MontClairVoyant: A Rising Tide (of Angst) Lifts All-Remote (Schooling)

During this Covid time, Montclair’s school year will start with all-remote instruction rather than a choice of remote or a remote/in-school hybrid. Reaction?

Revision Decision

I thought the hybrid plan was worth a try, but things like adequate ventilation were still an issue. So I totally understand the change, despite my Toyota Prius now having an inferiority complex and being constantly on Zoom with its therapist.

At least your Prius doesn’t have to lie on a couch in the therapist’s office. Anyway, what would make in-school instruction less risky in Montclair and elsewhere?

Masking for a Friend

With the pandemic slamming state and local budgets, lots more federal education aid would greatly help fund things such as improved ventilation for older school buildings already traumatized by not receiving Social Security at age 65.

It’s infuriating that Trump and many other right-wing Republicans demanded that schools reopen for in-person learning yet have refused to provide federal money to make that safer. Rather unreasonable, don’t you think?


Rather. Little concern about the health of students, teachers, and others. At this rate, Trump’s face won’t appear on Mount Rushmore East in Edgemont Park — much to the dismay of The Union of Geese Who Sculpt With Styrofoam.

Speaking of Trump, why is he trying to hurt the United States Postal Service?

The Vice Man Cometh

Posty the Postal Pony told me while hiding inside Watchung Plaza’s mailbox that Trump knows mail ballots can increase voter turnout and thus help Democrats. Then Posty watched a rerun of “Mister Ed.”

Starring another talking horse! Also, lots of Republicans hate that the USPS provides unionized jobs — including many held by people of color and/or women. Anything being done locally to protest Trump’s postal sabotage?

Pushback to the Future

I clicked through a BlueWaveNJ email and saw a noon-to-1pm “Save Our Mail! Save Our Vote!” event scheduled for tomorrow, August 21, at the Glenridge Avenue post office in Montclair. Bring masks, a resolve to social distance, and an explanation for why there’s no Montclair Avenue in Glen Ridge.

In other news, we learned from the August 10 Planning Board meeting that Pinnacle’s proposed MC Residences on Orange Road remains too big for that area of downtown despite now having 40 rather than 46 apartments, and that there are fewer parking spaces than required. Any other takeaways?

A Mock-worth Orange

I didn’t take away any chairs — honest! Besides, the meeting was remote.

Speaking of entities that meet, Montclair’s Board of Education is one of the few appointed BOEs in New Jersey. Now there’s talk again of another referendum to try changing that. Thoughts?

Goat With a Vote

Overall, I’m in favor of an elected BOE because it’s more democratic, but one worry is that some candidates with nefarious designs might run very well-funded campaigns. Now excuse me while I look up the word “nefarious.”

Some examples of nefarious designs?

O.D. Iss

Pushing an “education reform” agenda that can include too much standardized testing, opposition to teacher unions, and support of charter schools. Or trying to end our great magnet system — which, while imperfect, has integrated Montclair’s public schools. Heck, magnet schools even pull the metal in school buses toward the metal on school doors.

Um…the reason buses move toward schools in the morning is to drop off students. But surely no one would bother pouring tons of money into a local election for any reason!

D’oh Nation

Wrong. Look at how much Sean Spiller’s mayoral campaign outspent Dr. Renee Baskerville’s this spring. There were so many mailers that one recycling truck’s tires buckled under the weight. The driver had to borrow tiny replacement tires from a Barbie “Glam Convertible,” and AAA did the rest.



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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  1. “Overall, I’m in favor of an elected BOE because it’s more democratic, but one worry is that some candidates with nefarious designs might run very well-funded campaigns.

    Ummm. Like the Democrats? The Republicans? The Russians?

    This representative government thing is showing its limitations. The appointed method is no better. Let’s start exploring the alternatives.

    To eliminate the nefarious actors I think only Montclarions that truly care & understand it is all about children, have a suitable level of education, and have experienced parenthood should decide who serves on the BoE. Anyone who gets 10 Thanks on Montclair Patch can run and their name is put to paper and thrown in a fish bowl. The Mayor draws 7 names to serve. Those that don’t like it can move to Chatham. This also eliminates the need for the LWVMArea.

    Done. What are you doing for the rest of the afternoon?

  2. LOL, Frank! Funny stuff! My only question: If I disagree with your BOE-member-choosing system, can I move to Chatham, Massachusetts, instead of Chatham, New Jersey? The former is on Cape Cod… πŸ™‚

  3. Ha, Frank! No problem. As a vegetarian, I wouldn’t dream of swimming in a pond with that name. πŸ™‚

  4. Thank you for the comment, flipside. Even if I wanted to move to Sweden, that country and most other countries temporarily wouldn’t let Americans in after the USA’s less-than-stellar Covid response. So my passport remains undisturbed. πŸ™‚

    Like many Montclair parents, I was hoping the hybrid plan would work (I was partly influenced by my daughter and her middle-school friends, who wanted badly to be in their school building part of the week starting next month). But as I noted in my column, I totally get the change to the all-remote plan. Heck, my wife is a professor who’s happy to continue her university’s remote instruction this fall. And I wear a mask and social-distance and so on. Sweden blew it (with Covid, that is; people differ re the band ABBA πŸ™‚ ).

  5. You should do a column on this Summer’s PSE&G bills. I’m one of those who keeps statements, I understand peak period surcharges, estimated vs. actual, blah, blah, blah.
    So, when I saw the JUN & JUL statements (yikes!) I made a mental note to delve into it.
    Today’s article lit a fire under me. I looked over the years quickly.

    Something is really wrong. And it is not estimated billing because I sent in my meter reading.

    I’m not sure how much Montclair going into the new electrical partnership had to do with this, but it wouldn’t explain the number I am being charged and what the says is going on across the region.

    I hope PSE&G is not helping itself to an interest-free loan in the middle of a pandemic. That wouldn’t be nice.

  6. PS: You are taking the vegetarian thing too far. There is, to name a handful:

    Great Neck
    West Neck Beach
    Halsey Neck Beach
    Elk Neck
    Olive Oyl Neck (just kidding)
    Corn Neck Road
    Do you want me to start making Naptree Points?
    Do you also object to gooseneck lamps?

  7. Frank, I’ve also noticed that my PSE&G bills have been quite a bit higher this summer. Figured it was because of the four fans we have whirring away in the apartment (no AC). I have no specific knowledge about what PSE&G is or isn’t doing with its rates, but I wouldn’t put it past any corporation to be profiteering — whether during a pandemic or not.

  8. LOL, Frank, that’s a lot of Neck-ing. πŸ™‚ As for Olive Oyl, her beau Popeye eats lots of spinach, so we have the vegetarian thing going there…

  9. Dave, Explain how Sweden blew it. They admitted that they failed to protect the vulnerable early on which created a higher death toll but when you analyze their numbers their response is quite enlightening. No lock down, no businesses closed, no schools closed except for HS, no masks, yet curve numbers are equal or better than most places. Biggest drawback so far is that they didn’t achieve the herd immunity they had hope for because the virus didn’t spread. Things that make you go hmmm.

  10. Thank you for the follow-up comment, flipside.

    As you note, things did eventually get somewhat better in Sweden, but that country’s Covid approach made the situation much worse than in other Scandinavian countries during the pandemic’s earlier months. This story seems to be pretty objective:

    From what I’ve read, the more severe lockdown approach of New Zealand (another relatively small nation) appears to have worked better overall.

  11. New Zealand has half the population of Sweden and is an isolated island so that comparison doesn’t fly. I don’t read “stories” when the data is readily available. If you take the time and do the research it is pretty interesting. You will see that Sweden nailed it with exception of their early elderly deaths. NJ has a comparable population to Sweden…how did we do? Then add in the economic devastation. BTW, the lockdowns in the this country alone are expected to lead to at least 10% more cancer deaths this year due to lack of speedy diagnosis and treatment. That’s 60,000 people. I’m sure deaths from other diseases will be up as well. When the dust settles it will be interesting to see the breakdown of how many people died “with” covid and how people died because of covid alone. I bet we will never know.

  12. I see some of your points, flipside, but “Sweden nailed it with the exception of their early elderly deaths” is a huge exception. πŸ™ New Jersey has also done a fairly good job dealing with Covid after some bad early mistakes and indecision that increased the number of Covid deaths.

    Given that the U.S. health-care system is problematic for almost all but the affluent and connected, the pandemic sadly would have led to an increase in non-Covid-related deaths whether there were lockdowns or not.

  13. Saying Sweden nailed it is as insensitive as it is what it is.

    Setting that aside, Sweden did flatten the curve better than Montclair. And New Jersey. And the USA. That was everyone’s goal. Don’t overwhelm the health care systems.

    Each society, their governments and their health sectors knew & allowed the high senior housing death rates to happen. It had some of the attributes of triage, but it wasn’t a medical triage. Closer to an economic ageism triage.

    Not surprisingly, Montclair’s COVID key metrics are about 1-4-1.5 times Sweden. I’m guessing the economic recession correlation is similar. Sweden’s economy is in the crapper. They lost their Summer season and the Winter season is still a ways off. Their good news is China owns Volvo and everyone loves IKEA’s meatballs.

  14. This is what I love about he American culture. Our righteous individualism. All of us could dissect the American health system. I think I could even get an A+ in my analysis.

    It was not the problem with COVI-19. It disappoints me that American Progressive elements conflate our inadequate system of healthcare with the pandemic.

    The pandemic was controllable. MASK. DISTANCE. TIME. LOAD. How hard is it to remember these four precautions? Not hard. So, we choose not to follow them. Don’t blame the healthcare system.

  15. A couple of points. Sweden started to protect the at risk as soon as they realized the problem. New York and NJ were putting Covid in nursing homes. Our governor was going against health professionals and bringing in inexperienced “consultants” to figure things out. The result NY and NJ were complete disasters. Sweden’s economy is not in the crapper. They have been hurt because their exports are down but the mom and pop economy is fine. BTW, I put my money were my mouth is and invested in Sweden. A nifty 30% return plus dividends.
    One more big plus for Sweden is the general public was not traumatized nor were their school children. All and all they did a much, much better job than NY and NJ without destroying the economy and all the emotional damage we have done here. Makes me wonder…are the Swedes lying or have we been being lied too.

  16. Thank you, Frank. MANY countries flattened the curve and did other things to deal with Covid better than the U.S. has done. The high death rates in senior housing and nursing homes were one of the major tragedies of the coronavirus in the U.S. and some other countries.

    I respectfully disagree that the American health-care system has had nothing to do with the Covid train wreck in the U.S. For instance, many people with Covid symptoms hesitated to get medical treatment because they were terrified of what they would be billed. Also, the stress of losing one’s health insurance when one loses one’s job doesn’t help a person’s immune system. And did some for-profit hospital systems skimp on protective devices for their doctors, nurses, etc.?

    Sure, masks and social distancing and so on helps greatly, but something like Medicare for All would help as well.

  17. flipside, I agree that NY and NJ got off to very bad starts in dealing with Covid. (Heck, my older daughter and her husband are Manhattan residents who both got nasty cases of the coronavirus back in the spring.) Then leaders of both states learned some lessons and things improved greatly. I wish more red-state governors — such as those in Florida and Georgia — had that same kind of learning curve. They don’t. For governors like them, it’s about trying to please Trump, turning the wearing of masks into a culture war, etc. And red-state economies are not exactly flourishing despite having been in less of a lockdown mode for a number of months.

  18. Frank, you asked how one gets a jelly donut from The Bread Company these days. Lend that bakery a 3D printer?

  19. @flipside – let me guess, McKinsey was on point? I don’t think I’m wrong about Sweden’s substantial die-off of seniors. Tough people – not prone to sentimentality. 9, 39 or 79, same standard for all. I’m not condemning them. Their choice. I’m not going to hold them up as doing the right thing either. Yes, we all know about he stock market. Glad to hear you did well.

    @ dave – you have to step back every so often from the media (both sides) and make your own determinations. Every hospital system skimped on PPE. You want to talk about Atlantic Health? Hackensack Meridian? Mount Sinai? It wasn’t about profit. You comment saddens me.

    Four months ago I predicted 200,00-400,000 US dead within 18 months. Yes, I’m often a cynic. How is Spain doing?

    We are not nearly doing enough. We need some expand our action. We need to think in the millions of dollars. We should have the school district should look at monthly vouchers to households for child care…or too scary for Montclair, alternative eduction options. It won’t happen because the Progressives never think near-term and the Democrats just love the status quo way too much. We have 3-4 months to get our crap together. Then? Well it will get ugly.

  20. Thank you, Frank, for the kind words! πŸ™‚ (In your 8:01 pm comment.)

    Re your 7:31 pm comment, your prescient spring prediction of at least 200,000 U.S. dead from Covid will tragically come true. It’s already 170,000 or so. πŸ™

    Yes, many hospital systems skimped on personal protective equipment. For various reasons — availability, not enough storage space, etc. But I think profit was also among the reasons — not wanting to buy PPE they might not need…which of course they ended up needing desperately.

    I don’t think Montclair, and many other towns, can spend a heckuva lot more on pandemic-related measures, however helpful the measures might be. Town budgets, like state budgets, have been slammed by Covid.

  21. Dave@9:15p
    I mistakenly edited out my point on the death toll: I was way too conservative, believe it or not.

    Further on the hospital systems PPE shortage: the shortage of toilet paper argument? OK, works for me. Consumers swept in and hoarded tp (like China did w/ PPE) and our supply chain efficiencies (productivity) became a liability.

    Township budgets: we just passed bond ordinances to pave streets and park improvements.
    The MPSD has a budget of $130MM. 3% is $4MM.

  22. Frank, Yes, Sweden had a lot of deaths among seniors in nursing homes. Nearly all of their 5,800 deaths were over seventy years old of which 1,252 were 70-80, 2,411 were 80-90 and 1,514 were over 90.
    Less than 250 were under 60. Was their approach right or wrong? They jury is still out because we don’t know how many collateral damage deaths the lockdown has caused and will cause. We do know that life will be very different here for years to come.

  23. Frank, what you said in the second paragraph of your 8:09 am comment certainly was one of the factors contributing to the personal protective equipment shortage. (From what I’ve read; I’m no expert in that area.)

    And, yes, when one looks at Montclair’s overall education spending, a little more spending doesn’t seem that much. Still, the most recent local school budget was passed before the pandemic really hit the U.S. The next budget could be unusually tight if some laid-off residents can’t pay their taxes, if state education aid remains static or decreases, and so on… πŸ™

  24. And those death cohorts suggest a minimal impact to Sweden’s top 10 Life Expectancy ranking – a metric used to congratulate them(selves) on their healthcare system.

  25. Dave,

    We can’t raise the budget. I’m saying to reallocate 3%. Yes, a sizable chunk from salaries, etc.

  26. Frank, most Montclair teachers (and especially paraprofessionals) are underpaid for what they do. Plus now there’s the added pressure of teaching online and, when classrooms reopen in the hybrid model, of teaching online AND in person. Plus the risk of infection. So I would be against reallocating 3% via salary reductions or layoffs.

  27. Clearly, layoffs makes no sense. Wasn’t part of my thinking.

    I get it. It’s an untouchable budget.

  28. Frank, I wouldn’t say the education budget is untouchable — parts of it have been sliced in Montclair here and there over the years. But, again, many teachers and paras are underpaid for what they do and the importance of what they do. And with teaching not as attractive a profession as it might have been in the past — because of such factors as Covid and the abuse public-school teachers take from certain politicians/officials (like Trump education secretary Betsy DeVos) who have never taught — making the profession less attractive with lower pay is not a good thing for teachers and our children.

  29. Fine.

    Do you remember hearing any regrets about what NJ didn’t do back in March because we didn’t know better AND we were unwilling to do what needed to be done AND we didn’t have a plan?

    We know better. We hopefully learned we must be proactive. We must be better prepared. We must have contingencies. We is a community.

  30. Politicians and other officials not having contingency plans for ANYTHING is too often the case. In that respect, Montclair’s new superintendent and others in the school district seem to have broken the mold this summer with various plans and back-up plans for Covid-time instruction this fall — as outlined in the many school district emails that have been sent out the past couple months.

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