As COVID cases are once again on the rise, and as many area districts – including Bloomfield and South Orange-Maplewood – commit to remaining remote into 2021, Montclair superintendent Dr. Ponds seems intent on experimenting with staff and student lives by stubbornly continuing with his plan to move to hybrid schooling November 16 (grades P-5) and November 30 (grades 6-12). Montclair Public Schools need to maintain remote instruction for the foreseeable future.
Considering fully synchronous instruction was the wrong delivery method for remote learning, yet was demanded by Ponds, it should come as no surprise that his demand for hybrid instruction is similarly misguided. Despite the video propaganda saying otherwise, hybrid instruction will mostly be just like remote instruction, except with open windows, winter coats, and masks. It assumes the risk of in person schooling without any of the benefits. Furthermore, with so many families choosing to remain remote, we are doing all these logistical gymnastics and risking lives for near-empty classrooms each day. It is simply ridiculous. It is a disaster.
Additionally, the hybrid plan was developed without meaningful staff input, and Dr. Ponds has yet to adequately prove to staff the buildings are safe to return to – or answer our questions satisfactorily. He plans on cursory visits to each building’s staff meetings to give the illusion of transparency and collaboration, but his determination to risk our lives and students’ lives remains strong.
One has to wonder why, given that it is utterly nonsensical, the plan is something Ponds is intent on implementing. Is it ego? Pride? Inexperience? Fear of caregivers? Fear of Governor Murphy? Someone else pulling strings? One also has to wonder where the Board of Education fits into this mess. Do they believe, erroneously, that Ponds is competent or honest? Do they fully support the plan despite its flaws? If the answer to those questions is yes, then they are complicit in this educationally unsound, dangerous debacle Ponds has developed.
I have lived and taught in this community for 13 years. I have seen some bad superintendents and some perhaps worse board members. This could be my rock bottom. I do not think I have ever been more disappointed in the leadership of this district.
Brian Ford is a teacher at Montclair High School.