MontClairVoyant: Electing to Support an Elected Board of Education

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
It looks like there’ll be a referendum this November on whether Montclair’s Board of Education should change from appointed to elected. How many approved signatures were on Vote Montclair’s referendum petition?

Sincerely,
The Count of Mountie Cristo

Thirteen more than the 1,020 needed. That’s a baker’s dozen, which reminds me that a giant with a big spoon eating bagels floating in a vat of milk is the equivalent of an average-size person eating a bowl of Cheerios.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Um…okayyy. Do you support turning one of New Jersey’s few appointed BOEs (Montclair’s) into an elected one?

Sincerely,
Your Opinion, Minion

A “bowl of cereal” as large as the giant was consuming might be heavy enough to send a kitchen table crashing through the floor, so no BOE meetings in that giant’s basement, please.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
I can see you’re trying to avoid the question. Again, do you want Montclair’s BOE to become an elected entity?

Sincerely,
Anne Surr

The milk in that vat of bagels can of course be plant-based; I suggest purchasing unsweetened Almond Breeze in the 64-ton carton — which, when empty, can handle vehicle overflow from the Orange Road parking deck.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Whatever. One more time: elected or appointed board?

Sincerely,
Rhea Spond

Tough decision, but I say elected. More democratic. Less autocratic. More aromatic (if coffee is sold outside polling places). More acrobatic (if you spill that coffee in your lap and jump 10 feet in the air).

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
But, as has been noted before, might rich education “reformers” pour money into election campaigns of BOE candidates who share their disturbing love of high-stakes testing and charter schools and their disturbing hatred of teacher unions?

Sincerely,
Education Aggravation

That’s possible, but I hope and believe most Montclair voters are smart and informed enough to see through that. Those voters are clear thinkers, except when they spill coffee in their laps and…

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
I know, I know…jump 10 feet in the air. Was one thing that soured you on our town’s appointed BOE its support of this year’s appalling lawsuit against the Montclair Education Association?

Sincerely,
Bad-Move Groove

Yes. The MEA union was rightfully reluctant to return to classrooms before school buildings were safe enough for its members and students. That was when COVID vaccinations, and 64-ton Almond Breeze cartons, were less widespread.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Other depressing things some of Montclair’s mayor-appointed BOE members have done over the years?

Sincerely,
Sad to the Bone

Several made bitter accusatory statements when departing, some hired a shockingly divisive superintendent nearly a decade ago, etc. An appointed BOE isn’t immune from peeves, problems, politics, and pineapples. (Absurd alliteration alert.)

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Plus more than one mayor has picked some pals for the board over the years. But appointed BOE members work hard, don’t they?

Sincerely,
Toiler Alert

Absolutely (as would elected members). To paraphrase Donna Summer, “they work hard for no money.” Still, “Heaven Knows” this might be the “Last Dance” for an appointed BOE.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Sheesh — let’s not overdo the naming of Summer songs, especially when it’s still Spring. Anything else to add?

Sincerely,
Love to Loathe You, Baby

If the referendum happens, it would be on November 2 — the 1734 birth date of frontiersman Daniel Boone, who saw early BOE agendas growing wild in the woods of Kentucky.

 

 

Dave Astor, author, is the MontClairVoyant. His opinions about politics and local events are strictly his own and do not represent or reflect the views of Baristanet.

 

 

Click here to sign up for Baristanet's free daily emails and news alerts.

12 COMMENTS

  1. I have no doubt that an elected school board will bring higher education costs on a per pupil basis, a steep learning curve with many missteps, a considerable expansion of the Central Office, and upgrades to Superintendent and CFO supported by more financial and legal consultants. Further, it will bring cumbersome procedural requirements to redirect account surpluses throughout the year and year over year. I am unclear how it would increase transparency, but I’m hopeful. It will take some getting used to a calendar fiscal year (Jan/Dec) view versus our current school year budgeting view. I’m pretty sure we will see candidates, on both “sides” running on slates funded by deep pockets in town and out….as we saw in the muni election.
    Fortunately, voters know this and are smart & knowledgeable enough and will know exactly where this money is coming from.

    I do think the district, as a State authorized body here for all things educational must be the lead in educating the voters and answer our questions before the referendum. To abdicate this responsibility to 3rd parties (eg: LWV, NJEA, Vote Montclair or the muni government) would be quite an indictment of our public education leadership & stakeholder influences.

  2. And let’s pray they don’t offload their responsibility to some ridiculous task force!

  3. Thank you for the comments, Frank.

    I don’t see an elected BOE necessarily bringing higher education costs. For one thing, residents would have more control over the school budget because they’d directly vote on that rather than a Board of School Estimate voting on that.

    Yes, there’d be a learning curve for elected BOE members, but there’s one for appointed BOE members, too.

    Like you, I’m afraid there’d be “deep pockets” backing BOE election campaigns — as we saw for one candidate in last year’s mayoral campaign, as you noted. Of course, all the money that went to that candidate’s victorious campaign had potential indirect influence on BOE appointments because any Montclair mayor currently has the power to make those appointments.

  4. And the task force the Mayor arranged? One has just has to look at that, and who is on the TF, from Day 1, and there is no other interpretation but a vote of no confidence in the Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent. Get you resumes out.

    Ignore the Mayor’s received conflict of interest! That is a silly way to look at it. Look at it as the soon-to-be the most senior executive in the State’s teacher’s union, the pinnacle of power and resources in NJ, wanting to put together a help group because the NJEA sees the train wreck coming. Now look at who is on it. Did you really look? OK, then it is inescapable conclusion the purpose is to backstop the Superintendent. Something you really can’t do in the view of the public. You can’t have a perceived quorum. So, you take all the constituencies and send them to a task force with no meeting agendas, no minutes, no visibility.

    And an elected board will fix all this? I keep saying Montclair is a township of typical intelligence that thinks very highly of itself. Ever met the tooth fairy?

  5. Frank, I agree that task forces of any kind, anywhere are often a waste of time and effort — a way to “study” the obvious and delay, diffuse, or avoid decision-making. Some exceptions.

    An elected BOE would not be a panacea. Hopefully, somewhat of an improvement.

    I realize you’re probably being hyperbolic in your 7:07 pm comment, but there’s no Montclair leader or official as bad as Trump. Not even close.

  6. I wasn’t clear, but I wasn’t comparing leaders. It was intended to be a prediction of the phenomena going to the next level. Just ignore.

    I’m still going back & forth on appointed v. elected. There is no doubt the district has been broken for a very long time…as you also point out. I laugh because the collective memory always seems to stop at 2012. Public education did not exist in Montclair before. Just funny.

    I hope an elected board will re-examine our magnet school system.

  7. Frank, I’ve also had mixed feelings on whether or not to switch to an elected BOE. After the appointed BOE made a number of unfortunate decisions (amid some good decisions) over the years, the 2021 suing of the Montclair Education Association was the final straw for me. (As an aside, “interesting” that the BOE supported that lawsuit to try to force teachers and other staffers back to in-person school before vaccinations were widespread yet the BOE continued to meet virtually for safety reasons.)

    I don’t think the district in general has been “broken”; central leadership (the BOE, some superintendents, etc.) has at times been “broken.” Most teachers, paras, principals, and other school-specific personnel have been doing their jobs just fine.

    I hope an elected BOE would NOT reexamine Montclair’s magnet system. I think that system is one of our district’s major strengths.

  8. Noted, but then it seems like a whole lot of effort to fix, or just create a workaround to something that hasn’t had a systemic impact of the performance of the district…if it is not broken?

    Maybe this effort is analogous to replacing an electric car’s battery?

    Of course, if the many the BoE’s over the decades had a systemic impact on the district’s performance, then maybe it is more than a battery replacement job?

    Maybe an elected BoE will bring the car into the shop and put it up on a lift for a good look underneath.
    Yes, we know previous crashes have dented & misaligned the frame. That is structural, so let’s file a claim.
    Yes, as with older models, the front seat backs lack proper support and endanger those in the rear. .
    Yes, the dashboard’s dials and gauges are analog and hard to find.
    Yes, the bucket seating needs to be replaced by bench seating.
    Yes, a disproportionate amount of the drive power is going to the front wheels in spite of the numerous recall notices to switch to all-wheel drive.
    Yes, the window defrosting systems are ineffective when there is more than a overnight frost.
    Yes, the rear view mirrors are small and narrow of field when later models have wide-angle cameras to fully understand what is coming up from the rear.
    Yes, let’s bring the car down off the lift, pop the hood and put in a new battery. Add the new tires that last 3 years and we’re looking Joe Jackson sharp.

  9. Impressive metaphorical riff, Frank! There’s no guarantee an elected BOE would be better than the current appointed system. Basically, it’s a “worth a try” thing.

  10. I appreciate that, Frank! And thank you for often sharing your detailed knowledge of, and opinions about, what’s going on in Montclair.