Offensive Video Shown at Montclair Schools Staff Convocation, Montclair NAACP Demands Action

Update: Montclair Schools Superintendent names new acting principal for Renaissance Middle School.

Montclair Schools staff reunited online Wednesday morning for a convocation over ZOOM. Superintendent Dr. Jonathan Ponds welcomed staff to the 2020-21 school year and was joined by administrators and principals, as well as Dr. Kalisha Morgan, the new Assistant Superintendent for Equity, Curriculum and Instruction and Board of Education President Latifah Jannah.

The meeting was interrupted when a video that was shown as part of a presentation by Dr. Joseph Putrino, principal at Renaissance at Rand , was stopped due to its content.

Staff were shocked by the video which depicted a Black man yelling about virtual learning and his kids.

The comment thread on the Zoom call was quickly filled with staff members stating they were offended by the video.

Dr. Ponds called to the tech staff to cut the video, ending Putrino’s presentation.

After learning that staff found the video offensive, Putrino reportedly apologized on the call, saying that if people were offended, it was not his intention.

Dr. Ponds apologized to staff at end of the call, saying that this would not happen again under his leadership. He also sent an email to staff following the meeting:

“I want to apologize for a video that was shown at the Convocation this morning. Like many of you, I was offended by the content. Please know that this unfortunate incident is not a reflection of the inclusivity of our district and our ideals. We are handling this matter internally.”

Albert Pelham, president of the Montclair Branch of the NAACP released a statement Wednesday, demanding immediate action by the Montclair Board of Education to address the “racist and offensive video presented by Principal Joseph Putrino at today’s District Zoom Meeting.”

“Principal Putrino has a history of complaints of racial insensitivity during his tenure as a leader in the Montclair School District,” Pelham said in a statement. “While we appreciate the intervention of Superintendent Ponds during the incident, we believe that the District needs to take immediate action to remedy this situation”

Putrino is president of the Montclair Principals Association; he has served as principal at Hillside, Northeast and Glenfield before taking the position at Renaissance at Rand.

In August 2019, six teachers of color at Montclair’s Glenfield Middle School filed a lawsuit against the Montclair Board of Education, claiming Putrino, the former principal of the school, only gave white teachers the opportunity to teach more classes and earn more pay.

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  1. Parents, Teachers, Administrators, Oh My.

    This is just the latest example of why we do not need the Student Equity Advocate position.

  2. This Principal and President of the Principals Association obviously has tenure as it has been reported that he has been Principal of several Montclair schools. It would appear that there must have been reasons why he was moved around the district so many times. And, according to this and other reports, there have been many complaints about him over the years in addition to a pending law suit against him. If all of these reports are true, I am almost certain that his Personnel file is thick with reprimands. And, if so, I am almost certain that there are statutes/educational laws for the firing of tenured faculty. It is my opinion that the district should look into possible laws for firing this individual; as if ever there was a reason to fire an educational employee, this is certainly a reason. He knew exactly what he was doing in showing the video and if he didn’t know it would be offensive, he surely doesn’t belong in any school in Montclair.

  3. It would appear that there is a small faction of Montclair students and parents/caregivers speaking out about the poisonous atmosphere in the Montclair Public Schools, with a particular emphasis on Montclair High School. Where are all the other voices? Is the situation really as bad as this one group indicates? If not, other groups should be speaking up in defense of the school system. If the college admissions stats over the last few years are any indication of the college going culture, Montclair students are doing pretty well. Montclair High School, under Superintendent Osnato, was particularly focused on the Ivy League numbers; and although there are not as many Ivy League acceptances, MHS students are still getting accepted to top-tier colleges. Are the complaints of this one group mostly about the bullying and racial insensitivity and not so much the absence of a good education in Montclair? Isn’t there an Affirmative Action Administrator in Montclair, and if so what is this person doing to ameliorate some of the problems in terms of hiring and collecting data on faculty diversity?

  4. Blue_white – you have great points. But, I have to say I don’t think there is just one group complaining about bullying and racial injustice. Actually, I know it’s not just one group. Montclair has obvious racial injustices in their public schools that continue to plague our students of color. Students themselves have been very vocal about this and are getting louder as their words have been ignored for far too long.

    I personally feel that this latest move by the district was far too obvious. Putrino has had strikes against him already and this was just the final straw. But, other Principals have also been accused of racial injustices and I haven’t seen the BOE or the leadership team make any moves to rectify this. Eventually true colors come out and if a leader of a school has shown undeniable actions that uphold systemic racism, they need to be replaced. Put them at a desk job in CO…because they have no business running a school.

  5. @rubacky:

    What sort of person reads an article like this and immediately turns the conversation towards a pet issue, and away from racism??

    I already know the answer to that question, Frank…

  6. Actually, my comment was directed squarely at addressing the systemic racism in the Montclair Public School District. This position is a mistake and will only delay addressing the racism we are seeing.

    The MPSD is a large, hierarchal organization that is 90% unionized. The “consumers” are silo’d by facility. Now, if you would read the job description you would help our exchanges. You haven’t. If you had, you would probably have passed at this opportunity to take me down a notch.

    What is clear is that there are not any executives in the MPSD that actually know how to effect comprehensive, complex change successfully in a large organization. The organizational design is extraordinarily poor. The unions are conflicted. The Restorative Justice program has lost focus and RJ leaders get one week of training before they start running their site’s version. The reviews are not good.

    Bottomline is the execution is getting worse rather than better. We have not moved the needle on reducing racism.

    I’m not turning the conversation away from racism in the MPSD. I’m just tired of the talk and wondering when we are going to get around to effecting change. Talk, talk, talk.

  7. This refers to, of course, the video I’ve shared several times (as recently as this week) of Josh Pray (a comedian who bills himself as “Probably the most positive-inclusive-insightful-plus size comedian, model and person on the internet!”, a description with which I would concur other than his use of the superlative since I can’t claim to be sufficiently well-versed in who’s on the Internet to rank order their traits or size):

    I just wrote to Josh Pray urging that he go to bat for Mr. Putrino. If you believe in free speech, humor, and the serious challenges mathematics teaching poses, you should consider doing so as well. How it’s racist for a black man to talk about how hard it is to home-school kids, to teach math, and why he’s now apologizing for all past criticisms of math teachers eludes me.
    How it’s racist to share that is also impossible for me to make sense of. That this is the sort of cancel culture that some liberals wish to deny exists is clear (and for your information, I’m far to the left of “liberal,” am anti-Trump, fully support BLM, and have been fighting for social justice and civil rights since I was a teenager growing up in Fair Lawn, NJ). And it’s one of many dangerous and anti-democratic trends in this country that needs to be brought to a screeching halt.

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