Letter to the Editor: Let’s Get Back to Work

letter to the editorThe following is a Letter to the Editor sent by Shelly Lombard, a former Montclair BOE member:

At Monday’s Board of Education meeting, everyone agreed it’s time to focus on children again; including the people who’ve dominated Board meetings with unsubstantiated accusations like the one about the union president’s computer being searched. So where do we go from here?

First, the mayor should let the three new Board members take their seats. State law doesn’t provide a way to “un-appoint” someone. They were great choices when he selected them a month ago and they still are. They didn’t violate any OPRA or OPMA laws because they haven’t been sworn in yet. It seems the only thing they did “wrong” was wanting someone other than Jessica DeKoninck as president.


Second, stop letting Board meetings be held hostage by speakers with personal vendettas and conspiracy theories. Board meetings aren’t public hearings; they’re business meetings held in public and the only time the majority of the Board can legally discuss important issues like the proposed charter school or class size. Instead of following the advice of the consultant she hired to advise on effective Board meetings, DeKoninck allowed speakers to waste valuable hours verbally attacking members, calling them criminals, and even accompanying their insults with music. The new members volunteered to make a difference, not to be abused.

Third, let the majority rule. Last year, when DeKoninck decided she wanted to be president, she lined up a majority of votes in advance and David Deutsch stepped aside without whining. It looks terrible for politicians to be pressuring new Board members to keep DeKoninck as president when she’s the mother of Sean Spiller’s campaign manager and will be negotiating the contract with union members Spiller represents. DeKoninck did the best job she could but it’s time to stop throwing tantrums because her feelings are hurt and graciously step aside.



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  1. The fundamental problem with the school board that existed during the end of Ms. Lombard’s era was that it kept creating problems when there were none–by investigating crimes that hadn’t been committed, harassing award-winning teachers who hadn’t done anything wrong, getting taken to court by the ACLU for subpoenas it had no business issuing, using the board’s attorney to investigate one of their own members, etc. etc. etc.

    None of this–absolutely none of it–had anything to do with making Montclair’s schools better or more equitable.

    If Mayor Jackson’s refusal to seat the new members is in any way an attempt to keep the new board from backsliding into this petty nonsense, then more power to him.

  2. Patch, TapInto Montclair, and now Baristanet. The Montclair Times must be the next receipient of the good news. I see the MKF PR machine is in overdrive. Which leads one to wonder, who was really behind these recent BOE machinations? Past board presidents are now setting the parameters of what constitutes good board governance: origin of birth, of childbearing years, and having children in the schools. Not to long ago it was demanded that they have some financial background. Maybe being an attorney doesn’t hurt either. But, wait…this is the Board of Education, dealing with the education of Children as well as supporting their Families…and being an educator, familiar with issues in education and how schools and Families interact, seem to be missing from the list.

  3. HEY SHELLY! Word of advice for you, your MKF pals, and Mrs. Herzog: next time, before you start dropping the balloons, tossing the confetti, and popping the champagne, MAKE SURE YOU’VE ACTUALLY WON, KNOWHATIMEAN???

    Your recent party was kindasorta pre-mature!

  4. I was there, last year, when Ms. DeKoninck took over the presidency of the BOE. Aside from one or two of the name placards falling over the front of the table as they played musical chairs, it was a complete non-issue.

    Why has she made it an issue now?

    That’s the question to which my mind keeps turning. There was no great expression of outrage at the three new mayoral appointments (at least that I saw), so they themselves cannot be the proximate cause. What is?

    In all this, that seems to be one of the big missing pieces, the other being the legal basis for the Mayor’s interference with the BOE’s formation.

    Beyond questions remaining unanswered, I agree with Selma. This is yet another distraction, keeping the BOE from the many issues before it that actually pertain to education of our kids.


  5. To keep this letter in perspective, it was written by the very same woman who was piling soapbox upon soapbox to lecture about integrity and ethics right after the Spiller ruling but who then went entirely AWOL went it became clear she had been instrumental in approving a covert, money-wasting spying expedition which targeted private citizens.

    At this point, if Lombard opposes something, it’s a safe bet we must be on the right track.

  6. dblespresso, i agree Lombard’s political actions since she left the board are quite hypocritical. But the reasons we should oppose her are not just political, they are pedagogical. Her board tried to shove unwanted corporate curriculum and assessments down our throats while creating an anti-teacher environment. She was all-in on Penny M’s agenda and still is, though these ideas and methods have been soundly rejected by all other stakeholders, including parents, teachers and students.

    To those who say this drama is hurting our kids, i disagree. This seems to be all about saving our kids from these reformer’s dangerous and destructive educational ideology.

    If the mayor’s actions were to correct a mistake, then good for him and good for our kids. He doesn’t want to go backwards to the ideas of Lombard’s board, and neither do we. My guess is that he did a not so great job of vetting these 3 and thankfully was able to correct a major mistake before it occurred.

  7. Agreed, Fielding… I actually hope Ms. Lombard continues to serve up her tone-deaf, devoid-of-self-awareness letters to the editor for one simple reason: they keep fresh in our minds the kind of “leadership” we can never again allow to pollute our educational system.

  8. “My guess is that he did a not so great job of vetting these 3 and thankfully was able to correct a major mistake before it occurred.”

    Wouldn’t it be 4 mistakes? Maybe even 5?

  9. If you only know Ms. Lombard from her occasional rants in the Montclair Times, you don’t know what you’re missing on her Montclair Reformer Facebook page. It’s so completely over the top, you’d almost think it was a parody site. Highly entertaining stuff!

  10. The former board president writes a letter to the Mayor, telling him that Ms Hertzog has a majority on the board to replace the current board president, and telling him to go along with the plan. This is done prior to any new members being sworn in and the board reorganization meeting (gee, how does she know all of this?) Then this letter is published in today’s patch.com. Now missives are flying in all local media about focusing on children. Please…

  11. Agideon – your continued wide eyed naïveté expressed as comments in all recent articles is either a calculated act of Innocence to covertly emphasize whom you actually believe caused the disfunction here, or you really have been keeping your head in the sand these last two years.

    All the issues are clearly on the table in this thread and comments with the battle lines very apparent here — both above, within and in-between the lines.

    It is not just petty gamesmanship. There are actually serious policy, economic and philosophical issues at stake — despite the sometimes childish and destructive manner being played out.

    So for someone who keeps commenting as if you are trying to guide and even lead the education dialogue — don’t you think it’s finally time to catch on what this fight is really about?

  12. “don’t you think it’s finally time to catch on what this fight is really about?”

    I’d love too. Feel free to explain.

    As I’ve written, I don’t see this as being an issue of the appointees themselves; the drama came to late for that. Or was this going on behind the scenes since the announcement?

    Assuming that it is not the appointees, then this would really appear to be about the board presidency. Perhaps I’m missing some great power in that position, but I just don’t see it or the point of all this drama.

    I’ve been there for a few hand-offs of the presidency, but it’s never been like this.

    But if I’m missing some crucial component to all this, I’d welcome any insights that you (or anyone else) would be willing to share.


  13. Every year, the vote is about who the newly constituted Board thinks is best capable of running a meeting and complying with the Board’s own rules and policies. This year, the pettiness is about the current president and her allies thinking she has lifetime tenure to not do her job. The fight is about special interest groups who want the previous president to stay in power so they can feel free to continue to disrupt Board meetings and prevent them from setting policies in Montclair’s Schools. The drama is about special interest groups who control the mayor and have a vested interest in blocking the newly constituted Board from choosing a leader. The joke is how the mayor is afraid to anger these groups and will do anything to placate them but is also so afraid of them that he posted a uniformed police officer at the last board meeting. The kooky conspiracy theory is about how this must be about corporate interests trying to sneak an evil charter school into Montclair. The tragedy is that this is business as usual for people who are using this as an opportunity to advance a disruptive national political agenda and don’t have children in the Montclair Public Schools. Nothing is about the agenda items, policies, students or academics.

  14. @ a321–It is true that there is a BOE president in Montclair who is having a hard time letting go of the power that comes with the position. But that person isn’t Jessica DeKoninck–it’s Shelly Lombard.

  15. I’ve been trying to figure out your policy plans @spotontarget. Best I can tell, other than disrupting things, it boils down to:

    – Union jobs and a steady stream of dues to the NJEA
    – No standardized testing so parents can evaluate core competencies
    – No charter schools, so the first bullet can be maintained

    These are some of the givens, but in the last year there have been no plans or initiatives proposed by the current leadership. They haven’t even started the new superintendent search. Could this have been part of the problem? Why does she want to be the president if she’s not going to do anything with it?

    I’m with @agideon here. Can you explain?

  16. Mr. Gideon – re-read the blog letter here and all of the comments both against and for the position. Read this coming letter in the Montclair Times today:


    If, after all this, you are still unable to determine the underlying issues, not the surface actions — regardless of your own personal position, then I strongly urge you to instead take a back seat going forward and to gain some more political sophistication first – before weighing in all the time on particulars.

    If you really don’t get it fine…but the ‘doe in the headlights persona’ you present — while at the same time asking numerous pointed questions leading one to believe you actually do know what the issues are… is just not cutting it.

  17. Maybe I’m missing something here. In the link provided there are unfounded attacks on an organization called MKF, but I don’t see any of your policies or issues. What the hell do you stand for other than attacking people and groups? Bob

  18. I read the link too and still don’t understand these issues. May I am not as politically savvy as knowitall er I mean spotontarget. Anyhow all that was is an opinion piece attacking hertzog for being an MKF member. No substance or support for policies dekoninck may favor as opposed to hertzog or the MKF.

  19. Barry Zeger accuses Laura Hertzog of being an ally of MFK. The list of the group’s members is public and her name has never been on it. Why is she being accused of having the same motivations as those of some members of this group? Why is she guilty by association when she doesn’t associate herself with the group? This makes no sense unless you subscribe to the “anyone who is not for us is against us” mentality or maybe it is because she has not fully aligned herself with the MCA special interest group and has had the audacity to remain independent. Every year members of the BoE vote in a new president. Why is there so much hue and outcry when 4 members of the Board are doing the same thing that members of the Board have done every year…the very same thing the very same members did last year? Why the drama, the accusations?

  20. They do have a point spotontarget. C’mon, use the perk of anonymity to speak plainly and more specifically. You are invoking others who are going on the record, but they are pulling their punches because they are on the record.


    I think the gang of 4 are, for each of their own reasons, willing to put everything on the table for review. They will pull up the various stakes in the ground, re-balance the power of the current major stakeholders, and of course change the direction & focus of the limited budget. They want to expand the agenda & priorities of the current BoE majority & get more accomplished. They want to work faster. I also suspect they are not enamored with the current MPS key executives.

  21. Do not waste energy criticizing the Spot here. Spot did not make a comment about the validity of the positions Ms. Lombard expressed above. The Spot only commented that that Mr. Gideon is choosing it appears not to see what is really going on.

    Between Ms. Lombard’s letter above, the contrasting views of Mr. Zeger’s in the Times, all the various comments both here (and in the other two threads) one can see all the issues, perspectives and psycho-political motivations attributed to all involved individuals connected to this coup incident – and to the education backstory war how Montclair arrived at this place.

    That was and is the Spot’s only point in taking Mr. Gideon to task a bit in this thread. Not for any position or view he has as a result – just for appearing not to know what is going on when any reasonable read of the available copy does contain all the information allowing one to see.

    How he and you choose to interpret, feel about it, or respond – is open of course to perspective. The Spot is not going to weigh in further other than two comments posted before in the other thread.


    At least not at this time. Maybe something new to say after the Mayor makes his next move dealing with (or not dealing with) the recent appointees.

    Then the Spot may comment further as others will.

  22. need a glossary for this:

    ‘gang of 4’ – Hertzog and the three new people? Although I find it hard to believe that Eve Robison is on the wrong side of this. She’s wonderful. I don’t know the other two women, but am not a big fan of dekonnick or her family from indirect experience.

    ‘psycho-political motivations’ – the hidden agenda of the MKF/reformist crowd according to SpotonTarget

    ‘The joke is how the mayor is afraid to anger these groups and will do anything to placate them but is also so afraid of them’ – he just won a second term unopposed. Why is he afraid of anyone?

    “This seems to be all about saving our kids from these reformer’s dangerous and destructive educational ideology.” – see: “My Family Opposes PARCC signs”; “ranting women talking about having a foot on her head at a BOE meeting”; “substitute the word ‘kids’ with the words ‘teachers union’.

    “But, wait…this is the Board of Education, dealing with the education of Children as well as supporting their Families…and being an educator, familiar with issues in education and how schools and Families interact, seem to be missing from the list.” – to put that another way, “let’s let the fox run the henhouse with no independent oversight.” Why not just have the MEA negotiate their contracts with MEA members sitting directly on the BOE?

    “I don’t know who is winning, but our children are definitely losing.” – is it really about the children anymore? isn’t this about a more businesslike approach or even just a different approach to managing public education to help stem the never-ending rising costs of the services and what seems to be the US falling behind in results vs. the status quo model we have in place? Either way the kids will get what they get – an achievement gap is only closed when the parents are at the forefront of the effort to close it. The top kids will get their resources from their families who can afford it, the bottom kids will be the bottom kids and occasionally some will rise to the top.

    “don’t you think it’s finally time to catch on what this fight is really about?” – what he said.

  23. I regret using that little piece of silly hyperbole. Ms Herzog and the 3 new appointees are independent thinkers that have agreed to work together for likely change in direction and culture.

    Spot, you do know that was a gentle critique which was actually a nod of the head towards your inside knowledge. I did go back to your posts as you suggested and disagree with your characterization of their missteps.

    This was a procedural decision-making meeting that was supposedly unmovable to a later time. Managing the expectations of the various constiuencies is standard practice in all worlds (for profit, not or government) before the actual vote. Furthermore, it is blatantly apparent to me all lacked any legal clarity or high certainty what/how the State laws apply. The Board lawyer, from what I read, wanted time this week to provide an informed opinion.

    To some extent, this new majority could have gone to Plan B of not holding the leadership seats and just use their common ground to change the status quo. Less efficient, but the ruckus from Plan A will serve a purpose of putting a spotlight on Ms. De Koninck’s leadership and undoubtably will influence changes in her approach regardless of who is on the newly reconstituted Board.

    Regardless of which dissatisfied group a parent/caregiving belongs to, I think they all are very cognizant that their children are progressing from school to school while the frustratingly long lead times just to initial roll-out, much less scaling across the district, are for a benefit of the next group of cohorts.

  24. “I strongly urge you to instead take a back seat going forward”

    That would certainly be convenient for some people, I imagine. Anyone independent-minded enough not to be swayed by any of the propaganda and fear-mongering going on in town should just cease asking questions.

    I’m afraid, though, that I’m going to continue expressing opinions when I have them and asking questions when things don’t make sense to me. I hope more people continue to do so.

    Mr. Zeger’s, letter, BTW, seems to be more of the fearmongering. It implies – carefully enough w/o explicitly stating it – that MKF is in favor of a charter school in Montclair. Yet I was there when the entire BOE – including Ms. Lombard – opposed the Quest charter. I won’t claim to know MKF policy, but I cannot imagine Ms. Lombard taking such a position in a group that didn’t reflect her opposition to charter schools here.

    This carefully worded not-quite-dishonesty seems to be something of a theme in this town’s politics. I recall, for example, Ms. Zernike’s hit piece – published the day before a Montclair election – which included an implied accusation that one of the candidates running was a member of the Tea Party. Was this explicitly stated? No.

    You may want to “take me to task” for not knowing what’s going on, and I certainly don’t disagree with the idea that I am politically naive. But please also keep in mind that the misinformation and hyperbole floating around makes it tough to see what’s going on behind the curtain.


  25. Since we’re all playing at being politically astute, let’s try this: the two 6-0 votes on the opposition to the charter application and the PARCC graduation requirement, should have resulted in a break of the 3/3 deadlock…but didn’t happen. And if we’re still going to play along with the “previous engagement” storyline of the missing appointee, then this current Montclair intrigue, is to be continued.
    And coming up on the horizon…what will become of the Mt. Carmel property, and who will be involved with that? The proverbial weight challenged Lady, has not even begun to sing.

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