MontClairVoyant: After Awful School Layoffs, You Could Hear a Spin Drop

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Eighty-three school staffers — including teachers and paraprofessionals — have reportedly received “non-renewal” letters as our district tries to close a possible 2022-23 budget gap. Comment?

Sincerely,

Dismayed in May

First of all, I’m not a fan of euphemistic language. Those education professionals have been LAID OFF. And the non-euphemistic word for “euphemistic” is…um…”duck-billed platypus.”

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Is not. Anyway, your reaction to the many layoffs?

Sincerely,

Nothing More Than Feelings

Awful for the teachers and paras, and awful for students — who will sadly even lose some music, art, and dance instructors. There isn’t enough yogurt in the world to make up for that loss of culture.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

But the superintendent has implied that Montclair would still have enough educators even with the layoffs and larger class sizes.

Sincerely,

Downplaying Downsizing

That’s public-relations spin. Less isn’t more, except for the Les Moore character in “Funky Winkerbean” — a comic strip with a title that should have been laid off instead.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Might some of the 83 be hired back before this fall?

Sincerely,

Autumnal and Void

Maybe. But they have the painful uncertainty of whether or not that happens, as well as health insurance worries. So, MEA means not only Montclair Education Association but Massive Employee Angst.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

There was certainly lots of understandable hurt and outrage expressed by attendees who spoke at May 16’s Board of Education meeting.

Sincerely,

Anger in Annex

Yes. Among the points made was that many of those laid off are people of color and that special-education students will be among those harmed by the reduction in staffing. Ugh and Ug (“h” non-renewed).

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

In other school news, mask-wearing is again optional (after a brief return to being required) despite the continuing COVID spike. Good idea?

Sincerely,

Strings Attached (to Ears)

Actually, I’d favor requiring masks in schools until next month’s end of the academic year, but that’s just me. I particularly like black masks; they remind me of Isabel Allende’s novel “Zorro.”


DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Speaking of COVID-related matters, residents should be allowed to phone in comments at all Township Council meetings — as a petition has sought. Because…

Sincerely,

Rhea Motely

…not everyone can attend meetings in person — including some seniors and people with health issues worried about COVID, parents with young children to take care of, residents who work late, and Martians STILL waiting for DeCamp to run buses in outer space.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

The aforementioned Ms. Allende appeared at Montclair events in 2020 and 2017 — even as the DLV Lounge has been in our town since 1972. That has meant 50 years of excellent live jazz music and more!

Sincerely,

Delightful Local Venue

There have been many changes on Bloomfield Avenue since ’72, when you could count the number of smartphones on the fingers of no hands.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

There was also the 100th birthday of the Bellevue Theatre, which opened in May 1922 and will hopefully soon reopen after being shuttered since 2017. Is our town having a plethora of major anniversaries or a cornucopia of major anniversaries?

Sincerely,

Big Words R Us

A Montclair sage once said: “Keep vocabulary simple and the school-district budget complicated.”

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

What else was said by that so-called sage who never existed?

Sincerely,

Sid the Squid

“Go to the Montclair Eco Fair this Saturday, May 21. You’ll be glad you did, Sid the Squid.”

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

You have a more diverse column readership than I thought. Is there yet another statement by that so-called sage who never existed?

Sincerely,

Your Invisible Friend

“Essex and Nishuane pools won’t be ready until late June because of construction work, so only Mountainside Pool will initially be open for the small furry creatures known as pool badgers.”

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Maybe the sage confused those mammal swimmers with pool BADGES, aka pool passes, which are now on sale. All residents with a child named Chlorine get a discount.

Sincerely,

Mr. Clean and Ms. Clean

A discount that can be applied to therapy costs for the embarrassingly named kid.

 

 

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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9 COMMENTS

  1. Dave,

    Yes, the annual dysfunction of the budget process continues. Yes, it was worse this year, but still the same, almost ageless “dog ate my homework” excuses and “see/speak/hear no evil” approach to the district’s structurally unsustainable financial precepts. Yes, the schools administration and the BoE made a mess of it, again. But, the stakeholders – specifically the parents & the MEA – deserve increasing harsh criticism. They do, or should know better, but they are off on the sidelines. Why is that?

    The district is raiding its surplus again this year – to the tune, as I understand it, of $4MM. Busing costs are up 38% ($3.4 MM) over the last 2 years, but busing is another untouchable. Avg cost per pupil actually is a tick down from LY, but transportation is not prt of that calculation. Enrollment is down 6%…about 20 classrooms worth..but headcount is another untouchable to them.

    The bottomline is the average homeowner will see a $220 increase in school levy…which will entirely go to paying the increased transportation costs. We continually fund excess headcount with temporary funding (grants, etc) which is just crazy way to build/retain/develop talent.

    All this is not new. The handwringing & histrionics is the same – just some new faces. The superintendent may be in over his head, but I think he is trying to bring change. Frankly, we have had our share of more experienced/proven administrators that ultimately are no match for the major stakeholders unwillingness to put in the hard work, partner on the hard choices and joint responsibility for a sound financial model. Why this continues to be our culture is a whole other conversation.

  2. Thank you for the comment, Frank.

    I don’t feel this is the fault of the MEA (whose members are suffering from the layoffs) and parents (whose children will have fewer teachers and paras). You’re right that the budget process has its problematic aspects, but that’s more the fault of school-district-wide administrators and the BOE. And even those administrators and the BOE can only do so much about costs outstripping revenue. I wish there was more state education aid, among other things.

    As for transportation costs going up, there are of course higher prices for gas (bad) and perhaps higher wages for bus drivers and bus aides (just guessing about that, but good for those workers if true) in order to get and retain enough drivers and aides. Busing remains a very good thing!

  3. Dave,

    Thank you for your comments. I agree. There is nothing we can do except dwell in our lament over our lot in life… and pass on our wisdom like the Greatest Gen did for Boomers and we passed to Gen X. Do what you know. Everything that’s old is new again!

  4. Thank you, Frank. Nothing wrong with passing on what is hopefully wisdom to people younger than us, though I like to think everyone in Montclair is Gen M. 🙂

  5. I believe in GroupThink, too.

    I do have one question for major stakeholder groups.
    As I mentioned above, the Budgetary Comparative Per Pupil Cost is projected lower than this year.
    What is the significance of that one figure?

  6. I think our Superintendent got a practical lesson using the average compensation (vs. median compensation) with his new, higher non-renewals projection. He should have known better using the budgeted benefits % (v. LY actual) He likely will remember these lessons.

    Math in May in Montclair.

  7. “Math in May in Montclair” — ha! 🙂 Arithmetic alliteration. 🙂

    I’m not overly impressed with the superintendent’s tenure so far, but I guess there’s a learning curve for everyone. (I suspect many people still haven’t forgotten that he sued the MEA in early 2021 when teachers were understandable hesitant to return to in-person instruction before vaccines were widespread and building ventilation was suspect.)

Comments are closed.