MontClairVoyant: About a BOE — Greater? — Nine Days Later

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Can you do a post-mortem on the welcome results of the November 2 referendum that will change Montclair’s Board of Education from appointed to elected?

Sincerely,

Autopsy Minus an Auto

The “for” vote was huge: roughly 70 percent. That’s the widest margin I’ve seen since I left lots of blank space on the left side of a Word document to make room for a picture of Garfield the cat eating baked ziti.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

He eats lasagna, you idiot. Given the transition process to an elected BOE, will funding for much-needed work on our town’s old school buildings unfortunately be delayed?

Sincerely,

Time in a Bottleneck

Maybe. The appointed BOE, and especially the Board of School Estimate, had the power over the years to push for more infrastructure fixes to happen, but often dropped the ball. Not a sparkly disco ball that would’ve meant…DANCE PARTY!

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Many voters feel one reason for the referendum result was dissatisfaction with Mayor Spiller appointing BOE members while also being president of the New Jersey Education Association. Your take?

Sincerely,

Eunice on Union Street

I was dismayed that Spiller’s 2020 mayoral campaign grossly outspent a highly qualified opponent (Renee Baskerville) but I’m not upset with him heading the NJEA. Many mayors have outside jobs, even when they work inside. Or something.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

But isn’t an NJEA prez appointing BOE members a conflict of interest?

Sincerely,

Perception Conception

Previous Montclair leaders also had conflicts of some sort. For instance, Mayor Jackson (2012-2020) pushed overbuilding even as his resume included real-estate development. We see the results downtown, “where the suburb meets the city.” Not sure which dating app was responsible for THAT.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Go on.

Sincerely,

U. May-Continue

For whatever reason, Mayor Fried (2008-2012) appointed some education-“reform” types to the BOE who helped give our district an unpopular superintendent, an overemphasis on tests, and an enemies list — though those appointees did refrain from changing Bradford School’s name to Bradchevrolet.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Auto-correct is in order, because that renaming scenario is total fiction. But it IS possible that our town’s beloved, much-needed library — which offers books and lots more in/from its buildings on South Fullerton and Bellevue — may not get enough municipal funding.

Sincerely,

The Bucks Stop There?

That would be a big mistake. Without a (figurative) TON of financial support for the library, South FullerTON would be just South Fuller.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Would not. Meanwhile, people can donate during the Montclair Public Library Foundation’s current fundraising drive — a drive that has nothing to do with Fords or Chevrolets. Any final words about the library?

Sincerely,

The Lit and the Pendulum

Where else can one borrow the definitive novel about the contentious November 2 referendum? Yes, I’m talking about “War and Peace.”

 

 

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.

 

 

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27 COMMENTS

  1. 1.) “Acadience reading is a standardized universal screening assessment”
    OMG, another standardized test from Corporate America! Personally, I would rather have 3rd Graders unable to read at grade level then to incentivize the MEA to teach to the test. Just disgusting how those that care about children capitulated to improving their personal 401(k) performance. My God, standardized testing will rot our children’s brains.

    Thankfully our emerging elected BoE membership will take care of this in 2023.

    2.) “…gentrification was a major factor in the vote for an elected school board”
    Does that mean progressiveness flourishes under gentrification? Good with the bad. Yin and Yang. Gee whiz, we have figured out life.

  2. Thank you, Frank, for the seriocomic comment. 🙂

    I’m not sure exactly what you’re saying about standardized testing, but I believe it should be kept to a minimum. Perhaps once in elementary school and once in middle school before the SATs of the high school years. Instead we got/get the yearly PARCCs-turned-NJSLAs (though COVID temporarily made them not quite annual) for which prep time and actual-test-taking time take away from more useful and interesting learning time. And the standardized graduation exams? Ugh. I trust teachers to create their own tests and decide how often to give them.

    I don’t think Montclair’s gentrification had a lot to do with the BOE referendum result, unless a more affluent population is likelier to prefer an elected board. Not sure about that; I think there was quite a diverse group of voters not happy with the appointed BOE and the Board of School Estimate.

  3. Thank you for the follow-up comment, Frank!

    That test is seemingly designed to identify students who need help with reading. But teachers can identify such students without a standardized test. So the circled “R” next to Acadience could stand for “redundant.” 🙂

  4. One would think. But, one would also think 1) this indicates the presence of ongoing, systemic deficiencies in reading levels among elementary school students, and 2) the district current remediation practices aren’t cutting it. It reminds me of allowing Boeing’s airworthiness self-certification of its 737 Max. There are limits to the faith we bestow in organizations to self-regulate. So how do we audit performance? Anecdotally? How many quality defects are too many?

  5. Fair points, Frank. But the “achievement gap” (which includes a reading-level gap) is already known. Another standardized test won’t give us enough additional info to be worth the time and expense. It’s very difficult for any individual school district with a socioeconomically diverse population to deal with the problem when there are such huge inequities in this region and the U.S. in general.

  6. So, all the elementary students not reading at grade level are from a socioeconomically disadvantaged households? No other household circumstances would lead students to underperform to their grade level…or is that not our problem? You might want to think that one through a little more.

  7. If I implied that, I wasn’t being clear. Perhaps there’s a better chance of having some reading issues when one is from a socioeconomically disadvantaged household, but one of course can have those difficulties when brought up in an affluent household or in various other circumstances.

  8. I was hopeful that from COVID there would be a silver lining outcome for elevating magnet school performance. The almost two years of “follow the science” mantra. We would take a moon-shot effort at objective data collection & measures of ‘How are we doing?”

    We did have a lot of anti-data folks jump on the bandwagon for a while and said the words over Zoom “let’s see where the data takes us”. Then everyone began to massage the data for their own agendas. The we flattened that curve. The spike of science is being beaten back.

    On a closely related track 70% of We The People deliberately postponed fixing the most pressing HVAC issues for a year to have an elected school board, NOW . We couldn’t have voted for an elected school board next year? Spiller will still be here. Nope, we traded-off a safer environment so the adults could feel better about themselves.

    That’s is where we have been with the MPSD for decades. It is our equilibrium. I try to be hopeful for change, but I have seen this movie many times before. We have already set a low bar of it can’t be worse. That’s our JFK moment. It can’t be worse.

  9. Frank, having the BOE referendum in 2022 rather than 2021 makes sense in a way. But so many people had lost confidence in the BOE, and the associated Board of School Estimate, that they would wonder if the BOE and BOSE would do what’s needed to be done in those extra 12 months.

    Data? I was a fan of the android Data on “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” 🙂 Seriously, data is good but can be overdone, can be interpreted to fit preconceived notions, and can be relied on at the expense of the human element.

  10. Hey, I sleep at night knowing I did my part to get $ for HVAC improvements this school year.

    Admittedly, data in a Democracy like ours is overrated…as is transparency. Montclair parental cohorts in this decade have all the same bad qualities of their 1950’s era predecessors…along with the same level of imagination. Which was not high. I thought the children were goin’ to be better parents and not make their mistakes. I can admit when I am flat-out wrong.

    Yes, I would think fresh Angel’s pitas will pair nicely with the hubris.

  11. Well, many Montclair parents are great — I’ve met quite a few through my daughters — and some are (insert whatever adjective you’d like). Hard to generalize. 🙂

  12. “On a closely related track 70% of We The People deliberately postponed fixing the most pressing HVAC issues for a year to have an elected school board, NOW . We couldn’t have voted for an elected school board next year? Spiller will still be here. Nope, we traded-off a safer environment so the adults could feel better about themselves.”

    Couldn’t resist coming out of retirement to say this is Frank’s most astute comment…ever!

  13. I’ve met a few, too. Over quite a span of time. Clearly this latest crop is far and away superior. They are more intelligent. They have higher EQ’s. They are just more evolved. I worry their grandparents have pangs of inadequacy.

  14. Ha, Frank! 😂 Your comment almost makes Montclair seem like the setting of a sci-fi novel. 🙂

    And thank you for the comment, Montclair Public!

  15. MP: If stating the obvious rates “most astute ever”, I think you have either lowered your standards or you couldn’t resist commenting on the stupidity of the majority. Which, again, are demonstrably more advanced than their parents & grandparents.

  16. As to the Bellevue Branch now closed, due to major flooding of basement – once again!
    I’ve lost count. Is that the 4th, 5th, 6th time in the last 2 decades? I think that would be considered a wet basement. Knowing this, The Friends or The Foundation should ask why this continues to happen. Oh, right. The MPL has had grandiose plans to renovate this branch for 25 years.

    And the Board didn’t know of the problem from a flood 2 months ago?
    Some people shouldn’t own. They are not suited for it. They should rent.

  17. FYI, this is not a flood-prone area. It is the building’s design, preventative measures and its maintenance that creates the basement flooding. In other words, a waste of $10,000. It didn’t have to happen.

  18. Frank, very unfortunate about the Bellevue Branch closing temporarily because of no heat. Would indeed have been nice if the boiler were checked right after Ida. Of course, with the town withholding library funding since August (funding that will now be released, according to what was said at November 15’s Township Council meeting), the library hasn’t exactly been rolling in money to do things like fix a boiler.

  19. True. Of course, the Library Trustees & The Foundation probably should have listened to the Friends of the Bellevue Branch – who also are friends of the First Ward Councilor.

    I have to believe dealing with both the BoE and the MPL Trustees was asking a lot of Deputy Mayor Hurlock. Especially when he was blindsided by both. Of course, he made this bed of his.

    Look, (I love when people say this to get people to listen), 70% of Montclair voters couldn’t even deal with the BoE alone. The appointed MPL Trustees are very similar to the appointed BoE in many ways. Scary how similar. The constant power struggles. The Irregularities ‘R Us thing (would it be more reassuring if it was due to malicious intent?). Transparency. The Public Over-Slights

    My all-time favorites are the Friends & Foundation folks; especially those who hold leadership roles.
    The Americans With Disabilities Act was enacted in 1990. The MPL’s argument – 31 years later – is rather than make Bellevue Branch ADA compliant, they will just move all these fundamental and critical community programs to South Fullerton. Wow. Just wow. It reminds me of the BoE spending money on new athletic facilities as their classrooms – their reason for being – crumbles.

    The Spirit of Can’t Do pervades. Just give them their power and status. Have at it.

  20. Fun facts:
    We have made our Up Mtc fire house ADA compliant (including the public bathroom), but not the library branch. I’m unsure if it has to meet the new gender signage requirement.

    The Senior Bus, if requested, will stop and pick you up at the Bellevue Branch and take you to the Main Branch.

  21. Frank, re dealing with things — if Councilor-at-Large Peter Yacobellis had the “portfolios” you mentioned that the First Ward councilman has, I suspect things would have been accomplished more, better, and differently.

    Some of the library trustees may or may not be ideal, but the fact remains that the library should be adequately funded by the town and have a lot of autonomy. It almost goes without saying that the library is an important and beloved institution in Montclair.

    Unfortunately, athletic fields and facilities can indeed be prioritized over classrooms — in Montclair, in other towns, at universities, etc. (I say that as the parent of a two-sport athlete.)

    it would be great — and so helpful to many people — if the quite old Bellevue Branch would be made more disability-friendly, but I’m sure cost (in addition to inertia, etc.) has been a delay factor. I’m glad Montclair, unlike some other towns, has two library branches — with the main one disability-friendly.

  22. Fund the library above the third of a mil! Got it. We all get it! Anyone here that doesn’t get it? Good.

    Fund them another million. Fund them $500K. Fund them $3MM. But, they have to be 1) transparent, not opaque, 2) they have to use best practices accounting, 3) and they can’t circulate a draft budget ever again. I personally don’t think they are the sharpest tacks in the box, but some body (an accountable body) authorizes the introduction of a budget. They can finalize it at some point, but adults don’t put out draft budgets under someone else’s name.

    Dave, Councilor Yacobellis is just as guilty as Mr Hurlock. He might spin it that he isn’t, but we are in this situation because of the Library Trustees and the Council, in toto. (R.B. 🙂 Both are where the proverbial buck stops)

    That is what has me so angry with the players on both sides. They cowardly put the Township CFO out front. That showed a lack of character and small minds.

    PS: Everyone knows the Council committee system is not working. Each Councilor said so directly or indirectly. It is not about policy differences. The process is not working. Last Monday we saw the latest demonstration of it.

  23. I’m glad Montclair, unlike some other towns, has two library branches — with the main one disability-friendly.

    This is an excellent point and should guide us going forward. We have redundant magnet themed schools, e.g. STEM? We could save quite a nice little chunk of capital cost if we just made one of each them disability friendly and the other can be for the able-bodied students. Your are definitely on to something here which I thing will strike a chord of agreement among parents & the Aging In Montclair group to how we should define inclusivity. A modern riff on ‘separate, but equal’.

  24. Frank, of course the Bellevue Branch should be made disability-compliant. But until it is, at least the main library branch is disability-compliant. I know you’re partly joking, but I don’t believe in “separate but equal” (which is historically never equal). Well, maybe I believe in it when a bagel is skillfully cut in half…

    I think the library is competently run, albeit not perfect, and it has acquitted itself well during the pandemic. Better run than the Township Council, in my humble opinion. Transparency? There ARE many big windows at the main branch on South Fullerton. 🙂

  25. Truth be told, I didn’t know until recently the Mayor appointed the MPL Trustees. Transparency? I bet you didn’t know the Trusted Trustees bought the Cone of Silence when the network cancelled Get Smart. BTW, do you remember Hymie? I think Councilor Russo was referencing Hymie during the Council meeting when the Councilor reminded everyone of the problems with the library way back when. Back when this company called IBM simultaneously cornered both the mainframe and typewriter markets? Of course, Montclair was a backwater then. We’re all grown up now and all that. We even get a Porta Montclair @ the old MSC.

  26. Buying the “Get Smart” sitcom’s Cone of Silence — LOL! 😂 If anyone’s aim is a bit off when trying to place a book through the library’s return slot, they can echo Maxwell Smart by saying: “Missed it by that much.”