MontClairVoyant: For Today’s Column, ‘To BOE or Not to BOE’ Was Not a Question




Let’s talk Board of Education! Continuing member discord at the May 2 meeting, next week’s May 16 reorganization meeting, and…

April A. on Appleton

…the upcoming May 34 meeting to discuss why June 3 was renamed May 34.

Odd — my wall calendar’s May page ends with the 31st. Perhaps the three subsequent days aren’t on there because the calendar was printed at the last minute and those days had other commitments — to be June 1, 2, and 3.

Spring Awakening

Was that a reference to three BOE members missing last month’s election of Dr. Kendra Johnson as superintendent? All seven members should’ve been allowed to vote, even if the meeting had to take place at 3 a.m. in a pharmacy aisle selling Valley & Bloom photos as sleep aids.

Brief overdevelopment interlude! What do you think of the 256 Park Street building that, if approved, would rise on the edge of Watchung Plaza?

Another Park Test

With 11 apartments in the back bringing more vehicles, the building would make the nearby Watchung Avenue intersection even less safe. Silver lining: a new bumper-car attraction closer than Bowcraft Amusement Park.

After a local Republican complained, was it right for Dr. Johnson to follow legal advice to disinvite hometown Democratic congressional candidate Mikie Sherrill from speaking to Montclair High students May 8 about rampant gun violence?

Talk in the Town

Not pleased. Until recently, Upper Montclair’s Trump-supporting congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen visited many schools while in perpetual reelection mode. His student audiences recovered (after months of therapy).

Back to the BOE. (Because we don’t always want to face forward when watching its meetings.) Is it bad for our children to see board members verbally at odds during public sessions?

Dee Bates

No. Transparency — including what BOE members think of each other — is good. Kids and adults alike should be aware of internal divisions rather than be hidden from those divisions with false smiles, which remind me that three out of four dentists recommend toothbrushes with handles.

Could things change with the May 16 reorganization meeting? For instance, will a new member mean a differently constituted BOE majority on some issues?

Side Order

Time will tell, but only if that magazine starts a Montclair section. Which is not going to happen. Same with Newsweek. And Architectural Digest. Why would anyone want to eat buildings? Valley & Bloom is certainly hard to swallow. Not to mention —


You’re Giving Me a Headache

Then there’s the May 6,847 BOE meeting, which might be attended by hammered nails complaining of metal fatigue from holding up wall calendars with huge May pages. Nails and hammers don’t get along, either.




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. “while in perpetual reelection mode”

    Yes, good point. The district policy needs to recognize this fact of elected office. I also wonder if this policy is applied the same to municipal candidates?

  2. Thank you, Frank!

    I definitely think any political candidate or elected official should be able to visit a high school. The vast majority of h.s. students are savvy enough to know when a guest speaker is mouthing platitudes or talking sincerely. Plus there have been reports that a Republican was also invited (along with Mikie Sherrill) but turned down the invitation.

    Great question about municipal candidates. Township Council members have certainly often visited schools, but I’m not sure if that has been the case during their election campaigns.

  3. I understand the superintendent’s decision. I don’t agree with it, but I also appreciate her circumstances of being new and having distractions interfering with her agenda. I would hope that if a similar situation arises down the road she would take the opportunity to make a statement about the learning culture she encourages with our young adults in high school. And also maybe to appreciate that lawyers default to risk aversion where the leadship does not have a commitment to making new policy.

  4. Well said, Frank! Given that it’s so early in Dr. Johnson’s term and there are many other things on her plate, I can understand why she did what she did — while (like you) disagreeing with the disinvite. I also hope she would respond differently in the future. And, yes, many attorneys aligned with boards and such are way too risk-averse. Finally, it’s appalling that at least some members of the local Republican club seem to be against sensible gun restrictions after all the horrible massacres in schools and elsewhere.

  5. HI Dave. I’ll play devil’s advocate on a couple of your points. First, the display of disharmony at the Board Meeting. It was not transparency- it was immaturity. Making sure issues that affect us all are spoken about publicly is essential and was clearly lacking in previous boards. But the inability to make sure that every member is available for such an important vote is not a sign of a healthy board, neither is having members feel the need to leave before the meeting is adjourned. This board needs some team building and to learn how to communicate and work together. I’m not saying they should vote or act in unison, but I think they need to work out differences to prevent this kind of display. There should not be unity in votes or discussion of important issues. But there should be unity of respect and commitment to a common cause: what is best for kids. The fracturing of the town and the previous board was unhealthy for the town, the schools and, most of all, the students. So, Board members, get your act together so you don’t have these public displays. Also, with the primaries only a few weeks away, I don’t think it is appropriate for Mikie Sherrill to speak at MHS. Nothing against her- I think she is a great candidate. But I would feel equally uncomfortable if the Republican candidate or any primary opponent of her’s were to speak.

  6. Thank you for your thoughts, heisenberg! Very well expressed!

    I hear you — the BOE’s “out there in public” discord is definitely immature in a way. But I feel — and I regretfully didn’t make this clear in my column — that it’s better to know about any immaturity than to have it hidden behind a partly false facade.

    And, as I did express in the column, I agree with you that the BOE should have made sure all seven met for the ultra-important superintendent vote no matter what kind of contortions it might have had to go through to find a time and day that everyone could make it.

    Given that political candidates are already all over the place (appearances, ads, media stories, lawn signs, etc.), I don’t think it’s a problem to also appear in schools during campaigns. And if a Republican politician wants to speak in schools, too, fine by me. Of course, many Republicans these days don’t want any part of an audience that isn’t mostly right-wing.

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