power. It’s just we can’t do any worse and sometimes the best solution is just to shake everything down to the foundation and rebuild it. It will be an expensive, wasteful, & long path (10 years), but it is going that way anyway, so let’s go the elected route. Anyone buying a house in this town in this current market has to be outright crazy if they can read. Go to Westchester!

  22. I am appalled and heartbroken to learn that Ms. LaRosa was treated so poorly by the BOE. She was my child’s teacher last year, and we thought very highly of her. I think even more of her now that I learn she did her job and did it well while being harassed by the BOE and their investigators.

    And who exactly read Ms. LaRosa her Miranda rights while she was at school? Was it an investigator? Was she being threatened with arrest? And if so, on whose authority and on what charges? The old BOE was clearly drunk on its own imagined authority.

  23. Enemy list enemy list enemy list enemy list enemy list. Keep calling it that and surely you will win your point.

    What I find dismaying about all this, as a relative newcomer to Montclair, is that this vicious battle is over whether to administer a standardized test that was mandated from afar. Oh yea, and that the test would be administered via TECHNOLOGY. Montclair, which prides itself on how extraordinary it is, has never looked more ridiculous. Neighboring towns, with better or comparable school systems, seemed to have managed this test without this struggle. What’s wrong with Montclair?

    Final point, when you go to Vegas, expect gambling. Someone is THOUGHT to have leaked a test that the Board was obligated to administer. There were many usual suspects known to have vocally opposed the test. Those “educators” (formerly known as teachers) and others who work for Town are fair game for investigation. Those are the rules; if I was suspected to have leaked company secrets and was investigated, I would be upset and nervous, but I would not cry “enemy list” or “civil rights” violations.

    Hey Dherron, what a coincidence that your grandmother used to say “the truth will set you free.” So did my grandmother! So did many others. That’s ’cause it’s a cliché. Try to be more original, less theatric, and less litigious. And I’m still waiting on your lawsuit win-loss record. It’s pertinent here because you’re ruling this “enemy list” a violation of civil rights, privacy, and who knows what else and I’m trying to decide how much weight to put on you legal opinion. Dblespresso lost a lot of credibility on the Spiller conflict so I’m hoping I can still count on you. Let us know, ok?

  24. “You guys have to stop reliving the past and seeking revenge. It god awfully stupid.” Really Frank Rubacky? This is the same old nonsense we heard from you when Penny and her board were all still here acting like creeps to people who opposed Common Core, PARCC, and the corporate takeover of public schools. You have always defended them in your quirky little “Not on any side” style. And your manipulative talk of this situation lowering our home prices blames the victims again. But this is your role and you play it the same way every time. You are so transparent. All you guys have your own style of attack. Yours is simply the worst.
    Why don’t we wait and see how far Penny and her board and possibly other acolytes went? We knew Penny’s gang were nasty, and were being supported by more nasty people, but now it looks like we’re getting hard evidence of very serious actions. I have to wonder about the motivation for all involved to behave this horribly. Was it about money? Favors? Power? Was it about a desperate need to feel popular, to be welcomed in to a real live gang that seemed to be connected to “important people”? How badly did they hurt innocent people- teachers most of all, and how will we make sure that justice is served? Justice is an important function of our society, or should that not apply to everyone?

  25. rachaelegan,
    Saying I’m transparent is like saying I’m tall. MCAS thinks they were the first victims, the original sin was cast down upon them and their teachers. You lack perspective because you have children in the system. You have no history of the educational politics in this town prior to your arrival. It is serious business. You are the newest reformers. You will do a better job than your parents. Good. I’m happy for you. But, please take your attitude down a notch and try to understand everything did not start with Ms MacCormack. You are just the latest. I’m just old and crotchety. But, I know a few things more than you do. Not many, but, yes, a few.

  26. El Camino, as a relative newcomer, you may not realize that the test that was “stolen” was not a state mandated test, but rather a weird, poorly written, homegrown PARCC practice test of no real value beyond the absurd amount of money the district wasted developing it.

  27. angryrabbit,

    You are 100% correct. It was written over the Summer of 2013. Go ahead & tell elcamino why we wanted a homegrown PARCC practice test and who was involved in that decision.

  28. Frank- I’m 48 years old, old enough to know enough. I forgot to mention the last possible motivation for the BOE and acolytes- all were genuinely and fervently attached to a new curriculum and high stakes test that many opposed, so attached, that democracy should be done away with. So attached, that people should be silenced. The curriculum and tests would make the world a better place and save the trouble makers wretched children from ignorance.

  29. Frank–for the life of me, I cannot answer the question of why we wanted a homegrown PARCC practice test. It was a bad idea and an expensive waste of time–with the additional bonus features of being poorly executed and plagiarized in parts from a state website. But it cost a lot of money, so there’s that.

    And given the turmoil that’s come from it ending up on GoBookee, it’s the gift that going to keep on giving for years to come. So a good investment all the way around.

  30. rachaelegan,

    I think you are purposely being myopic. Go ask Michele F about the infamous Montclair Public Schools over the years. Yes, cover the tracking bit, but make her give you the backstory and the power structure, etc. Whatever she does’t know, she will know someone who does. Yeah, justice…a good thing. And just so were are clear, I’m advanced passive-aggressive. Wasn’t a natural at it. It was an acquired skill residing in town as long as I have. Unfortunate, but a more accurate label for me.

  31. angryrabbit,

    None the less, you are pretty knowledgable about the practice tests. Thanks for reminding me. It was an absurd amount of money and my memory of the moment is that it didn’t even cover the full range of grades. I was trying to follow that absurd amount of money – how & from where it was appropriated and where it ended up. So long ago and my memory is not as robust as it used to be.

  32. ….and the beat goes on and we have another Board of Ed meeting where education and students are not discussed.

  33. angry rabbit – “We” wanted a homegrown assessment because “we”, as a district,wanted local control. “We” wanted OUR teachers to write a test because they knew the curriculum for our students the best. The MEA went along with it initially because teachers got paid an extra almost $500k. This worked until “we” didn’t want any testing whatsoever despite every single one of our teachers being the “best and the most qualified”. The reality is that “we” did not want the curtain pulled back to reveal that there is a wide, wide range of quality in the teachers in our district. “We” did not want to be faced with the disparity. “We” prefer to repeat the same words over and over, “Gobookee” “illegal hacking” and “enemies list”, until we are blue in the face hoping that doing so makes it so. It is like listening to Trump say “I am a unifier”. Say it enough and “educators” who are “critical thinkers” and “life-long learners” all fall into line, wear matching black outfits and fight the phantom enemy.

  34. Frank, you almost lost me in the intro but I’m glad I stuck it out through the crescendo. I don’t disagree with your second half and conclusion.

    The first part, just so you know, doesn’t apply to me at all. I was neither an active participant nor had reason to be one back when the pendulum chimed Alvarez and then swung across to Penny. I have no unsettled score, historical bad blood or vendetta to see settled.

    My interest in the past, contradictory as this will sound, is a result of my interest in the present. Just my opinion, but from my vantage point, there will be virtually no hope of even a slight thawing between the warring factions (sorry, but as a metaphor, it seems apt…) until the old wounds are acknowledged and treated with a dose of the old adage “sunlight is the best antiseptic.”

    Like it or not, the reality is that one of our local tribes was treated very badly – very – and yet, literally right up until last week, the reaction right here on this board and elsewhere was to not only dismiss their claims entirely but also condemn them as histrionic liars and opportunists for even making them.

    Before we can even ask people to let bygones be bygones, they need to actually be bygone.

    In the last two weeks alone, we’ve seen multiple former members of the board and administration take to the local paper to lob fresh condemnations of people still engaged in the process.

    Knowing what we know now, how unbelievably galling and offensive must these sanctimonious weekly sermons on integrity be to people who have watched for years as the Lombard’s of the world preached transparency on Sundays and then practiced the very opposite Monday through Saturday.

    The very first thing that needs to happen, in my opinion at least, is that the parties involved in things we collectively agree were far beyond the pale must cease and desist. No more angry diatribes from former board members who green-lit spying on parents, for god’s sake.

    Time for some good-faith housecleaning…

  35. a321,

    Very plausible. But, even a new Superintendent would likely know of not only the disparity among teachers, but more importantly, the disparity among schools – especially the beloved K-5 magnet system. So, why would the Superintendent go along with this. Did she want to sabotage her own initiative. Did her underlings in CO maybe do something with or without her knowledge? Did the MEA have any substantial conversations during the late July-August period with the former superintendent we should know about? Probably not. I’d say certainly not, but people have pointed out that I am frequently wrong. It was probably the gosh darn slapstick approach every year to what the new curriculum item will be. BTW, this year is immersion again – different school, though.

  36. “Before we can even ask people to let bygones be bygones, they need to actually be bygone.”

    That’s a good point. Since I play both sides, I’ll take care of it. I might need the rest of the year.

  37. Well, since pulling that off would likely burnish your creds as a miracle worker, why delay? Think of the cash you could pull down on a coast-to-coast whistle tour of wayward districts and fractured town councils.

    I assume I’ll be granted the licensing rights to the t-shirts?

    Leading contender so far: “I’ll be Frank with you if you’ll be frank with me.”

  38. I’m having a lot of fun, but blurry eyed. I should have stopped at “That’s a good point.” It was. But, I had to feed the my ego.

  39. I’m pushing about 45 hours sans sleep, so I hear ya on the blurry eyes. On the other hand, the mild hallucinations aren’t altogether terrible.

  40. a321, revising this history and reconfiguring it will not undo the damage that’s been done. The quarterly assessments were not in any way the same as the teacher-made assessments that are routinely and effectively used in classrooms. Some teachers were hired to create them in a bit of a rush over the summer using a new curriculum that had not been fully implemented – as it was not yet the state mandate. They were then instructed to not only use models that were published online by the state doe but to, at times, simply copy and paste portions of them. These were then to be used by all teachers in the district, whether or not any given teacher had a hand in manufacturing them. None of this has anything to do with local control or teacher autonomy. The “we” you employ is inaccurate, even in the sarcastic sense in which you use it.

    None of this, however, not one bit of this, mitigates the fact that the board of education did, in fact, create an enemies list. None of this erases their hiring a private security firm to keep tabs on teachers, parents, and community members. These acts are egregious and need to be addressed. The questions asked at the meeting need answers.

  41. The problem here for me is how I just dislike both sides, hard to root for anyone even though I am very much in favor of fairness.

    BOE and former administration is awful – you can’t spy on parents (not even the ones who are affiliated with national unions if they have kids in our system they are entitled to their opinion). So even if some parents are outwardly (but not illegally) trying to subvert the changes you were brought in to make in our system, if you want to be on that BOE you need to sit there and let the same 10 people yell at you or complain about something every meeting and just take it and try to make the best decisions for the town and all of it’s interests. Spying on them is shameful and Deutsche, Kulwin and whomever was involved at that time – and this was in 2013 so wondering why this didn’t come to light sooner – need to go simply to wipe the slate clean. Just like many (including me) hoped Spiller would given his day job and my perception (like many others) that he was not looking at things fairly. So Deutsche and Kulwin need to do what’s right and try to see how a growing part of the town perceives them and just step down.

    That said, the MEA doesn’t make it easy. On a personal and professional level, I have been happy with all of my kids’ teachers so far (but none of the ones we have encountered yet seem to be the militant ones at the meetings). This was always about “high stakes testing” – the battle between the teachers /their union and those who want the status quo vs. those who want to try a different approach that is more business-like (the ‘reformy’ crowd as they are called mockingly by the status quo crowd).

    a321 says, “The reality is that “we” did not want the curtain pulled back to reveal that there is a wide, wide range of quality in the teachers in our district”. That’s totally true, but it’s not limited to Montclair. Teachers are just people – the more accomplished are probably teaching in colleges and even there you get a mixed bag. How can we expect our teachers to be uniformly exceptional? Did nobody here have a lousy teacher growing up? Did it derail your life? No, you remember the few good ones you had and probably forget the others, or at least I do. These teachers also have to deal with poor kids who come into kindergarten not knowing how to count to 20 or identify letters. But at the same time, the groups like MKF look around and see us spending a very high amount of money and getting decent results but not great ones.

    So “high stakes” is just a buzz-phrase for the union protecting it’s membership which of course includes poor teachers.

    As for the rest….. I think only police read actual Miranda rights and that’s when they take you into custody, so that needs to be cleared up. Was the examiner a cop? If not, did the examiner say something like, “you can do this with an attorney present if you prefer?” Was there a threat of arrest? Unless this was a police investigation, there is no power to take someone into custody which necessitates reading of Miranda rights. So this is either a lie by the investigator to a naïve and perhaps scared person or an embellishment by the teacher. Also, to the guy with the shovel….that’s all about drawing attention to yourself rather than caring about solving problems or making things better.

  42. Lost in all of this are current contract negotiations. But before one says “see, it’s just a tactic by the MEA”, I think the parameters might need to be briefly explained for those who don’t know.

    If these allegations are true (and it appears that the more that comes out, the more they are), how do we expect our teachers/educational staff to negotiate with members of the BOE negotiation team, that include Kulwin and Deutsch, both of whom MAY have been “complicit” in this? The “good faith” has been thrown directly out of the window.

    That is why, for a number of reasons, telling people to “move on” and “get over it” misses how it impacts things as they are, right now.

  43. “Elcamino, as a relative newcomer to Montclair” how would you even know about my past legal escapades, or even care for that matter. There has been soooooooo many, some wins-some losses, but hey, wait a minute, this isn’t about me, or is it.

    I thought it was about the alleged leaking of assessments, which turned out not to have been leaked at all. Elcamino-by the way the assessments were not mandated by the state, they were homemade district tests, not anything the state was involved in developing.-sorry.

    Your understanding and logic is frightening, do you really hear yourself. Opposition to government policies does not/should not make one a “usual suspect.” That’s just plain olde crazy. “Those are the rules,” whose rules, where, maybe in some third world dictatorship, but sorry, not here, not now.

    Everyone need to read the list second page of the list, the assessments became public sometime in October 2013, but, the email reads, “ list of names for future searches.”

    Future searches, for what use, the assessments were already public. For future surveillance; seems less to do with the assessments and everything to do with BOE critics-yep an enemy list.

    The BOE could have used a macro of searches, not by individual names, but using terms like assessments and tests and it would have rendered emails based on those criteria.
    CSPN55- You are so right, couldn’t agree with you more, the shovel was about drawing attention to ME, and I will care about making things better, but right now, they made it very personal, THEY PUT ME ON THEIR LIST.
    Really, Does anybody not understand how this is going to end?

  44. dherron – I don’t think it ends well for Deutsche and Kulwin (or Larson and the other woman – can’t remember her name), but I also have a feeling it doesn’t end well for you – at least not to your satisfaction given what you just wrote. I don’t think those who ‘wronged’ you will be serving jail-time. They should step down and may face shame and a civil suit (I’m sure you already have the papers ready) but given how you are willing to carry on as if this a personal thing against only you….well doubtful you will be truly happy when it ends.

  45. So its back to $ motivation again mtclrsown? That’s an easy solve. The Mayor could step in and announce his appointments early and make the current members lame ducks. I have said to postpone the negations anyway until a new board is seated. Both sides have also already agreed to go to mediation, again. The BoE can bring in a negotiator to complete the process. Put a couple of new BOE people on the BoSE to reinforce the signal for turning the page. Finally, I also said to give them a 3% increase. It is another signal we can afford now and there is not really a downside. We’re having anew contract in 2 years anyway. That leaves us with the other reasons this is such an expanding quagmire.

  46. The problem is that no proof has been offered that hacking of private computers happened. On Monday night, the head of the MEA alluded to an anonymous letter supposedly saying the BoE investigation company was sneaking into Mt Hebron and spying and hacking into her personal computer. In 2013, copies of assessments were distributed somehow before they were given. The BoE member who received a copy kept them over a weekend, read them with his wife, decided to have his children refuse to take the assessments, then contacted the head of the MEA instead of the Board or the Superintendent. This BoE member has refused to tell the district how he got those assessments and has spent a lot of district money on lawyers to keep that information secret. One unproven theory is that a “scraper” (Gobookee) hacked into district computers and stole the assessments and posted them. This theory has never been proven. Another theory is that a disgruntled or politically motivated employee leaked the assessments. No one knows what actually happened or how the assessments got distributed. In trying to figure out how $500k of assessments got distributed, the district hired an investigation company who examined 4 district computers and looked at emails to and from district employees on their district email accounts. The current Board has asked the investigation company to sign an affidavit saying the computers they were paid to examine are the only computers they actually did examine. The investigation company has not done so yet. 3 people on the current Board have looked at all the invoices and have only found invoices for the examination of those 4 district computers. The BoE has offered to pay for the head of the MEA’s computer to be examined by a third party so her accusation can be proven and they can appropriately seek punishment of the responsible party or disprove the accusation. She has declined, preferring to rely on an anonymous letter sent 2 years ago.
    The 2 main questions should be:
    How did the Board member get the inappropriately distributed assessments?
    Did the MEA’s computer get hacked?
    The most expeditious means to answer these 2 questions seems clear. The 2 people who have control of the answers do not want to make it expeditious. In the context of salary negotiations, expeditious is not happening. Instead it is a parade of never ending, expensive OPRA requests, increasingly long-winded, dramatic and wild accusations, matching outfits and theatrical props.
    Education and children are put on the back burner at BoE meetings.
    Surely we can do better.
    Mayor Jackson, where are you?
    At your county HR job or with your real estate developer friends?

  47. cspn55-you misunderstood. I am making it personal because, once they put me on their list,they made it very personal. Nowhere do I say it’s only about me. It’s personal for all those on the list. The BOE had no authority to create such a list. It’s not about what will make me happy, but rather to draw attention to the abuse of power and authority. You are correct, I can only carry on in my own best interest, as I have no authority to speak for, or on behalf of anyone, but myself. If this sounds self serving perhaps you and other fair minded citizens should be asking the BOE why in the world would you even think of putting his name on such a list for surveillance/investigation. Finally, what did I do, what information did the list makers have that suggested otherwise. It had to be more than a simple hunch or felling.
    Relax, cspn55, unless you are one of the originators of the list, no such papers have been drawn up. But, After more than 25 years of fighting for the rights of others- does anyone really think I would fight any less for myself. Wow -people are amazing.

  48. a321 – I really thought that the facts were different and that 2 things were all that really mattered. correct me if I am wrong:

    – in October 2013 the BOE found out that the assessments were scraped onto that site because their file was not PW protected. You say that’s unproven, but others imply it was admitted.

    – they continued with an investigation and Baristanet has posted a memo from their law firm in 12/13, that identified a group of individuals by name and mentioned that they wanted to review all emails sent to or received from these individuals to the district computer they were going to examine. More importantly, the memo says that those people will likely (not proven they were, but were likely) to be subject to repeated searches in other computers.

    Whether they did more extensive searches or not, is not the point. The main points are 1- if they solved their security problem and then after that still wanted to investigate people, it is really lousy for the powers-that-be (or that-were); and 2- if they are facing some subversive parents, they really shouldn’t be targeting them in their investigation. Teachers or district employees or the two people who work for the UTA I can understand….parents who simply don’t like PARCC or favor the union over the administration for whatever reason and are vocal about it are allowed to be so. I think they are wrong on a lot of the issues, but they have a right to voice their opinion and not be investigated by a BOE that we all have no real say in choosing. The BOE serves them as well as me.

    the Sheppard thing though, made no sense – she had a letter she wouldn’t share but would talk about without showing it. I think it was meant for an additional grandstand and get her applause. Those who are mentioning the contract talks are probably right – why not out this in 2014 or 2015, let’s wait until it’s negotiation time two years later to make a stink. Another reason why, to me, both sides in this are slimy.

  49. cspn – My understanding is that the scraping was presented as a possible cause by the BoE, but that it has not been proven. The MEA has taken the possible cause and turned it into THE cause. I am not techie enough to get in to the details of scraping, others have done so. Andrew Gideon does related things professionally and seems well-informed.
    It seems the firm was looking for the person who may have leaked or may have known about it early on and emailed a BoE employee about it. The list was people who were suspected to be involved as they were the most vocal against the testing. Their emails to and from district employees were being examined. It sounds like they were being named as potential suspects or persons of interest because they would have had the motivation and their emails to district employees on their district accounts would be potentially looked at then and again in the future. At that point, the security problems had not been solved because because the district was using the Town’s server and the Town Council did not cooperate.
    Mistakes were made, no doubt about it. Dictatorial McCarthyist plots so twisted and evil they are worthy of keeping the Board from conducting the business of educating students? The PARCC protests disrupted BoE meetings for 2 years in the same way. The BoE needs to be allowed to focus on educating our students. The constant drama of disrupting the business of making education happen is wrong. The disruption seems like it is being led, at least in part, by a well-funded, well-organized national political movement opposing teacher accountability. Let’s talk about recess already. World Language. Dyslexia. Magnets. Achievement Gap. Racism. Best Practices. HS Guidance Counselors. Class Size. Small Learning Communities. Those discussions will not get the crowds of media, teachers and community organizers but they will have the chance they could improve our schools.
    Let’s hear and see thoughtful analysis and discussion so we can be confident the BoE is doing their job – making our schools the best they can be.

  50. a321,

    With all due respect, I think your narrative thread above is obviated by the fact that it is now clear that one side of this equation – the board – has clearly been dishonest with its own staff, parents and taxpayers about everything from its own actions to the outcome of past “investigations”. While we can draw our own conclusions about whether that was merely lack of candor or worse was willful dishonesty, the remaining board members from that era simply need to be relieved of their duties.

    Let’s just hone in on one VERY specific topic: Ms. Kulwin’s representations to the community.

    On January 7, 2014, Ms. Kulwin and the district released a statement reading:

    “In response to OFAC’s involvement, Board President Robin Kulwin stated, ‘I’m very pleased that OFAC has decided to conduct its own investigation related to the district’s computer systems. […] I’m confident that OFAC’s investigation will enable the Board and the Montclair community to obtain a detailed understanding of the events leading to the unauthorized release of our assessments. More importantly, OFAC’s involvement will enable the Board to shift its focus back to its primary mission of governing the public schools.’”

    The messages deliberately conveyed or implied by Ms. Kulwin in this crafted and planned communication (it was a district release – not a potential misquote):

    1) OFAC saw sufficient reason to engage itself in an investigation of potential wrongdoing
    2) The OFAC investigation would study that issue closely and provide a trustworthy and neutral analysis
    3) The board was satisfied they would fully explore the topic and would leave the issue to them while it returned to focusing on other topics

    Now here are the myriad problems with this deliberately engineered statement and its representations:

    1) Kulwin herself was the catalyst for OFAC eventually getting involved

    2) The OFAC investigation not only wasn’t focused on providing the “detailed understanding of the events” Ms. Kulwin alleged, their scope specifically EXCLUDED the issue of the assessments, their potential leak or potential leakers.

    Even in their closing letter to Ms. MacCormack on the matter, OFAC reiterated “The OFAC examination was limited in scope to determine if confidential student data was maintained in accordance with statutory requirements.”

    Their scope was limited to confidential student data… and drafts of assessments which had not yet been given do not contain confidential student data obviously… since students have not yet even taken them.

    Let me repeat the main points thus far:

    Kulwin proactively represented to the district’s staff, parents and taxpayers, that OFAC was conducting an investigation that could be trusted to be thorough and conclusive on the assessment issue.

    OFAC was specifically scoped to do no such thing.

    To compound the misrepresentation, Kulwin stated that with the matter in OFAC’s hands, the board would leave them to their work while it returned to its own.

    As we know from OFAC’s letter at the end of the investigation and other revelations to date:

    1) OFAC was not left to do an independent review; they were instead told to consult with “the private security firm retained by the board to examine district technology.”
    2) That private security firm was actually focused on monitoring “enemies” when OFAC was brought aboard
    3) OFAC then relied solely on the “information made available to [them]” as the basis for their ONLY comment re: the assessments in their findings – because, again, the assessments were neither the focus nor even within the scope of their review.

    Their one-line comment, based on what Kroll and the district TOLD them (rather than what they had even attempted to investigate) was that the release of the assessments must have began with someone with password access.

    Kulwin and the board then used that one line to imply the entirety of this charade had been validated by a neutral government agency.

    So, let me boil all of that down into the most pithy of summaries:

    Kulwin entirely misrepresented the entire investigation including: OFAC’s reasons for accepting her request of them; the very limited scope of their review; what that might tell us; what was also being done behind the scenes to monitor enemies; how OFAC had been spoon-fed information by the very same people doing that spying; and how the very thing Kulwin told us we could all fully trust OFAC to deliver was actually just a manipulated, engineered regurgitation of the unsubstantiated story dressed up to look like proof.

    Kulwin so wholly misrepresented the facts, it’s astounding. This was a sham, supported by a plot engineered to validate slander. Literally. All done to lend support for the sleazy hit-job the district did on its own teachers without an iota of proof.

  51. I believe there are other emails that go directly to the “what did they know, and when did they know it” issue…it is the reason some Township Official(s) are trying to broker a deal, because they are potentially more damaging, especially to sitting board members, than the list. I’m sure some will invoke “privileged communication”, but I think that train has left the station. There was an unnecessary, covert operation, sanctioned by the previous board and superintendent, it
    cost a helluva lot of money, people are just finding out
    about it, and like any cover up, it’s going to drip, drip,
    drip, until those that need to, take responsibility, are held accountable and speak up.

    accountabile, and speak up.

  52. Agreed, Mecca, and the MEA is doing what any good counterparty in an action like this would do: giving the board ample rope to hang itself not only for its past actions but for its current ones as well…

    As I said a couple weeks ago when most commenters insisted the MEA was hysterically grandstanding with nary a shred of proof, this time around, after having been ignored or criticized for asserting that the board and district couldn’t be trusted, they’ve finally “got their man” – and are pitch-perfectly giving the culpable parties a chance to either fully confess to past misdeeds as a catalyst for moving forward or fully convict themselves to the point of there being no doubt that their service can no longer be endured.

    Thus far, unsurprisingly, the board appears to be well on its way toward the latter…

    …and this is just the beginning. It’s the classic downward spiral of cover-ups… guilty parties assuming each tiny drip is the entirety of the evidence while never realizing that they were busted from the get-go and stood no chance of wriggling out from underneath the first drip let alone the entire deluge.

  53. Frank,
    It’s not about money. It’s about negotiating in good faith. Re-read my post and then maybe you’ll not extract subplots that aren’t there.

  54. a321–some of us are objecting to the way the prior BOE has acted precisely because it they were not focusing on the education of our students. Do you think Mt. Hebron students were well served by having Ms. LaRosa harassed into retirement with no evidence she–or any other teacher–did anything wrong?

    Does focusing on education mean having investigators wandering around on school grounds during the school day to intimidate and harass a teacher who is working? It’s insanity to think that this is a good way to run a district.

    What about the other teachers on the list? They weren’t “bad” teachers who were refusing to do their work. They were teachers trying to engage the school district in a reasonable discussion about educational matters. Their only crime was seeing things differently from how the old BOE wanted them to be seen. For that, they were targeted?

    The old BOE created a terrible working environment for our teachers. We’re lucky we have any decent ones left.

  55. angry…

    Some of those BOE members remain, and with support from some monied interests in the community. The goal of all of this, should not be ignored…it was union-breaking at its finest.

    How the district hasn’t lost more teachers in this environment is beyond me. Who would want to teach here?

  56. mtclrsown,

    I reread as you asked. Let me state my point a different way.

    1) If there wasn’t an open contract contract negotiation, this whole sordid affair would still remain the primary issue – and deservedly so – and needs to be resolved. The negations are just an accelerant or a magnification multiplier.

    2) Many of those targeted were not school employees and the good faith negotiations are extraneous to their main point as I understand them.

    Does that help?

  57. The Barista has posted some more emails that may address some concerns. This would seem to be the “Haldeman, Erlichman” stage, where the push will be on to throw a couple of hangers-on overboard, and hope the storm will stop. And it would appear, that this started in 2012, wayyyy before those pesky assessments.

  58. Frank,
    1) I’m responding to the fact that many think this was all a negotiation ploy by the MEA and 2) while many were private citizens, who (I think) should sue the district, from the MEA standpoint, good faith negotiations at this point probably can’t take place until this is resolved…because yes, this is the primary issue.

  59. But it’s all out of order, isn’t it, as we had the “I am not a criminal” claim in a letter to the editor a week or so ago.

  60. It was, and is a negotiation ploy, and there is no story here beyond what was already known. If it wasn’t such a waste of time it would be comical.

  61. Some random thoughts:

    *Some commenters who spoke of a “militant union” should remember that there was a lot of peace and cooperation between the Board and the union for all the years before McCormack arrived.
    *This is all quite unsurprising. It is only the culmination of decisions by a Board that totally abrogated its responsibility. It hired an unqualified ideologue to run our schools, a woman who had a solution looking for a problem. The process of selecting her was opaque and her training was in a methodology that depended upon upheaval and conflict. She succeeded.
    *I don’t envy Mr. Bolandi. He has done the job of returning the superintendent’s position of overseeing education. Notice how little education conflict was playing out in the Montclair Times under his leadership.
    *Montclair is lucky that schools throughout NJ and the USA are not hiring experienced teachers to save money or they may have lost many of the fine teachers that they have.
    *This was the culmination of a Board and superintendent who simply ruled with excessive hubris and arrogance.
    *I have heard nothing about the search for a new superintendent but I hope it is open and transparent and the community has an opportunity to speak to the candidates before they are chosen.
    *I was very impressed with Dr. Osnato approach when he came in. He did not have an agenda. He came in, listened and learned and his actions came from an understanding of the community: the culture, the strengths, the weaknesses.
    *Montclair has always had a libertarian streak and any successful superintendent needs to understand and work with that in mind. For most of my years at the high school, it was pretty much controlled chaos, but it worked.
    *Anyone who says this enemies list was okay or no big deal is out of their mind. Those involved in it in any way need to resign.
    *Much of what is playing out in the national stage is a microcosm of Montclair. I don’t want to compare McCormack to Trump but….check that, yes I do. They were cut from the same cloth.

  62. montclairreformer–please explain how harassing a veteran teacher out of the district is a negotiation tactic by the MEA. What happened to Ms. LaRosa was in no one’s best interest.

    You can scream that this is a union ploy all you want. And maybe you can even argue that the timing of these revelations was part of the current contract negotiation. But you know what? The BOE is ultimately responsible for its own dumb, cruel, unethical, unhinged behavior here. No one forced the old BOE to act as they did. You can’t pin this one on the teachers, no matter how much contempt you have for them. Shame on you for trying.

  63. Muppets, muppets, muppets. The BOE was, is and always will be a joke. This is a waste of time. Those that are surprised that the BOE was and is a joke and dont understand that it always will be a joke have to wake up.

    Lets shut the comments down here. Thanks guys.

  64. *Much of what is playing out in the national stage is a microcosm of Montclair. I don’t want to compare McCormack to Trump but….check that, yes I do. They were cut from the same cloth.

    And that is the problem. Is it really a battle between the reformies and the public education unionists or is it all a made up narrative where the activists are being played?

    I’m just glad my kids don’t go to school where the Battle of Gettysburg is being fought. Too many casualties (the children). If you’re right, I thank you. If not, well thanks for the laugh.

  65. Montclairreformer,

    I applaud you. You really know how to dig deep and stretch your train of thought beyond hating the union. Wait…nope. No you don’t. You probably still want MacCormack back and think she was treated unfairly.

  66. Stayhyphy, nothing about this situation–the wasted money, the harassment of teachers, the secretive and vindictive behavior of the board– seems remotely joke-like to me. But maybe I don’t get your humor.

  67. Really Montclairreformer?
    “It was, and is a negotiation ploy, and there is no story here beyond what was already known. If it wasn’t such a waste of time it would be comical.”
    Then explain why Penny and the BOE started the negotiation ploy in 2013 by launching a ridiculously expensive witch hunt which falls on the backs of the Montclair taxpayers. You make no sense and hopefully you know that it’s time to put your tail between your legs and walk away. Some current BOE members should be following you soon.

  68. …and, qby33, let’s not lose sight of the question that hasn’t even been asked yet:

    Hey, that whole expensive hunt for a culprit conducted by that powerful cybersecurity firm, how’d that one turn out?

    I mean, you hire a powerhouse firm to investigate the theory that there was a leak, you’d probably get a report from them, no? Spend $35k in just the first month, you’d think there probably was an answer to the whole “was it a leak?” question somewhere in an email or sumthin’, no?

    Quite curious that the findings were buried but a one-liner from a report from some state accounts six months later got marched through the streets like a captured POW.

    Hmmm, certainly makes you wonder why we never heard a peep about what they actually concluded…

  69. Or, how much did this “joke” cost? Is that line item #45240 Judgements against district? $1.168 mil 2014-15 $963.9K 2015-16 at least $806.3K for next year…are we still paying for this? A full, transparent fiscal accounting of the leak that never was, may be a good place to start.
    And since this plotting and scheming started in 2012, right after the former superintendent arrived, how is this a negotiating “ploy”…But I see some feathers feel betrayed that there actions have become known…and the Baristas are leading the charge, not their usual nemesis, the Montclair Times

  70. Yes, that wasn’t lost on me either. To everyone but the most staunch, this is all quite ugly and unfortunate. These revelations are far beyond acceptable for most. That creates a painful and not easily resolved inflection point for a Tea Party though. The most at-war cannot accept any charges leveled by their enemies. The rest of the larger party isn’t going to sign up to give these behaviors and actions a pass though. If the groups involved in this locally were politically savvy, they would swallow the bitter pill of condemning actions which cannot be effectively defended and distance themselves from the actors involved.

    The players here, despite their beliefs to the contrary, don’t seem to be terribly politically or strategically minded though. So the names caught up in this controversy on one side will likely continue to stay up on the marquee over on the other side… no matter how badly the taints the brand so to speak.

  71. So this “horrific” expose didn’t even make front page of today’s MT, even though editor seems pretty sympathetic toward MEA/MCAS. Even the hiring of new BID director (who he)was deemed bigger news. That provides useful scaling of this tragedy.

    But good news for David (“it’s not about me”) Herron; he got his picture on page decked out in a jaunty yellow jacket (were you teeing off after, Mr Herron?) Apparently your self-aggrandizing shovel stunt backfired and somehow, inexplicably, made it about you! You keep asking how you made the list. Fair question, but wouldn’t you be disappointed if you hadn’t? This validates you as an “activist” and “victim:” you are now one of the Montclair 24! (or whatever the “enemy list” comprises).

  72. But I think it’s ever so much more relevant that it’s being spread by your favorite, local, homegrown online community, that covers such a wide area. Who would have believed that Montclair, hotbed of so-called progressive politics, could harbor such McCarthyesque intrigue? International forensic investigators, whole legal teams, insider BOE machinations, a willing and totally unqualified superintendent, all ready and willing to spend upwards of $35K a month of taxpayer money, to keep 28 people, the local teachers association, one stubborn board member, and as yet un-named others, from asking questions and seeking answers.
    Who needs to worry about lead contaminated water in East Montclair, when we have Assessmentgate Redux. And I’m sure there will be more to come in future installments…

  73. elcamino, I know you said you were new to town–so maybe you aren’t aware that most of us don’t need the newspapers to tell us what’s important and what’s not. We can make that decision all by ourselves.

    Also, why so rude to David Herron? I’m grateful he has found this issue important enough to devote the time and energy to it that he has. If you think that all he’s done here is bring a shovel to a meeting, you haven’t been reading those newspapers very carefully.

  74. elcamino gives this “scandal” a half-life of one month.

    Based on his histrionics here and elsewhere, Herron strikes me as the worst sort of gadfly-the self-promoting type. He got exactly what he wanted with his shovel stunt-his picture in the paper. If you don’t see that, and if you can’t see how much he is savoring this attention (he chose a YELLOW JACKET for his photo op!), I will have to direct my rudeness toward you, naïverabbit.

  75. Rabbit, I am all for running these BOE people out of town (but will wait to hear what they have to say first) but some of the agitators should be right behind them. let’s not act like Herron hasn’t wasted a different boatload of town money. His kid got a B, must be racism, time to file a suit!

    There’s a few of these online and I don’t see any wins. Sorry mr Herron, Maybe I’m missing all the good things, but you likely wasted more taxpayer money over the years than the BOE did in this investigation. Doesn’t absolve them but doesn’t make you an inspiration either.

  76. Here’s the thing, elcamino and cspn55–I don’t actually care if David Herron is a self-promoting gadfly. I don’t care if he has a long history of suing everyone he meets. I’m not going to shoot the messenger when the message he has is important.

    A teacher–a good teacher–was harassed and forced out of her job at Mt. Hebron by our own out-of-control BOE. Other teachers were harassed and intimidated as well. Parents were put on a watch list. Investigators were sneaking around in our schools and leaving with information they were not necessarily authorized to have (and I’m not talking about the MEA here–I’m talking about confidential student information that might have been on the computers they mirrored). Mr. Herron is one of the people who brought this to the public’s attention. I am grateful for that.

    And if you think this issue is going to be over in “the half life of a month,” elcamino, well…like you said, you must be new to town.

  77. Cspn beat me to it.

    I know of only a few Mr. Herron’s courageous efforts. For example, his suit arguing that exempting AP students from standardized tests to determine college readiness was discriminatory because most AP students were white or Asian (by that logic, colleges could not allow credit for AP tests). Outcome: dismissed.

    Or when time he sued because his son was not granted enough time to take a test. Outcome: Dismissed

    If Mr. Herron has had triumphs,I would love to hear them. Absent that, I he strikes me as a litigious guy with questionable legal judgment and too much time on his hands that is tone deaf how these suits come across to his neighbors who have to pay to defend against them. This town has its share of gadflies (more Pat Kenshcaft anyone?) but the others aren’t suing every few years.

    Why am I picking on Mr. Herron here? Because he picked out that yellow jacket and picked up that shovel and insinuated himself right in the middle of this “scandal.” There were 27 other people named, but he is the only one leveraging it with a shovel. He smells civil suit.

  78. I’m not THAT much of a newcomer (five years). What is story of teacher forced out (sincere question)?

  79. ElCam, reference Syreeta Carrington reading letter from the teacher, Casey LaRosa, in above posting. Watching the actual reading would be more enlightening. Sometimes you have to read for detail, not just scan for information.

  80. elcamino–Ms. LaRosa was my kid’s teacher last year and she ran the Model Congress/Model UN club. I thought she was fantastic. And if you don’t want to take my word for it, see what the district had to say about her and all of the teaching awards that she won:

    The BOE’s investigators–with the BOE’s blessing–harassed and intimidated her until she left the district. It would appear that certain BOE members were so determined to blame a teacher for the leaked assessment that they didn’t care about ruining the career of an award-winning educator. And it’s something that they should be deeply ashamed of. It’s certainly not something that I’m planning on forgetting or forgiving anytime soon.

  81. Thanks for reading lesson. So this is extent of La Rosa affair:

    “Syreeta Carrington, who identified herself as the teacher who first alerted the district to the availability of the tests online, read a letter for Casey La Rosa, which described ongoing harassment by the attorney for the BOE during the investigation period, including La Rosa being read her Miranda Rights during a class break and repeated harassing emails and phone calls which resulted in her experiencing panic attacks.”

    I’m amused that people here see having Miranda rights read as a violation-they’re rights! But commenters are alluding to La Rosa being railroaded out of MPS. What is that story (or have I again scanned instead of read)?

  82. “it would appear” I’m surprised MEA would allow that. Reading above, you have teachers (“educators”) appearing before BOE demanding resignation and lambasting BOE (if I scanned correctly), yet MEA allowed award winning teacher to be scapegoated and railroaded? Sorry, but doesn’t add up.

  83. …and she was by no means the only teacher who was either targeted for harassment or deeply affected by it.

    Contrary to what some of our neighbors seem to think, the careers of most public school teachers don’t usually begin with a young person thinking “Teaching… that’s where the real money is. I’m gonna be a teacher and make me some mad Benjamins!”

    Most teachers have an emotional connection to their jobs – and an emotional connection to their students. Elementary school teachers even when outside of school and off in their adult lives, have a hard time not calling their students “my kids”.

    Enter the destructive force of a highly accusatory, toxic, divisive, one-woman morale crusher and suddenly the ROI on a potential $5 dollar a day raise doesn’t seem like all that great an offset to hating the environment you work in even while still loving the work itself.

  84. A lot of commenters here have, in the past few years, had a knee-jerk reaction need to defend P MacCormack and her board no matter what the topic. It’s interesting now to see that the only defense anyone here can muster is to attack the messenger. This is all so obviously wrong. elcamino, really, the MEA “allowed” the board to railroad Ms. LaRosa? As if they had a choice? What precisely were they supposed to do? And yes, being read Miranda rights in a classroom is clearly an act of intimidation. Would you be okay if this hapoened to you at work? And attacking David Herron does not change the truth of what he says, now or in the past, even if you don’t like those particular truths.

    Just to make this clear, try making a two-columned list to compare and contrast these actions, one side titled “Things a Board of Ed SHOULD do,” and the other “Things a Board if Ed should NOT do.” How does this all stack up?

  85. Again not defending the BOE or McCormack. It looks very bad for them.

    But for LaRosa, only police have any power to take you into custody and that’s when you get read your Miranda rights. If I am wrong about that I apologize. If the investigator said that she has the ability to get her attorney before speaking or answering questions those are not Miranda rights. It sounds trivial but it’s not….terms like that are being used and I can’t tell if they are embellishing for effect since both sides here are absolutely crazy. As a parent and taxpayer I don’t see it as black and white…BOE/McCormack bad and MEA and anti-parcc people good. I see both as slimy given how these groups have behaved and maneuvered really since last super was hired and had “broad foundation” on her resume. It’s not impossible to be for none of the above in a dispute and this is one of those times.

  86. Really, elcamino, you actually think the fact that the BOE harassed and intimidated an award-winning teacher into leaving is the MEA’s fault?

    I’m going to suggest that nothing about this situation will add up for you as long as you assume the teachers are the enemy and the old BOE as an organization that was operating in a reasonable manner.

  87. Here is a little fact that I know to be true. When Penny didn’t like you, she did everything she could to intimidate you. If a teacher or Paraprofessional spoke at a BOE meeting to answer the question SHE had asked “What’s working, what’s not working”….she would come to your school and intimidate you. Fact. She would pull you into a room, close the door and well….you can figure it out. So hearing that a teacher retired early does not be surprising me at all. If I were her, I’d be seeking damages. The BOE who let this happen needs to publicly apologize so people can move on.

  88. elcamino-
    Sorry for coming late to this crazy party. Still looking for that “jaunty yellow jacket.”
    Actually, it’s tan, tan, tan. It’s quite different than yellow, not even in the same family, you’re not from here, guess you are unaware of the different. And I had no idea that my Burberry British tan, 100% cashmere jacket would create such a stir. Really, my attire offends you. Amazing.

    No I wasn’t going to tee off. That’s not my interest, besides, look at my picture, most of the golf courses in America, will neither allow me,(or you either, for that matter-female), to play on them, nor become a member in their club.

    My interest is more about exposing fraud, waste and what may turn out to be criminal activity.

    I will continue to say, it’s not about me, but about an out of control BOE who decided to use TAXPAYERS dollars to place, union officials, teachers, staff and private citizens under electronic surveillance. And you and others are ok with that? WOW.

    Elcamino-your focus is so interesting, you choose to focus on me, rather than on the misappropriation of funds used in this crazy investigation. I have to wonder-who are you, and what do you have to hide? I use my name, care to use yours?

    There is one difference in any actions I may have taken against the district, they were not illegal. Breaking into computers, mirroring union officials computers, if proven true, may prove to be quite illegal. But I think you already know that. And certainly, targeting private citizens, using public funds, to do that, is without question, illegal. Surely, you have lawyers who have told you that, don’t you?
    So don’t shoot the messenger, and stop worrying about my attire, instead focus you attention on what members of the board did, why they did it, and the mess that they have gotten this town into. I feel more emails may be on the way.

    Attacking someone’s attire, attacking someone who asks questions and brings things to the surface, is never a wise course of action. But, enough about me.

    It makes me wonder, IS THAT THE BEST YOU GOT. WOW!!!!

    This conversation should be about complicity by the BOE, fraud, Misappropriation of funds, covert collection of data, (term used in their email), and gross abuse of power and authority.

    Care to have those conversations?

  89. Gee whiz, elcamino – for all of your huffing about David Herron being an attention seeker, your posts sure seem to be looking for – and getting – lots of the spotlight! Some would call that hypocrisy, but I call it VERY VERY CLEVER INDEED!!! You wascally wabbit, you loooove being the center of attention, doncha? But unlike Mr. Herron, you’re all about denial, legitimizing/defending the BoE’s undeniable patterns of abuse, and victim blaming. Me likes, me likes! Keep going, you most awesome coupé utility/pickup vehicle that was produced by Chevrolet between 1959–60 and 1964-87. You’re on a roll!

  90. People are misunderstanding me on La Rosa affair. I don’t profess to know facts of her demise, I’m merely conjecturing that IF she was unfairly railroaded, why wouldn’t her union defend her–isn’t that their mission? The MEA certainly appears strong (look at how they constantly derail meetings) and in NYC, it takes 100k and months of hearing to fire teachers accused even of questionable sexual behavior? So as I said, this affair doesn’t pass sniff test. If anyone has any actual facts on the matter, I would be interested. SO far, it sounds like victim lore.

    DHerron, I explained very, very clearly above why I’m making it about you-because you did with your shovel stunt and your “why me, why me” above. You are hoist by you own petard/shovel, sir. But I will lay off the yellow/tan jacket (didn’t realize it was Burberry cashmere!)

    I adore how you are now upset about waster taxpayer dollars on this frivolous mess when my (and others) complaints about you are your frivolous, racially divisive law suits against the Town. If only there was a “COHERENCE” checker on Baristanet.

    As for your more personal challenges, my name sir, is Elcamino, and we ARE having these conversations. I’m intrigued that you inferred I was female. I’m complimented, naturally, but I wonder if you intended as a slight?

    qby33, I have learned to mistrust your “facts.”

    dbl, your vision of “educators” as so many Mother Theresa’s taking vows of poverty to tend flock of “kids” is sweet, but remarkably naïve. If money, benefits, and security to criticize your boss in public were not part of it, why a union? There was a time, 30-40 years ago, when the ranks of teacher were populated with over-qualified women kept out of careers they were better suited to: doctors, lawyers, executives… Now that those folks have better (and much deserved options) “educator” quality has fallen: education majors tend to score in bottom third of SAT score distribution across college major (2014). They score closer to “mechanic and repair technology” than “math and stats.”

  91. Yes, because keeping the spotlight on EC takes it off of where it needs to be: how much taxpayer money was used to investigate something that did not happen? Are we still paying for this? What was the purpose, since Fleischer, Kulwin (aka RBK), Deutsch, Clarke, Young, Benezra, and the prior superintendent, had already been apprised that no one had deliberately leaked the assessments, and at best it was an error on the part of Clarke and Young? Why was Alan Benezra fired? Because he wouldn’t participate in the illegal activities that the prior superintendent wanted? Why were all of the district IT staff not consulted to do what they are paid to do, instead of hiring an international forensic team from Kroll at $35K plus monthly (this is not counting the cadre of lawyers/investigators)? What/how/why was the search list developed, and who developed this list? Why were investigators sent to a teachers classroom? Why was she harassed until she threatened to file suit and seek damages? Why didn’t the above named people, as well as others who sat on the board, long time residents, who’s children were taught by some of the same teachers that they sneer at now, speak
    up? And on and on…you and the rest of the crew can keep trying to deflect, but it’s not going to work. The police keep cold case files for a reason…because the Truth Will Out, no matter how long, or how clever the cover up…The Truth Will Out. Remember that.

  92. postscript to comment above (on dblespresso comment)

    I suspect most people selecting education now do so because that’s their best option given their skills (plus great benefits and great job security), not because they are they are the “better angels of our nature.”

    Opponents of “corporate reform” are never going to convince the other side rebranding teachers as “educators” and painting them as saints who call their students “my kids.” They’re people in disguise, like the rest of us.

  93. Oh, elcam, you make me laugh sometimes. I know that you are too smart to really be offering a conceit as oversimplified as “If money were not a part of it, why a union?” with the inference being that teachers are pull down some serious corn and that’s what lures them in.

    I’m sure you know the history of unions… and I’m sure you know what level of the socioeconomic pyramid most needed unions to give them any leverage at all in their negotiations with people who saw them as dispensable and worth as close to nothing as you could get them to accept and still show up for work.

    You could make the argument that unions aren’t necessary anymore or that they’ve gone past merely balancing the scales of power between unvalued laborers and employers with a vested interest in never paying them a cent more. Suggesting that a union springs up to help people who’ve already got it made stay that way is rather silly though.

    …but to answer your question, why a union?

    Because in a world where a local website’s comment sections have been filled with angry, demeaning, accusatory, undervaluing shots at teachers for years, it’s pretty safe to say, there are a heck of a lot of people out there who see the entire profession as laborers who can merely be swapped in and out like apple pickers… and when you combine that low a view of the job and the people who fill it with control of the board and the district office, you either better find some strength in numbers or your days of pickin’ apples are over the second someone will do it for less.

    Why a union? Because, well, Montclair. That’s why.

  94. ELCAMINO 2016!!! You got my vote but you do realize you are talking to the wall. You will never convince some people (victims) with logic and facts. Though I am enjoying the show. You are outnumbered but you are more than holding your own. On another note….as someone who has only worked in the private sector I can attest that every one of my electronic communications have been monitored. Big whoop….it’s not a problem when you have nothing to hide.

  95. “I suspect most people selecting education now do so because that’s their best option given their skills (plus great benefits and great job security), not because they are they are the ‘better angels of our nature.'”

    —how original! demeaning the intentions of others while bending towards a glorious, rose colored past we never really lived in…

    “They’re people in disguise, like the rest of us.”

    —what a sad, revealing comment…

  96. Elcamino – Demeaning teachers? LOVES! Slamming unions? REALLY LOVES! Do you have kids in the district? If so, UGH! Why would you subject your youngsters to the union hacks and low test scoring loser instructors in our classrooms? That’s totally nuts! (Funny coincidence: all of the guilty parties on the BOE, as well as their Montclair-based supporters in MKF, have sent or are sending their kids to Montclair public schools. Insanity? Hells yeah! YOUR KIDS ARE BEING POISONED AND UNDER-EDUCATED BY THE LOSERS WHO ARE LEADING THE CLASSROOMS IN THIS TOWN, PEOPLE! EXTRICATE YOUR SPAWN FROM THIS SHEEP DIP OF MEDIOCRITY AND GET THEM TO PRIVATE SCHOOLS AND/OR CHARTERS!) Speaking of private schools, rest easy El Camino: those teachers are non-union, so if the outcomes of those schools are impressive, it MUST be because there are non-union, non-crappy teachers who work there, right? Of course right! Your other choice: non-unionized teachers at charter schools. Do most of them have years of experience? No! They earned a five week teaching certificate from Teach For America – BUT THEY’RE JUST AS GOOD BECAUSE THEY HAVEN’T BEEN TAINTED BY THE RULES, LAZINESS, AND STATUS QUO APPROACH OF THOSE UNION BUGGERS! So my advice, get thy kids to Montclair Kimberly, Newark Academy, Lacordaire, or any other top private schools in the region to escape the stench of unionized teachers. Or, move to Newark and choose from any one of the many wonderful “no excuses”, standardized test-obsessed charter schools there!

  97. Hey, Flip… did the town library ever hack into your emails? Post office ever secretly read your mail? Any cops ever key themselves into your house when you were on vacay and help themselves to print-outs of your email conversations?

    If you haven’t had one of those things happen, then you really don’t have an analogous experience, do you? Many of the people on the “enemies list” don’t work for the school. They are private citizens who were spied on by a municipal entity.

    Your employer reading your messages might not bother you but I have a feeling that if you found out that the guys who registered your kid for little league then used that info to read your emails to friends and neighbors, you might be a little less, well, Flip…

  98. Like. I. Said. And BTW, if we’re going to talk unqualified “educators”, look what the last superintendent search got us. And, the crop of Wall St. brokers/hedge fund managers, that have usually populated the board, seem to be so focused on “our kids”, that they had no problem spending upwards of $500K to try to go after qualified, certified educators and maintain search lists of private citizens, as well as another $500K wasted on poorly conceived “assessments” and illegal surveys, instead of funding programs/people that directly affected the children they love to wring their collective disingenuous hands over.

  99. So now the cops were breaking into houses…a bit of stretch…What I don’t get is if Montclair is such a terrible school system for teachers to work in why do they stay? Why not teach in Millburn, Chatham, MKA, Taft, or Delbarton where the grass maybe greener? Why put up with Montclair parents and the BOE? All I read here is about how Montclair doesn’t appreciate and underpays it’s teachers. Are MPS some sort of Hotel California?

  100. Flipside, the “cops breaking into houses” comment was an analogy – you know, a comparison, not an actual accusation. Good questions as to why Montclair teachers stay, though. I may not have the answers, but it makes me very appreciative of the fact that they do. It cannot be easy.

    But speaking of our former superintendent, whom we may assume had quite a bit to do with this ugly debacle, what is her legal culpability in this? We can ask for resignations of those board members who were involved in this spying/intimidation/misdirection-of-school-funding/withholding-the-truth-from-the-public/harassment fiasco, but what of MacCormack? It doesn’t seem fair that she just gets to skip town.

  101. Curb that indignation, frenemies, and re-read my comment. I’m not insulting teachers, I’m resisting your side’s tendency to sanctify them.
    I merely argued that teachers are no more or less self interested than the rest us, even if they say “my kids” and only earn middle-class salaries (when vacation adjusted). They are people like the rest of us who respond to incentives ($, benefits, and security). Is that really so insulting (except to jcunningham bot)

    On the SAT business, Dbl said teachers weren’t in it for the money, suggested they were somehow earning less than what they could earn otherwise, absent their benevolent regard for “our kids” Hence the fact on SAT scores suggesting otherwise. I’m NOT saying teachers are dumb (that would be a dumb thing to say). If it’s any comfort, my mom was a teacher.

    Thank Dbl, I do know a little about unions. I agree, private sector unions back in the day that protected workers against dangerous conditions or monopsony (“company towns” with all the jobs) were immensely valuable. But now we have federal laws ensuring worker safety and anti-trust protection against monopsony and collusion by firms (in hiring), which is one reason private sector unions are disappearing-they’re obsolete.

    Public sector unions, namely teachers, are another matter. What hazards do teacher face? And as for preventing wage compression (which under your “teachers are angels” thesis shouldn’t matter anyway) there is plenty of competition in teaching; if I am under paid or mistreated (La Rosa?), I could decamp to another school, just the way it works in the non-union labor force. My sense is that role of teachers unions is not to protect them from danger, or arbitrary firing, or the inevitable slide toward subsistence wages, it’s to get them best wages and benefits they possibly can. That’s perfectly human (my thesis), but it doesn’t suggest they’re super-human (your thesis)

    To digress, the rise of public sector unions in the fact of declining private sector unions says nothing about deteriorating labor conditions in the former. It’s about elected officials unwillingness to say no to public sector unions because 1) the officials don’t have to worry about bottom line as for-profits, private concern so 2) they can defer pension benefits without proper accounting (private firms face more market discipline on that) and 3) public sector union can actually elect their boss (governor, mayor,..) with ads and donations, or exert major influence. 4) if public sector union strikes (e.g. NJT), it’s hugely disruptive to, well, public. If GM workers strike, I can buy Ford. Those are profound differences between private and public unions. I have some sympathy for private sector unions (especially like migrant farm worker), but public sector unions for middle class teachers and bureaucrats are hard to love. I’m sure many here will agree 🙂

    Back to the issue, I agree with Flip (not just his endorsement). My email are not confidential at my job and if information was leaked to outsider that I was suspected to know, MY emails (but not the outsider) would be searched for communication to that party. If that is all that happened here, it seems trivial and explains why this wasn’t event front page news on MCAS leaning MT

    But DBL, you alluded to much more sinister doings. Care to elaborate or are you sticking with allusion?

    Mathew, didn’t even read your comment given all the SHOUTING. In my experience, commenters here rarely use ALL CAP-it’s pretty civilized. You’re embarrassing and undercutting yourself.

    DHerron, my apologies for yellow jacket crack. It looked yellow in MT photo, so it fit my argument that you were elevating your role in this issue with shovel and attention-grabbing clothing. I will stick with shovel and soundtrack henceforth.

  102. Ah yes, elcamino – the handy dandy civility card. A familiar ploy used by supporters of the former superintendent and the BoE. When their opponents react with fervor to the inanities that said supporters spew, those opponents are accused of being “uncivil”. Quite brilliant and very effective. YES INDEED elcamino, you’re playing your part well!

  103. elcamino, I am not sure what’s worse: your idea that SAT scores actually mean anything (they predict first-semester college success, and that is all), or your understanding of being mistreated in the workforce. You write:”if I am under paid or mistreated (La Rosa?), I could decamp to another school, just the way it works in the non-union labor force.”

    This just says to me that people in the non-union labor force could do with a union. When someone is mistreated, it is the entity doing the mistreating who is culpable and who should have to compensate, not the victim. By your logic, bullied kids should just switch to other schools in hopes the kids won’t be so cruel there, and the bullies should just go blithely on their way.

    This, essentially, is why your diversionary tactics here cannot work. You bring up mistreatment and it is an immediate reminder that we are dealing with a BOE that pursued harassment and intimidation under the guise of finding the truth to a question that had already been answered. Lies, mistreatment… it just keeps coming back to this, doesn’t it?

  104. Time on task, EC. Time on task. Your deflection/spinning skills are good, but, unfortunately, the parties in question (Fleischer, Kulwin, Deutsch, Tabakin, Clarke, Young, et al) had a bad habit of emailing each other, and goodness, the first few (I’m sure not all) are posted for public purview. And like any wannabe of the rich and powerful, the attempts to control the narrative (you didn’t hear what you heard, you didn’t see what you saw) are in full swing.
    Well, I have done enough of trying to inform the implicitly obedient. Carry on.

  105. Mr. Herron, as someone known to both carry a shovel and utilize it’s keen powers of excavation, I was wondering if I could pose a couple questions to you…

    Let’s say for the sake of argument, a district’s school board and leadership found themselves in a highly aggrieved state over the possibility that some information it considered to be important had been deliberately leaked to the public…

    …and let’s say the same board and leadership were so convinced that one of its own employees was guilty of wrongdoing that it commissioned a secret investigation by a world-renowned cyber-security firm which, among its selling points, boasts particularly strong expertise at collecting evidence, maintaining the chain of custody, preserving evidentiary value and providing litigation support in cases where wrongdoing occurred.

    …and let’s say the public only came to know of their work through a leaked document or two – which happened to include the work-file/case numbers assigned to that matter for tracking within that firms’ case management system.

    Here’s my question, if the same board and district leadership that commissioned the very expensive investigation, for whatever reason, buried its findings so deep, the public never gained the benefit of even one sentence-worth of information from their taxpayer-funded work, wouldn’t the resulting reports and work product from such a consultation be subject to an OPRA request (minus potential redactions)?

    I mean, hypothetically speaking, some people might infer that there was something amiss in the board burying the expert findings it commissioned at a steep price only to wait six months and then publish out-of-context one-liners from a letter discussing an investigation which specifically EXCLUDED the issues in question.

    Wouldn’t the reports and findings unknowingly funded by that town’s taxpayers be the kind of things a renowned security firm skilled in preservation of evidence would likely keep on file?

    Just curious.

  106. Mr. Herron, while you’ve got the Queen blasting and the shovel on the shoulder, one more question if I may…

    Purely hypothetically, let’s say the same hypothetical district board and leadership did indeed hire a highly expert firm and did indeed receive a report and did indeed keep it from view deliberately because its findings did not reflect the outcome they preferred.

    Now, again, purely hypothetically, let’s say the board and leadership weren’t willing to merely accept that it’s prior accusations were not founded, so, in an effort to see them validated, then reached out to a State Department of Education entity to request a second investigation be conducted.

    Fast forward two years and let’s say some people in that town came to be in possession of certain documents and communications about all of this – some of which included statements made by employees attesting to the fact that they were asked to suppress opinions about alternate scenarios which would be exculpatory if true.

    Here’s my question, if that board had withheld information that would have altered the DOE Office’s interest in investigating or if their selective disclosures were intended to or did in fact alter the State DOE Office’s statements on the matter – all to validate an opinion which had already been contradicted by a more thorough prior investigation, might that be the kind of thing that the DOE would consider to be a potentially problematic use of taxpayer resources?

    If there was a misuse of the town’s funds and a misuse of the State’s investigative resources, does that sound like the kind of thing that would fall under the investigative purview of the Office of Fiscal Accountability and Compliance or OFAC for short? For some reason, those initials seem familiar…

    Just curious…

  107. dherron is definitely the right guy to ask as he has lost many lawsuits. I’m sure the “defendants” in this case hope you take his counsel.

    “did the town library ever hack into your emails? Post office ever secretly read your mail? Any cops ever key themselves into your house when you were on vacay and help themselves to print-outs of your email conversations?”

    Dbl, what are in the world are you alluding to? Are there dead bodies and drug cartels involved too? Does this go right to the RNC and Tri-lateral commission? You’re usually pretty rational and lucid but you’re sounding a little unhinged here (did you mention above not sleeping for 42 hours?)

  108. Nah ElCamino,

    You were disparaging and demeaning teachers. I chose this PROFESSION and achieved a MASTERS DEGREE because I love EDUCATING, and being EDUCATED in return by my approximately 1K students I’ve had throughout my career thus far. My “general skills” could have led me to law, or even business where I could have easily gotten a job, getting paid more. EDUCATING is a PROFESSION that requires skill, which most don’t have. This is not a defense of every teacher, but if I was so motivated by incentives, what the hell am I doing in this job? I oppose merit pay. Why? Because educating a human is not creating a product, incentives be damned. I simply don’t want to quantify your child down to some VAM that actually doesn’t accurately assess student growth and learning.

    Those rosy benefits you talk of have been cut year after year since 2010, my pension not fulfilled by the state’s legal obligation (while I contribute more), and that security you talk of has been violated by the previous 2 things, while my salary continues to stagnate as a result.

    TBH, your mentality makes me want to puke.

  109. Regarding the Times story, that money figure for the investigation is way too conservative. Tens of thousands? Actually closer to $500,000.

  110. Well said, Matthew, don’t embrace diverse opinions, go back to the circle jerk. But nice find on NYT piece.

    So is this true:

    “In addition to having Kroll Associates examine computers used by employees, lawyers for the Board of Education gave the firm a list of 27 people who it believed might have been involved. The investigators were to look for any emails sent from those people’s addresses to a school employee who worked in the district office.”

    or this:

    “Anne Mernin, the panel’s vice president, said at the meeting that the investigators had only searched computers owned by the district, not any belonging to a teachers’ union”.

    Whether this is something or nothing hinges on that, in my view. were they order to hack the computer on our man with the shovel of town employee correspondences with him.

    On the possible $500,000 cost, that’s 0.004 percent of this year’s $128,000,000 budget-a rounding error. Your side will not win the day with that.

    Mntclrsown, puke away, but you prove my point that teachers are no less financially motivated than the rest of us when you ended your post by whining about your stagnant salary and shrinking pension (be grateful you have pensionl-that’s almost strictly a public sector benefit). And I will just have to take your word on it that you passed up a big $$$ in law or business to devote yourself to “your kids.” However, your habit of randomly shouting PROFESSION and EDUCATION and MASTERS doesn’t help your case on that.

    But once more, to be clear, I’m not saying teachers are greedy, or unintelligent or that they don’t care about their students. I’m saying the’re ordinary people with average skills (on average) and the usual amount of self-interest and that to deify them as EDUCATORS who sacrifice big money for the sake of their kids is a myth. Sometimes having a myth challenged is nauseating.

  111. I, for one, think $500,000 is a very big deal. We can make a guessing game of it; as it was taxpayer money spent, we should have some say where it could have gone to actual good use.

    So… how many paraprofessionals can $500,000 pay for?
    How many books can be bought with $500,000?
    How many classrooms could have a computer if that’s what $500,000 had been used for?
    If $500,000 were spent on world language instruction, how many immersion programs could we pilot?
    How many of the schools could have had more extra-curricular, after school activities if they had had $500,000 to spend?

    And on, and on.

    Anne Mernin also said that after many weeks of waiting that Kroll still had not sent an affidavit stating that they had not searched other, including MEA, computers. Just because the NYT didn’t cover it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. The Times article also neglected to mention the instructions for keeping tabs in the future on those teachers, parents, and community members, yet we can see that right here on baristanet.

    “Sometimes having a myth challenged is nauseating”? Sometimes having the plain truth ignored has the same effect.

  112. The answer is none, because all that money will have gone towards the 3% annual salary increases asked by the MEA, which is, for those that are not familiar with the numbers, 1% over the 2% State cap on annual budget increase.

  113. Thank You, MatthewSpankel…there are none so blind as those that choose not to see…
    Re the NYT article, Mr. Grant met with a number of people on the search/enemies list, and had access to the emails, but chose to really only speak to two people, one a former board member. Left out was the who/why/how of the list, the information regarding covert building break ins, and the emails indicating that it was known within days that no purposeful leak had occurred, but that the assessments were not password protected through error, and why Kroll was hired to do what the district IT staff could have competently accomplished. And the former board member used her opportunity to show her “power” by stating she would spend taxpayer money/student funding to once again initiate a witch hunt to search for something that never happened. $500K is a starting point. There is between $1.6 million-$800K budgeted for Judgements against the District in the budget. The NYT does manage to get the general story out there. Let’s see what they do the next time around.

  114. Sorry, normal, but that’s not accurate. The 2% cap is on property tax levy increase, not on the school budget directly, nor the teachers’ salaries within that budget. Nice try at deflection and blaming teachers, though.

    It doesn’t erase the wrong the board has done.

  115. I tried to give it up, but my mistake was still reading eh comments. elcamino, you have held your own. The posters who think they are better because they post under their real names….well, don’t participate. When someone brings that argument up I know they are desperate.

    I understand how the adults need to work this through. I thought they would do it well within 3 years. I was wrong again..

    Let’s summarize. The educators on both sides realized by the end of the Summer of 2013 that they had wasted ½ million dollars on practice tests because none knew what they were doing – on both sides. I’m also crystal clear that both dysfunctional sides had ample reason to blow the whole thing up. This was a cluster. They just need ed to do without being accountable. Gobbledegook did them all a favor. All should thank the Russian entity.

    We learned that both the municipal government and the school government really had no idea how to run an IT function. We learned that not a single major education initiative was undertaken since then. In fact, we made good progress going backwards. We learned that replacing BoE members doesn’t change anything, even if they were the best the Township had to offer. We learned that the new superintendent has been so busy fixing what we all thought WAS working that he hasn’t moved the needle one iota – at least where we thought the needle was. We learned that this will go on for some time now because the adults are finished doing their thing and this is a matter of the highest principles.

    In this time, the children entering our middle schools ill prepared are now graduating to high school. We also know that those 20% of the children entering 1st grade then are now graduating 3rd grade and are reading below grade level. But, hey, let us at least fix the roofs on our facilities, remodel the traffic circles in front, and maybe get those kids at Rand a proper place to exercise. Well, doesn’t that give us all the warn fuzzies. Happy days. Go MCAS! Go MKF. Go BoE. Go residents!

    PS: we can’t even get the budget right. I can never remember a time over the decades when the State actually kicked the budget back to us for a misclassification. Guessing our auditors didn’t catch it because it was not an accepted accounting practice.

  116. Wow, Frank Rubacky, that is a sad post. I’m only going to focus on one point because you seem so genuinely deflated.

    It’s this. You write: “The educators on both sides realized by the end of the Summer of 2013 that they had wasted ½ million dollars on practice tests because none knew what they were doing – on both sides.” The thing is, the teachers said this from the start. At each BOE meeting where the teachers were invited to comment on “What’s not working,” every school mentioned how these assessments were not working. And they had no choice but to give them, as per direct orders of the superintendent. Did teachers want to see the assessments go? Yes. Did they nefariously conspire to do anything about it? No, they spoke at BOE meetings. Because they exercised their right to free speech, some of them and some parents were targeted in an empty investigation that was used for intimidation. It was never an even game, and the teachers most certainly did not waste taxpayer money on the assessments or the investigation.

  117. I get it. People are going to pay. Pay dearly. BTW, the MEA signed off on the plan. Clearly, you didn’t know this.

    But, 3 years. It has been 3 long years. Irreplaceable years to some.

    For us adults,it not going t matter as far as who we are, are values, how we are prepared for life. The students are ones getting screwed. I think that should be kept always at the front of our minds.

  118. Dbl,you are undeluded, sir. $0.5 million spent on Kroll show = 0.4% of current $128 million MPS budget (Kroll founder fathered Nick Kroll, creator of Kroll Show and comic genius-our town has never looked hipper). Half a percent is more than a rounding error, so perhaps that deserves to be part of the story, if $0.5 million “estimate” from complainerpuss is meaningul. Kroll ain’t cheap, as people here enjoy pointing out.

    Most people here seem to think teachers should be able to badmouth their employer, the BOE, in public, with impunity. I want a union!

    Thanks, Frank.

  119. Finally, elcamino has come around! “I want a union!” We can all quote you on that from now on, right?

    Badmouthing one’s employer is not in the least the same as criticizing the poor decision making and bad policies of the BOE, even as an employee. The BOE is a public entity and is designed to be open to public scrutiny; meetings are mandated by law to allow time for public comment. This is democracy. This is all protected by law. In the private sector, employees too can publicly comment on actions taken by their employers and are legally protected by whistleblower laws. What is your real objection? That there is no absolute obedience?

    And again, members of the public revealing the poor decisions and policies of the board about the assessments did not cause this mess. Public comment is free and did not cost taxpayers $500,000. This mess was created by a superintendent and board who thought they could enact policy and make decisions about public issues using public money with impunity.

  120. ElCam, if I didn’t know you to be a lovable debater who loves the exchange perhaps more than the subject, I’d think you were a Barista plant here to drive up pageviews and the comment count. I say that because of the facile way in which you re-sort your argument list as whichever is your current top defense slips, trips and bumps its way down the list.

    Just in the last few posts alone, teachers like unions because teachers care about the money… the money here is irrelevant… but, wait, no, the wasted equivalent of enough money to pay all of the aides who were cut last year for several years to come actually isn’t irrelevant but now the issues is that the teachers just want to badmouth their bosses.

    Needless to say, the overall argument doesn’t get stronger the more lines of defense you have to cross out. I’m up for ticking off the whole list if needed…

    However, just like the BOE, it may help to just obviate the need for that and instead accept that spending large sums of money and lying to your constituents to serve an agenda that is at first opaque and then, when revealed, revolting, is inexcusably poor service by appointed officials who can and should be relieved of their duties.

  121. …and finally, here is the question that should be front and center in everyone’s mind as we await the next hard rain of “the other shoe” dropping left and right:

    Where is the Kroll report?

    World renowned experts in cybersecurity hired to investigate an issue… Experts in preparing evidence and supporting litigation. Experts in maintaining the chain of custody of evidence so as to preserve its admissibility in court… Experts who were several months into allegedly investigating the leak before the State accountants were brought in…

    Where is their report?

    Where are their findings?

    People have been so caught up in outrage over the fact that there even was a secret investigation, that the conversation has yet to turn to the even larger potential issue here:

    They buried the report.

    After all that… the secrets and late-night sneak-ins and teacher-harassment and email spying… after all that…

    …they buried the expensive experts’ findings…

    I don’t know about you, but when people absolutely insist that the DNA evidence is going to convict the suspect, they don’t usually bury the lab’s report unless it showed that they were wrong.

    Where is Kroll’s report?

  122. Sorry, flynnie. Yes, you are correct. 2% for the entire budget.

    Just an FYI, in 2015, our school levy was $112.6M. This year, the proposed budget is $128M. 80% of that are teacher salaries.

    I just hope you are not one of the many residents that will cry foul that this town is too expensive, and we are pricing our minorities, young families, etc.

    Well, yes we are. But we can’t keep giving away the shirt off our backs to anyone who asks, and then complain we have nothing. And we have very little as of right now.

    Do not kid yourself, people. It is all about the money.

  123. Normal, trying to blunt the outrage over our educational decision-makers using our taxpayer dollars to spy on parents and teachers by shifting the focus elsewhere just won’t work.

    People are outraged by behavior that was outrageous.

    That is and will continue to be the subject no matter how much some might wish it were not the case.

  124. Espresso is right….the boe- if this is all true – acted poorly.
    Normal is right….the costs will price people out of town and soon enough many in the MCAS crowd won’t be able to afford it here anyway.

    That said, this is what happens when liberals war with progressives. They both want to spend your money with little control. Where resources go is at issue. The boe approved 14mm in capital improvements this week. 93,0000 for a sidewalk and driveway, tens or hundreds of thousands so we can play regulation lacrosse. They don’t mind. Teachers want raises to offset their benefit costs….understandable so it will happen.

    In driving around today I noticed the nice Belgian block curbs on one of the streets and thought, “‘m am glad we spent on this because for what I pay to live here at least it looks nice,”. Enough of these projects and we can drive out most of the poor people and solve the achievement gap by attrition!

  125. The only thing I would disagree with in your comment, cspn5, is the presumption/implication that the “MCAS crowd” is comprised of people at the low end of Montclair’s socioeconomic spectrum.

    If you look at the actual list of the 27 “enemies” and the transcript of public comments from this past week’s BoE meeting though, you’ll see that is very much not the case.

    One does not to be economically disadvantaged to oppose wasteful and malicious behavior that impacts those who are. One does not need to have a child affected by the achievement gap to have a point of view on what we do as a town to improve that.

    Assuming that the affected parties fall into one camp and the unaffected fall into another (or even that there is such as a thing as an “unaffected party” in matters related to how our schools are run) is an oversimplification and a false one at that.

    Take me for example. I always tested very well. I was dramatically helped by that as a student. My SAT scores were dramatically better than my grades. My child tests well and will likely benefit from that as well.

    Yet, I oppose the PARCC and increased testing. I was a beneficiary of testing. My son will likely be one too. Yet, I oppose PARCC.

    A person does not need to be the one who would lose to oppose things that ensure someone will… and bringing that back to the “MCAS crowd”, the opposition in this town will never be “priced out” because many (and perhaps even the great majority) of its most vocal advocates return home to the very same kinds of homes as the MKF rank and file do – the only difference is that they do so carrying a greater respect for our teachers and their profession.

  126. Well, actually, some of us here in the “gap”, understand the games that get played with our Children and Families. On the one hand, these same people on and off the board, decrying opt-outs, the MEA, and MCAS, are the very ones who spent upwards of $500K on an investigation/enemies list/poor assessments/teacher harassment/illegal student survey, etc. to achieve…what? What was the end result of all of this
    supposed to be? Surely, not academic achievement/learning. Not with the unqualified players that were brought in. That patriarchal benevolence might work down the way in East Montclair, but the attempt to establish a personal educational fiefdom on the backs of Black Children/Families won’t happen here.
    Where is the Kroll Report? Why was Marinus Partners brought in as well, and how much did they cost? What was the special investigation launched by the prior superintendent and overseen by
    Matthew Frankel in 2014-15 for, and what did that cost? Shelly Lombard proudly proclaims that if she had it to do all over again, she would. Really? I am waiting for the same amount of wailing and hand-wringing that took place over an “appearance” of ethical misconduct to take place over the possible legal and definite fiscal shenanigans that past and present board members were, and may continue to be involved in.

  127. Their arrogance was truly their downfall. They were on a very aggressive mission to reform the school system, and believed the ends justified the means. Very soon after the tests were discovered on, it was brought to their attention that an act of sabotage was highly improbable and in all likelihood they were simply the victims of a data scraping website. An investigation would therefore be a giant waste of money. Yet one of them actually had the audacity to admit openly that this all didn’t matter. By launching a “wide net” investigation, this would be an opportunity to silence their critics, and “start getting rid of the bad teachers.” This is a direct quote. Perhaps before talking, they should have realized there’s no such thing as a secret in this town.

  128. This whole can of worms started over the concern about the achievement gap. “Normal” is right. People are getting taxed out and unless all the new development generates a lot of tax revenue there will be only one option left. Send the taxman into East Montclair. As Bloomfield Ave gets developed that area of town is going to look mighty tasty to the hipsters with the Taxman hot on their heels. Raises? Gap? Problem solved…..

  129. That last idea, mecca, is a scary one. We know the BOE had a contract with Kroll for something, including keeping taps on teachers and parents, that yielded no report – or at least no final report we know of. Are we still under contract? Has watching those on the enemies list even stopped? Yikes!

  130. Flynn and Mecca, thank you for repeating the question that now must be asked until answered:

    Where is the Kroll Report?

    Our board and district saw fit to covertly spend a great deal of money in an effort to prove that it was right in its premature attacks on its own staff and teachers. It spent like drunken sailors to “investigate” if someone, somewhere was as awful as they prematurely insisted they were.

    Yet, they buried the answer.

    You asked the question using our money, MacCormack, Lombard, Larson, Kulwin, et al. Now it’s time that we see the answer you were given… the answer you didn’t want us to see.

  131. How much money did the union spend defending Spiller? Why is no one on the MEA side complaining about this?

    The behavior on both sides has been deplorable. The impact is being felt by the kids.

    I hope you have all enjoyed the soap opera that you have created at the expense of your own children.

    Just elect the damn board already!

  132. stu, what the union paid for Mr. Spiller could not be more irrelevant. Union dues are not even remotely a part of or even considered in salary negotiations. Also, keep in mind that the judge found that Mr. Spiller has done nothing wrong. Not one thing.

    As to what is deplorable in this, I don’t see it falling on both sides. Teachers, parents, and community members exercised their right to free speech at board meetings and in writing letters to the editors and holding educational forums to discuss the curriculum, which is very much public policy. This angered the people who supported P Mac, but that is all. They were labeled “uncivil” for their (at times rather vocal) opinions, but they did nothing unethical or illegal.

    The superintendent and board hired a private investigative security firm to keep tabs on some of the above people despite the fact that they had done no wrong and committed no crime, which the board knew before launching this investigation, costing tax payers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

  133. Stu, there is not a lot of public interest in indulging the whole “hey, look over there instead!” stuff these days.

    The subject of the story is the subject of discussion. That subject is the behavior of the board and district. There are lots of articles about Spiller in the archives though if that’s an area of interest.

  134. I just spent most the day reading all the emails, reports, etc. That’s 4 hours I will never get back. But, I had nothing better to do, as it looks like we will not be getting snowed in tomorrow.

    I believe that the BOE acted the best they could and within their fiduciary responsibility, under the circumstances and with information they had. Nothing wrong there. The outrage is manufactured. I am also appalled by those that are misrepresenting and spinning what things actually are. It is unconscionable.

    If there is some other, or I should say real “smoking gun”, please share it. This is not it. And if there is one, we all do deserve to see it, regardless where we stand on the issue.

    I stand by my claim that it is all about the money. The timing of these revelations is suspicious at best. I am looking forward to seeing this soap opera, as Stu called it, ride off into the sunset, when the contract is signed.

  135. Where. Is. The .Kroll. Report?
    Why was Marinus Partners brought in, what did they find, and where is that report? Why wasn’t district IT staff used? Who developed the search/enemies list? What was the purpose of the list past checking Felice Harrison’s computer? Why were the specific private citizens placed on this list? Why were buildings accessed in a covert operation after hours? What was the special investigation overseen by Frankel? How much? What was the result of that report? Why was the admission of staff error overlooked? Are we, taxpayers and students, still paying for this investigation? Where can a full accounting of this investigation be found, including the use of Kroll, Marinus, Tabackin, Weiner Lesniak, et al?
    Where. Is. The. Kroll. Report
    Carry On.

  136. Normal, not even a member of the board has access to “all the emails, reports, etc.” at this point. Rather than make up wholly false nonsense, why not limber up the voice pipes and join the chorus?

    Where is the Kroll Report?

    I hear the OPRA Opera is working on a production of that number as we speak.

  137. I’m bowing out of this until there are some meaningful facts, so I agree, Kroll Report is essential. I predict BOE authorized them to monitor emails of Town employees with people on the list, but not to hack the computers of those folks directly. Those are hugely different. The cost is minor by comparison.

    I’m intrigued by this defiant statement by Meccamagic:
    “That patriarchal benevolence might work down the way in East Montclair, but the attempt to establish a personal educational fiefdom on the backs of Black Children/Families won’t happen here”

    Could you explain who and what you are alluding to, because they/it sound really bad. You recently inveighed in another thread against the “institutional racism” of Montclair, but demurred when I asked for examples. In my five years here, I’ve been struck by how inclusive, progressive, and race-sensitive Montclair is so what are you seeing that I don’t? (and avoid calling it “implicit” racism because that is the opposite of institutional racism, as I understand the terms). Let’s have that “conversation about race” rather than you just lobbing catch phrases and ignoring sincere requests for examples.

  138. “Normal, not even a member of the board has access to “all the emails, reports, etc.”

    The Superintendent does.

    Did anyone consider OPRAs for the State OFAC? I did. Ha!

    OPRA Aweigh, my boys,…OPRA Aweigh

  139. Frank, if the board and district were less than complete in their disclosures to OFAC in an effort to prompt a spurious and redundant investigation for political purposes, that would certainly sound like a misuse of resources – which, ironically, is exactly what OFAC is charged with investigating. So perhaps it may be time for OFAC II – The Accusers Become the Accused.

    For this who love a good irony, that kind of investigation is actually much more in OFAC’s wheelhouse than one involving cybersecurity or a potential leak by an employee. Those topics would fall under the jurisdiction of the Office of Legal Affairs not the Office of Field Affairs (of which, OFAC is a part).

    These expertise and jurisdictional issues are why OFAC went out of its way to repeat twice in its letter to MacCormack that it not only didn’t investigate a potential “leak” or the potential “leaker”, they were, in fact, specifically scoped to investigate no such thing…

    Kulwin, Frankel, et al, misrepresented OFAC’s investigation and its conclusions.

  140. Yes, it could. But, that is not so. Unfortunately, you are speculating….and badly wrong. I, on the other hand, am 100% right because I knew how to OPRA. You are focused on the name Kroll. Get a little smarter.

  141. You’ve marched out the “I know how to OPRA, ergo, I am smart and you are not.” line before. It wasn’t any more effective in earlier iterations.

    It isn’t exactly super-sleuthing to deduce that OFAC could be OPRA’ed as well. Of course.

    It’s just a little more interesting to contemplate the more subtle messes and their potential implications, like, say, Kulwin communicating with third-party counsel about “Cummings being compromised” as a result of the investigation commissioned by the board inexplicably led by its own counsel.

    An attorney cannot both represent an entity and take actions which create legal jeopardy for the entity. That’s kinda the idea of an attorney. So, by the board’s attorney investigating its own members, he ceased serving as counsel to the board and thus, his communications with them are likely no longer easily shielded under attorney-client privilege. He was acting as an agent of the board; not as an advocate FOR the board.

    Now, those would be some interesting OPRA’s.

  142. Broad Super Penny was APPOINTED by the boob in chief mayor Fried due to the dog and pony show over the achievement gap given by former Super Alavarez and his complete inability to account for his budget.

    Penny’s Broad credentials deemed her dead on arrival (nice job Mayor) with the progressive education crowd in Montclair.

    Penny and board were pissed at the non-acceptance and hired a cyber security firm to track those community activists plotting against her and her reform.

    Kroll did not do anything illegal, nor did the Board, nor did Penny. Nor did the large number of community activists. In my opinion, both sides behaved in a manner befitting of unsupervised first graders and as is the case with this forum, enjoyed every minute of it.

    Michele Fine, Sean Spiller, the shovel carrier, the women in black, MKF, the MEA and countless others all behaved like children.

    The timing of this revelation is curious too. The dire warnings of this great smoking gun, the leaked out spurious evidence, oh the drama!!!

    It’s like a playground fist fight, only the ring of onlookers are the ones feeling the pain of the blows.

    For the sake of Montclair’s children, everyone needs to put all of this behind them. Regardless of which party acted in a grosser manner. It’s time to return BOE meetings to what they once were. The backstabbing, calls for resignation and quite frankly, us versus them, needs to come to an immediate end. The divisiveness needs to end. Compromise needs to be found as well as a new super willing to risk his or her hide among this circus of well wishers.

    And elect the board already. The vast majority in Montclair is progressive. What is everyone afraid of?

  143. Stu, go back through your list and filter out the people who are private citizens exercising their rights as private citizens. That will leave you with a very, very short list of people who are/were paid or appointed to represent the needs of all taxpayers.

    The board. Penny. Members of her administration.

    If people holding POSITIONS in our educational system acted poorly and private citizens acted poorly, that does not make it a tie.

    What really needs to end is people posting long diatribes that resolve to the same tired punchline that was neither sufficient two years ago nor is sufficient today: “oh, just move on, people.”

    No, there will be no moving on with the same set of bumbling, dishonest, scheming, deceitful incompetents at the helm of the board. The players who acted horribly must now step aside and let an adult fill the role they’ve filled so poorly.

  144. I don’t know any of the history of the Montclair education wars before McCormack. Is Stu’s version more or less true that all this bitterness and dirty deeds arose of attempts (misguided or not) to reduce AGAP? If true, it’s truly tragic since AGAP is a national problem that has proved largely intractable so why is Montclair treating it like a uniquely local problem and tearing itself apart over it? It would be like Ashville (progressive town down south) infighting over it’s attempt and failure to cure Alzheimer.

  145. Stu: “Broad Super Penny was APPOINTED by the boob in chief mayor Fried due to the dog and pony show over the achievement gap given by former Super Alavarez and his complete inability to account for his budget.”

    shelly Lombard in NYT said practice exam that was leaked was about measuring AGAP. MCAS folks are always saying here that “tests don’t reduce agap” which always sounded absurd to me.

    So I’m asking, does all this turmoil trace to AGAP and different views on how to reduce? Just asking.

  146. ElCam, the pro-testing camp (e.g. MKF) is fundamentally at war with teachers. Their belief is that teachers are failing and therefore we must root out the culprits and get rid of them. They use the AGAP to support the failing teachers/failing schools narrative. Their premise when it comes to testing is that we just don’t know who is awful and who isn’t and some new or different standardized test would clear that all right up. MCAS, as you pointed out, doesn’t believe that new tests will a) improve education; or b) provide useful data that would facilitate improvement.

    So, the AGAP is just a useful tool for the anti-teacher/pro-testing camp. No amount of reasoning re: the AGAP has any effect (e.g. the AGAP tracks more to factors unrelated to individual teachers) because they are convinced and solely focused on the idea that we must ferret out the bad teachers who are failing our kids. That’s why their platform doesn’t include any of the logical and proven means of impacting the AGAP – things like full-day pre-K, for example. It’s all about measuring teacher performance.

    If someone points out that standardized testing tends to show what kinds of students entered a class rather than what impact the teacher had, they’re accused of being “pro-union” or “against accountability”. It’s a classic myopic “you’re either with us or you’re against us.” line of reasoning.

    Rolling back the tape to look at what has happened over the past several years, the above gives you a good perspective on the underlying motivations. Penny and her advocates went to war with the “failing teachers” and cast anyone opposed as being “for the status quo”.

    Anyone opposed to the numbskullery of false dichotomies was an enemy… and when you see anyone not on your side as an enemy, you can do all kinds of crazy things – stuff like hiring top-secret cybersleuths under the pretense of investigating a leak you know isn’t a leak to dig up dirt on your “enemies”.

    It’s all rather ridiculous – and it continues to this day. Just last year, MKF sent out a mailer claiming 40% of MHS grads were not “college-ready”. The mailer neglected to mention that according to that metric, almost 50% of the kids IN THE TOP 10% OF THEIR CLASSES NATIONWIDE were not college-ready. It also neglected to mention that 80% of recent MHS grads WERE in college.

    Facts just get in the way of a good scare.

    That’s been a recurrent theme. Selling the premise that we’re failing and then parlaying the fear caused by that false narrative to usher in for-profit companies’ educational products which have been neither tested nor proven to provide any incremental benefit whatsoever… but keep that to yourself or you’ll be told “uh, how much is the union paying you!”

  147. dblespresso–You hit the nail on the head. The reformers on the board and the people they brought in thought they were in the right, and that the ends justified the means. Their arrogance was their downfall. What’s truly mind-blowing: after being informed that an intentional leak was highly unlikely, at least one of them actually had the audacity to admit openly that the real goal of their investigation was to “get rid of the bad teachers.” This is a direct quote. Perhaps before talking, they should have realized there’s no such thing in this town as a secret.

  148. Fight on dblespresso. Your viewpoint, which holds a lot of water, is certainly one of many aspects of this sorry situation. However, your analysis it is narrow, a little over simplistic and mixes differing viewpoints on problems with differing viewpoints on solutions.

    Also, the facts also get in the way of feeling good about our high school. “80% of recent MHS grads WERE in college” is so blatantly wrong I’m surprised you quoted it. Get a school administrator to quote that figure publicly and that will raise a litany of related questions.

  149. Congratulations to former BoE member Shelly Lombard, who was featured prominently in a recent New York Times article, and apparently is the new self-appointed spokesperson for our BoE! Thanks also to Board president Jessica deKoninck and vice-president Ann Mernin, whose brave stewardship and willingness to be forthcoming and honest with us about the Board’s 2013 investigation of suspected test leakers has created this wonderful opportunity for Lombard. We’re looking forward to hearing more from Lombard about how the investigation was justified (and worth repeating if she had the chance), the harassment of the BoE’s “enemies list” members was deserved, and how the investigation was an integral part of the BoE strategy – which included putting kids first, being transparent, spending our tax dollars wisely, and reducing the agap. GO TEAM SHELLEY!

  150. Frank, would you stop stepping on the creativity of those furthering this false narrative?


    PS – Do like the “matthewspankel” handle. Well done sir/madam!

  151. Well, thanks to MCAS, dbl, we have NO data at all. And the State has come calling, as per The Super.

    They have asked him to explain the opt out, and plan on how he will manage to raise the participation to the 95%.

    The Super has also said that with the meaningless numbers we got back from PARCC due to opt-out rate, we need to find another way to evaluate student progress, as well as teachers.

    I wonder how much that’s going to cost us.

    COMMENTS IN THIS THREAD :: 22,371 words in 170 comments by 34 commenters
    TOTAL WORD-COUNT: 23,933

    dblespresso :: 5,625 words
    elcamino :: 2,865 words
    Frank Rubacky :: 1,876 words
    flynnie :: 1,630 words
    cspn55 :: 1,513 words
    meccamagic :: 1,501 words
    dherron :: 1,185 words
    angryrabbit :: 1,009 words
    a321 :: 988 words
    matthewspankel :: 696 words
    stu :: 486 words
    mtclrsown :: 484 words
    heisenberg :: 481 words
    rachaelegan :: 378 words
    normalandcounting :: 409 words
    flipside :: 232 words
    agideon :: 228 words
    Clark Son :: 215 words
    qby33 :: 199 words
    leakyfaucet :: 99 words
    jcunningham :: 70 words
    stayhyphy :: 53 words
    State Street Pete :: 44 words
    montclairreformer :: 30 words
    jonbonesteel :: 24 words
    justbob :: 21 words
    complainerpuss :: 21 words
    montclairmommy :: 9 words

  153. @normalandcounting, those are easy questions for the Super to answer.

    1. Parents opted out of the test because it was poorly designed, didn’t measure what it was supposed to measure, was badly written, and took up an inordinate amount of instruction time.

    2. Participation will increase when the state presents a reasonable, well-designed test that has been validated so that parents know the results are meaningful. Currently, the PARCC test has not been validated, which means that even if we had 100 percent participation in our district, we still could not be certain it had measured student and teacher competency in any significant way. This is one of the reasons it is being challenged as a graduation requirement for students who didn’t take the ACT, etc.

    As to your concerns that this will “cost” our district–it won’t. Newly enacted state law N.J.S.A. 18A:55-21 forbids the withholding of State funds from the school district based on participation rates for state tests: “Notwithstanding the provisions of N.J.S.18A:55-2, or any other law, rule, or regulation to the contrary, the commissioner shall not direct the State treasurer to withhold funds payable by the State to a school district based on the participation rate on any State assessment of the school district’s students.”

    And as an additional fact for you, most of the parents I know who opted out have never even heard of MCAS. They opted out for their own reasons.

  154. @willjames–so what’s your point? That we shouldn’t discuss our school district? If you don’t want to participate, then don’t.

  155. Assuming each avatar here represents a unique adult Montclairion, this “discussion” has involved a grand total of 1/8th-of-1% of the total adult population of Montclair. A single person has contributed 25% of the total words written so far. If that person were to read his/her words aloud (e.g., at a public hearing of some sort), his/her time at the podium would be just over 56 minutes. I don’t think I’ve ever given ANYONE in Montclair my undivided attention for an hour-long filibuster. Have you?

    My “point”: CAVEAT LECTOR.

  156. Dbl, first, congratulations on winning word count challenge! Frank and I I will beat you next time, you wordy SOB.

    So, reading past the diatribish part of your reply, you seem to agree that all this nastiness arose from AGAP and differing views on how to measure and reduce (as Stu also said)? That may be obvious to veterans here but is news to me (and Frank, apparently). If so, my question remains, why is Montclair tearing itself apart about a NATIONAL problem that has proved highly intractable everywhere?

    Finally, on reducing AGAP, sure, improving socio-economics that may partly/mostly explain AGAP would be great, but obviously beyond our control. Given that, the most effective margins that are within Town’s control would seem to be
    1) replacing not-so-good teachers with better teachers (see hugely famous evidence study by Harvard economists study that made front page of NYT).
    also this:

    2) removing disruptive students from class so better behaved students are not held back

    3) buying best text books. I posted link to recent study showing big gains from using “best” books but can’t find it now.

    Those are all margins with Town’s control so why not focus there.

    Final point, since your socio-economic model of AGAP says it’s mostly a gap between white, better-off students and minority, not-as-well off students, maybe we should performance of latter relative to comparable students in others towns. I would predict that “socio-economic adjusted” AGAP would make Montclair look pretty good. But oh course, we would need some tests do that more valid comparison.

  157. will, that seems to be a very convoluted and time consuming way of saying that there’s “nothing to see here”.

  158. jonbonsteel,

    How is the MKF free internet offering going? Not a gotcha thing…just wondering how it was received.

  159. Will, it seems you would want to scale word count by readers view versus posters but I agree, this could be just an intimate circle jerk. Can you calculate average words per post? I think I might edge out Dbl by that metric.

    Jon, what is “matthewspankel” a play on? I like how, after I suggested Spankel avoid SHOUTING (I played the “civility card”) he went for pure sarcasm. I guess that’s an improvement.

  160. willjames,

    I haven’t spent my entire 86 college-educated minutes reading this in one sitting. I’ve spread it out over a number of days. Still, considering the links provided, I have to say, it’s gonna take me longer than 86 minutes.

    This isn’t a timed test, is it?

  161. elcamino, Matt Frankel was hired by Penny MacCormack as “Assistant to the Superintendent”, but he’s a communications/ PR guy, and was brought in to help control the bleeding after the assessment debacle. I believe he was Director of Communications for Newark Public Schools before that. He now works for PC2E, a group that attempts to wrangle parents to support charter schools, that is funded by the usual “reform” groups, such as Walton and Gates, though I’m not sure if it’s both. He’s become the go to hired gun for the charter power brokers, many of which live in Montclair.

    Many suspect, including me, that he was behind a bunch of op-eds and forum comments that suddenly appeared here and elsewhere, attacking, among others, MCAS, the teacher’s union, and parents who spoke out against the district’s policies.

  162. Since I have a comfortable lead in the word count, I’ll give y’all a chance to catch up with some brevity.

    Frank – according to the state’s most recent data, 85% of MHS’ recent graduates were enrolled in a post-secondary program 16 months after graduation. Adjusting for non-grads, the number is btwn 75-80%.

    Normal – the idea of testing is not new. We had testing before PARCC. We have alternative tests now. Another way to gauge student performance is to ask their teacher or read their SGOs.

    ElCam – why tear ourselves up over an intractable national issue? Because one side thinks it is neither intractable nor national. They think it’s our teachers. If you can get them to read the five trillion pages of research on the topic, you may see a statue erected in your honor in front of the high school.

  163. Thanks, SSP. You know a remarkable amount about the guy. What’s he drive?

    I love this view of charter school advocates and operators as so many evil Montgomery Burns just out for the money. As if billionaires like Waltons and Gates and Zuckerman plan to double their fortunes where the big money is, primary education. And I wonder how Obama and Arne Duncan and other non-billionaire charter advocates, not to mention all those parents in NYC and Newark on charter waiting lists, fit that model. All just clueless tools?

  164. The most recent available data (2008-10) from our vaunted Guidance Department is 85% / 92% / 90%. Further, the number attending 4-year colleges is going down and 2-year colleges is going up. They seemed to stop publishing updates after that. Maybe because their data didn’t align to what the Central Office was publishing. So confusing.

    Of course, I’m sure the State has better and more recent information sources. 16 months means their data could be as recent as the Class of 2014.

    We don’t say non-grads. We report graduation rates.
    Verona High School was the only town-specific public high school in New Jersey to have a perfect graduation rate in 2015, according to new data from the New Jersey Department of Education. Millburn was the town-specific high school in Essex County that finished closest to Verona, at 98.32%, while Cedar Grove was 98.25%, Glen Ridge was 97.76%, James Caldwell High School was 97.04%, Montclair High School was 91.42% and West Orange was 85.94%.

    Of course, if Verona had just 2 more drop outs, they would fall below Cedar Grove.

  165. Anyway, now that you’ve had recess, back to the issues at hand:
    1. When will Parents, Students, and Taxpayers,receive a full fiscal accounting of the investigation?
    2. Why was money spent on an unnecessary investigation, when Fleischer, Clarke, and Young, as well as the district IT supervisor, had already alerted the prior superintendent, and board that the assessments were not password protected, and the scraping by GoBookee was by CO staff error?
    3. How was the search/enemies list decided? Why were those 27 names put on the search list? What was the end result supposed to be vis a vis those names, since they were to be kept? Why were people placed on the list who had never spoken at board meetings, or made any public pronouncements against board policies?
    4. Why was Marinus Partners, brought into the investigation?
    5. Why was a covert operation of breaking into schools at night approved by the board?
    6. Where are the reports by Kroll and Marinus?
    7. Why did board president contact then Newark Mayor Corey Booker, a month after it had been determined that there had been no evidence of criminality, asking for a criminal investigation spearheaded by the county prosecutor, and that the involvement of “any/all law enforcement entities
    would be appreciated”?
    Class is back in session….


  166. Looking back at the BOE’s original statement regarding the investigation, it now becomes all-too apparent why they also authorized their attorney to investigate “other incidents of conduct that may be contrary to the Board’s best interest, as may be disclosed by further investigation.” This so-called leak was simply their Trojan horse.

  167. “Thanks, SSP. You know a remarkable amount about the guy.”

    —he does?? one can learn a lot more by simply looking at a Linked In page…

    “I BELIEVE he was Director of Communications”

    “He now works for PC2E, a group that attempts to wrangle parents to support charter schools, that is funded by the usual “reform” groups, such as Walton and Gates, though I’M NOT SURE if it’s both.”

    “MANY SUSPECT, including me, that he was behind a bunch of op-eds and forum comments that suddenly appeared here and elsewhere”

    “I believe”, “I’m not sure” and “many suspect” are not signs that one KNOWS a thing. It does demonstrate that one can easily and cheerily traffic in anonymous conjecture and idle speculation, which is made even more fun when applauded by other anonymous wags.

  168. Perhaps a tad over the top, JC. SSP was actually pulling up short of being adamant and accusatory without proper evidence… which, well, is kinda refreshing in these parts. I happen to share in the suspicion that one of the ghost writers haunting local outlets over the past year happens to bear a spooky resemblance in word choice, syntax and writing style to a former district comms person as well.

    Doesn’t seem like all that earth-shattering a thought to suggest a person who works in communications for a living might still be crafting an occasional communication.

    Frank, the state site has more recent data (2013-2014). They use 16-months post graduation, from what I understand, because it shows persistence into the start of sophomore year. On a minor statistical note, the grad rates you typically see are for students graduating on time (within the standard four-year time period). If you include kids who graduate after summer classes, an extra semester or year, the grad rate for MHS is around 95%.

    There is no message in that additional data point. It’s just data for your consideration. Also, while this is probably needless to say, the “theoretic maximum graduation rate” is somewhere below 100%. I have no idea what it would be but given instances of learning disabilities and other special needs, there is some fraction of the student body that would not be expected to meet graduation requirements.

  169. Mecca is BACK with the hard questions about the great white (sic) wing conspiracy to suppress African-Americans in Montclair but not one answer to my repeated requests for examples, AN example, of “institutional racism” here or ”the attempt to establish a personal educational fiefdom on the backs of Black Children/Families…” C’mon Mecca, give us just one plausible example and I will lay off.

  170. With what I thought were stringent student privacy laws, where do you think the State gets it data? I’m guessing the infamous MHS Department of Guidance.

    I’m taking you to task because you quoted graduating seniors going to college as a metric our schools are doing well. Let’s just chalk it up to we all say things we would pull back on reexamination…or MHS is doing just great. 92% initial college-bound, 91% graduation rate (95% if you count only mainstream).

    But, my main issue is a matter of perspective on the 2008-2011 period of Montclair education. We were in a recession, students were transferring back into MPS, the budget/surplus/State funding was a mess, we were focused on busing distances, class size and general tugs at resident heartstrings. During the time, we publish some of the rosiest projections of how well our HS is doing. Admittedly, we all saw what we wanted to see. Kinda like now, but worse.

  171. Great list of questions, mecca. In terms of #1, the BOE has put out budget drafts that include the operating budgets of the past few years. I don’t see any payments made to Kroll or Marinus, but there must have been some. Where in the budget is the money we’ve paid? Legal fees? Judgments?

    #7 is quite interesting. What was the mayor of another city to do? Was Booker already gearing up for the Senate when the letter was sent? Was it just cozying up?

    And may I add #8: When did this end? For how long were people’s emails collected?

    #9: What programs were cut back or cancelled or short changed while the board was spending on Tabakin, Kroll, Marinus?

  172. Tell you what, elcam, after I get my Reperations check, I’ll take you out to dinner, and we’ll talk. Until then, focus on those hard questions, including Flynnie’s new additions. Senator Booker will be in town next week, maybe he can help you out.

  173. Mecca, your reparation check is in the mail! I will focus on the hard questions if you lay off the easy racebatin (which rhymes with you know what).

    Off topic: Frank (or others), friend needs to know which town has best schools: Montclair or Maplewood? In general, which town would upper middle class family fleeing Brooklyn most likely prefer?

  174. Maplewood has the edge if you want to spend less time commuting – opportunity to be home. More predictable. Montclair has more school choices. If you know which school best matches your child(ren), not what everyones says is best, then all u have to do is navigate the teachers. Both high schools have real issues. If they have young children, HS doesn’t matter now because you can’t predict where they will be in 10 yrs. PS: have relatives in Mwood.

    It’s not like they can’t move in 5 yrs.

  175. Frank, I didn’t editorialize on whether MHS’ post-secondary rate was or wasn’t a positive. I only introduced it as part of a 1-2 punch which entirely KO’ed the usefulness of the “college readiness” figure MKF cited in it’s scare-o-gram last year. The piece was par for the course… or was a typical triple-bogey for the course may be more apt.

    The piece excerpted one terrible-sounding statistic but the creators either didn’t understand the metric they were citing or didn’t see fact-checking as a terribly important step.

    On its face, it read as if MHS was some burning edifice from which few young dreamers might escape. If you so much as googled that stat though, in about 30 seconds, you learned that the “college readiness” concept actually meant “likelihood to have a GPA significantly above the average in your sophomore year.” That’s why, as odd as this may sound, the 60% readiness figure cited was actually a POSITIVE thing. MHS as a whole scored better than the top decile of students nationwide… So, if you compared the WHOLE MHS population to only the top 10% from all other schools, MHS had a higher readiness rate.

    Re: the metrics and what makes for success or failure, I honestly don’t have an opinion there. I do believe that there has been much effort to mine for failure though… The same folks who excerpted a data point which actually indicated the opposite of what was claimed seem to be hammers looking for a nail – and not really finding one.

  176. Let’s tell the truth and shame the devil. We don’t get to be at the top of willjames’ word count leader board without a hefty amount of editorializing.

    You do make one of my points which is education in Montclair refuses to be quantitatively and consistently measured. I’m not saying we need to measure every little thing. Just a half dozen metrics would be fine. They also don’t have to be a complex algorithms either. The metric don’t have to be State or national. They can be our own unique measures. But, let’s settle on some that we can track year over year and see what is smoke and what is fire – or what is just a something that is just damn good.

    Your post above sliced and diced what should be a gimme metric – graduation rates. It is indicative of how we look at the system overall and how we drill down to the school level. We end up treating the symptoms and the perceptions. Maybe it fixes the deficiencies, maybe not. If it is not worth measuring, then why should anyone care?

    PS: elcamino, your friends kids will get a decent public education in either town.

  177. Bottom line clarity report: the word is now that BOE attorney Mark Tabakin actually admitted to someone at the time when the posting investigation was authorized and undertaken that:

    1) the Board and Superintendent MacCormack knew it was a BOE internal security error which likely caused the test result postings, not the intentional actions of someone trying to undermine the tests.

    2) that regardless, the BOE was still going to use the now authorized investigation to look into everyone who was against the Superintendent’s and the then Board backed testing policies.

    Reportedly today, BOE attorney Tabakin is denying that he ever said this so it is a he-said she said proposition. However, the person who both reported and has the above information is supposedly not connected in any way to the MKF-MCAS fight. I am advised the individual could be considered a highly credible witness if ever called or needed.

    One would think therefore, that the current Board and Township administration would reach out to this individual again, in the course of conducting their own investigation of past events.

  178. Well, Frank, I think you are, perhaps unintentionally, working your way through to fully getting the measurement problem.

    I work with data and analytics quite a bit and I can tell you that the issue in Montclair is not that we refuse to measure anything consistently. It’s that one side thinks we only need a dial or two and the other side thinks we need to do complex analyses. The latter is correct though. There is no single measure which tells us all that much. There just isn’t. There are too many variables…

    Take graduation rates. Not everyone aspires to go to college. Not everyone expects to/wants to/needs to graduate high school as part of their 4-year plan. Some kids want to go into a trade, for example. A kid who wants to be a mechanic isn’t a failure of the system because he chooses a different path…

    So, graduation rate is only a really useful metric if either:
    a) All kids want and need to graduate; or
    b) You have a way of identifying the kids who simply opted out for their own reasons rather then because they just couldn’t hack it

    We don’t have either of those… so we have no way of knowing what portion of that approx. 10% of kids who don’t graduate actually reflect on the school… and we also don’t have any way of knowing the same thing about any other school.

    So we don’t have any way of really evaluating what the grad rate tells us… or even how it compares to other schools.

    Same is true for SATs or any other single measure. In some schools, only kids completely committed to go to college take the SATs; in others, it’s much closer to the norm. In the former, the SAT scores could be higher but the “take rate” would be lower. How do you adjust those two to tell you something? Unfortunately, the answer is that you really can’t…

  179. Dbl, I’ve learned a lot about you on this blog. You score well on standardized tests (mentioned twice), you work in data and analytics, AND, you work in strategy (which usually doesn’t go with data and analytics, but hey, you ace standardized tests). But tonight I’ve learned you will say the most idiotic things in pursuit of a point, as in, “Not everyone expects to/wants to/needs to graduate high school as part of their 4-year plan.”

    Anyone and everyone knows that to drop out of HS, except in rare case of gifted (who might opt for GED) or trust funded students, is a virtual vow of poverty. The only people who don’t know that, beside you evidently, are HS drop outs. Leaving aside MKF’s improperly benchmarked statistics, Frank is right, graduation rates are simple, informative, possibly sufficient statistic measurement of school and student performance. You seem so deeply devoted to proving misdeals here you are have lost sight of, or are obfuscating, basic truths. That is a common problem with data jocks, in my experience, but i would think your strategy skills, might have served you better.

  180. dblespresso,
    See, I was a lot nicer then the PhD. I just didn’t acknowledge your post.


    Seriously, Diane Ravitch? Great. Let’s put Ravitch & Gates in a pit…. it is not going to change anything in Montclair.

    Well, fancy that. A rumor by MCAS. Shocked!

    Jeez, a really bad night to find an interesting post among you. Tired? A bad cold?

  181. That Ravtich post is sad, starting with the eponymous (all the good titles are taken) title, on to string of disjointed quotes with unmatched ” “, ending with nary a single original sentence. Is she really the guiding light for anti-reformers (formers?) If so, I’m long charter stocks and corporate reform. I’ve never read Ravitch but my progressive wife admires her so I’m shocked how lame she (Ravitch, not wife) that post is. Everyone made a big deal of her change-of-mind but maybe she just got turned around.

    ssp, thanks for posting it. Did you admire it?

  182. ElCam, (((((hug))))) There, hopefully that will help. Next time, just ask though. Hugs are free, ya know. 🙂

    Re: your post, not sure where you got the idea that all Americans see graduating high school and moving on to college as a path so logical that straying from it equals failure. That’s a lovely yet remarkably inaccurate notion.

    Here are a couple fun facts for ya:

    – High school graduation rates have grown steadily over the past decade-plus to above 80% nationwide – the highest they’ve ever been.

    – Yet, ironically, enrollment in college right after high school has actually fallen over the past four years to a level where only 66% of kids go straight from HS to college…

    In other words, for 1/3 of the population were talking about, no, college is NOT what’s in their plans.

    Further, your assertion that opting to not graduate H.S. and not go to college is a “vow of poverty” is also a bit backwards. Squeezed the wrong end of the toothpaste there… Poverty is actually an input not an outcome… It is a predictor of who is less likely to graduate and go to college – not an inevitable effect that will arise as a result.

    While people tend to oversimplify/falsely characterize the AGAP issue as being synonymous with racial and economic inequity, one of the biggest predictors is neither of those; it’s the educational level attained by the students’ parents. That serves as a proxy for a whole bunch of things… how highly the parents value education; how equipped they are to teach and support their kids themselves; how big their conversational vocabularies are; how successful they likely are; etc..

    So, the main points: 1) graduating from HS and moving on to college is by no means a universal goal of equal importance to all students; and 2) actual interest level in the graduation-than-college path drops off a cliff the farther down you go in terms of “household means”. Underprivileged kids don’t universally think the way you believe…

    Now bring that all in for a landing right here in Montclair:

    1) Nearly 95% of MHS students graduate within 5 years of entering high school (with roughly 90% of them graduating on time); and
    2) Poverty is perhaps the largest single predictor of who won’t be in that group

    Do you know what percentage of the kids in Glen Ridge and Verona were classified as economically disadvantaged in their state reporting?


    Know what percentage of kids are economically disadvantaged in Montclair?


    See, that’s the thing with analytics, it isn’t enough to just have data. You have to understand what it tells us and what it doesn’t… Graduation rates tell us something about how the school is and something about what kinds of kids go it… We just can’t easily separate the two out let alone compare them to other districts’ metrics.

  183. p.s. I know the above was a bit of a confusing read when talking about poverty and parental educational attainment as predictors. While the latter would perhaps be the more valuable predictor, we can’t easily get that kind of data. It tends to be close enough to collinear though (meaning, they come close enough to being parallel in effect) that we can use economically disadvantaged for high-level stuff like talking about the macro differences in graduation rates, enrollment in college, etc.

  184. While I know that “Let’s pick on MCAS” is a favorite game here, why is spotontarget’s comment attributed to them? Did spot claim to be a member somewhere, or is that, too, just a rumor?

  185. All posters and fair minded citizens of Montclair. I only have one question. I don’t care right now about what percentage of students graduate or how poverty effects that outcome, it does. Everyone knows that. The Montclair BOE made a list of people who they thought knew something about
    Assessement Gate, then did, only God knows what, with that list. So I really don’t care about much. Not the poster who didn’t like my jacket, choice of music or my excavating tools. I only care right now about whether the BOE that made up this list, did they have a warrant, or a subpoena or a Court Order? Did they?

  186. And where is jonbonesteel and agideon? You guys are not not for silence on baristanet. Why so silent now? Just wondering. Usually the pillar virtue, what are you thoughts on those emails posted here? Would like to hear from you.

  187. flynnie,

    As was originally explained to me, MCAS was not an organization in the traditional sense. Rather, it was a Facebook page where parents could exchange etc, etc, etc. The explanation was a result of my questioning why MCAS did not publish it’s leaders/members. So, I’m only attacking (? maybe attributing is better) a Facebook page. Has this changed?

  188. Frank, as far as I know, that is still the case. But spotontarget’s comment specifically says the person in question was neither mcas nor mkf, so I don’t understand why the attribution to mcas.

    Quite frankly , at this point in time, I am increasingly convinced that mcas had some rather salient points to make about our former superintendent and her board-approved actions.

  189. There are no independents in this. Everyone has to get labeled. That’s how the game is played. It is straight from the playbook. So, be it activist, progressive, reformer, tea party, right-winger, liberal, defender, shill, sympathized, etc. Your either MCAS or MKF. There is no other organization fighting over education in this town.

    As to spotontarget’s comment. Well, there is a commonly accepted convention on blogs like these. If you are anonymous, your rumor is without attribution, and you leave out some obvious detail, then it is perfectly legitimate to label it illegitimate. This make no sense, but it seems to work.

    Lastly, the investigation being undertaken…. is that being farmed out to Robinson, Mernin & Hertzog. I thought they were just educators I did’t know they had investigative skills. Hope they are conducting any interviews. That will be another lawsuit. Something about due process. Their powers. Etc. etc.

    See, it just all is going to go down the drain this Spring. Forget the bottom-up buy-in! Best line of the week. When you not reaching for much, it is pretty easy to get buy-in.

  190. Dbl, nice deflection but I’m glad you weren’t bothered by comment which seemed nasty by morning (but please, no more emotihugs). Obviously college is not for everyone, but you suggested neither is HS graduation. Hence, in your view, comparing HS graduation rates as success measure is meaningless. That’s so wrong its dumb. I think i may need to see those vaunted SAT scores.

    On AGAP, thanks for reminding us the apple lands near the tree, i.e, parents achievement predicts child. Now, if we could just increase those parents achievement! Absent post-planning, maybe we could focus on things within our control, like teacher and book quality and removing disruptive students (see links to actual scientific evidence above)

    Oh Dherron, nice try keeping it on you and your goofy shovel. We’ve moved on until there are some actual facts on this revelation. If BOE asked Kroll to hack your computer then you are golden civil suit-wise but if they merely monitored, say, “educator” La Rosa’s email to you, well, it’s back to whatever you were disrupting (not in good way) before. My money is on latter.

  191. Oh, Elcam, try to stay focused for a minute:
    Ms. LaRosa was illegally mirandized by the board attorney acting as investigator while on school property, not by any law enforcement entity, because, DA-Dah-there was no criminality involved…she was subsequently harassed until a lawsuit was threatened…
    What was Kroll doing going into Mt. Hebron and Montclair High School after hours? Still waiting for their report (unless you are already privy to it…) and what was the involvement of Marinus Partners in the investigation that should never have been?
    We do know that Ms. Harrison’s computer was mirrored, and a list was drawn up of 27 teachers, administrators, and private citizens attached to this; we do know that the list was to be kept for further searches…for/of what? Who made the determination of the names on the list? How long were they kept? Were IP addresses accessed by Kroll or Marinus? Since there was no criminality as determined by law enforcement, what evidence was presented, and to whom, to draw up this list? Subpoenas? Warrants?
    And…..drum beat please…….where are the reports from Kroll and Marinus….and how much did all of this cost the taxpayers, students, Families of this town? Talking dollars, Elcam…and I have a feeling that this tab continues to grow…
    By the way, Player, is my check in the mail?

  192. Mecca,titallating (sp) speculations, but any sources? La Rosa “illegally mirandized?” Is that like me putting on cop uniform and reading my wife her rights? Kroll lurking around school? I’m conceding this may be a real story (though I doubt it), but we just don’t know yet. I agree Kroll report should be made public.

    One question I have, perhaps naive, is whether Kroll would accede to order from puny Montclair BOE to violate private citizens’ privac. I could imagine them, for right price, spying on say, Saudia Arabia or Herbalife, but Dherron and company? For 0.5 million? Doesn’t seem worth legal and reputational risk. That’s one reason I’m betting this story won’t mean much.

    Did you not get that check?! Ta Naheshi got his-one MILLION dollars. Contact you local post office-they are well-known institutional racists. I’ve already picked out my outfit for that dinner.

  193. Has there ever been a 200+ comment article before? Nice. Two words, private school. Seems like no matter what side you are taking here that should solve your problem. If you are that passionate about these issues you can find a way to make it work.

  194. I call BS.

    Great public schools are worth fighting for.

    No one should take your bait to discuss such BS.

  195. People: the Spot deserves benefit of the credibility doubt here.

    Let’s remember, it was Spot who first flagged this spying and potential abuse of authority and mis-use of public monies issue months ago..well before it hit. Why the time lag? These things are not always a straight line play.

    Could be the shakers and movers on the MCAS – union side were waiting for the Spiller court decision to cover their bets. They then rolled out the spying and enemies list reveal to redirect the conversation — should they lose. Which is exactly what happened.

    Regardless, the Spot stands by the reveal above and repeated below. The skivvy heard remains that BOE attorney Mark Tabakin actually admitted to someone at the time when the test posting investigation was first authorized and begun that:

    1) the Board and Superintendent MacCormack knew it was a BOE internal security error which likely caused the test result postings, not the intentional actions of someone trying to undermine the tests.

    2) that regardless, the BOE was still going to use the now authorized investigation to look into everyone who was against the Superintendent and then then Board backed testing policies.

    3) That reportedly today, BOE attorney Tabakin is denying he ever said this so it could become a he-said she said proposition.

    3) That the person who both first reported this and has the above information is supposedly not connected in any way to the MKF-MCAS fight. That the individual could be considered a highly credible witness if ever called with no direct connection to either MKF or MCAS. And that some of the players know exactly who this person is.

    Those are the facts. How they impact the performance play..I leave to you all to interpret. But based on Spot’s non-biased reporting calls to date, you can believe.

  196. Remedial attention deficit class help for Frank Rubacky, Elcamino and maybe a few others. Their problems to address: continuously talking around core issues. Using information details with creative, but obscure word-smithing not to make clear augments, but to obscure the main point behind this story. Further, believing everyone actually understands their multi-dimentional code-speak’.

    First session: focus on issues at hand. D. Heron and Mr. Spot pretty much laid it out above. Rather than mock the Spot Rabacky, you should follow up to work on his points.

    – was the investigation authorized a miss-use of authority and a waste of taxpayer monies since the source of the computer gaff was already known.

    – Was said investigation really a political witch-hunt with an enemies list, or was it a reasonable undertaking to actually determine potential sabotage of public undertakings?

    – if the scope of said investigation was reasonable, why then the hidden billing allocations and why not reasonable Board oversight by all, instead of revealed cover-up of clandestine type computer break-ins?

    – If deemed unreasonable, who knew about it and who actually authorized it? Are there any legal issues involved to the point of a civil, or even criminal action warranted?

    Broader AGAP racial, poverty and graduation issues some want to go off on certainly impact the town’s BOE conditions. But that’s not this story. So try to remain focused children. Come back to the quick on above so you can move into the next class and address what you want after — in another story.

  197. I’m fairly certain there was no criminal activity. Ms Shepard is an employee of the MPS, so I think mirroring her pc is technically legal. Was is a “clandestine” search – yes. I think the enemies list is just a copy of distribution list(s) they found on emails from an employee pc in the Central Office.

    However all this was arrived at, the core issue is what all involved did with it. Was all of this either appropriate, ethical, or within accepted boundaries and roles on the part of MPS employees and Board members? I don’t think so. Not in the least.

    But, be careful about how deep, how big a net is cast, and how transparent all involved want it to be because taking this to the next level will likely mean subpoenas. And the courts will not care who is huffing and puffing about justifications or lack of. Discovery will be given wide latitude. And there is no upside for the public or the students with that scenario. As long as we’re all clear on that, all the parties involved can knock themselves out. Just leave out the Greater Public Good that several seem to be wrapping around themselves.

  198. Public Employee Privacy Rights: When Is An Employee’s Workplace His Castle?

    SCBA Labor & Employment Law Section Newsletter, Vol. 19, Issue 1, October 2012

    What happens when a public employer wants to find a file in the employee’s office when the employee is not there? What about when an employer wants to conduct a workplace investigation because they suspect the employee may be violating a company rule or even committing fraud? What about searching the employee’s work computer?

    In accordance with federal and state constitutional principles, a public employee is protected against unreasonable searches of his/her workplace or belongings by his/her public employer. The reasonableness of a search is determined by whether the individual has a legitimate expectation of privacy in the area or item searched…..

    Generally, a search for a work-related purpose or for the investigation of work-related misconduct is reasonable if: (1) it is justified at its inception, (2) the measures adopted are reasonably related to the objectives of the search, and (3) the search is not excessively intrusive in light of the circumstances.

    FROM THE ABOVE: This entire incident appears to hinge on the “reasonableness” of the BOE investigation. If for instance, the Board already knew that the test results were revealed really by its own carelessness and yet, still undertook a look-see search for other reasons, one might conclude that this investigation and computer break in search were actually “unreasonable”.

    If unreasonable…now there is a violation of rights.

    That’s why the comments of the Board Attorney as reported above by Spot and the truth behind Board member motivations to come after further review – will be very telling. Should it be shown the Superintendent and some Board members already knew about the source of the leak..there is real trouble.

    The core issue here is motivation..and who knew what information at what point in time.

    Based on the facts revealed to date, on its face, it does appear that rights were violated.

  199. Frank-

    Why are you still holding on to the belief that there was no criminal activity?

    First, your assumption about Ms. Shepard being an employee of the MPS, therefore mirroring her pc is technically legal. WRONG. Ms. Shepard is the president of the MEA union, and as such, the union, not the district, pays her salary.

    Second, the district does not own Ms. Shepard’s pc, it is owned by the union. So your assertion is incorrect on both counts.

    So the mirroring of a computer, which is not owned by the district, which belongs to the union, appears to have been illegal.

    Third, ahhh yes, those emails. Your belief that its just a distribution list, would be laughable, if it were not so serious. It’s a list of those critical to the administration. Please read the list again. It does not appear to be “just a copy of a distribution list(s) they found on emails from an employee pc in the Central Office.”
    You can’t be serious, or you did not read that email.

    That email said, “please review Felicia Harrison’s computers for the following, Any and all evidence of email communications between Felicia Harrison and- those 28 individuals. That email goes on to say, “to use this list for future searches.

    Nope, sorry. Not a distribution list, more of a list of those that the administration did not like.
    You also overlooked the fact that many on the list are not employees of the district. Therefore, the district has no control over those individuals, and certainly lacks right to capture those individuals emails. Sorry, all quite illegal.

    Frank-can’t share you optimism. This activity was illegal. If these activities were illegal, then a full investigation must be done. The next investigation cannot be done by the BOE. We have seen how they conduct investigations.

    Yep, it requires a deep investigation, with a “wide net cast”, and whatever it catches, well, that’s life.

  200. And why has some people who have always been so active on this Blog gotten silent. Where is everybody, no Shelly Lombard, or Larson. And I can’t remember when Bonesteel or Andrew Gideon did not ingratiate us with their wit and wisdom.

    Wonder if any of those emails out there have their names in them. Guess time will tell.

    If anyone sees them, tell them we miss them.

  201. “I personally preferred Lotus Notes. It was the devil you knew. Microsoft Exchange? The Microsoft label says its all.”

    attention deficit disorder? ps: kroll is not going to put any such thing into a stupid hardcopy to a suburban school district board of part-time volunteers. cryptic on!

  202. I assumed the braintrust OPRA’d the terms for hiring Kroll. Gee whiz, nothing came back. What a shocker. Where the city meets a very, very, very small town.

  203. And for what it is worth, check the label on your Burberry “British Tan” cashmere. I seriously doubt it is 100% cashmere. It is not British Tan you try to relate to, it is British Khaki (or drab if you are a fundamentalist). The Brits are also known for another color, Racing Green. Whatever, they are not known for their cashmere jackets. Just thought you should know. If you want a status cashmere jacket, I suggest you start with Laura Piana. Of course, I am assuming you are buying off-the-rack.

  204. Frank, once again you like to share without providing full insight. The link you provided is great example of former reform minded board power, without folks knowing.

    Ms. Shepard’s salary issue was discovered by the Board six months before the story ran. Funny, before the story ran the BOE and MEA had already agreed to a payment plan. However, isn’t it interesting the writer (the son of one of Cami Anderson’s many communications directors) never mentioned that a payment plan was already in place and the MEA did not owe $239,700. It’s also interesting that Mr. Fleischer, who was well aware of this arrangement, never mentioned that fact. So MT writes an article six months after an agreement is settled. Same writer also wrote an article earlier based on decades old issue of same MEA presidents tax issues that had nothing, (Nothing), to do with her performance.

    But Frank, I see you like to play the game of keeping the full truth out of your posts. Makes me think you were probably already aware of the above because you did not include any of your well thought out missives. I have another question for you, any issue with Kroll not signing an affidavit that they DID NOT go into Mt. Hebron where Ms. Shepard’s office and MEA owned computer was located?
    They (Kroll), are refusing to say, nope, we did not go into Mt Hebron. And nope, we did not touch Ms. Shepard’s computer.

    Why would Kroll refuse to sign an affidavit? Your thoughts.

    Do you think more emails will be are coming out, and do you think Agideon or Bonsteel are in those emails? I do.

    As for my haberdashery, you wouldn’t know what you don’t know.

  205. dherron,

    I posted the link for source credit & expediency as willjames is watching how many words we post. I don’t care about the payment plan, etc, part of the article. The point I was trying to make was the phrase that seems to indicate Ms Shepard is an employee.

    “The president continues to draw his or her salary and benefits, but need not teach if the union pays the district “the median salary for the president’s employment group.”

    It certainly is an easy enough thing for you to verify if you think the Montclair Times fact-checker editor missed this.

    You mistakenly wrote your questions with double negatives and phrasing that would have me agreeing with you – which I do not.

    First, Kroll has not refused to provide anything to its client, as far as I know of. Please indicate where I can find this fact.
    Second, the client is in full possession of all documents Kroll provided them. The problem is that Kroll’s client is not the BoE or MPS.

    Second, the question whether Kroll agreed to provide anyone its work product, aside from to its client, is highly suspect. I believe your source is a member of the BoE. Maybe one of the members on the investigation sub-committee. Clearly, they do not seem to have the experience or the track record to have us rely on them without other corroboration.

    Third, there is a possibility there was never a written report. Just a backup of the hard drive. I don;t recall anyone in authority definitively stated there was a written report. The BoE can ascertain whether Ms Shepard’s pc was mirrored without Kroll. Unless, there is no report and the backup copy can’t be located. But, Kroll is extraneous and a red-herring.

    So, again, it come back to the current BoE, the MPS and the MEA. This is all so perfectly dysfunctional. I now think we should go to an elected board. Start from scratch. I think the private parties like yourself that consider themselves wronged should continue to pursue your case. If you continue to commingle your interests with mine, I will continually object. I will drop the technical references to properly labeled apparel and the such. They were, rereading them, not clear as my point.

  206. PLEASE — Get a life! says sickntired to Rabacky’s rambles here.

    DITTO. Rubacky do you you really think people see a relationship of British Cashmere to this issue? Do you think they care you are trying to be cleaver, making some indirect analogy like this or pointing to Herron’s use of double negatives over the BOE issue? Do you actually believe they respond: “boy that Rubacky is so smart, I just can’t follow his over-my-head meaning”?

    They aren’t. All they care about is you wasting their time and turning them off to reading other people’s comments more directly on topic. You are actually ruining the comments section here for the rest of us. Yes, ruining it. Writing intentionally obscure commentary ALL THE TIME is not just “obnoxious” – something you boasted about the other day you wanted to be best known for. (so don’t kill this post Barista because he effectively authorized it)

    It’s actually abusive to readers and self-indulgent to the point of neurotic. That’s how you really come off.

    Stop it. Either comment on topics in a way most people can understand you, or follow sickntired’s advice:


  207. “4. Transparency: MKF believes that all information and background pertaining to decisions regarding public education should be available to everyone. MKF will advocate, petition, and invest to ensure greater transparency of our elected and appointed officials in the area of education.
    No.4 of Montclair Kids First Mission Statement…Un Huh…
    Happy Resurrection Sunday to You, too…

  208. Well Mr. Herron, I don’t see the need to comment on speculation without any facts. This thread (and story) is based on that. I did see an anonymous commenter ask about your ethics charges, which personally I am curious about since I share that poster’s question. For all the time and expense you have forced upon the district and tax payers, which of the actions of yours have succeeded? My research shows that the ONLY one you have won was the one in which you adversely impacted our ability to support our Community Pre-K here in town. Not really one you will be bragging about I suspect. What have you achieved with all your bluster and snow clearing tools? No need to be coy, what is your track record sir? JB

  209. Meccamagic – there is a lot that is confusing in your posts, but please what is it to be “illegally mirandized”? I learned in Civics that one has a right TO be read a Miranda warning. Miranda warnings are supposed to make sure you know your rights. I have never heard there is a right NOT TO be read a Miranda warning. How can a Miranda warning be illegal? Was it read incorrectly? I understand that it would potentially be frightening to hear the Miranda warning, but that does not make it illegal. Please explain.

  210. “Do you think more emails will be are coming out, and do you think Agideon or Bonsteel are in those emails? I do.”

    I hope so. I want to be able to scream about being on some enemies list too. Or it is “enemy’s list”? All I got was a lousy OPRA requesting information about me. It’s downright demeaning.

    Meanwhile, it is tough to read much of the above commentary. For all the ignored facts, one might as well be denying climate change or avoiding vaccines or listening to a GOP debate. Facts are being created for convenience, and then assumed as true for the purpose of drawing conclusions.

    This truly is all quite familiar. I saw one of the GOP contenders use this bit of logic: “Obama’s destruction of the US isn’t the result of his incompetence; he’s doing it deliberately.” What a clever bit of rhetoric, that. Even if one decides to disagree with his conclusion, it’s so easy to fall into the trap of assuming his premise.

    That’s a lot of that same form of gamesmanship being seen here. Talking about illegal searches, targeting teachers, criminal behavior, etc. masks that none of this actually happened. The district backed up/searched its own computers. Note that this included computers used by Dr. MacCormack and Gail Clarke, two people I’m sure were on the anti-school crowd’s enemy list, but not likely considered as such by the BOE.

    The goal was to figure out what had happened. A goal that was hampered by the town’s refusal to let the district examine its own computer system (shared by town and school). If you want to speak of waste, let’s consider what denying the best path for figuring out what happened has cost us. The council members that blocked the investigation claimed to be supporting the achievement of calm in town. Yet here we are, with the issue being brought back to life yet again.

    When do we change the name of this from Assessmentgate to ZombieAssessmentgate?

    Our tax dollars were spent paying teachers to build those assessments. Had the district not investigated, I’ve no doubt people would have attacked it for acting irresponsibly. Since they did investigate, people are attacking it for acting irresponsibly. The problem here isn’t the district. It’s with the attitude that, no matter what happens, Obama must be a single-term President.

    Oops. I mean that a superintendent with the wrong resume must not be permitted to succeed.

    Well, that was yesterday’s hidden agenda. What’s today’s? Why bring this issue back now?


  211. More talk of shovels and hidden agendas from the “nothing to see here” crowd. I especially like the comparisons to climate denial and anti-vaxxers, and a little Tea Party reference thrown in for good measure.

  212. agideon–I’m not sure I understand all of your post. Are you saying that Ms. LaRosa wasn’t targeted by the BOE’s lawyer/investigation? Because it’s pretty well documented that she was–as is the fact that she is not currently teaching in the district.

    I’m not sure how you can argue that “none of this actually happened.” It happened.

  213. Why was a teacher read her Miranda rights when their was no criminal investigation taking place by any law enforcement agency? And Miranda rights being read by her employer? Why did the then board president contact the then Mayor of Newark asking him to involve the county prosecutor and any other law enforcement entities in the investigation, when it was determined that no criminal act had taken place? Why was the search/enemies list to be kept for future searches? Who determined, and why, the people placed on the list? Why were outside forensic specialists/investigative agencies Kroll and Marinus Partners brought in to do what a fully competent district IT staff could do without breaking into buildings after hours? Why was the “wide net” cast, when it had already been determined that the assessments were not “password protected”, and that human error emanating from Central Office employees was involved? Why was it decided to continue to spend money, month after month, on an unnecessary investigation, that should have been budgeted for the educational well being of Montclair students? Who and how, was that decision made?

  214. Why do so many of the commenters on what appears to be the same side of these issues post anonymously? It seems so cowardly and self indulgent. It is hard to believe that anonymous posters believe that their words, unconnected to their identities, will have any impact on the quality of a discussion or influence readers toward their viewpoint. For me all that it does is debase the first amendment and what is special about this Town.

  215. pelberg, you’ve expressed your dislike for anonymous comments often, and it always seems to come up in conversations on this topic and no other.

    Even after it’s been revealed that people were targeted for investigation based on their criticism of the district leadership are you still seriously not understanding why people feel the need to speak anonymously?

  216. My imitation of Mecca’s insinuating/cascading question rhetorical approach, as applied to a car crash:

    Why was the driver in the back seat? Why was the car going backward? Why was the car painted invisible black? Who ordered the Apache Blackhawk helicopter to fire at the invisible black car being driven backward by someone in the backseat? Why did the police arrest the backseat driver before the crash even occurred? Why was the bridge closed? Who ordered it closed and when did they know they ordered it closed? Why wasn’t mass transit available instead? Institutional racism.

  217. If you or any of the owlets can answer the questions, elcam, many are waiting…unlike your exercise in futility, my questions are based in reality, and actual events. And, when/if we receive a thorough fiscal accounting into the gang that couldn’t shoot straight, let’s see which student’s suffered the most from the diversion of monies from the classroom to lawyers, law firms, investigators, scantrons, unused surveys, $100K+ un-needed personnel, and those pesky, non-password protected quarterly assessments.

  218. Regardless, we are not going to get that money back. It is gone and so is the time lost in improving the quality of public education for those students.

  219. “Why were outside forensic specialists/investigative agencies Kroll and Marinus Partners brought in to do what a fully competent district IT staff could do without breaking into buildings after hours?”

    You mean the fully competent IT staff that set folder permissions improperly which made it easy for GoBookee (or quite frankly, anyone on the internet) to get a copy of the assessments?

    It’s fun to make stuff up. I drive a Lamborghini.

  220. Andrew—
    Why bring this issue back now? Actually, that is a very good question. And there is a very simple answer.

    These new revelations are just now beginning to surface. What would you suggest? That they not be addressed or questioned?

    Here is the problem, as I see it. Yes, the district, should have investigated and determined what happened and how. But,,,,,,,,that’s not what happened. The BOE KNEW, from the very beginning, they knew way before they even had an investigation started. They knew. They knew, they knew. Yet the BOE still saw a need to conduct an expensive investigation.

    Ok, investigation done, and what did we learn?

    What did that investigation reveal, what did it show, who was responsible for this debacle? What did the taxpayers get from this investigation, for their taxpayer dollars? What did the searches reveal? Where is that report?

    And what about that list of people, 28 to be exact? What made them suspects and why? Who made the determination to keep their names active on this now infamous list, for future searches? These questions are about to asked of the BOE, by a host of others. And I do hope they have some answers. And where is that report of the 28 people whose emails were peeked at?

    Finally, what authority did the BOE have to intercept, and peek at emails? Was there a warrant, or a subpoena? One or the other is required to intercept emails,particularly, emails from private citizens.

    Wow, we did move far away from teaching civics in our schools.

    Folks, the targeting of individuals, for whatever reason, is……………illegal.
    By remaining silent, the BOE is digging itself into a deeper hole-shovel anyone?

  221. If the Essex County DA appoints a Special Prosecutor to look into this matter, here are questions people are just waiting to ask and to have answered.

    – Which School Board members (past and present) were directly advised (by Superintendent McCormack or Brian Fleischer) that it was staff incompetence that allowed the GoBoke grabber to take the assessment tests, not some nefarious person causing the leak?

    – If already informed about the staff error was it before, or after Board members voted to conduct an investigation to find the source of the leak?

    – Which Board members, if knowing it was likely staff error that caused the leak still a) vote for the subsequent expenditures of public monies for an open ended investigation run by BOE Attorney Tabakin b) knew there was also an “enemies” list as part of that investigatory effort, and even potentially driving it?

    – Of those Board members above (if any), how many of them will be looking now for Montclair’s current BOE to pay their future legal bills for Counsel, to cover them during said new investigation conducted? b) will the current BOE agree to pay for those legal services if requested, or will they deny payment making that also part of any likely cross civil litigation?

    – Did the BOE attorney Mark Tabakin know it was staff error which caused the leak and yet, still agree to conduct an open-ended investigation to find the supposed source of the leak b) instead, did Tabakin tell anyone that hunting for BOE “enemies” was really the goal of the investigation and that the leaker hunt was just an excuse for the enemy’s investigation at that time? c) did he or Board members authorize the hiring of outside security computer experts and did he or they hide bills for those services under advice from anyone at the BOE? Did BOE top administrators or Board Members then participate in a cover-up of those computer security billings to try and hide the scope of those bills?

    – Did David Cummings violate the School Board by-laws by directly working against the interests of the Board at the time, as he didn’t agree with the positions the majority had taken? If so, does this make him still unworthy now for future board service, or b) is the fact that Board members potentially engaged in unlawful acts and/or conducted an “unreasonable” search (perhaps violating civil and criminal laws), instead exonerate Cummings for any potential technical violations of his school board member code? c) Will the current School Board ultimately pay for Cummings’ legal fees, or some portion of those fees deemed reasonable?

    There are of course more questions. However, these are a few good ones to start with.

  222. “They knew. They knew, they knew.”

    I understand. If you repeat anything enough, it becomes true.

    “Ok, investigation done, and what did we learn?”

    Well, even this isn’t quite correct. We do have which does assert “based on the best information made available to the OFAC, the initial ‘release’ of the assessments that allowed posting to a site accessible to the general public could only be accomplished by individual/s/ possessing a district issued user name and password.”

    However, let’s remember that the investigation was largely blocked by the town council. The BOE suspended its investigation, and the state did what it could. However, we’re all forced to live with the fact that the investigation was not permitted to actually “complete” in any true sense of the word.

    That is a fundamental problem with this issue.

    We did learn that this was accomplished by someone with a login. We don’t know by whom. We don’t know why. We don’t know if it was deliberate or not. Thank the council (or at least certain council members; not all were in favor) for that.

    So the money we paid to the teachers to build those assessments (as well as the effort expended by the teachers, even if they did get paid for it) was largely wasted, and we’ve no idea why or how.

    “Finally, what authority did the BOE have to intercept, and peek at emails?”

    Nothing was “intercepted”; that’s just more hyperbole being repeated. The district was looking at equipment and accounts that it owned.


  223. Andrew,

    I assume you accidentally omitted the parts of OFAC’s statement where they made very clear that assessments which hadn’t even been given yet were not their focus – and were not even within the scope of their review.

    The quote you referenced above states – literally – that based solely on what they were told from the Board, Penny, and Kroll, it sounds like a leak occurred…

    It’s comical that OFAC was fed the story of a leak, did no investigation on that topic but then had one sentence from their letter lifted to support an inference clearly refuted by the letter it was pulled from.

    As OFAC put it: “The OFAC investigation was structured to ensure that student records are secured in accordance with the provisions of applicable statute and code.

    The OFAC examination was limited in scope to determine if the confidential student data was maintained in accordance with statutory requirements under N.J.S.A. l 8A:36- l 9 et seq. and N.J.A.C. 6A:32- 7 et seq.”

    No assessment investigation in there… Total misrepresentation by Kulwin, et al.

  224. Spotontarget has adopted Mecca’s “cascade of insinuating questions” rhetorical approach. As someone descended from lawyers, I prefer one, well-aimed question: dherron, do you see the difference between 1) the BOE reading emails to and from you on a MPS computer versus 2) MPS ordering someone to hack directly into your computer? I ask because your shrill criesabove suggest you don’t, or, you already know that 2) occurred.

  225. I see we’ve gone from Watergate to Benghazi here in Montclair. The owlets are back and in full effect, with the cover-up of the cover-up well rehearsed, and media ready.

  226. The analogies are getting more perverse the longer this goes on. Watergate? Benghazi? Really, you are actually equating a New Jersey bedroom community’s antics with these events. Let’s just move this up a notch and compare it to a real war. WW1, WW2, Korea, etc.

    I have been accused of needing a life. Well, it seems I have more than ample company. At least we can agree we just don’t want to aspire to sickntired’s life.

    Anyway, surprised with all the speculation and conjecture that nobody has delved into “what if the assessment tests files had been properly protected?” What would be different?

    Personally, I believe not one thing. This fight was coming either way.

  227. Since it’s Thursday, seems like a good excuse to throwback to when news of this “leak” first broke, back in the autumn of 2013. Not to say “I told you so,” but yes, I told you so:

    On a side note, I found it kind of ironic that from day one, certain people were using the “tea party” and “birther” excuse to discount the “hysteria” from critics of the investigation. Looking back on the comments in these old threads (and other Bnet stories from the week this story broke) paints a fascinating picture, indeed.

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