MontClairVoyant: A Week of BOE Reorganizing and Lackawanna Plaza Strategizing



We learned at the Board of Education’s annual reorganization meeting last night (May 16) that Laura Hertzog was reelected BOE president and Joe Kavesh was elected to succeed Franklin Turner as vice president. Comment?

Chairpeople of the Board

Even though a very different president recklessly pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal and ruined any chance for an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, detente between Montclair and Cedar Grove continues.


Whatever. Several people at the BOE meeting praised new superintendent Kendra Johnson’s May 14-June 11 “Listening and Learning” tour. What do you think of it?

Ear Today

The more Dr. Johnson takes into account the views of parents and teachers and students, the better — something Montclair’s last permanent superintendent did not adequately do. Meanwhile, I’m guessing Cedar Grove’s nuclear warheads are stored near Pompton Avenue.

Speaking of the ex-superintendent, 2015’s Achievement Gap Advisory Panel report doesn’t benefit from its connection to her despite containing some good ideas. Now the BOE is considering an achievement-gap resolution from board members Anne Mernin and Franklin Turner. Are you okay with that?

Penny for Your Thoughts

Yes — if we don’t forget that the gap is largely caused by America’s socioeconomic inequality; if “metrics,” “benchmarks,” and other data are not overused; if standardized testing is not overdone; and if the resolution is accompanied by the soundtrack of The Cranberries’ catchy song “Analyse.”

Newly reappointed BOE member Eve Robinson suggested at the May 16 meeting that the achievement-gap resolution include wording that Montclair has been trying to close that gap since long before 2015. Good idea?

The Long and Winding Road

It is! Speaking of timelines, Dr. Johnson said at the meeting that she had hometown Democratic congressional candidate Mikie Sherrill disinvited from speaking at Montclair High BEFORE a local Republican leader complained. Poe wrote “MS Found in a Bottle” in 1833; this month, MS found herself in a school-appearance battle.

Wonderful news: Watchung School teacher Birdean Clinton was honored at the meeting for recently saving the life of a student with the Heimlich maneuver, and other Montclair teachers were cited for winning Governor’s Educator of the Year awards!

Classroom Heroines and Heroes

Among the winners: Bradford School’s Laurie Durber, a great educator with a great sense of humor who was one of my older daughter’s teachers when Ms. Durber worked at a pre-relocated-to-Rand Renaissance (“the three r’s”).

Two nights earlier, on May 14, the Planning Board continued discussing the proposed Lackawanna Plaza redo. What was most memorable about that meeting?

Controversial Complex

An LP developer accustomed to getting his way in Montclair pouted about how allegedly difficult and expensive it would be to build a supermarket AND save LP’s historic train sheds. I wept at his frustration, and it had nothing to do with slicing 150 onions to mark Montclair’s 150th anniversary.

Given that there can be preservation AND a much-needed supermarket at LP, should already-rich developers who favor profits over history find another line of work?

Changing-Gears Careers

They could manufacture hybrid cars that run on gasoline and onions. I have extra slices.

Now that the BOE has reorganized, what others changes do you foresee in Montclair?

(Not a Quiche) Lorraine

Our town’s streets can be rearranged alphabetically! So, going south to north, Bloomfield Avenue becomes Bellevue Avenue, Walnut Street becomes Bloomfield Avenue, Chestnut Street stays the same, Watchung Avenue becomes Walnut Street, Bellevue Avenue becomes Watchung Avenue, and Lorraine…regrets asking her question.

Dave Astor, author, is the MontClairVoyant. His opinions about politics and local events are strictly his own and do not represent or reflect the views of Baristanet.

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  1. “Speaking of the ex-superintendent, 2015’s Achievement Gap Advisory Panel report doesn’t benefit from its connection to her despite containing some good ideas.”

    Pretty funny assessment. People now embrace the AGAP report? Embrace it but do their very best to ignore that Superintendent MacCormmack brought it to the community?

    Montclair’s residents & business owners can be as two-faced and righteous as any other town. I can understand that time has changed the majority position into now supporting the report. That’s a change in behavior, not values. Montclair values have not changed. To say the majority supports the report now is just proof that this is burnishing their political correctness in the Age of Trump. Pretty superficial.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Frank! Well said!

    I don’t think the majority of people now embrace the 2015 achievement-gap report. As I mentioned in the column, the report contained some good ideas — such as the later-implemented suggestion that there be an assistant superintendent for equity, if I’m remembering correctly. But certain other parts of the report were not good at all, and the report was indeed tainted by its connection to the VERY unpopular former permanent superintendent.

    The achievement-gap resolution the BOE is now considering is a different document (albeit with some similarities) than the 2015 report, and I basically said in the column that I’m okay with the resolution only if it doesn’t lead to all kinds of “reformy” policies (too much standardized testing, overuse of data, less classroom autonomy for teachers who know their students better than any bureaucrat, etc.).

  3. Dave,

    Let’s cut to the chase. This resolution was primarily about setting up the our Pre-K Initiative. Which is our typical “let’s add” approach. Everyone knows that Pre-K reduces the AG, right? Yet, the Montclair Pre-K has yet to demonstrate it has made any impact on the Achievement Gap with its students. Why?

  4. Thanks, Frank! I suppose the bring-back-public-Pre-K initiative could be one of the reasons for the BOE’s new achievement-gap resolution, but I’m not sure. I was at the BOE’s May 16 meeting, and listening to the resolution read out loud seemed to indicate that the grades beyond Pre-K were a big part of the resolution mix.

    You’re right — Montclair Community Pre-K has not really reduced the achievement gap. Would a Pre-K system that’s again inside our town’s public schools have different results? Maybe, maybe not. As I’ve said before, America’s awful and growing socioeconomic inequality is hard to overcome on a local level. Which is one possible answer to your why-hasn’t-MCPK-had-more-of-an-impact question.

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