Vote Montclair Releases Survey Results, Showing Strong Support For Elected BOE

Montclair resident Erik D’Amato and his new citizen group Vote Montclair have released results of a survey of Montclair residents showing strong support for moving from an appointed to an elected Board of Education.

According to the initial survey, more than three out of four respondents (77%) said they favored an elected BOE, with 13% saying they were unsure, and 9% saying they were in favor of retaining an appointed board.

The Township of Montclair is currently one of only 11 out of 565 municipalities in New Jersey where members of the local Board of Education are appointed by the mayor rather than elected by popular vote. The League of Women Voters has released a statement in favor of maintaining an appointed BOE in Montclair, adding that past referenda on this issue were held in 1963, 1969, 1971, 1995 and, most recently, 2009 – and all were unsuccessful.

D’Amato says 333 residents responded to the survey. Many were unsure of the ward they lived in, which may correspond to a historic low voter turnout and suggest a need for more communication to residents identifying the wards and the role they play in the municipal election by the Township.

The survey asked respondents to identify which type of elected BOE model they would favor. Respondents were asked to choose between a nine-member board with three groups of members elected “at large” each year — the standard in New Jersey — and a novel model in which two members would be elected from each of Montclair’s four wards, with a BOE president elected at-large. Among those who favored an elected board, 80% favored the ward-based model, while among those who favored retaining the appointed model 72% favored the ward-based approach.

Meanwhile, some respondents suggested alternate models, including a nine-member board with one member elected from each ward and five elected at-large.

Vote Montclair is holding a second “runoff” survey aimed at further gauging voter support for different BOE models, as well as the timing of any drive to place the matter on the ballot.

Currently, no New Jersey municipality has ward or district-based models for electing members of public school boards, and state law appears to prohibit mixing appointed and elected seats on local boards of elections, and mandate annual elections.

Respondents were asked to rate the performance of Montclair’s public schools compared to their potential on a five-point scale, resulting in an average of 2.9 out of 5.0. Just over 75% of respondents said they have one or more children currently enrolled in the Montclair Public Schools, and an additional 16% had one or more children who previously attended.

Majority Support for Switch To November Elections
A large majority of those surveyed also favored having all elections for Township offices in November rather than May, to help raise what traditionally has been notably low voter turnout and engagement.

As with the appointed Board of Education, Montclair is among just a handful of New Jersey localities where municipal elections are held every four years in May. Average turnout in the last three municipal elections in Montclair was just below 25%.

Support for moving Montclair’s municipal elections from May until November was strong among both supporters (89%) and opponents (69%) of converting to an elected BOE model.

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  1. The Township of Montclair has $90 million in school debt. The school district borrows through the municipality. Our municipal credit rating is AAA which affords us the most favorable borrowing rates.

    The school district has $65 million of priority capital borrowing needs over the next 5-7 years. If we add the ordinary capital needs ($3MM+ per yr) and a new school (40MM+), school debt will easily exceed $100 million.

    My understanding is that switching to an elected school board shifts all borrowing responsibility away from the Township to the Montclair Public School District.

    If th MSPD is unable to attain a AAA rating, what will be the cost implications of this change?

  2. A useless survey. Not based on opinion statistics. Only from responses of those really interested or focused hypothetically now.

    Put it on a ballot again and ask. Or conduct a reliable survey. Same old same old most likely. Residents will still reject this at the end of the day. For same reasons town has rejected November voting. Over politicization into Dem v. Republicans is generally avoided here on the local level. We still try to remain non-partisan.

  3. It will be interesting this Fall to see how our appointed Board of Education handles the issue of allowing outside groups to utilize school facilities using different standards than the MPSD’s.

    It will be interesting how their policy aligns with our Council’s execution of State muni requirements – and vice versa.

    And most interesting, and to speculate how a future elected BoE will fundamentally change the partnership dynamic.

  4. Sounds like Spontontarget doesn’t want an election for school boards. Does it really make since to ask a Mayor who a Vice President of the teachers union to pick the school board? Talk about self dealing, someone who been paid 2.1m from the union picking the people who will deal with the union.

    Any wonder, why we are unprepared for the new school year, and why our Superintendent thinks a 10 minute announcements of remote schooling without questions is acceptable. His bosses are ok with it. Montclair residents need to replace the board, and take back the schools for their children. We may pay too much for this incompetence.

  5. Spiller…when will he make a move to place a new BOE member? Can’t wait to see how fast lawyers will pounce.

  6. The lawyers will not pounce. Some might tear up a x-trainer shoe or claw at a wooden door.
    But, pounce?

  7. “Does it really make since to ask a Mayor who a Vice President of the teachers union to pick the school board? “

    Yes MarcT. It makes total sense to Montclair residents. A overwhelming majority (21,000 voters in a town with a TOTAL pop of 39,700) of registered voters didn’t care to weigh in – likely because it was an insignificant issue to them. A majority of those who actually voted were fine with it (of course, a majority of voters don’t know which ward they live in). Mayor Spiller’s only opponent was absolutely fine with it. The Montclair BoE was fine with it. The local media was fine with it.

    We had this discussion back in April. A vast majority of town thought it made sense.

  8. Just an observation from the last goround. When the electors lost they has a consolation party at Tierneys. The appointers partied up on a mansion on the hill. Shows what’s up doesn’t it? Btw I’ll bet that a lot of the hillers sent their kids to privates schools. I wonder how it will play out this time.

  9. Excellent point!

    So, Montclair’s Minority On The Hill prevailed over Montclair’s Majority down the hill? That’s the premise?

    And by moving the elections to November will somehow expand the very, very narrow bandwidth of our registered voters?

    And these very challenged registered voters will now have to vote on school district stuff every year?

    Really? This is some serious Lost Horizon stuff with our Shangri-La hidden behind one of our downtown parking decks.

  10. I have to criticize the Vote Montclair people, too. Clearly they have given the issue of an elected board a minimum of thought, but they also must be suffering from remote learning and bandwidth limitations.

    Not a group for substance & process, Vote Montclair has already moved, at Warp Speed, Blue Wave style, into the design phase.

    “Oh gee, can we pick out the colors, fabrics and trims? Please, please!” Seriously?

    Best of all – and the real tip-off, ‘the tell’, with them is the ‘conjoined’ voting shift to November. The logic is compelling, almost irrefutable. Finally, transparency, accountability AND convenience. We can have it all!!!
    Please, please, may I have seconds?

    flipside’s post has it pegged.

  11. A humorous aside: the “How would you rate the MPS potential?” question in this survey

    First, 1-5 scale was clearly lost on the author and the respondents. A 5 point scale. Does any else know another common 5 point scale? Grades, yes!

    Second, the results were 2.9 out of 5. If you multiple a 5 point scale by 20 and you get…a 100 point scale!

    Third, the 2.9 average rating becomes 58 on a sale of 100. Guess what a passing grade is in the State of NJ – 60!

    We couldn’t even get a passing grade on potential. Which, after all, is what the letter grading system represents.

    Thank you.

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