Montclair BOE: Improving World Languages, Budget Woes and Interim Superintendent Found

BY  |  Thursday, Feb 09, 2017 7:49am  |  COMMENTS (28)

The Montclair Board of Education discussed budget woes, videotaping of student teachers and a new interim superintendent to take over for current interim superintendent Ron Bolandi at its February 8 workshop meeting. The principal topic of the night, however, was reforming world language instruction. World-language consultant Jessica LaSusa explained her recommendations before the board and members of the public.

The Montclair Board of Education

LaSusa began by saying it was important for students to learn other languages to start with one language in kindergarten and stay with it through the end of middle school in order to reach what she called “novice-high” level ahead of continuing it in high school.  She said that it takes up to 540 hours of pre-high-school instruction to reach that level, but the elementary schools and the middle schools they correspond to reach only 290 to 300 hours at best, the exception being the Nishuane-Hillside-Glenfield continuum with 492 hours.   She advocated increased teacher training and development for the 2017-18 school year, with students and their families committed to staying with a single language and keeping languages consistent at the middle school level.  LaSusa found Mandarin, Spanish and French to be in the most widely taught languages at the high school level in Montclair, while languages such as German, Italian and Latin tended to draw fewer students.  (Watchung Middle Elementary School was omitted; LaSusa said this was her mistake.)

A breakdown of hours in world-language instruction in Montclair’s elementary and middle schools (Watching School was inadvertently excluded)

LaSusa said that ongoing professional development and a study of past data was important to improve language studies for the 2018-19 school year, and that class sections in one or two of the lesser languages could be eliminated to streamline the process and save money for critical-needs languages like Arabic and Hindi.  By the 2019-20 school year, benchmarks should be thoroughly implemented.  She said that there had to be a commitment from students and teachers alike.

Board member Joseph Kavesh asked if either Russian or Japanese could be considered critical-use languages instead, given their use in business instead.  LaSusa said that the choice of such languages was up to the board.  Board member Laura Hertzog expressed concern that three of the elementary-middle school streams were far behind Nishuane-Hillside-Glenfield. She asked if that should be changed and if ninth graders should be given placement tests to gauge how far along they are with world languages. Continue Reading

MMO Hosts 2nd Annual Montclair Kindergarten Roundtable 2/15

BY  |  Tuesday, Jan 31, 2017 8:00am  |  COMMENTS (0)

MMO Hosts Montclair Kindergarten Roundtable 2/15

It’s a Montclair thing. When it comes to kindergarten in the public schools, parents have to rank the schools in order of preference and then wait and see where their child will land. For some, the process can be anxiety provoking.

To the rescue, is the second annual Kindergarten Roundtable. Hosted by MMO Programs, the roundtable features an informal panel of parents with children who attend one of Montclair’s six elementary schools. Panelists will talk about their child’s school including what they love (and don’t love) about it, special programs, administration, teachers, and/or surprises. Continue Reading

Montclair BOE: Talk of Super Search, Weather Concerns and Betsy DeVos

BY  |  Monday, Jan 23, 2017 11:44pm  |  COMMENTS (0)

As if the nasty storm outside had been anticipated, the Montclair Board of Education presented a very light agenda for its January 23 meeting and wrapped things up in a little over half an hour.  Interim Superintendent Ronald Bolandi even made note of the weather in his report.

The Montclair Board of Education

The Montclair Board of Education

Superintendent Bolandi said that he hoped the nor’easter would let up in time for classes to open the following morning, but he conceded that the nature of the storm would have a worse effect on some Montclair neighborhoods than others.  He explained that while some parts of town would be spared any damage, the possibility of other areas sustaining damage due to downed trees was great.  The town, he said, had plenty of aging trees that were susceptible to being felled by the gusty winds.  A wind advisory was in affect for the Western Essex area, which includes Montclair. Continue Reading

Glen Ridge Schools Support Red Sneakers Foundation with Allergy Awareness Week and Red Sneaker Day

BY  |  Saturday, Jan 21, 2017 10:30am  |  COMMENTS (0)


Glen Ridge Schools are raising awareness of the dangers of food allergies.

Throughout the week of January 23rd, 2017, Glen Ridge Public School administrators, teachers, medical staff, students and parents will join forces to help generate awareness about the dangers of food allergies. The week-long effort will culminate with Red Sneaker Day on Friday, January 27, 2017, when Glen Ridge students, school staff and parents will wear red sneakers (and/or other red apparel) in support of the Red Sneakers Foundation – a newly formed organization that was created by the parents of Oakley Debbs, an 11-year-old boy and friend of a Glen Ridge family, who passed away just after Thanksgiving, as a result of complications from a nut allergy.

Red sneakers were Oakley’s favorite shoes, and the Red Sneakers Foundation was created shortly after his death in effort to help raise awareness of the dangers of food and nut allergies, through educational programs, research and public policy initiatives. The hope of the foundation is that one day red sneakers might serve as a universal reminder of the dangers of nut allergies nationwide, if not worldwide. Continue Reading

High School Students Can Apply For The Princeton Prize in Race Relations

BY  |  Thursday, Jan 19, 2017 4:33pm  |  COMMENTS (0)

The Princeton Prize in Race Relations recognizes and rewards high school students who have had a significant positive effect on race relations in their schools or communities through their volunteer efforts.


The university awards the prize to more than two dozen students, each working within a particular city or region from across the country. Continue Reading

Hillside Students Learn To Serve on Martin Luther King Day

BY  |  Monday, Jan 16, 2017 9:30am  |  COMMENTS (0)

mlk hillside

It’s a day on at Hillside School with more than 300 students and parents participating in service activities in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Continue Reading

Montclair BOE: Renaissance, Budget, School Lunches and Renaming A School Discussed

BY  |  Thursday, Jan 12, 2017 7:23am  |  COMMENTS (0)

The Montclair Board of Education spent its January 11 workshop meeting looking back and looking forward.  Interim Superintendent Ronald Bolandi gave a presentation of the district’s accomplishments in pursuing various initiatives and goals in recent years.

the Montclair Board of Education

the Montclair Board of Education

Among the accomplishments he cited were developing a tutorial program in each school with after-school services and available busing for said services,  initiatives to work with local clergy to bring tutoring to the neediest students, the development of an elementary-level literacy and math program with input from parents and staff,  extensive training in the district’s “Undoing Racism” initiative, and developing a training program with the teachers’ union that employed full-day training as opposed to half-day sessions, which Superintendent Bolandi called counterproductive.  He was particularly proud of the program to work with Montclair State University to assist the district with tutorial and staff development programs.  The superintendent noted the involvement of Montclair State educational students in the program, and he credited Dr. Debbie Evans, the interim director of elementary education, for her efforts. Continue Reading

Montclair High School Junior Starts Accessible Tutors To Level Playing Field

BY  |  Monday, Jan 02, 2017 2:45pm  |  COMMENTS (0)


If you’ve ever tried to hire a private tutor for your child, you know it can be costly — from $50 to as much as $150 a session. And that’s if you can get a spot — for many popular tutors in town, there’s also a long waiting list. Owen Kaplan, a Montclair High School junior and math whiz, has been tutoring middle school students in algebra for a few years. Kaplan recognized a lack of equity in the town when it comes to access to tutors. Families who can afford private tutors are getting their students the extra help they need. Kaplan adds that while there are good programs such as IMANI and Succeed2Gether, he believes there is still a need for more affordable tutoring options as evidenced by the continued achievement gap in Montclair.

Kaplan decided to start Accessible Tutors, a non-profit that allows parents to pay what they can but guarantees that all of the tutors (who are also high school students) get paid the same hourly rate. Some parents might pay $5 for a tutoring session, others might pay $35, but the tutors all receive $20 for an hourly session. Accessible Tutors launched as a 501(c)(3) through HackNCraft NJ and Kaplan has already matched middle-school kids with high-school tutors. Continue Reading

Montclair’s CGI Celebrates 20 Years With “Community Speaks: Criminal Justice Reform”

BY  |  Tuesday, Dec 20, 2016 6:44pm

How justice is being served and its impact both nationally and in Montclair was the topic of an important conversation started and led by students of Montclair’s Civics and Government Institute (CGI) Wednesday, December 14, at “Community Speaks: Criminal Justice Reform,” a panel discussion and community event held in the high school’s George Inness Atrium Annex that also recognized CGI’s 20th anniversary.


Maya Jenkins, CGI president, joined by
Alex Tsemberis, CGI secretary of press, addresses panel at Community Speaks: Criminal Justice Reform.

Students organized and ran the entire event. Molly Povich, secretary outreach, offered opening and closing statements, while Alex Tsemberis , CGI secretary of press, and Maya Jenkins, CGI president, acted as co-moderators, posing questions to the panel exploring the meaning of justice and how meaningful reform can take place.

Panelists included Nick Turner, the president of the Vera Institute of Justice, and Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project, who both appeared in the Ava DuVernay documentary “13th.” Portia Allen-Kyle, the Pratt Criminal Justice Transparency Fellow at the ACLU-New Jersey and Deputy Chief Wilhelm B. Young of the Montclair Police Department, were also on the panel; Young was joined by some of his colleagues.

Is Justice Just?

“Justice at its core is to respect the dignity of everyone and recognize people for what they are, and where they have come from. People should not be reduced to the offense they may be accused of or have committed. We need to think of these people as brothers, fathers, mothers,” said Turner. “When we start to see people as other, that’s when the justice system goes awry.” Continue Reading

Montclair BOE: Presentation of World Language Program, Bolandi To List Capital Improvements

BY  |  Tuesday, Dec 13, 2016 9:00am  |  COMMENTS (8)

The Montclair Board of Education received a long-awaited presentation on developing a world language program at its three-hour regular meeting on December 12.  Jessica Lasusa, the district’s world-language consultant, gave an extensive overview that included a slide program, which is expected to be available on the district’s Web site on December 13.

World language consultant Jessica Lasusa

World language consultant Jessica Lasusa

Lasusa explained that acquisition of a second language, applied linguistics, and ideas for teaching, should ideally blend into a seamless fashion in instructing world languages. But in reality only teaching ideas by themselves works in the classroom.  She recommended a strategy for allotting time once or twice a year through grades K-8 for language articulation with a unified program between teachers in different schools at the same level of course, something teachers themselves told her was of primary importance.   The collaborative effort would include proficiency targets and benchmark assessments to gauge student’s progress, along with professional development sessions for both teachers and administrators, and special emphasis on code-switching – alternating between English and another language with a single sentence – to help the students immerse themselves in the other language.  Lasusa said that promoting culture, communications, comparisons, communities and connections to the world languages – the “5 Cs” – are more important than grammar in getting high school students up to fluency in said languages.

Lasusa said that everyone in the district has to work together to bring world languages into sync across the district, and that maximum exposure to other languages is the best way to success. She advocated emphasis on Spanish, French and Mandarin Chinese.  She also said that the best way to build literacy in both English and other languages is to teach with a 50-50 ratio between English and the second language. Continue Reading

Featured Comment

I was assigned to chimney security today at middle school in the State of Washington, to prevent Betsy DeVoss from trying to climb in that way when she couldn't get in the front door. Protesters abounded below while I rode shotgun on the roof. We're with Montclair all the way. Glad you're here MontClairVoyant!

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