MontClairVoyant: Hard to Hear About Our School District’s Tone-Deaf Hire


DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Our school district’s hiring of an Executive Director of Communications and Community Engagement is unfortunate for several reasons. Can you name them?

Sincerely,

Multiple Mulling

Name “them”? I thought only one person was hired for that position.


DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

You’re being deliberately obtuse. The new guy is obviously competent and experienced, but isn’t it tone-deaf to pay a lot for a non-educator after many teachers and paraprofessionals were laid off just a few months ago for budget reasons?

Sincerely,

Bad Optics R Us

Yup — wrong priorities. School-district leaders should do their own communicating, and do it better. It’s not rocket science. Well, maybe it’s rocket science for the namesake of Buzz Aldrin Middle School…


DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Why else do you feel the hire was a mistake?

Sincerely,

Error Era

The new communications person worked under Michael Bloomberg when Bloomberg ran for president and when Bloomberg was mayor of New York City, which reminds me again that Manhattan is shaped like Glen Ridge.


DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Irrelevant tangent. What’s your problem with Bloomberg?

Sincerely,

Dislike of Mike

As mayor, he was anti-teacher union and pro-charter schools, which siphon crucial funds from public schools. Montclair residents resoundingly rejected a proposed charter school in 2016 — a year also known for being the filling in a local deli’s “2015-2017 Sandwich.”


DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

A sandwich that doesn’t exist. And didn’t the new communications person work for “The 74” — the education news agency, partly funded by right-wing billionaires, that’s also known for its anti-teacher union and pro-charter school slant?

Sincerely,

Did 74 Before 07042

Affirmative, even as I wonder if “The 74” was a merger of “The 37” and “The 37.”


DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Non sequitur. Getting back to Bloomberg, he holds decent views on gun safety and climate change but has been accused of misogynist behavior and, while mayor, pushed the “Stop and Frisk” policing program that harassed many innocent people of color. Are those Montclair values?

Sincerely,

Grace E. Mansion

I really don’t know the values of Montclair, California.


DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

In a related development, our Board of Education has decided to stop allowing each individual member to make remarks near the end of meetings. What do you think of that (not unanimous) vote?

Sincerely,

Wordle Hurdle

I understand the desire to shorten meetings, and some BOE members do occasionally ramble on and/or devote part of their utterances to matters not directly related to the school district. As for me, I don’t like to ramble on because one can say most things quickly — indeed concisely — which is why you’ll never see a long answer in this column or see me go off on tangents. Say, did you notice that the weather is getting cooler? That “Montclair” has the word “air” in it so residents can breathe? That…


DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Shush! As long as BOE members keep their remarks short and to the point, do you think each should continue to speak near the end of meetings?

Sincerely,

Fraught Opinion Sought

Yes, for the sake of communication and transparency. Or, if I combine those words, for the sake of cansparency or trommunication. Now excuse me while I grab a fire extinguisher to douse the flames from my just-exploded dictionary.


DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

(Rolls eyes.) In non-education news, the state has purchased a narrow 8.6-mile stretch of land — in Montclair and seven other towns and cities — for creation of the Essex-Hudson Greenway. Happy?

Sincerely,

Open Space Place

I am, as long as that future park/trail doesn’t bring too much additional gentrification. I want birds of all economic levels to enjoy the Greenway.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Where would the park/trail go through in addition to Montclair?

Sincerely,

Locale Ripken

Glen Ridge, Bloomfield, Belleville, Newark, Kearny, Secaucus, Jersey City, and the fire-spurting Mount Doom.


DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

That “Lord of the Rings” volcano would come in handy when Montclair cyclists, runners, and walkers want to heat up a picnic lunch. Meanwhile, our town’s first Latino Heritage Month continues — with great events happening until mid-October. Glad?

Sincerely,

A Month to Remember

Yes! See how easy that was? I didn’t need an Executive Director of Communications and Community Engagement to answer your question for me.

 

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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5 COMMENTS

  1. Dave,
    The BoE’s 9/7 mtg discussion had a related discussion on angry voices. It is was similar to discussion threads held by other bodies over curtailing public commentary, but several comments by BOE members cut to the chase to pushing back on angry commentary.

    A steady diet of anger is unhealthy. But, anger can be constructive, too. At least this was what I was both thought and learned for myself over the years.

    Anger can often bring clarity to one’s thinking. Anger can be individually motivating or a catalyst. Anger is symptomatic of underlying frustration in a relationship. Appropriately directed & measured, anger can be an acceptable, acutely effective rebuke to perceived lack of listening, reciprocity or performance by others. Anyone who ever was on he receiving end of the reaction by a significant other after asking them ‘why are you so angry‘ knows this.

    An angry voice is an emphatic challenge to to the recipient(s) behavior and/or underlying precepts. It should not be treated as a ‘Jersey stop’, slowing enough for a dismissive gesture before moving on to where they want to go. Especially in any forum designed to solicit input. A forum that exists to advance participation knowing the messiness of any democratic engagement.

    An angry voice is a choice. Sometimes calculated, sometimes fueled by desperation, and all reasons in between. Any reaction is also a choice.

    Our appointed and elected representatives, by right both individually and as a body, can broadly predetermine and signal the choices of expression they find tolerable. Of course, they should be careful not to only apply their interpersonal intolerance to antithetical viewpoints…or, themselves resort to using an angry voice when it suits them to express high dissatisfaction.

    They should not abuse the authorities they have given or wield the implicit bias of their membership in the majority to marginalize the minority’s manner of dissent.

    Listening for results is an acquired skill. While their constituency is challenging, it is part of what they signed up for. Directly, or indirectly, they are in service to this constituency. All of us.

  2. Thank you for those thoughts, Frank. Yes, being angry can be okay, as long as the anger is expressed respectfully. And, yes again, those who seek a seat on a Board of Education or other entities have to deal with the public and perhaps face some pushback at various points. It can at times be a thankless job for those members, but it’s a job they sought — whether the motive is to help the community or advance an agenda or become a more prominent person or all of the above.

  3. On point as usual! $150,000 for communications with people at CO that are supposed to be doing that work near $200,000! Surprised me that people were Ok with this because they need “better communication”. Common sense says to me is we should demand it from those already there making the big bucks! Didn’t know about his ties to Bloomberg, how unfortunate. I think the parents saw this as a way to better communications from the district instead the real reason he was hired, to make the district look better.

    And imagine – the first two ELECTED BOE members pushing to get rid of transparency of the BOE! Wonder why they don’t want the public to hear how they feel about topics? Such a horrible, un-Democratic move!

  4. Thank you very much, pardonmyfrench! 🙂

    Many great observations — including your point about the two elected BOE members. I’m disappointed that some of the other seven board members didn’t strongly/publicly oppose hiring the new communications person for cost reasons, optics reasons, and his former association with a website and billionaire politician with problematic views on education.

  5. Dave,

    Councilor Russo’s comments tonight are a classic example of anger bringing clarity.

    Councilor Russo has not been this angry since before 2012, if ever. He is an angry old man. He is an old man totally in the right. And he just schooled the rest of the Council and the current administration leadership in what incompetence is and their role in the fire contract.
    The incompetence is no reflection on them personally. They are good people. Professionally, they just bungled this contract like nothing I have seen in recent memory.

    I applaud Councilor Russo for aging in place with attitude!