MontClairVoyant: From the Mayor Race to a Policeman in the BOE Space

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Before you discuss February 19’s turned-tumultuous Board of Education meeting, your take on the candidates who’ve announced for mayor?

Sincerely,
‘May in Montclair’ Election

I greatly admire how hard Township Council member Dr. Renee Baskerville works for her 4th Ward constituents and for Montclair as a whole. But another councilor representing the 800th Ward is MIA.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Um…Montclair only has four wards. Besides, how could 800 reps squeeze onto the Council Chambers dais?

Sincerely,
Crammed and Jammed

Easily, when you figure that one or two of them would be absent from any meeting.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Another 2020 mayoral candidate, Township Council member Sean Spiller, has announced a six-person slate that includes three other current TCers. Is that too many people from what has been a mostly pro-overdevelopment council?

Sincerely,
The Grapes of Growth Wrath

Rumor has it that developers celebrated that slate’s formation with a nighttime “happy dance” on a Montclair street. At least they wore reflective vests.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
In addition to overdevelopment bringing our town pricey new apartments, there are steep rent hikes in some older buildings that make many residents want some sort of rent control. Will mayoral and TC candidates discuss all that during the campaign?

Sincerely,
Lease Is the Word

They should, and the great Tenants Organization of Montclair will continue to be key in urging that discussion. Many renters are living the unfortunate decline of our town’s affordability, and TOOM and its memorable acronym provide some solace.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
On to February 19’s BOE meeting. Were you there?
Sincerely,
George Inness Or Outtess

I watched the three-hour-plus video after not being able to attend, so take what I say with a grain of cumin, saffron, paprika, chicory, turmeric, or coriander.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
No-salt diet? Anyway, among the positives of the meeting was much talk about the great Restorative Justice program in Montclair schools. What is one way to describe RJ?

Sincerely,
The Circle (Is More Than a) Game

An offender, a victim, and others meet to resolve conflicts — with a big goal trying to avoid suspensions or criminal charges, especially for students of color. RJ is also Radish Juice, which I drink on the 32nd of each month.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Restorative Justice was discussed February 19 by the Montclair Education Association president, teachers, parents, and a student. Moving and heartening, was it not?

Sincerely,
The Circle of Life

Very much so. RJ is also Rutabaga Jello, which I throw out the window each day of the month.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Bad news from the meeting: 1) A shortfall in the preliminary 2020-21 school budget, partly because health-insurance costs may rise 14.2 percent. 2) A gap between black students’ and white students’ PARCC-turned-NJSLA test scores.

Sincerely,
Dee Pressed

1) Another reason we need “Medicare for All.” 2) Nationwide racism as well as income inequality are behind the achievement gap, and standardized-test overkill doesn’t help. So, I also believe in “NJSLA for None.”

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
One proposed budget saving is sadly in the equity area, even as local National Independent Black Parent Association members and several other February 19 attendees again urged the ouster of Interim Superintendent Nathan Parker for controversial remarks made at a local NAACP meeting last fall. Plus…

Sincerely,
Continuing Contention

…it was an AWFUL idea to have a police officer at the BOE meeting. Given that the seven-member BOE is currently short a person, I worry about a 3-3 vote between “Law & Order: Montclair” and “CSI: 07042.”

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Should Dr. Parker leave because of his remarks that it’s okay if teachers are racist as long as they don’t act racist in the classroom and that he knows about African-Americans because some worked years ago on his family’s farm?

Sincerely,
I’m Paraphrasing in Both Cases

Well, a number of parents doubt that he and our diverse town are “the right fit” — three words often heard at the old Olympic clothing store.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Parker apologized weeks ago (albeit for being allegedly misunderstood), praised several black educators February 19, tried to respond to his critics after the public comment session (his attempt to talk was drowned out partly due to fury at the police presence), spoke when the meeting resumed after it was halted, and offered to meet one-on-one in the future with upset parents.

Sincerely,
Flaw-Enforcement

Noted, but how effective can Parker — and the BOE — be until a “permanent” superintendent takes over? (Those quote marks were spared in the preliminary budget.)

 

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.

 

 

Baristanet Local Offers

View More

Click here to sign up for Baristanet's free daily emails and news alerts.

48 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t think having a police officer at the meeting was an awful idea. I think it should be a permanent practice. I’m just surprised it took so many years to hire one.

  2. Thank you for the comment, Frank, but I respectfully disagree. I’ve attended many BOE meetings over the years, including ones where tempers flared, but there was never a feeling of anyone being potentially threatened physically. I think assigning a police officer to be there in the George Inness Annex can actually help create an atmosphere where differences of opinion are perceived as menacing when they are in fact not menacing.

  3. Why do you assume there was a potential physical threat?

    Is it possible the police officer was there to preserve order?

    It wasn’t about tempers. We are used to tempers flaring. Keep it within your allotted time and it’s no problem…and then let the next person speak. All our other muni & state body’s meeting ask the public to give their names and street addresses. If people don’t want to abide by these rules, there are other sandboxes…or make your own.

    I criticize the BoE frequently for a lot of things, but they finally got a backbone and said enough is enough. The BoE should double-down and say they will not let any person or group disrupt their meetings and the police will be there to enforce it.

  4. “Is it possible the police officer was there to preserve order?” I think that can be handled by the BOE itself. In fact, when things got heated on the 19th, the BOE prez halted the meeting, and was well within her rights to do so. And parents and other attendees are perfectly capable of self-“policing.”

    I get that attendees shouldn’t go over the three-minute limit during the public comment period, but sometimes people get very passionate about things. That certainly doesn’t warrant a police officer stepping behind a person who’s speaking.

    Again, a police presence can increase the anger, rather than defuse it.

  5. And maybe halting the meeting was a disservice to the public that wanted to give comment on their topics of interest?

    So, this latest organization to share their displeasure is allowed to do so? Their issues are more important? In the middle of another budget process?

    And let’s not forget that another black organization weighed in on the same issue and said they would leave it up to the BoE’s judgement. So, there is not an unanimous position. But, they get to disrupt the meeting and force the end to all other public input?

    So, the BoE just has to have two sign in sheets. One for those passionate about expressing their outrage and those not quite outraged and can’t muster the passion? The impassioned ones can remain anonymous, while the rest have to provide their name & address – so we can take retribution, of course.

    Better yet, let’s allow each speaker to make their own rules. I’m sure we can trust their judgement and civic-mindedness. That will work.

  6. I hear what you’re saying, Frank, but the meeting was halted a number of minutes after the public comment period had ended. And much time was spent on the budget earlier in the evening.

    If every speaker ignored the three-minute limit, that would be a problem. When it happens with one or a handful of speakers during a given night, I don’t see it as a big problem, especially when a person goes past three minutes because they’re very upset about the matter they’re speaking about.

    I realize the opinion of African-American residents is not unanimous on whether or not the interim superintendent should go, just like the opinion of African-American residents (or white residents, etc.) is not unanimous on any issue.

  7. OK, tempers flared, the public comment was completed…and then the meeting was shutdown. Am I to understand the audience was squirming and fidgeting too much – to the point of distraction. I’m not clear what the circumstances were that required the room to be cleared. Puzzling.

  8. Frank, the video I watched focused on the seated BOE members or attendees who came up to speak; it did not focus on the audience. After the public comment period, the interim superintendent tried to speak to defend himself against the racism charges. He was shouted down by some attendees (I couldn’t hear their actual words) and I think at least a portion of that anger was triggered by the police officer’s presence at the meeting and that officer having walked toward a parent while she had been at the mike. It was at that point that the BOE president halted the meeting.

  9. To be totally clear: “It was at that point that the BOE president halted the meeting” refers to soon after the interim superintendent was shouted down while trying to speak.

  10. C’mon JB, that was one of the best 3 mins ever at a BoE mtg, maybe any Montclair mtg. Disagree all you want with his agenda, he killed it. I would have, if we were making the rules up as we go, given him 5 mins.

  11. Thank you for the video link, Jon. Yes, there has been “a long history of interesting Board meetings.”

    I agree with Frank that it was a brilliant few minutes, and of course the shovel at the end of those legitimately angry remarks was a prop and not threatening. Just a symbol of the intent to dig up more information.

    Anyway, I don’t remember a police officer being assigned to that 2016 meeting or any other BOE meeting — until 2/19/20.

    (The 2016 speaker referenced Ron Bolandi. Though he was not without flaws, I feel he was by far the best superintendent — albeit interim — Montclair has had in a long time.)

  12. In your “humor” column, perhaps you should ask those on the receiving end of such presentations if they view them as “nonthreatening”. It’s not humor at all. You also fail to note that even during early times at the BoE where you disagreed with those working for our kids that there was never a police presence pulled in by the Board President to intimidate public speakers. Here’s another where a Board member was called a “criminal”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AIuzk4dLCnQ

  13. Mr. Herron was entirely right. I think the discussion here misses what the black parents were saying at the last BoE meeting this February. The silencing of people who oppose secrecy and corruption is a terrible thing in a community. Mr. Herron spoke truth to power. The BoE’s misuse of its authority to maintain a secret enemies list and issue unconstitutional subpoenas in order to silence its critics (parents and teachers) was a new low point in government in Montclair.

    The direct and overt attacks on the 1st and 4th Amendments that Mr. Herron correctly pointed out go beyond the pale of civility and indicate real corruption. Neither the mayor or any member of the town council or BoE ever spoke out. And there has never been a transparent investigation or report. We do know that people were intimidated, that people suffered and even some found themselves driven out of town. Only the intervention and threat of court action by the ACLU stopped this assault on our democracy. Mr. Herron’s words are historical.

    Some of the same people who inflicted this damage on our community still sit on the BoE. One was forced to resign recently after a whistleblower revealed her personal corruption. One is the president. And now these same people with the same mayor’s new appointments are the ones trying to change the rules. And they are doing so with the intention of intimidating and limiting the free expression of parents and community members.

    It is not by chance that an armed man is put in the room when black women come to air their grievances about discrimination in their schools. Nor is it by chance that these new rules were drafted behind closed doors against the NJ Open Public Meetings Act. This is the same way as the list was assembled, maintained and used that Mr. Herron found himself fourth on of those to be followed and intimidated. Same people, same behavior. Corruption is a deadly virus. When left unchecked to fester, it eventually destroys the body that hosts it.

    I do not believe that the black members of this community want the money they invest in their children’s education used for overtime pay to a police officer who then follows parents around in a public meeting. A significant amount of time passed between the last two BoE meetings. There was not a single moment of thought given to restorative justice by Mr. Parker or the BoE members. Not a word came. The NIBPA has been ignored and the legitimate concerns of my community have found no response. They want us only silenced.

  14. Yes, Michael Joseph, you’re so proud of the whistle blower who used Ms. Mernin’s child to personally attack her and force her to step down from the Board. That’s a great path to positive change, isn’t it?

  15. JB,

    I rarely shared Mr Herron positions. I think there was blame all around and I also believe there likely was impropriety and ethical failure… all around. The parents, both black & white failed the community. The BoE & administration failed the community. The MEA failed the community.

    I would absolutely love to have a complete investigation of all of the shenanigans by all the groups above. As I said before, downright despicable. We have more architectural character around this town then we do around our public eduction. And I want to go back and start with the C.H. Bullock school project…now that would be interesting.

    I disagree with Michael Joseph that suggests this BoE is limiting free expression. Repeating the argument is an example of how the school environment is just irrational laced with a whole lot of disproportionate or misplaced anger.

    And the Mernin comments are really inappropriate. I realize the entire black community is intimidated by whites in Montclair, but can someone step up and explain to the public exactly the laws and rules she broke. As far as I can see, only anonymous people are making the charges.

    All this aside sordid stuff aside, maybe Mr Herron will reprise his tour de force performance.

  16. Mr. Astor, what you just said about Ms. Baskerville is fact. I have seen it. And all those expenses always going up in our town. Family and friends leaving my neighborhood for those new folk coming here. Nice folk. But I can still miss many who spent so much time on our front porch just talking. It was lots of talking. And laughing.

    I still have the ticket stub. Just mine. Henry got no idea I kept it. It was my Cousin Edwin who took the picture. That is why he is not in it. Henry has a brand-new suit from Hahnes. That was the first suit in both our families from Hahnes. Papa looks proud. Mama in her Sunday best. I still remember her saying I looked better in her wedding dress than she did. She knew how to make me feel pretty. Constance is all giggly leaning on my shoulder. Auntie next to Mr. Thomas and Reverend Gray. Both our families are all in that one picture except Uncle Edward who was sent up to Rahway. And Henry’s brother Victor who never did come home from Vietnam.

    I keep our wedding picture above the sink in the kitchen. Henry says that is no good place for a wedding picture. He says it should be in the sitting room or upstairs next to the bed. I told him above the sink is where I see it most. Behind that picture I taped my stub from that one night.

    It happened a few weeks before my graduation from Montclair High School. He asked me one day walking home if I would go to the movies with him. That was after my best friend Jasmine turned down her street and it was just me and him. Mr. Astor, Henry looked terrible. Afraid. I never seen him that way. Not before that. Not after that. I guess I wasn’t thinking. I just said ok. We walked a bit further. Then he just run off. Didn’t say a word.

    Papa said no. Never ever did Papa say no and then say yes. We had no permission to argue with Papa and we never did. Except that time. Papa, I said, you have got to trust me. Then came the longest quiet this world ever known. Melissa, he said trying to reconcile with his own self, Saturday night 11 o’clock. And I don’t mean walking up the front porch steps at 5 minutes past. In your room and lights out.

    That is how I came up on Henry. He was waiting on me on the Bloomfield Ave side thinking I’d be walking up the hill. I slid past on the Church Street side and came up on him past Woolworth’s under those bright Clairidge Theater lights. Put my finger on the shoulder of his Montclair varsity jacket with that big letter M on it. Henry turned and that smile came on his face from I know not where. I thought the world stopped. Near ended. His hand pressed that movie ticket in my hand and his eyes stole my heart.

    Yes, he stole it. No matter how many times I tell him he won’t own up to it. But he stole it, sure as the day is long. That movie stub is the only thing I own that he ever gave me. Everything else he stole. All of it. And everyday I say my prayers and thank The Lord for all Henry took from me. And when I am all used up and I got nothing more to give that good man, I will be on my way to the Pearly Gates singing.

    Alexa, play Tasha Cobbs, “Fill Me Up / Overflow”

    Mr. Rubacky, I sure am happy you and Ms. Holloway got to talk. She tells a good story about all the stories here in Montclair. Ones in my neighborhood. Charles Hooe left his story in Montclair and his children kept it with meaning. Ms. Holloway makes it clear. The meaning. Azariah Crane had a story. Ain’t nobody can tell us Victor’s story after he left to serve. So many stories forgotten. We only ever have traces, like Auntie’s kitchen towels. So we can’t be talking too much. Like Henry. More listening. Like Mr. Astor does when we talk. Then remembering.

    Mr. Astor, you have got to find better videos to be showing when we are having coffee. I call that video a disturbance. That is what I told to Henry. Henry, I said, that video got me bothered.

    Mr. Parker has a story. Mr. Harris has one. Mr. Greenstein and Ms. Sweatt and that Ms. Robinson. Like Mr. Astor says, it is harder to be fair than it is to be hard. But you can’t be blaming the person. Cause we just don’t know. Only what they said or did when the thing was wrong. Reconcile it. Like Papa did. Don’t be carrying those monkeys on your back. Not yours. Not nobody’s.

    Now those two videos from Mr. Bonesteel. That gave me pause.

    Mr. Rubacky, I will be passing by to pause at your stake in the ground. Too often we are short on appreciation.

    When I get to the other side, I know Henry and me will be waiting on one another. I believe in the Good Lord. Still I will have to ask, hoping He will say ok when I say I still want my coffee in the morning with Mr. Astor.

  17. Jon, re your 6:37 am comment: I’m glad the quote marks you used to refer to my “humor” column were not cut in the preliminary 2020-21 school budget. 🙂

    Seriously, I don’t think people on the receiving end of BOE-meeting comments — whether those comments were made by board members or attendees — have ever felt physically threatened by those comments. Certain comments might have made the recipients angry and/or uncomfortable, but I don’t recall any remarks that would warrant a police presence. And I DID note, in my 5:48 am comment, that “I don’t remember a police officer being assigned to that 2016 meeting or any other BOE meeting — until 2/19/20.” So, yes, previous boards did not call in the police, as far as I know. Having a police officer at the February 19 meeting was a VERY bad idea.

  18. Michael Joseph, thank you for your 6:38 am comment! I agree with many (not all) of your points.

    Like you, I admire David Herron. He and others were absolutely right to feel angry about being on that “enemies list” several years ago, “thanks” to the then-superintendent and the then-BOE. And David has done great work finding out/proving things via freedom-of-information requests. As you say, he speaks “truth to power.”

    And, yes, having an armed police officer in the room at the BOE’s February 19 meeting was dismaying — especially, as you allude to, when black parents were expected to speak. Bad idea, bad optics, bad everything.

    Some sort of Restorative Justice attempt after the interim superintendent’s controversial words last fall and the way those words affected people would have been a fantastic idea!

    I do disagree about the BOE member you mentioned being guilty of “personal corruption.” She is not corrupt. She’s a Montclair resident whose family moved in with her taxpaying Montclair-based mother, and her (the now-former BOE member’s) special-needs child had every right to an out-of-district placement.

    Thanks again for commenting!

  19. Michael Joseph, I didn’t see your 8:32 am comment until after posting my 8:35 am one. Sorry.

    I totally agree that having a police officer at the February 19 BOE meeting unfortunately raised the tension — a LOT — that evening. And it was especially an affront to African-American parents who were expected to speak that night and did in fact speak. (I also totally agree that overdevelopment is not helping many African-American residents, and that the number of African-American residents in Montclair is indeed decreasing — which is terrible.)

    Re the now-former BOE member you spoke about, my understanding is that she was a taxpaying Montclair resident for many years before her family moved into her mother’s Montclair home. I don’t know the particulars at all, but I assume she and her spouse contribute monetarily to that current Montclair household. Also, I’m bothered that the charges against her were made anonymously — an approach very unlike the approach of the aforementioned David Herron, who has the courage to always use his name.

    As for what happened years ago (the “enemies list,” subpoenas, etc.), the BOE member who recently departed was by no means in the forefront of all that. That outrageous “campaign” was driven by BOE members who left the board several years ago and by a superintendent who left years ago.

  20. Jon, re your 6:46 am comment: We’re in agreement for once (I think 🙂 ). I thought the “whistleblower” was wrong to make that now-former BOE member seem corrupt when she isn’t. And as I basically said in another comment, it was gutless for that “whistleblower” to not use their name.

  21. Frank, to respond to just a couple things in your 7:16 am comment:

    I agree that the now-former BOE member didn’t break any laws or rules that I can see.

    And, yes, the cost of Bullock School and, years before, the selling of the Grove Street School (now Deron School) when keeping the GSS could have eventually saved the constructing-Bullock expense, turned out to be VERY pricey. But those things are all too far in the past to do anything about them now.

  22. I try to understand different points of view. I certainly believe in responsibility for both educating children and for adults to continuously educate ourselves. What I increasingly experienced from advancing through K-12 in the Montclair Public Schools was the inadequacy of its structured learning environment and not delivering its core mission of a basic education.
    Conversely, I increasingly learned much more in its unstructured environment (e.g. diversity of people and views) as I advanced through the grades.

    My perception today is that the former hasn’t changed in 50 years and the latter likely still holds true. I appreciate my aged-assisted perspective has significant bias and I’m speaking from the privileged, majority POV. But, if my privileged majority status didn’t yield the disproportionate benefits, maybe the issues today are about the overall failings of Montclair’s public education – compounded by a significant institutional racism. Unfortunately, both are so tightly interwoven, evaluation and prescriptions are reactionary and short-lived.

    I believe Montclair has never resolved the fundamental question of what a public education should be. Maybe it is an unanswerable question. A fools errand? However, I strongly believe the Achievement Gap, as a measure, indicates we need to either redefine its core mission or recognize it is increasingly failing.

    The younger ones have the passion, but lack perspective. They don’t appreciate history and I think they have a significant disdain for history. That’s unfortunate for all the obvious reasons. I learned so much more, and taught myself to appreciate history, only after I got out of the Montclair school system. I blame myself for my lack of responsibility, but I recognize how overrated our schools are in general and particularly deficient to broad swaths of the typical student diversity they are suppose to serve.

  23. Thank you for your 7:46 am comment, Melissa! Glad we agree about how hard Township Council member/mayoral candidate Dr. Renee Baskerville works, and how we and other Montclair residents are unfortunately losing too many of our neighbors because of how expensive much of this town is getting. 🙁 And, yes, people in the Board of Education meeting room (and elsewhere) have different “stories” and different perspectives.

    Thanks, also, for the descriptive recollections of your family history, meeting Henry, the ticket stub, the wedding photo and where it’s displayed, a Vietnam War tragedy, and more.

    Your mention of Hahne’s makes me wish I was in Montclair when it was around. (The “Internets” tell me it closed in 1988 — five years before I moved to Montclair. Now replaced by The Siena building, of course.)

    I hope you’ll be around for a long time before getting to “the other side.”

  24. Michael Joseph,

    I can speak to two inaccuracies you are advancing about Ms Mernin’s circumstances. Her mother, the home owner, was not in violation of our zoning ordinances and her mother was not in violation of the State’s Senior Freeze Program.

    You are commingling your moral code with statutory codes and the casual reader might not distinguish where you are applying one versus the others.

  25. Thank you, Michael Joseph, for your follow-up comment and for kindly saying I’m “sensitive to different perspectives.” 🙂 (I use both your names whenever I reply to you because I’m not 100% sure which is your first name. Is it Michael?)

    I agree — the more openness and transparency the better, whether from the BOE or almost any other entity.

    Our school district pays for quite a few parents to have out-of-district placements for their special-needs children, and I understand that it’s expensive in all cases. Maybe the now-former BOE member received some special treatment or maybe she didn’t, but I don’t know for sure. Her reputation is one of integrity, and she certainly does a lot for Montclair with the Toni’s Kitchen “food ministry” and more.

    Moving in with a parent seems like a positive family thing. I’m uncertain if any rules were broken.

    Re what the superintendent and the BOE did several years ago, there were various degrees of culpability among board members. Some drove that “enemies list”/subpoena “campaign” and others kind of went along. Meanwhile, I think there were some objections (public or private) lodged by at least one or two BOE members, but I’m not remembering for sure. And, yes, various non-BOE officials in town could have said something or said something more in the way of criticizing what was happening! David Herron was indeed admirable at that time.

    Money that could have been used to educate our children was definitely wasted on subpoenas and other aspects of the campaign against people questioning what the BOE and the superintendent were doing back then. There were also undeserved bonuses for that superintendent… 🙁

  26. Thank you, Frank, for your 9:47 am comment. I know we’ve had this discussion before, but I have a more positive view of Montclair’s school system — much of it from the experiences of my daughters who attended/attend from 1993-2007 and 2012-present (the latter daughter a person of color). I realize the school system has its flaws, and racism is always a serious issue in Montclair and everywhere else, but I’ve been impressed with most of the curriculum, most of the teachers, most of the principals, etc. And I do feel Montclair’s school system is less racist than most other suburban systems.

    Also, thank you for the information in your 10:12 am comment.

  27. I’ll be offline for the next few hours. If there are any more comments during that time, I’ll be happy to respond later. Thank you.

  28. Yes, Dave, we have. I always come off like Dan Akroyd and you like Jane Curtain in their famous Point-Counter Point skit.

  29. Dave, You haven’t asked them have you? Have you spoken to David Deutsch, Leslie Larson, or Laura Hertzog about the attacks they have endured at BoE meetings? You assume based upon your bias that those who are attacked are not offended or threatened. You should be ashamed of yourself for promoting this false narrative and hiding behind a claim of humor here. This sort of journalism (if you can even really call it this) is offensive and wrong and you should apologize. More importantly, you should stop it. Jon Bonesteel

  30. Ha, Frank! 🙂 I loved those old point-counterpoint skits on “Saturday Night Live”! (And “Point Counter Point” was a great novel by Aldous Huxley, better known for “Brave New World.”)

  31. Jon, YOU brought up the past via comment and video last night and earlier today, so I responded. I said no one was PHYSICALLY threatened, and acknowledged that of course some people were upset at being on the receiving end of strong remarks. You named people on the receiving end, but failed to add that some of those very same people were involved in creating an “enemies list” and subpoenaing critics of the then-superintendent and the then-BOE. I’ve talked to people on THAT receiving end, and they were not happy — but, like the people you named, didn’t feel PHYSICALLY threatened. As a matter of fact, I also ended up on one list back then (not sure it was the main “enemies list”) and felt strange about it but not PHYSICALLY threatened.

  32. Jon, looking over my earlier comments, I see I did bring up the past (albeit in a general way, not specifically referring to the BOE at the time of/soon after the Penny MacCormack superintendency). So I am also responsible for references to the past in this particular comments area.

  33. Thank you, Michael Joseph, for your 2:16 pm comment! Very well said, and I appreciate your thoughts on all this. Glad we and others are having a conversation here. As before, I agree with some of what you said and disagree with some other things.

    There is definitely racism, conscious and unconscious, in Montclair and its school system – as there is everywhere. Though, as I’ve said before, I think Montclair is better than a lot of other places in that respect. (One of my daughters is a person of color.)

    What happened several years ago during the era of superintendent Penny MacCormack was indeed very troubling, but the three BOE members you mentioned were not the drivers of that. Actually, I don’t believe Eve Robinson was on the board yet back then, and the other two were relatively new to the board, I think. All the actual “drivers” have been off the board for years now.

    David Herron indeed deserves praise, not criticism.

    My understanding is that many living-in-Montclair children — white and of color — have out-of-district placements in private schools. (Anecdotally, this is the case with two parents I personally know with sons on the autism spectrum.)

    Sorry for the delay in responding.

  34. Thank you for the follow-up comment, Michael Joseph. I have no doubt that some people in Montclair (and everywhere else) get special treatment. It’s infuriating. I’m still not sure if that was/is the case with Ms. Mernin. Even if she is not directly paying Montclair taxes now (I don’t know one way or another), she paid Montclair taxes for many years and is now in a household that still pays Montclair taxes (I think) and for all I know she might be currently contributing to that. (I don’t have any personal knowledge of this; I’m just guessing.)

    Anyway, the bottom line is that any Montclair special-needs kid (Ms. Mernin’s or anyone else’s, black or white – and I believe Ms. Mernin’s kid is black) should get out-of-district placement if absolutely needed. Of course, it’s much less expensive to educate students in-district, but sometimes that doesn’t work for the kid.

    I realize I can be upset by more than one thing, but I guess the sweetheart deals that developers sometimes get – and what some of those developers are doing to this town — concerns me more.

  35. shenanigans. I do like that word.

    The district’s overall average cost per student is $22K vs $96K for her child. Seems like a lot and there are no similar students at a similar level. Would you provide the specific special needs this cost covers?

  36. Frank, do you know what the average cost of an out-of-district placement is for a Montclair special-needs student?

  37. Dave, thank you. I so wish I could say I once paid taxes years ago and now everyone else can pay for me. That we could all be so lucky.

    “the sweetheart deals that developers sometimes get – and what some of those developers are doing to this town”

    The corruption of public office and the corrupt use of public monies is a terribly insidious thing. Left unchecked and uncorrected it always affects the poor the most. Eventually it destroys communities and entire societies. Even without a sense of history, just some small knowledge of the world or today’s politics is enough to know.

    Whether what the developers and the mayor and the town council have done is legal or not, whether what Ms. Mernin has done is legal or not, it is the poor that suffer the most. They have seen their housing diminish. Families have had to leave town after generations of having lived here. And children have lost needed educational services.

    Look up the figures on out-of-district placements. There are very few granted.

    I need to go to work. Even after all these years of paying taxes, there will be another bill due and I have no idea who will pay for the services I receive from this town other than me.

  38. Thank you, Frank! I figured it might be somewhere roughly in the middle of the $22K vs $96K you previously mentioned.

  39. I hear you, Michael Joseph. Corruption does indeed directly or indirectly hurt lower-income people the most, whether that corruption is local, state, or national. And the way some longtime residents are being forced to leave Montclair for reasons such as fast-rising housing costs is terrible.

    According to the story linked below, “The number of students placed out-of-district for the 2018-2019 school year was 101 up from 89 for the 2017-2018 school year.” Not sure if that can be defined as “very few” — maybe.

    https://www.montclairlocal.news/2019/07/18/special-education-report-montclair-nj/

  40. See what happens when I guess? I wasn’t even close to the neighborhood.
    There are 3 components: tuition, aide services and transportation

    Based on what was reported, the OOD student avg is in the $93K-125K range.

  41. Was, definitely. But, all bets are off for 2020.
    Have you seen the Special Ed Transportation line item amount? Look at the raw $. Also, compare it to Regular Transportation.

    A decade ago a sub-committee of very smart people said we should in-source SpEd and that it was a growing segment of the industry. Nope. We funded artificial grass and the fashionable curriculum choices. Most all have since been replaced.

    And you want to let this district implement Pre-K? The fact is this district can’t manage too much well. Let’s call it Montclair Mediocrity.

    And I’m happy your children had/having a great experience in the district. Good news is in short supply.

Comments are closed.