MontClairVoyant: A School Commute That’s Grueling and a Great PARCC Ruling

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DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
There’s been lots of recent talk about the inequity of more Upper Montclair teens than South End teens getting bused to school because a larger part of our town’s north side is 2.5-plus miles from Montclair High. The solution?

Sincerely,
G. Ography

South End students should have additional busing because they’re often less affluent and can have difficulty getting or paying for private transportation to school. Flying 2.5 miles on leaf blowers, in a Hogwarts broom sort of way, is not an option.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
I, an adult, can easily walk 2.5 miles!

Sincerely,
Stroll Vault

Sure you can — .1 miles a day over 25 days. Your aerobic level is the envy of us all.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
But can our town afford the cost of more school busing?

Sincerely,
Pending Spending

When a Montclair High stairway partly collapsed this past September after not being inspected following a 2016 repair, a ton of money was found for fix-it work and classroom trailers. “Where there’s a will there’s a way” — and, speaking of wills, WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Sheesh — get a grip. Is death also in the offing for the bad, costly, not-needed, time-wasting, designed-to-crush-the-opt-out-movement-that-was-especially-strong-among-Montclair-parents PARCC graduation test?

Sincerely,
Pearson’s Pathetic Product

Could be, after a New Jersey appellate court ruled December 31 that the PARCC exit exam violates state law. The best New Year’s Eve gift ever, unless you count champagne bottles shaped like blue-footed boobies.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
But might that wonderful anti-PARCC decision be appealed? After all, there are certain state politicians and state education officials who care more about Pearson’s profits than students.

Sincerely,
Corporate-Friendly Fellas

Possibly. Let’s hope Gov. Murphy, who promised to eliminate PARCC but has since gone soft on that vow, works like hell to prevent an appeal. Suggested slogan: “Phil’s fight against PARCC needs bite more than bark.”

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Who is to thank for the push against the PARCC graduation test?

Sincerely,
Honor Role

Montclair Cares About Schools, Save Our Schools NJ, and other admirable groups and individuals. Meanwhile, the latest PARCC Fan Club meeting attracted so few attendees that someone in the room easily reproduced the echoing drum sound on classic Motown records.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Could Motown’s drum sound also be reproduced in The George, that beautiful but ultra-pricey Montclair “boutique” hotel?

Sincerely,
Kay, of Hitsville USA

Maybe for a tune about how rich developers are changing Montclair’s demographics, as has happened in other economically and racially diverse places that sadly got gentrified. That tune would be “It’s the Same Old Song.”

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
I just won $100 million in the lottery, and want to spend it all at once. Any suggestions?

Sincerely,
Jack Pott

Buy a jumbo jet or book a night at The George.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Actually, that hotel’s rate is more like $311 to $511 a night — still huge, of course.

Sincerely,
Need a Doc for Sticker Shock

For those who find that rate darn near satanic, there’s always Motel 666.

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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14 COMMENTS

  1. You might want to recheck your source about the respective travel distances from the Southend and the Northend to MHS. And let’s hope there is not a geography question on the PARCC exams.

  2. Thank you, Frank! Cleverly stated. 🙂

    When writing the column, I stared at a Montclair map. The high school is sort of in the center of town, but a bit south of center — meaning a little more of Upper Montclair than the South End is 2.5-plus miles from MHS and thus more UM than SE high-school students can get busing.

  3. OK, so the proposal here is to replace the perceived racial discrimination with actual discrimination?

    UM kids have a 2.5 mile minimum and the Southend gets, what, a 2 mile minimum? And to your previous points about the Southend gentrifying, do we ditch this discriminatory practice once gentrification is done?

    I clearly don’t get it.

  4. Actually, Frank, I wouldn’t mind MHS having the same rule as elementary schools — any student, south or north, who lives more than a mile away gets bused. (That would have the added bonus of decreasing car traffic and parking problems near MHS.) I realize expanding the one-mile rule might be unrealistic and would be expensive — though I’d be curious what the price tag would be.

  5. Dave, I agree 100% that something should be done about the 2.5 mile requirement. To me it goes to the basics of providing a public school service. Basic infrastructure maintenance is another low priority.
    My frustration is three-fold. First, the socioeconomic bs we tend to extend to issues like this. Second, parents seem to be oblivious that the majority of taxpayers do not utilize the public schools and, yes, many face financial choices to remain in Montclair. It would help if we treated them as equals. Third, the school district and their stakeholders have to get their financial priorities in order. Maybe we should prioritize bus service over buying more classroom whiteboards and adding fringe curriculum just for bragging rights.

    That said, the bus solution is doable.

  6. Well said, Frank.

    When a town several miles long has one high school, it is indeed too long/too time-consuming a walk for some students who don’t easily have other transportation options.

    In response to the three frustrations you expressed: Socioeconomic differences are unfortunately a reality. Awkward and not always fun to deal with, but they shouldn’t be ignored. And you’re right that many taxpayers don’t have children in Montclair’s public schools, but enough do that the needs of taxpayers with children have to be an important priority. (As an aside, there were five years between my older daughter’s Montclair High graduation and my younger, adopted daughter’s start of elementary school, and I didn’t mind a big part of my taxes going to schools during a time I wasn’t directly benefiting.) Finally, I agree that busing more students would be more important than some of what the school district spends money on. Or perhaps a very small tax hike to pay for additional busing.

  7. MHS (both buildings?), the Woodman Field bleachers, and now Nishuane…more to come.

    Yes, we want a gym at Renaissance, Pre-K, more languages, ac at Watchung, new synthetic fields that give out before we finish paying the bonds, and so on and so on. Small tax increases cover inflation. The taxes we pay to cover school debt doesn’t show up on the school levy. It is never enough in Mtc.

    Yes, there are socioeconomic bias running through many issues. We don’t need to fabricate more.

  8. Yes, “things fall apart,” to quote Yeats and the title of Chinua Achebe’s famous novel. 🙁 And I hear you about how various school needs and wants add up, funding-wise. I hope, under Gov. Murphy’s rather than Gov. Christie’s leadership, Montclair gets more state aid to help pay for some of those needs and wants, but that remains to be seen…

    The busing issue is partly geographic, but in effect it’s also socioeconomic given that Upper Montclair is generally more affluent than the South End.

  9. Dave, I’m rolling on the floor laughing right now. Your position suggests that Montclair Heights has more political power than the Southend. I’m pretty sure you know MH specifically doesn’t have much power. A lot of properties are renters and transients. In fact, the 1st Ward has historically had the least amount of political clout in this town. We are the hicks. Yes, we are very white and yes we have a level of affluence (generally, of course). But, if you want to find the political, socioeconomic ruling class of Montclair, I think you need to look at the other wards.

  10. More taxes? Why not. Why not fire the “Student Equity” position and hire the buses. It would do more good for the South Enders than another bureaucratic moving inequality fantasy.

  11. I hope your floor is carpeted, Frank! 🙂

    No, I wasn’t saying Upper Montclair has more political power than the South End, just more affluence. And I wasn’t making any comment about Montclair Heights specifically other than mentioning that some of Upper Montclair is more than 2.5 miles from the high school.

    Actually, the 1st Ward has demonstrated more clout than the 3rd and 4th wards in at least one way — by beating back overdevelopment to a greater degree. If I’m remembering correctly, protests from 1st Ward residents got a Master Plan draft changed to prevent taller buildings from being constructed in/near the Upper Montclair Business District.

    (BTW, I’m also a 1st Ward resident, but barely — not much north of Watchung Avenue.)

  12. Thank you for the comment, Albert!

    Interesting point about the job of student equity advocate. In theory, I think it’s good that a person was hired for that position. But is it a truly necessary position when we have a superintendent with lots of experience in that area? (Her previous job was Montclair’s assistant superintendent for equity, curriculum, and instruction.) And our district’s other Central Office people should ideally also be very versed in equity issues; whether they all are or not, I don’t know.

Comments are closed.