Montclair Education Association ‘Disappointed;’ Says District Violated Confidentiality Agreement

Montclair, NJ – The Montclair Education Association expressed its disappointment Tuesday afternoon in a response to the announcement made by Superintendent Dr. Jonathan Ponds that the district will file a lawsuit against the MEA.

The Montclair Education Association has been willing to work with the district to ensure safe schools and instead the district repeatedly lies and obfuscates the truth. Even now, in Dr. Ponds’ statement of 02-­‐02-­‐2021, “Weekly Community Message No. 8,” he violates the conditions of a confidentiality agreement that both parties mutually approved with the state’s mediator. Like you, the Association learned about the district’s actions in disclosing confidential discussions via the weekly update with no advanced notice from the district-­‐-­‐not out of courtesy, not out of working to build a relationship with the MEA, not with any sense of integrity. The mediation process is ongoing, and we have refrained from violating the parameters set forth by the mediator, as a sign of our trust and good faith, which is why we have not henceforth come forward with any reports on the discussions being held at the table.

Instead, we have been sucker-­‐punched by a district that cries wolf, when there are mounds of proof of the district’s negligence in preparing buildings for students, continued lies about second walkthroughs, and a purported desire to work with the MEA, while attempting to cast blame upon the staff. Furthermore, Ponds references that certain classrooms are already prepared to receive students and staff. However, his purported plan fails to take into consideration the organizational needs of students, staff, and parents—regarding things like bussing schedules, cleaning and sanitizing needs, classroom rosters and which staff are staying remote for health reasons. His promise that schools are ready is a hollow one, smoke and mirrors meant to distract our community from the false narrative he is trying to paint with himself as the “fixer” and “part of the community” and that the MEA is “unreasonable.” And, yet he repeatedly violates our trust, this very message “Weekly Community Message No. 8” is a clear indication of his complete lack of credibility.

In fact, in “Weekly Community Message No. 7” posted on Friday, January 29, 2021, Ponds states, “this is a sensitive situation and because we are currently in mediation and working with legal counsel, we do not want to compromise either process. It is important for everyone to feel heard, know that their safety is paramount, and that we reach the common goal of getting our students back to the classrooms.” And not three days later, he compromises the integrity of
our mutually agreed upon commitment to the process and confidentiality. He shares his ideas without context and ignores the fact that he has failed to consider the important details needed to make such a plan work. He has still not provided the documentation of repairs, improvements and protocols that the MEA has been asking for since October. Documentation that would, if it existed and was provided, assuage concerns and point to a viable plan of action in getting buildings ready. However, this is par for the course with the MEA’s interactions with Dr. Ponds.

Ponds implies in his “Weekly Community Message No. 8” that the staff is not teaching or working, that we don’t care about the students, and that there is a rift between the parents and us. He couldn’t be further from the truth. We absolutely care about our students, which is why we have been asking for documentation that the schools are ready since October because we want to ensure the best learning environment for both students and staff. We absolutely have been working every day since September 1 by contract. We worked all summer taking professional development to prepare us with additional tools and strategies for virtual learning. What part of that statement sounds like we don’t care and we’re not working? As for the alleged rift that he has tried to create that stands between educators and parents, he is out-­‐of-­‐ touch with the community. His reference to concerned parents is a small and vocal population. At the same time, he negates the needs and wants of the rest of the parents and caregivers and our community members who stand beside us, demanding safe schools. He fails to understand what our schools and our community stand for and value. We want to collaborate and build trust with the administration. However, Ponds is too single-­‐minded to talk with us and come to a resolution, more interested in causing a distraction from his inability to lead.

“We are extremely disappointed in the district, for failing to provide requested documentation, for sowing seeds of doubt and resentment between parents and educators, and for violating our mediation process,” said Montclair Education Association President Petal Robertson. “The MEA has been and will continue to advocate on behalf of our students and staff and their families. And, as for going to court, the Superintendent has threatened us with litigation time and time again, despite our many requests to handle our differences through restorative practices. The MEA commits to leaving no stone unturned in our efforts to provide safe schools for our community.”

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21 COMMENTS

  1. Yeah, the NIH & CDC…and that CHB thing back when combine to undercut your case. Maybe you should think about a quick settlement?

  2. “The MEA has been and will continue to advocate on behalf of our students and staff and their families.”

    Students? Their Families? Really?

  3. The teachers union represents the interests of their members. They do not represent the interest of students or their families and every time they say they do it is disingenuos and increasingly obnoxious. And the current circumstances in which the schools stay closed while the town sues the union, and the Mayor remains our Mayor and an officer of the NJEA is untenable. The Mayor’s intent may be honorable but under these circumstances the honorable thing to do is resign. He is showing terrible judgment,

  4. All over NJ there are selfish little people who are not yet eligible for vaccination, hitting refresh on the site all day because they are working from home, jumping the line, while Governor Smokers First keeps telling teachers to be patient. Teachers, among others taken for granted in this greed-is-good country, have every right to be outraged and afraid. The union’s No. 1 priority is to protect its members? Gee, what an original thought. Perhaps the resentment of this comes largely from the entitled class that had little respect for teachers long before this darned pandemic got in the way of junior’s rightful path to Harvard. Vaccinate the teachers and they’ll go back to work happily–and the town will be spared all of this acrimony that does no one any good, including everyone’s property values. And shame on you clowns who perpetuate the notion that they are getting away with something while working at home, as if that’s what they prefer.

  5. Of course, teachers in school should be vaccinated before “smokers” and, of course, the teacher’s union number one priority should be to protect its members. That is what unions do and should do. It is an honorable cause. But please don’t confuse the interest of the union and the interest of school kids. They are not the same and claiming they are is disingenuos and sometimes obnoxious.

  6. So, fine, we are in agreement. Vaccinate teachers over the next several weeks, especially when the one-shot J&J vaccine gets emergency approval, and we can put an end to this divisiveness that will ultimately do no one any good.

  7. I would say Montclair Public’s post is a perfect advertisement for why there should be more Charter Schools and school vouchers. Who is the entitled class anyway? You can’t possibly be referring to those that pay for the entitlements could you? I am not wealthy but I know better than to bite the hand that feeds me. I remember the good old days when teaching was pretty much a part time job and half the teachers were someone’s mom. At least the educational system had an excuse for students poor performance. Respect is earned and attacking students hard working parents is no way to earn it. I thought with Trump gone the Trumpian attack tactics would cease…guess not. Some teachers are very good and some not so much yet it is not reflected in pay. People in the private sector have a tough time getting their heads around that.

  8. “I remember the good old days when teaching was pretty much a part time job and half the teachers were someone’s mom.”

    I rest my case.

  9. Are you kidding me? This is just the beginning. Think about. Really? At least try to look over the next hill. Do you see all the other hills? C’mon, just a tinsy bit of effort.

    When it comes to the MPSD and the MEA, they are just our Hatfields & McCoys. And the Hatfields & McCoys were smarter. On the other hand, the MSPD & its MEA don’t even have the institutional memory to the origins of their feud. Really, ask anyone. Literally, anyone. No, this is going to be the same phenomenally stupid stuff both excel at. I laugh at the thought. This is going to make that thing back in c. 2013 about leaking tests and spying look like a Welcome Wagon social.

    And it can only exist with the cooperation of the parents & caregivers. Many are the enablers, and some more. The parents are also pinnacles of self-interests. My all-time favorites are the PTAs. Yup, if the District and the MEA are in court, then I see the parents hands in behind the curtain. Yup. Of course, everyone has everyone’s self-interests at heart…and saving the planet.

    You guys broke it. You can fix it. Well, not really. But, you can all put on a show of trying.

  10. Nobody thinks the teachers are “getting away with something while working at home” as you put it above MP! It’s just that it is not serving the students and there is no real reason that Montclair teachers cannot return to some form of in-person learning like the multitude of other districts around the state (and AROUND THE COUNTRY). They have been doing it safely since September. It sound like safety measures have been put in place (just like for other essential workers who are not working from home during the pandemic, and doing so pretty successfully such as healthcare workers, police, store workers, daycare centers and many others!)
    Goose & Gander, remember? It’s about the kids. And it’s so disingenuous that the union keeps touting that they are concerned about the health of the students in all of this! Like the others above called out, it’s only about what the union wants for itself.
    But for a teacher to work from home (while noone is saying they are “getting away with something”) lets admit it, it’s a whole lot easier than in-person instruction when there are discipline and emotional issues that must be dealt with during in-building learning that one doesn’t have while students are remote.
    P.S. The CDC just today confirmed teachers can return to in-person teaching safely without being vaccinated as long as safety measures are in place. And remember — Not every teacher is going to choose to be vaccinated.

  11. And for few of you that think relationships are important in an organization being successful, AND FOLLOW the childish BoE/MPS/MEA/PTA dynamic over the years, what would you say of these relationships? Constructive? Productive? And your measure is what again?

    Having good relationships in good or easy times is not hard. I know Montclair gives people credit for this. But, what happens to those relationships when times are hard or face real pressures?
    Do we come together? No way.
    Do we say you’re my partner, let’s work on this? Absolutely no way.
    No, faced with difficult times in Montclair, our pretend relationships do what pretend relationship do under pressure. And then we really start to fight. Nasty. Winner takes all. Fire people. Sacrifice people. Demean people.

    And yes, property values will drop because the district will collapse from lack of performance, tens of millions in new debt and a student body that will take years to return to a level of mediocrity we had in 2019-20. So, may the best party win.

  12. The NIH, CDC, and various experts have spent the last 5 days clarifying their confusing and contradictory remarks. This is an everyman-on-deck clean up of senseless missives to the media. The return to schools is one of the best. They said there had to be proper ventilation and testing to return to schools. Montclair has no testing and reliable mechanical ventilation in Bullock. Yes, the silly union could have started in-person at Bullock. They had their reasons not to. But, to say they were blind-sided on the lawsuit? C’mon! At a certain point the members have to take responsibility. You can’t get a free pass and blame your leadership.
    The MPS, on the other hand, is screwed. You basically have to wait for vaccines or give N95 masks to everyone. Don;t get me started about the 2-mask debacle this weekend. Science? No Science? Common sense? Pick a stupid lane. Horrible. And the kids do suffer because of the mass incompetence of all the adults.

    My advice – deal with it.

  13. And the best was ‘stop the replication, stop the mutation’…combined with you still will get infected after vaccinations & infect others…but, you will not be hospitalized or die. Or that is what we are thinking while we wait for the science.

    And the laypeople are confused? Just ignore what we said about the coming 6-8 weeks? We can start sending everyone back to school and opening up gyms, etc, etc. Yup, let’s open every sector up. 1MM.

  14. The MEA made it an equity issue!

    I told you this would get better and better.
    I’m betting misogyny crops up soon. Nothing is out of bounds among these warring parties.

    Remember folks, it’s always about the kids…even in wartime!

  15. Prove it’s safe and the teachers will come back, and gladly. I have not met a more dedicated group of teachers than in Montclair. Amidst all the parents bickering and attacking, downed staircases, multiple superintendents and CO staff changes they have taught our children with nary a complaint. (ok well some but we all have those)

    SnT says,”…there is no real reason that Montclair teachers cannot return to some form of in-person learning like the multitude of other districts around the state (and AROUND THE COUNTRY).” So let’s pull this apart a little. How many districts in NJ are fully remote? Why? Perhaps there IS a reason other districts are still remote wouldn’t you say? Could it be that they don’t feel safe for themselves and the children? Not vaccinated, poor ventilation, crowded conditions ripe for spreader events?

    I believe that Gov. Murphy’s EO states that in person schooling is required only if safety is guaranteed and teachers and staff are comfortable. That is one lame EO, imo. So here’s a suggestion for Montclair. Prove proper ventilation currently not a silly spreadsheet from October. Show exactly how the $400k purifiers change conditions in a room where a virus is airborne. Or.. fix 3 buildings completely. That would reduce the 26M price tag to maybe 5 Mil. Split up the classes into those 3 buildings on a rotating basis, i.e. a hybrid model. And while you’re doing that, (should have been done months ago) camp out in Trenton and demand your teachers get vaccines.

    The other option.. sue the union trying to protect their membership. I think SnT that would be your choice correct? That’s what they signed up for, right? Retire if you don’t like it. Well I submit teaching in a pandemic is actually not what they signed up for. And who would teach our darlings when they retire en mass? I think you wouldn’t be happy with the student teacher replacements with zero experience. The heck with public education, just make all charter schools. That didn’t bode well for a previous superintendent did it?

    Why not put our support and efforts behind the teachers, get the buildings safe for everyone, get the staff vaccinated and call it a year. Yes, it is awful but like it or not this virus is not going away anytime soon. On the contrary it’s getting worse unlike any other virus up to this point. It’s mutating up not down and that is a bad sign. MP you have it right, support the teachers and get everything safe for return in September.

  16. Blaming Governor Murphy is a distraction…and you know it. Get serious.

    The CDC just screwed it up…again! Different administration, same ‘What were you thinking?’ leadership and and scientists we should not let talk to the media. No more issuing common sense reports. We can do that. Just let them issue technical stuff, in writing, under the CDC masthead. Now, our newest President has to thread his unity needle because stick, half the country wants A and the other half wants B. And its all a mix of Democrats & Republicans.

    Now, I said the elementary teachers were the heroes for the day. They can now thank their leadership for really screwing up that brief highlight. And, equal condemnation goes to the BoE. It would are nice if they had any value added, too. Not this group. They want everyone to like them. Please like me. The 2013 BoE had some backbones and spoke their beliefs. They had conviction. Right & wrong. But, they didn’t do it by proxy. The MEA had to use the elementary teachers. The BoE used a Superintendent still in a probationary period.

    It doesn’t matter now what happens. But, be very, very clear people that what you are seeing is nothing remotely new or different. This has been going on for 45 years. But, I guess you are the new generation. Smarter, better educated, faster than those before you.
    No, it is your fault teachers. No, it is not your fault parents & caregivers. And, it can’t be the leadership. We’ve swapped out countless Superintendents. We’ve replaced all most of the BoE many times over. OK, yes Montclair, let’s blame Governor Murphy for this long, sordid legacy of mediocrity. And you all will now step in and fix it all. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  17. We won’t do it, so we won’t plan it, but organizations that strive for excellence benchmark. That means testing. That means we can’t discard our preaching about following the science and the data. At least not in front of the kids.

    Just one of this inconvenient hills to traverse.

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