Montclair Schools Brief: 459 Students Left District; Others Experiencing ‘Irreparable Harm’

Montclair, N.J. – Montclair Public Schools have seen an increase in the number of legal cases filed against the district from parents seeking out of district placements and a loss of 459 students who dis-enrolled from the district during the 2020-2021 school year, according to a brief filed by Montclair Board of Education in its lawsuit against the Montclair Education Association.

The document, filed by attorney Isabel Machado in New Jersey Superior Court, states that the delay in returning to in person instruction is causing irreparable harm to students.

The document states that on February 19, 2021, district parents filed on behalf of their special education student against the District for emergent relief and due process. The parents claim that their student significantly regressed as a result of being denied any in-person services, including no hybrid model instruction,
since March 2020. The parents are seeking not only compensatory services, but also attorney’s fees and the tuition cost of an out-of-district placement that is currently providing in-person instruction.

The District says it has also experienced “a dramatic increase in the number of students requiring partial
care facilities or temporary full-time residential facilities to address their mental health. The District has seen an increase in the number of students requiring home instruction or bedside instruction, which takes place at an inpatient or partial care facility. To date, the District has twenty-four (24) general education students and special education students on home instruction due to mental health issues. From March 2020 to March 2021, the number of additional students placed in out-of-district therapeutic schools is nine (9).”

Enrollment reports show the district had 6,597 students during the 2019-2020 school year. During the 2020-2021 school year, 459 students left the Montclair Public School District, approximately 7% of students. Out of those 459, 246 are elementary students, according to an affidavit from Superintendent Dr. Jonathan Ponds.

The document also states the District has “incurred $1,200,832.09 in expenditures for various repairs, equipment, supplies, and investigated work to remediate maintenance issues for the opening of schools.”

In conclusion, Machado states: “To avoid the continued immediate irreparable harm, we respectfully urge the Court to prohibit the Montclair Education Association from continuing its illegal strike and/or concerted effort to deny the District the required manpower and order the Montclair Education Association members to return to work at the school building, as instructed.”

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  1. It really is way too easy to criticize the School district. Almost unfair, but…

    I love the school district’s transparency choices. Page 2 of their budget is an increase of $31,023 in a $136MM budget…because it is for Charter School Tuition. Meanwhile, they file a brief with the court about the substantial legal cost damages they are facing and the COVID related expenses of $1.2MM.

    But, they chose to highlight Charter School Tuition. You might was well have the BoE members sign the petition for an elected school board.

    You truly can not make this stuff up.

  2. Central Office emphasizes of the $214 INCREASE to school taxes:
    (for a median assessed homeowner property tax)

    $2.75 goes to Charter School Tuition.

    They didn’t emphasize:
    $10.93 will go toward Legal Services. That doesn’t count legal settlements.
    $88.23 will go towards the extraordinary COVID related costs incurred to date

  3. Sorry everyone. Ignore my posts here. Every year I get sucked into the school budget discussion. Every year it is the same ol’ Lucy & Charlie Brown with the football. Shame on me.

    As to what could have been done about the SpEd/K-3, not much. I wishfully thought there was a window, but it would have been a mistake.

    Montclair’s COVID weekly number were way above the metro, the regional and the country. We were double our number from last week. We can’t do outdoor teaching pilots at these levels without vaccinations. Period. End of story.

  4. sickndtired.

    I think the shaming of teachers in this instance is inappropriate. The taxpayers of Montclair are facing seriously large bills for these outside-the-district SpEd placements. I also think the SpEd parents have a case.

    We established the SpEd Rules of The Road years & years ago. I agree many are arbitrary, inconsistent and misallocated to needs. And Montclair taxpayers have to foot the bill for Montclair taxpayers.

    The parents of regular students don’t have any sort of case whatsoever and this is just about power sharing and stamping feet.. Surprise. Another fight in the Montclair school district over power.

    Renters & property owners without children take note – this ongoing bs is one overlooked reason why Montclair prices you out of town. They know “you don’t have a skin in the game”. Apologies for the crude phrase, but it seems to resonate with meat eaters. This is the social pact we have always operated under. BTW, you should organize to have your voice represented.

    Anyway. The argument you are suggesting is that the teachers should have come back and we would not have faced their claims for damages. Let’s say those damages are 100K/year/SpEd student. Do you know what it would cost to hospitalize a school staff person for COVID. The cost for a 2-week ICU stay. For the 1 in 12 who have to be re-hospitalized? Or the countless that have long hauler symptoms? Forget the dead.

    Anyway, look up the numbers. Then let’s revisit if teacher shaming is appropriate in this instance.

  5. FYI renters: Apparently you comprise 15,000 households in Montclair. 15,000. Now, single family households comprise just over 8,000. That’s a pretty big voting block. Almost 2:1. And you haven’t organized. Why? Seriously, why? TOOM is a splinter group. And for the Seniors, don’t you want your own facility – and also not have to share with kids?

  6. Congratulations to the MEA / NJEA for protecting their members from an incompetent administration that is only concerned with appearances. So they finally spend 1.2M on needed building improvements and they try to blame the union in court no less! How about lobbying Trenton and the US government for some of the 100 billion plus in school improvements slated to pass in the relief bill? Here’s an idea. Work with the union and members to fix some of the major concerns they have. Novel idea huh?

    You’re right Frank, you can’t make this stuff up. But someone is and needs to be held to account. How many cases of Covid are there in Montclair now who work in the government? How many quarantined? Are there any variants around? How many people have been vaccinated who work in the district and municipal government? What are you doing to get more vaccinated, nothing or something? These are the things that are important to know and address. Not demanding staff return to unsafe working conditions and blaming the union for students that are hurting. This is nationwide not local and focus is needed to fix it.

  7. The MEA needs to actually do something besides suing people they don’t like.
    Statistically, 30%-40% of their membership will not want to get vaccinated. Let’s not guess. If the MEA administration had any of the competency you speak of, they would poll their members and report out to the community the results by building. That will take 3 days.

    You can’t ask for full disclosure from our government and then not hold yourselves to the same standard. Parents need to make choices to return their progeny to school. They deserve to know the circumstance of the environment they will be in.

    This will not happen because as I have said many times before, the 3 stakeholder groups – the parents, the district and the MEA – are just one, ongoing toxic mess. The level of selflessness, awareness and community is undercut at every step. Nothing constructive or or good can get traction is this wacky, dysfunctional culture we call Montclair public education.

    The diversity and the social interaction are what drives learning in our schools.

  8. Excluding the portion with medical conditions and aggressively rounding downwards, I will look at the remaining 400 pupils. The good news here is that those 400 students that withdrew from the district will save us $4MM in variable cost per student portion (60%) of the $20K/year MPSD pupil expense. We also still collect the $2MM in school taxes from the property owners. I had to zero out the renter’s indirect property tax contribution as uncollectible (as is imaginary).
    That is $6MM on a $135MM annual budget. We have already established the districts cuts staff/headcount only to add it back after the Summer…every year. So, we have flexibility already built into the 80% of expenses comprising payroll and benefits.

    This is and remains a labor intensive industry with fairly consistent ratios. If your ‘losses’ increase as customers increase, then it makes sense to incentivize customers to leave you for the competition? The competition is still delivering on the public good.

  9. “The MEA needs to actually do something besides suing people they don’t like.”

    Frank, please get your accusations straight. The MEA hasn’t sued anyone. In the age of misinformation, these inaccuracies take on a life of their own–like the nonsense circulating that the MEA is staging an illegal strike. If that’s the case, it’s the only strike in the history of organized labor where the strikers are working twice as hard as they normally do.

  10. I’ve never suggested the MEA was wrong to stay out under the circumstances. The MEA is not doing anything illegal. What I have been saying is that the parents /the district/the MEA/ is over-the-top toxic dynamic.

    The MEA leadership? Better? Because they have shown me at every turn they do not like the district’s leadership among others. I’m not blaming them. And I didn’t say it was the reason they sue. I’m just not willing to apologize for that statement.

    Anyone look at Montclair’s COVID numbers over the last week? Anyone speak to those numbers? Is there really any leadership on this issue? From any of the above groups?

  11. I think you might agree the core membership of the above groups do not have relationships among each other based on trust. That’s why they’re so litigious between one another.
    Hence, it is impossible to have an organization strive for excellence, much less move in that direction. We waddle. We tread water. And now we just talk about our widespread uniqueness. Quite amusing.

  12. Frank, Amusing? Like haha funny? Do you look at your tax bill? How can St Cassians educate 3 kids for less than the price of 1 public school kid? I get it there are special needs kids in the public school equation but still. To pretend our schools us give a bang for the buck doesn’t hold water. It is not just a Montclair problem. Across the country public school education is failing. Diplomas and participation trophies for all!!!

  13. Frank, again, this was what you wrote: “The MEA needs to actually do something besides suing people they don’t like.”

    And, again, the MEA has not sued anyone. For the record.

  14. MP: This year, yes. But, I didn’t say just this year. Do you really want to go back in time? I’ll pick my favorite – the MEA members taking money to write standardized tests they didn’t believe in…which led to us to court. The was a an all-time lowlite. And sincere congratulations on your settlement.

    Thanks to the parents of these St Cassians students. Those parents are giving us $10K+ for nothing. 3 to 1 ratio? Please, may I have more of that?

  15. Geez, Frank, with these spinning skills, you could have been running the Trump briefing room.

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