Montclair Mayor Says Safety Must Be Top Priority When Returning To In Person Learning

Montclair Mayor Sean Spiller, who is also vice president of the New Jersey Education Association, made a statement Tuesday, regarding Montclair Public Schools and the recent cancelled opening of in-person learning.

Everyone wants a safe return to in-person instruction as soon as possible. That includes the parents, educators, and administrators that I have spoken with.

My role as mayor is not to dictate policy for either the Board of Education or the MEA, however I have encouraged all parties to come together to see if they feel safe conditions have been met at this time. As those charged with making sound educational decisions for our kids, I would be supportive of their collective conclusions, including whether or not vaccines are a prerequisite. They can determine if, like 414 other New Jersey schools, they can safely offer a hybrid of in-person and remote instruction, or if like 270 schools, all-remote is the safe route at this time.

As we all know, these are unprecedented times and the conditions are currently changing (safety protocols put in place, current infection rate, dominant virus variant, and much more). We in Montclair, like all other districts, must remain flexible and make changes based on conditions as they exist. Whatever we do, with 63 of our family members, friends and neighbors lost to this virus, we must have safety as our top priority.

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  1. You just have to love this State. It’s like no other…

    684 School Districts! 6 hundred and 84. Or six hundred and eighty-four. Or 600+80+four.

    So, we need 684 unique solutions. We have more school districts than we have municipalities. And that ain’t easy to do. Montclair has 1 school district and 1 mayor. What happens when NJ runs out of mayors? We have one brand new school we can’t open. Not because of ventilation, either. As I said, I love this State.

  2. As long as we have the rapt attention of all the parent, the multiple unions and, most importantly, the politicians, maybe we should try for a shred of introspection into what a very messed up education system we have. Admit it, it is not very efficient and I think it is fundamentally broken. But, I don’t have kids. Does that make me biased or unbiased?

    Personally, I say why bother. But, so many of you have complain of State aid being critical to the little one’s success. And we go through an election every 4 years in the hope of finding a strong governor. But, we have no problem running annual elections for mostly elected school boards every year for the roughly 5,000 Board of Education positions. Again, I not that educated, but it seems to me having 684 school districts, all those elections, all those support staff, all the corruption…there might be some savings to actually find getting kids reading at grade level. Not in the short term, of course. Your kids are screwed. And they get to pay down the debt, too. No, I’m talking about the generation after this one. Wow, hard to wrap my brain around looking that far out. Let’s focus on this 2021. Yes, let’s.

    And then Montclair wants to introduce Pre-K! We start losing 3rd graders. 4 years in. Do you think starting a year earlier is going to make it better? Or, are going to lose them in the 2nd grade. I think the latter. Look at how many go thru Pre-K now and we manage to lose them. Not pretty.

  3. And the rant aside, the question is not what the children have learned in school, but what their parents & caregivers have leaned about their schools.

  4. Oh, and for those that missed it, this is a once-in-a-century event (so far). And what did NJ & Montclair decide to change going forward. The ventilation! I dunno. We may take over The Greatest Generation title. A few air purifiers and it is ours! Who is with me?

  5. Frank, you make me laugh tonight! You speak the truth. I have been studying funding of schools, since I really have a lot of time on my hands. Specifically these title one schools (which I’m not so sure are REALLY Title one in some instances). But money is mismanaged so much and never really gets to fixin’ what these people claim to want to fix. So sure, let’s throw some money at Pre K without fixin’ these old problems that we still have. Now, my initial conclusions are the leaders of these schools. They aren’t getting the $$ to the kids who need it the most. How do I know that? Well, I had a front row seat for a few years watching who wass teaching the most vulnerable kids. If you have a Principal at a Title one school having a para sit on the floor teaching the kids the title one money is supposed to go towards, but the high paid specialist teaching the privileged students on a nice cozy desk in a fancy office….welp, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out where the hell they are going wrong. Public schools mismanage money at an alarming rate. I’m sure of that. People scream we need moremoney! But honestly, if a simpleton like me can see clearly where the problems are, imagine what real consultants would find. 🧐

  6. Frank, you are spot on (damn, that means I agree with you!) on the absurd number of school districts in NJ, so much administrative replication (and lucrative positions). But good luck getting the nice folks in Glen Ridge or Verona to share schooling in Montclair. This was tried in Bergen County years ago and World War III broke out. Of course, you proceed to go off the rails, conflating issues….and FWIW, you’re wrong, dead wrong, about Pre-K. Studies show that’s where the gaps begin, when children are more reachable, and those with access to early education get a sizable head-start.
    As for the current mess, it astounds me that these parents have taken to the streets to demand their children be bundled and masked in their frigid classrooms. Oh, sure, that will surely get them back on their rightful track to Harvard. Their logic seems to be: We pay high taxes, go risk your life. Ya think they’d be smart enough to understand that warmer weather and vaccines for teachers in 2-2 1/2 months would get everyone to a better place and spare us the acrimony. You’d think the new super might explain that to them. Or maybe he needs this explained to him!

  7. Us agreeing?: There goes our diversity
    Pre-K: I’m against MPSD running it AND we have to look at the back end. We need to stop with pointing at places around the country. We have our own data here and we absolutely refuse to study it.
    Conflating: it’s intentional – a writing device.

    E.g. Has anyone ever stopped to think how one can rise through K-12 and then, as an example, enroll in a 5-year program to get both a undergraduate AND a Masters. Conversely, I would have to take 2 years at a community college to get just an associate degree…and lucky if most the credits transferred over for a 4-yr program.

    Now a good chunk of State Pre-K funds are only available to public districts. What’s that about? Economic efficiencies? Yes, that’s it…and a few others not related to the welfare of children. Anyway, economic efficiencies. In a State with 684 school districts.

    Personally, I would feel great about a PK-11 system. Yes, kill off 12th grade and offer an additional coordinated year for an associate college degree. They can take a 2nd, elective year of work/study, specialization, etc. Public pays for it. I have not figured out Senior year sports, partying, etc., but somehow I think the world will get creative. OK, this is not going to happen either. Nothing happens here. We adopt a flavor of the year, let it run for several, if not many years and then we replace it with a new flavor. Different parents, different cohorts, same stuff.

  8. I’m still waiting for the dawning light to come over those who complain about the high property taxes in NJ. Yes, there actually is a connection between NJ’s Home Rule cult and taxes. Yes, that is one reasons we still have a heavy reliance on property taxes. It is also one reason why we have our unique Redevelopment & Rehabilitation law & the emergence of PILOT agreements replacing property taxes. And yes, an elected school board is about micro rule. Home rule, or Local Control comes at a cost. So, when you say High Taxation, think Local Control.

  9. I think it’s only a matter of time before “de-fund the police” becomes “de-fund the schools”. The longer we continue to be status quo, the longer we fail children. It amazes me that supposedly pro public school people don’t advocate for what they should. SMH.

  10. When it comes to the public good in Montclair, for as long as I can remember, the status quo is our touchstone , ignorance our shield, self-interests the currency of our bedroom realm.

  11. I think the fat lady is starting to sing. A new high since the week before Thanksgiving. The MPSD timing is off just a smidge.

  12. Should have said new WEEKLY high.
    I like and appreciate the Township visualization web page, but dailies and 7-day daily averages are statistically anecdotal, not indicative of a trend. The circumstances call for weekly or bi-monthly comparisons at a minimum. Also, for every 100 cases, there is a measurable number of extended and long-term convalescents. In wartime, we would label them casualties. In WWII, we had over 400,00 deaths. Casualties always exceed deaths. Then we put route them through VA hospitals. Some end up homeless…in Montclair. Anyway, a tough year.

  13. The pandemic has changed the way the world will operate moving forward. Companies are and will dramatically decrease office space, retail space especially malls will be converted into other uses or razed, people will continue to work, shop, work out, and learn from home. There is a great opportunity to change education. A big complaint is that the quality of education varies from town to town and is unequal. The solution is staring us in the face. Go virtual. Find the best teacher for every subject in the country and have them teach online. Every 5th grader in the country has the same Math teacher. Every student has the same quality of education. Tests on all done online. The grading software could be written in a snap. Imagine every kid in the country getting the same education! Property tax would be cut 60% or 70%. Schools can be converted into housing increasing the tax roles. Basically everything you need to know is on youtube already. Teachers can find other jobs like the pipeline workers. The world is heading that way so why dilly dally…let’s move onto the future.

  14. Funny.

    A positive change on the municipal side is, starting this month, the Zoning Board and the Planning Board now accept remote general pubic comment (via login, or dial-in, or email in advance). Pre-COVID, one could not give public comment on areas covered by the respective board unless specifically pertaining to an application hearing that same evening.

    Now, public comment itself isn’t changing. You get to say your piece, but the body is not required to respond. But, I could call in and bang on for 3 minutes about recommendations to the master plan, e.g. climate change initiatives. Or, I could give them 3 minutes of performance feedback. Constructive criticism, of course.

    Now, if we could get the Environmental and the Housing Commissions to join the 21st century, that would be something.
    Nah. Let’s go for the low hanging fruit of reforming the school district.

  15. OK, the Zoning and Planning Boards are still working out the kinks of their new remote meeting (OPMA) requirements they just approved…e.g. you actually have to list Public Comment as an agenda item. And it should proceed business items. Thanks.

  16. Frank, Funny? How? Like haha funny? Do I amuse you? ….I will admit I was a bit tongue in cheek but there is a lot of truth in my post. The world is rapidly changing and there is no reason that education shouldn’t follow what is going on in the corporate world. The massive amounts of money spent on an education system that has been failing and certainly has not improved since the 70’s makes no logical sense. Well, unless spending money to buy a huge block of votes makes sense to you. Education should be a candidate for a major restructuring. In inflation adjusted dollars we spend nearly 3 times the amount we did when you went to school…and look you are the smartest guy in the room. Go figure!

  17. Funny in you didn’t cover the perquisites for change. Yes, you were a little over the top and well down the road. But, you ignored robotics and the immersive experience opportunity of AR, especially used in Special Ed.

    In simple terms and the metrics we all know, the labor costs of education are spiraling up and unsustainable. Everyone looks at students to teacher ratio. For years. The wrong way. The spread should be increasing. Simple. Labor costs are the primary cost of goods. And they are essentially an overhead cost. And they steadily increase year over year. And I think most residents here actually use the word sustainable on a regular basis.

    Anyway, that’s why I support charter schools and the need for semi-private schools.

    It is interesting to watch the supposedly tech savvy children & grandchildren carry on pre-COVID and now. And the adults! Many in this town are in ‘the creatives’ category. Many are the progeny of creatives. Technology in their world? In an artistic endeavor. A pox on their creativity. I converted many, so I bought Apple stock. Then I converted more. They were design types (I can see how potters would be a real challenge…before 3D output). Every time I see that little Bitten Apple logo on a creative’s device, I think of their parents and all the followers of IBM…much like the leadership of public education today.

  18. To your point flipside, school districts like ours should be investing in production studios running 24/7/365 somewhat like a Q/HSN…but, with democratic values.

  19. It seems sickandtired that I was wrong. Send the kids back to school.

    I have listened to all the top-billed talking head virologists over the last 3 days. They are guessing. I was wrong to put so much stock in them. It is their egos talking now, not their training. Too bad as there was a lot of money and training that went into them. But, human and therefore predictable. What are those mortal sins again?
    It’s is another let down among many.

    They are now saying the vaccines prevent serious illness and death. That is really good news because now the virus can’t mutate, right? Yes, we can give everyone just a single dose, protect the healthcare system and the kicker? It can’t mutate. So, send the little tykes off to in-person learning, tell the union they either use their accumulate vacation or get fired, and let’s look to hangin’ at the Shore again.

    Oh, I forgot to mention…double masks can be as dangerous as single masks. Really! Another Ivy League ego heard from. Praise the lord!

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