Montclair BOE President Offers Statement Regarding Superintendent Search

The Montclair Board of Education, according to its president Laura Hertzog, has chosen a superintendent candidate and hopes to appoint that candidate as soon as possible.

Hertzog gave this statement at the meeting:

Throughout our superintendent search, we have worked diligently to preserve confidentiality and to respect the privacy of our applicants. This was guaranteed to the applicants by our search consultants. Therefore, the board was not permitted to comment on the status of any individual. However an article was published on March 27th that had multiple inaccuracies creating a mistaken impression about the Board’s process. The Board was not asked for comment prior to publication of the article. We regret that for whatever reason inaccurate information was conveyed to the public and we hope that this serves to correct the record. First, we’ve been advised that no candidate was informed that the BOE would not be ready to make a decision anytime soon. Two – no candidate dropped out of consideration on February 27. Any withdrawals took place this month during board deliberations. Three – the board has always hoped that a decision could be made by the end of March as posted on the district’s website and as communicated to the public. Four – the majority of the board has carefully chosen a superintendent candidate who they have determined to be the finalist who will provide the leadership consistency and continue the educational excellence the students of Montclair so deserve. This person was identified as the lead candidate prior to the withdrawal of any other candidate. Five – The board is currently in negotiations with the candidate and is working through the procedural aspects of the appointment, term and employment contract. We are hopeful that our search for a superintendent will conclude with the appointment of a successful candidate as soon as possible. In addition, the board is fully familiar with the Gonzalez case and has been advised accordingly of its obligations under the law with respect to the current superintendent vacancy. I hope that addresses the concerns to the extent that we can within the confines of a confidential employment process.

Hertzog’s statement left unanswered questions for resident and parent Andrew Gideon who said this during public comment:

“I wanted to talk about the superintendent search but I’m going to step back a few months. When Mr. Bolandi was working this job, there were at least two attempts to hire technology directors for the district and in fact two people accepted the job and then something happened and they were not accepting the job. And now there is this recent news about one candidate and today a second candidate withdrawing from the pool of candidates for superintendent. That’s disturbing. I’m especially disturbed because one of the candidates was the one candidate we managed to have as a finalist that has actual experience. I don’t always agree with our mayor, as much as I do like him, but here I agree. We’re not easy. This is not a straightforward district. This is a complex district. This is not a small district. This is a large district. We, you in fact, and of course our students deserve someone who is not new to this job. One of you at the forum asked me how I felt about the pool of candidates and I expressed my disappointment that only one person had prior experience. Now two of the three candidates have now chosen prematurely withdraw. That just strikes me as odd. Something here seems off.”

David Herron also reacted to the BOE’s handling of the superintendent search:

“One of the elements and I do fully understand confidentiality however when a district is looking to hire someone it is so important that the community be apprised as much as possible without giving the perception that they are being misled, or deceived or not being dealt with in an honest fashion. What’s really important isn’t what you do or say, but the perception you give out.”

June Raegner expressed disappointment in what she sees as “a pattern of suppressing or de-legitimizing board members and they all happen to be African American. And it’s shameful.”

The announcement of the BOE hiring of student equity advocate was one bright spot during the meeting, garnering some applause from the sparsely attended meeting.

Trente Miller asked the board members during public comment to be civil with each other, adding she was depressed after the last board meeting. Some discord seemed to still be present, evidenced by board member Eve Robinson, who announced she was leaving after voting on resolutions and agenda items.

“I’m going to excuse myself, I’m not comfortable sitting here and having this discussion tonight after our discussions,” Robinson said cryptically.

This story will be updated with more coverage of the meeting.

Editor’s note: Baristanet stands by its reporting of the information supplied by two candidates, candidates which Ms. Hertzog confirmed in her statement have dropped out of consideration. Baristanet recognizes that per Ms. Hertzog’s own statement that the board was not permitted to comment on the status of any individual and therefore would not have been able to comment prior to publication of the article.

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  1. One might have thought that a certain public speaker would be too tired of using his prized snow shovel in recent weeks to come and regale the crowd with his opinion. Did he also call any board members criminals tonight? There’s some perception for you.

  2. I’m ging to excuse myself right now….

    “This person was identified as the lead candidate prior to the withdrawal of any other candidate.”

  3. Is it any wonder Eve Robinson walked out of the meeting? That’s the right thing to do for personal integrity, but the public still needs to know the truth. Start spilling Miss Eve.

    What is it about Montclair’s Board of Education that the politics of cover-up, obstification and distortion overtake their need to be honest, open and transparent? Give it a rest Laura Hertzog. Two of the Superintendent candidates clearly said the dates they had dropped out. Both told Baristanet the same thing — that they were advised by your search firm that no Board decision time-table was known, which then caused them to drop. That’s in direct contrast to what you and the BOE already told the public. That a decision was imminent and coming by the end of March. But neither applicant said they were advised they were not the leading candidate. Just that no board decision was imminent. So they dropped out.

    Why didn’t you revel that two of the candidates had dropped at the last BOE meeting, or in the press? It’s not to protect the candidates’ confidentiality. It’s to protect you and some others on the Board.

    Kasun was quoted directly saying he told the search firm that he dropped two days after that dog and pony show public meeting. This would be on February 28th or March 1. Goldberg said she dropped March 6th.

    If you’re starting negotiations with your top candidate but your other two REALLY are still acceptable finalists, you don’t submarine them in the process. You tell them there will be a decision in one or two weeks, and then quickly make sure there are no deal breakers with the leading pick (money, length of contract etc.). If all good but the i’s and t’s…you come back to the others and now reveal that the Board has started negotiations with another candidate.

    That’s not what happened here. Two of the candidates were sabotaged so there was no chance they would remain in the game. Employment lawyer and BOE president Laura Hertzog really should know better. Montclair’s public cannot be finessed with process BS and confidentiality go to’s as excuses. Those can’t hide bad politics.

    Clearly there is a split among board members over which candidate to select. Clearly there is non-agreement on the focus and direction for the school system. So discuss it — openly. Say why some have one philosophy…why others feel this is not where we should be going. Then the public knows what issues are at stake. They can decide who’s right. The candidates become almost secondary. But you all still don’t get it. Our Board of Education just does not know how to operate in the public realm.

  4. Bye, bye Ms. Hertzog. That short political career started with your behind the scenes coup orchestrated to remove then Board President Jessica de Koninick . But you didn’t bother to tell the person who appointed you — the Mayor — what your real politics were. What you intended to do once in the hot seat. To take over. And to what end? Where are those programs and plans to help those who really need it most. Instead of just rhetoric? Not good. Now, all your power moves are going down with a cover-up, maneuvering dud.

    And you’ll be leaving a Superintendent hire that will very quickly have only two votes — not even close to majority support going forward with the next board. Is this how you want to be remembered? Appointing an inexperienced Super with a racist under every rock mindset sold as the real cause of all Montclair’s education problems? Leaving the school system in disarray again?

    Don’t even think about leading that Council slate for 2020. It ain’t happening. True colors showing right here…

  5. Revisionist history much? Hertzog and the majority followed the long established policy for selecting Presidents. It was de Koninick who cashed in favors from her son with the Mayor and trounced all over the process. What was is she did to get us a Super?

  6. Unbelievable. My jaw just hit the floor. As a concerned citizen and someone who works with many school districts in the state, I’m just flabbergasted that the BOE has found away to mess this up AGAIN. The citizens of Montclair need to wake up – I cannot even believe that we are facing the “internal” candidate as the new Superintendent. The teachers and administrators in the district have lived with her nightmare ways; how was she ever considered a viable candidate? How can the community not know what she really is? This is such BS. This is a great district for a superintendent to come to. The BOE has continually made bad decisions under this mayor and previous administrations. I really don’t think things can get worse with an elected board, so maybe it’s time to give it a shot, Montclair.

  7. So who’s getting the job? Dr. Johnson, by default? And did someone tip the scales for the insider? What is this, the Democratic National Committee?

  8. So finally a glipse of the problems with Kendra Johnson are coming to light. The problem with Kendra Johnson is that she has a “racist under every rock” mindset? What rock therealworld? The CGI rock? MHS students have been talking about that forever. The teachers and administrators have “lived with her nightmare ways”? Which ways masi90? Which “teachers and administrators”? Why haven’t any of the teachers and administrators come forward to make their complaints? Why is this hatchet job so secret?

  9. Many of you do not know and have never worked with Dr. Kendra Johnson. She is the right person for this job and will take on the issues that Montclair has faced for some time now. Not only is she qualified and well accomplished she is passionate about educating the youth. Her current job title is centered around equity, and I am sure she’s calling it exactly how she sees it. Many of you probably do not want to admit that (part of the problem). To call her a racist is laughable. The woman does not sleep; she is that committed. So to all of you defaming her and calling her a racist, cut it out. Dr. Kendra Johnson is exactly what Montclair Public Schools needs.

  10. Educator1033, since you seem to know Dr. Johnson well, can you shed light on the past 5 years of her resume? She has moved around a great deal, spending on one year each in various school systems until arriving in Montclair, and then applied for a superintendent position in Bergen County after only one year with MPS. Even if a candidate is stellar in many other ways, such movement would normally be a red flag in hiring for a leadership position such as Superintendent of Schools.

  11. maureenedelson, that would be a question for you to ask Dr. Johnson herself. I believe there was an open forum to meet and ask the candidates a few questions. Additionally, I’m sure the board did their due diligence in verifying her past years of employment. I bet if the board asked for her evaluations over the last few years the board would be more than satisfied.

  12. No one called her a racist, educator. You’re funny; you profess personal knowledge of Johnson, yet when someone asks a simple question about her paripatetic job history, you demure.

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