MontClairVoyant: What Was the Superintendent’s Intended Intent?

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
First a prominent person in Montclair was accused of anti-Semitism and now another prominent person in Montclair is accused of racism. WHO’S NEXT?

Sincerely,
Double Trouble

I don’t think this is the time and place to discuss a classic-rock album.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Not even Montclair native Buzz Aldrin’s “Bright Side of the Moon”? Interim schools superintendent Nathan Parker allegedly said at an NAACP meeting that he (I’m paraphrasing here) doesn’t mind if a teacher is racist as long as that racism doesn’t show up in the classroom. Comment?

Sincerely,

No Pride in Prejudice

Any teacher’s racism would probably seep into his or her classroom behavior — at least subtly. That said, I didn’t hear Parker’s remark in person and I’m not sure a recording exists. Of his remark. The recording of “Who’s Next” exists.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Ya think? Anyway, a number of parents at January 22’s Board of Education meeting called for the interim superintendent’s removal or resignation, and I also saw a petition seeking his ouster. What do you think?

Sincerely,
Opine Street

Whether Parker meant to be racist or not — and racism sickens me — I don’t think he can be very effective going forward. Even though going forward in the George Inness Annex parking lot is easier now that the temporary trailers are gone.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
But the Montclair NAACP decided January 23 not to call for the ouster of Parker, who claimed his remark has been taken out of context. Thoughts?

Sincerely,
Deferred to the BOE

Again, it’s tough for any school-district leader to be very effective after losing the trust of a significant and diverse number of parents in that leader’s bailiwick. Now excuse me while I look up “bailiwick” in the dictionary.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Fewer leaders in Montclair criticized the alleged racism than criticized the alleged anti-Semitism several weeks ago. Disturbing?

Sincerely,
Bias Bifurcated

It does seem like a double standard. Batters who hit singles are people, too. Unless those singles are bunt singles. Then the batters are hobbits.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Speaking of school matters, there unfortunately was a leak in two George Inness classrooms that caused partial ceiling collapses, and also a problem with an individual stair in that building. Ugh?

Sincerely,
Wet Offensive

I’m reminded of Leak and Laura from “General Hospital.”

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
That’s LUKE and Laura, you idiot. In better news, Montclair was the January 25 site of another “Acting Locally for a More Sustainable World Conference.” How many people attended that important event?

Sincerely,
Green View Zeal

Approximately 300! Which is also the number of superintendents Montclair has had since 2010.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
In order to stop every answer from referencing Montclair superintendents, let’s change the subject again: Your opinion of novels by Isabel Allende, who appeared January 22 at Succeed2gether’s Montclair Literary Festival?

Sincerely,
Awesome Author

I LOVED “The House of the Spirits” and “Daughter of Fortune,” liked “Zorro” a lot, liked “Ines of My Soul” and “The Japanese Lover” some, and couldn’t relate to “The Superintendent Lover.”

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
That last book does NOT exist, as will also be the case with Chase’s longtime Watchung Plaza branch — scheduled to close March 26, according to a letter I received from the bank. Reaction?

Sincerely,
At Seventeen (Its Address)

Very sad. It’s a convenient branch with friendly employees, even as the Chase parent corporation is as problematic as most big banking entities. At least Montclair never had a superintendent named “Scandalously Low Interest on Savings Accounts.”

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Interesting name, but, again, enough with the local superintendent references! What might replace that bank branch?

Sincerely,
Bill Ding

A bank twig would have a smaller footprint, hopefully leaving space for “The Museum of 300 Figurines of Recent Montclair Superintendents.”

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.

12 COMMENTS

  1. I think Mr Parker should be replaced. He’s an interim. However, I suspect this would create significant, near-term disruptions and a 6-figure added cost to make a change. We’re also short on Central Office continuity and lack organizational bench strength.

    While Montclair has made interim superintendents the norm instead of the exception, I look at the role as one of a caretaker – to smoothly bridge the period between permanent leadership. I don’t think he has measured up and it is an unwise use of the BoE’s goodwill to keep him around.

    I already had misgivings when he shared his vision for the MPSD in December. Vision? It’s not like he would be allowed or have the time to implement it. His focus should be to keep the day-to-day ship running and opportunistically go after the short-term, low-hanging fruits of better district management practices. Keep it simple, keep it tactical.

    The BoE is keeping him for now and the NAACP Executive Committee took a pass. Notably, its Secretary was at the meetings where Mr Parker spoke. Yes, fewer leaders weighed in on the issue. Maybe because no one seems to provide the context and exactly what he said? You admittedly paraphrased what Ms Sweat said. According to TapIntoMontclair, Ms Sweat paraphrased what Mr Parker said… so that everyone was clear on what had been said. Huh? I can’t know what he said based on media reports of recollections. What is clear to me is that each iteration of Mr Parker’s efforts to redress the issue were missteps in their own right.

    The BoE rented Mr Parker’s many decades of experience and skills as an superintendent for a thankless role. Instead, he managed to become a distraction and a liability. For these reasons, he should go.

    We have 583 teachers and 256 paraprofessionals in the classrooms. An interview question to the next group of superintendent candidates?

  2. Thank you for the comment, Frank. You made several really good points.

    Yes, whether the interim superintendent is forced out very soon or leaves when a “permanent” superintendent is hired, he won’t be around for long anyway — unless, of course, the search for a “permanent” superintendent takes as long as the search that ended with the hiring of Kendra Johnson. And it would indeed be disruptive to have yet another interim. Still, as I said in the column, I don’t think Nathan Parker can be very effective anymore, if he ever was in his few months in Montclair.

    You’re right that it’s hard to know EXACTLY what Parker said at that NAACP meeting, but I don’t think he’s denied the paraphrasing of what he said. The question seems to be whether there was a racist intent (conscious or subconscious) behind the remark or an anti-racist intent behind the remark.

    And I totally agree that an interim superintendent should mostly focus on everyday things rather than spend much time on a vision of what a district might be long after the interim is gone.

  3. Dave,

    From the accounts I’ve read, the one racist-like comment could actually be a collection of remarks consolidated by the listener or a single remark – neither being a verbatim fact recounting. Certainly, no context. Regardless, I still can’t understand how his singularly important offending remark(s) can’t be recalled verbatim by someone.

    Paraphrasing is automatically a flag for me. By definition, paraphrasing always has a speaker bias. As such, I find it helps me in understanding how it was heard or believed by the speaker. But, for me to act on it, I need more. Further, to try and determine intent based on paraphrasing can be very dangerous territory. To do so requires knowing the players and their agendas.

    The Montclair Public School District is known for it’s long-standing toxic stakeholder environment. It is constantly ugly, uncivil and, at times, menacing. This time was no different. It is rife with self-interests… to an extent that people are public wondering how we can attract top talent.
    It is that bad.

    So, get the next superintendent up on deck. We’ll pay through the nose, I’m sure. But, there is no reason to believe anything will change.

  4. Frank, I think it would be hard for most attendees to remember a quote verbatim. A good paraphrase is probably the most that could be hoped for, unless a reporter or reporters happened to be there taking detailed notes. Apparently, there’s no recording of the meeting.

    Yes, there have been some accusations and toxic dialogue in Montclair’s recent history. It can get pretty uncomfortable, and can indeed make it harder to attract superintendents and certain other hires. But sometimes things should be/need to be publicly aired. If there had been no public questioning of what the interim superintendent said (whatever his intent), that also wouldn’t be healthy in a town that prides itself on having more diversity than the average suburb.

  5. I’m not looking for most or a lot. I’m looking for one person to go on the record. That’s a flag. FWIW, I doubt Mr Parker remembers his remarks – only how he thought he characterized it.

    Some toxic dialogue? We are so way past that characterization. If a buyer wants to see the ugly underbelly of Montclair, they should take in a few BoE meetings…ideally in Jan-Mar.

    Yes, I’m all for public dialogue, transparency, et al. Our local public school culture is worse than the worse episode of ‘Housewives of’…and consistently.

    The kids generally turn out well (?) in spite of the adults. Of course, they then become the adults. Apple trees, galore 🙂

  6. Frank, I think various people have went “on the record” in a sense (at the January 22 BOE meeting, on social media, etc.) in recounting the gist of what they thought the interim superintendent said.

    Well, “toxic dialogue” might indeed be an understatement. 🙂 Perhaps I’m also a bit guilty of that in my columns, though I try to soften my criticisms with humor. But Montclair is far from unique in being a contentious suburb. Quite a few other suburbs have their controversies and leveling of accusations; when I was a newspaper reporter covering various NJ towns (at one paper Totowa, Little Falls, and what’s now Woodland Park, and at another paper Hazlet, Holmdel, and Matawan), many of the meetings were very tense and nasty.

    Yes, most Montclair students do turn out well. Their adult behavior can be an unknown — because given the ever-increasing cost of living in Montclair, that behavior often plays out elsewhere…

  7. Where’s Woodland Park? My internet was down last night so I went to the car and pulled out my trusty Esso road map….and couldn’t find it. However, there apparently is a Howard Johnson’s still out on Route 3.

    Anyway, do these places you mention have the superintendent turnover Montclair has had. Have these places you mention accumulated $85MM in school debt…and then leave the loaned money in bank accounts for years? I would imagine just listing the circumstances around all the departed BoE member since 2013 would establish our leadership position.

    I really have to challenge you to find a NJ school district that has constantly reached new lows over the last 10 years. We’re pretty horrible.

  8. Ha, Frank! As you know, Woodland Park used to be West Paterson. The town where Modell’s, Barnes & Noble, etc., still are on Route 3. As for Esso, it’s time to upgrade from an Esso road map to an Esso GPS… 😉

    I can’t remember how much superintendent turnover, BOE churn, or debt those school districts I used to cover had. Too many years have gone by. I just recall a number of long, battle-filled meetings. They must have been arguing about something…

    Obviously, there’s a certain amount of dysfunction in the Montclair school district leadership. Not to mention some infrastructure problems at MHS and at least a couple other old buildings. But I think Montclair remains an appealing school district overall because of the teachers, paras, other school staffers, the smart students, the curriculum, the diversity, and other positives.