MontClairVoyant: Staircase at Montclair High Evokes Many a Sigh and Talk of Why

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DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Your thoughts on the school district’s September 15 email about Montclair High’s four problematic staircases — including the partly collapsed one that closed the building for two days but thankfully didn’t hurt anybody?

Sincerely,
Infrastructure Rupture

That email’s FAQs were a startling combination of candor, useful information, buck-passing, almost no institutional memory, and zero cat videos.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
What surprised you most?

Sincerely,
Attila the Stunned

The admission that “it was unknown to the current administration and Board of Education [that] there was a repair done on this same staircase in winter/spring of 2016.” WTF? (Weird, That Fact.)

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Weird indeed, because various Montclair High, Central Office, and BOE higher-ups from two years ago are of course still around. What happened to institutional memory?

Sincerely,
Less Than Total Recall

Perhaps none of those higher-ups had a Fitbit to keep track of steps.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
It seems the stairs weren’t regularly checked/inspected after the $12,000 repair in 2016. How irresponsible was that?

Sincerely,
Itza Omission

On an irresponsibility scale of 1 to 10, I give it a…um…”it was unknown to the current me that I learned how to count in the winter/spring of any year.”

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
The staircase problem — which apparently was never part of any post-2016 capital budget for school improvements — was discussed for a long time at September 17’s packed BOE meeting. What’s the takeaway?

Sincerely,
Monday Not Fun Day

Rubble.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
I repeat: What’s the takeaway?

Sincerely,
Rhea Iterated

Superintendent Kendra Johnson continued to communicate a lot about the problem. A timeline about the staircase issue was distributed at the meeting. Rebuilding the stairs will take many weeks, making things very difficult for students and teachers while lots of classrooms remain inaccessible. Portable classrooms might be used. And…rubble.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Dr. Johnson has said and written multiple times that the partly collapsed staircase was “compromised.” Too euphemistic a word?

Sincerely,
K.D. Lang(uage)

The stairs “compromised” between completely collapsing and not collapsing at all.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Turning to another subject, Seymour Street-area residents will have a harder time parking during construction of the too-big “arts district” that promises to further jam and gentrify downtown. Will there be any temporary parking places?

Sincerely,
See More on Seymour

Cars could park atop the sizable egos of developers.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Sizable in a positive way is Anderson Park, where a September 15-16 raffle raised enough money to plant about a dozen trees, or a combination of trees and shrubs, according to Friends of Anderson Park’s Lisanne Renner. Comment?

Sincerely,
Al Greenery

Now I’m even more convinced that O. Henry didn’t write “The Last Leaf” in Anderson Park.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
I’m also convinced that a credibly accused sexual predator shouldn’t be on the U.S. Supreme Court. Isn’t that a no-brainer?

Sincerely,
Bad Rich White Guy Alert

Which reminds that the Oval Office occupant who nominated Brett Kavanaugh seemingly lacks a brain — meaning there’s between-the-ears space for another parking lot.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Starting September 21, Side Door will reopen in Cooper Avenue’s Union Congregational Church as a place for middle schoolers to go Friday afternoons for fun activities. Is that a great concept or what?

Sincerely,
Cooper Union of Students

It is! Then there are the fall season’s first rec-soccer games September 22 at Brookdale Park’s stadium — from which Montclair High could borrow some steps.

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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4 COMMENTS

  1. I’m new to town & there is so much to enjoy, but I’m not too impressed with the highly touted MHS. I know buildings have issues, but for the administration to not know about a $12k expense? Not getting any response from guidance about questions unrelated to the stair issue, disheartening. What’s going on?

  2. First of all, welcome to Montclair, intrepidsoul!

    I hear you. The Montclair High building — much of which dates back to 1914, I believe — definitely has some issues. And the school has had a new principal and the district has had a new superintendent since the $12,000 staircase repair in 2016. But there are of course plenty of people still around who were working in our school system two years ago, and it’s shocking that information about the 2016 repair was not widely known before the partial collapse earlier this month. Heck, at minimum, the departing MHS principal should have told the new principal, while handing over the repair records.

    And very sorry about the not-good response from guidance.

    My older daughter graduated from Montclair High and loved it. My sense is that it’s still a mostly great place to get an education, but I won’t have firsthand knowledge of that again until my younger daughter enters the school. The school certainly still sends many of its graduates to excellent colleges, year after year (for whatever that’s worth) and I love the fact that MHS is one of the most racially diverse high schools in the state.

  3. Dave,

    It is regrettable that your reply was misleading. The 2016 repair has nothing to do with the MHS principles, current or past. This is a Central Office deficiency under any circumstances.

    The guidance department issues are both systemic and nothing new. I would guess it starts with the ratio of counselors to students, but that doesn’t fully account for the dissatisfaction.

  4. I understand what you’re saying, Frank. A school can’t authorize a repair itself — Central Office has to be involved. Still, the former Montclair High principal had to know about the 2016 repair, and there’s no reason why he couldn’t have mentioned it to his successor, who could have then reminded a seemingly “forgetful” Central Office about it.

    I’m not sure to what extent individual schools are allowed to recommend capital-budget-financed infrastructure work they need, but if that input is allowed, the former principal could have submitted a request to strengthen or rebuild the stairs. As for why the stairs weren’t regularly inspected after the 2016 repair, that could certainly be blamed on Central Office. And, amid all this, the Board of Education — or at least the relevant BOE committee — is partly to blame as well.

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