Montclair BOE: MAP Lauded As Amazing, “Lifesaving” Program

Interim superintendent Dr. Nathan Parker, at Monday’s Board of Education meeting, announced the appointment of an interim director of personnel who will be tasked with solving the payroll problem that resulted in Montclair Education staff not receiving their proper pay — and instead, getting paid at the rates from 2017-2018.

Parker also announced the appointment of an interim director of elementary education. The seven elementary school principals will report to this interim director.

Montclair Achievement Program Presentation

A strong showing of support for the Montclair Achievement Program (MAP) came next as teachers and parents from Charles Bullock School presented the benefits of this unique program.

Bullock teacher Jennifer Woschinko lead the presentation. MAP offers behavioral, therapeutic and educational components to help students ultimately regulate emotions in a mainstream environment and access the general education curriculum.

MAP started in 2010 as a pilot program; the following year, it continued services and expanded to Bullock as well as Renaissance Middle School. In 2016, a transition classroom was opened, a multi-graded classroom, with a goal of inclusion and to help kids become ready for mainstream environments.

All staff receive training from the Crisis Prevention Institute in de-escalation techniques. First and foremost are verbal techniques, with physical interventions used as a last resort when needed, in instances when a child needs to be kept safe. Examples of when last resort interventions are utilized were: when a child might try to run out of the building; or is throwing things; or could be a danger to self or others. Sometimes, an intervention might be having a child sit in a “Chill Zone,” a secluded space that can offer a refuge from the stress the child is experiencing. Any interventions are communicated to parents and everyone on team.

Social and emotional interventions are a highlight of the MAP program; each student has access to individual and group counseling and the staff practice modeling and role playing skills to deal with challenges. There is parental support and consulting with outside providers working with the child to expand the team approach.

Following Woschinko’s presentation were many parents who stood at the podium and shared their personal stories and perspective on the MAP program, illustrating the success of the program in meaningful, often emotional descriptions.

Parents shared the changes and growth their children experienced. Children diagnosed with a form of autism, or other social and emotional challenges, went from acting out and getting “kicked out” of programs, to being able to make friends, enjoy activities with peers and thrive at school.

One parent spoke of the MAP program not only changing, but saving her child’s life.

She also spoke of how she knew that when her daughter was having a meltdown, that going to the Chill Zone was a place where she could escape and calm her body, rather than hurt herself or others.

Another parent spoke of her son’s loud tantrums that made it impossible for him to attend Watchung School and how she had to fight for a chance to have her son considered for the MAP program.

“They shine a light on his strengths and are the first teachers who made him feel good about himself. The MAP program has been a lifeline,” another parent stated.

Other parents spoke of how their child had transitioned into general education classrooms all because of their experience in MAP.

The MAP presentation was timely and illuminating, given that during public comment at the last BOE meeting, a parent questioned the use of “isolation closets” at Bullock.

The BOE members commended the teachers for the success of the MAP program and the thorough, informative presentation.

BOE member Jessica de Koninck said what she had heard from Dr. Nathan Parker, who had been to the MAP program. Parker said that this was the most impressive program that he had ever seen and better than many of the private programs out there.

Dr. Nathan Parker was even more effusive is his comments, saying the program should be duplicated in schools all around the country.

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  1. Congratulations to the Montclair Public School District and the many, now and over the years, that contributed to this significant achievement. This should be a model to guide our schools going forward in realizing the educational excellence we aspire to for all of our students.

  2. Boy, that was quite the spin. Someone must have been taking notes on the Trump administration. Who is drinking the Kool-aid?

  3. Many activists and experts argue that seclusion should never be used. Most states have policies in place to make sure they are only used in the most extreme circumstances. NJ has the most lax laws on restraint and seclusion. Seclusion is being looked at all
    over the country and beyond our borders. Even expert George Sugai gave testimony in front of congress last February. Worth a watch. Even in NH an activist argues that seclusion shouldn’t be used in a state run facility. Worth a listen!
    No one argues that the MAP program isn’t a good program. Some just think seclusion closets in the classroom(like nesting dolls in the article) might not be the best tool.

  4. “spin?”
    from the parents whose children are actually in the program? [portion of comment removed by editor]

  5. I think a productive and healthy way to move forward would be for the public to actually have a debate on the use of seclusion in schools. Denial that it exists serves no purpose. And now that we know it exists, the question is why can’t the public see the data on it’s use? If people are all for it, let’s just see the data and how it benefits the students. I just find it confusing that so many are so against it for their own children, but are fine for it for others.

  6. You set up a straw man argument–no one denied anything in the program. Distortions forced the school and teachers to explain it. I was there. Seclusion is hardly what it is. The door to the area where the child goes to calm down is wide open. Often there is a para professional in the area with the student. What would you suggest be done with a child posing a danger to him or herself and others, besides reduce them to numbers?

  7. Montclair Public- I’m not sure you understand. Seclusion IS used at Bullock. That hasn’t been denied. And no, the door isn’t wide open when the area is used as seclusion. Also, no adult goes in when the door is closed. I don’t understand why you must attack me, the messenger. The data will eventually come out. The watchdog group GAO just confirmed to me that the federal government requires collection of this data. I also have written documents of how these rooms/closets are/were used. Maybe you should reach out to SPAN to see how that advocacy group feels about the use of seclusion. They have zero belief seclusion should be used in any circumstances.

    What was your other question? What do I suggest being used when a student poses a risk to themselves or others? I suggest district follows policy. I also suggest that they listen to experts in the topic. I posted some of them above and hope you had he time to read/listen to them.

    Also these closets were built three years ago. Padding was only recently installed this past spring may/June. Will public change their attack mode when data of use is released? What does public want to know that hasn’t already been said?

  8. Frank, I would say it’s hard for people to actually agree on something until both have access to the facts.

  9. The point of agreement was that both of you used Seclusion with a negative connotation…and indicates a similarly held bias. As your data references, there is an obvious bias by the researchers. People should recognize this if they follow your linked studies.

    Seclusion is defined as being in or seeking a private state. It is an accepted, regular behavior by introverts…and even extroverts will partake in it when they occasionally need a break from the world…or want an experience they can criticize as soon as they get back to their world.

    Maybe the proper term, and more appropriate to what you describe is isolation. Isolation, in this case, would suggest the reduction or removal of stimuli. Of course, I admit I have no idea if that is of importance or relevant to children on the spectrum.

  10. C’mon pardonmyfrench. Your position is that isolation should not be used. Period.

    You then propose the MPSD follow policy, which, again, is a policy you object to. Then you say there has to be improved reporting on a practice, sanctioned by the Federal & State governments, that, again, you object to. So, yes, I’m having fun with the semantics and the hair-splitting. I’m in no way having fun if you are suggesting the MPSD is derelict in possible child abuse. The WAPO article was not one of their better written pieces. To me, it conflates child abuse and seclusion…or is it one in the same?

    You present yourself as knowledgeable on the topic. What policy and practices are you offering – for our school district – that we should implement in place of seclusion/isolation/confinement/ostracism/sensory deprivation?

  11. Hmmmm….am I saying it shouldn’t be used, period? Above I claim that districts needs to follow policy. I am also not a fool to think the RARE seclusion needs to be used if a student poses a threat to themselves or others.

    I would point to the compelling testimony that our congress listened to in FEb 2019. Not just by Dr. George Sugai, but by a parent affected by it as well as a teacher. I find the teacher’s testimony most important. She admits she secluded so much more before she got proper training. My stand on this is:
    1) Montclair follows policy
    2) I think the public has the right to see the data
    3) I want to see if Montclair is following the law and reporting use to the state and Federal gov.
    4) provide the training needed to reduce restraint and seclusion.

    Sorry I can’t find your words more “fun”. Nothing is fun about children being restrained or secluded. I think the district should listen to people when they come to the mic instead of just going on defense.

    From what I understand, seclusion is becoming more prevalent rather than less. It’s been debated for decades. Arne Duncan had a lot to say on it from 2009- 2012. His reports lead to current policies we have now. I completely agree with the policies, but I am also aware people don’t always follow them. Some states ban it completely, some have tougher laws than others. The reason the federal government keeps getting involved is because districts and states aren’t following policies. Let’s listen to the experts. Let’s get the training we need. Let’s do right by the students.

  12. “I am also not a fool to think the RARE seclusion needs to be used if a student poses a threat to themselves or others.”

    How would you define RARE? Once a week? Once a month? How do those establishing a policy define what RARE should be for children who may be a danger to themselves or others at various frequencies and levels? How would you or the policy makers define what exactly is “a danger to themselves or others?” Aren’t these determinations that must ultimately be made by the trained professional in the classroom–who, by the way, must keep a record and inform the family each time it happens? Isn’t that what this discussion is about–whether we trust those who are trained to deal with these incredibly complex issues? Guidelines are in place in this program, as is supervision and clinical procedure. The families involved no doubt have access to the data regarding their children. The bottom line here is whether THEY believe that the program is effectively helping and I trust they are closely monitoring how the methodology is applied.

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