FIAF Introduces New French Language Program for Toddlers in Montclair

Monday, Aug 14, 2017 12:45pm  |  COMMENTS (0)

This fall the Montclair branch of the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) introduces a new fun, enriching French language program for toddlers: à petits pas Excellence for children ages 2½–4. Parents can choose to enroll their child for two, three, four, or five days a week, for a morning or afternoon session.

Specially crafted for children ages 2½-4, with or without previous exposure to French, à petits pas Excellence provides children with all the proven benefits of bilingualism, while preparing them with skills and tools for Kindergarten.

Building on the success and popularity of FIAF’s current à petits pas program for toddlers, à petits pas Excellence was created specifically to meet parents’ demand for a French language program that meets more than once a week. Featuring three-hour classes offered Mondays through Fridays, à petits pas Excellence offers parents the flexibility to choose as many days per week (two days minimum) and any combination of days that they prefer. Continue Reading

Montclair BOE: Changes To Sex Education, Superintendent Search, And Where To Hold MHS Graduation 2018

BY  |  Tuesday, Jul 11, 2017 8:00am

Montclair Board of Education spent most of the afternoon of July 10 working on goals and objectives for the 2017-18 school year – which it plans to expand on in greater detail in a board of governance meeting in a seven-hour meeting at the Charles Bullock Elementary School beginning at 8:30 A.M. on Saturday, July 22 – and went into executive session before opening the evening meeting to the public.  Despite the six hours the board members spent going over the coming school year, they managed to go through several topics in the evening meeting.  It was well-attended despite the summer season.

Interim Superintendent Barbara Pinsak opened the meeting with good news, declaring that the Bullock School was no longer a Focus school, meaning that the school had improved its performance under the watchful of the New Jersey Department of Education and the state was no longer giving it a demerit for poor performance. To the delight of the residents, Superintendent Pinsak said Bullock’s performance had improved to the level that had been set when the school was placed on the Focus list.  She also announced the hiring of Emilio DeAndre as the district’s new business administrator, meaning that Steve DiGeromino was overseeing his last meeting on this night.  Several board members thanked DiGeronimo for his service, and he said he was gratified and found his temporary service.  Board member Joseph Kavesh, who praised DiGeronimo for his leadership in the contentious crafting of the recent school budget, declared that interim officers in the district should be honored, not disparaged, for serving, adding that they serve with distinction.

“Inconsistencies” in Montclair Schools Sex Education

Dr. Debbie Evans, who will soon step down as the district’s interim director of elementary education, gave a presentation for the board about health and physical education with an emphasis on sexual education.  She said that sex education had not been clearly defined for the district, and she added that there had been several inconsistencies in the teaching of the subject.  She also noted the parallel inconsistency of sex-ed class sizes, with some schools having up to 70 students per class, and she recommended a maximum of 30 students as an ideal number.

Dr. Evans informed the board that she has a sexuality curriculum draft worked out with the teaching staff from different schools, which she is asking the board to approve.  She sid it can go forward on a trial basis and be tweaked and revised by spring.  Bianca Brown, a physical-education teacher in the district, told the board that it was important to teach students about sexuality to give them correct information about the subject rather than have them learn it outside the schools.  Dr. Evans had wanted to present her findings on a PowerPoint slide show, but there were technical difficulties; she said it would be on the district’s Web site.

Physical-education teacher Bianca Brown

More Than 50 Applicants Interested in Montclair Schools Superintendent Position

Also, the board heard from Bill Adams and Judy Ferguson of Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates, the firm helping the district find a permanent superintendent, on the renewal of the search.  Dr. Ferguson, who presented herself as a lifelong educator with experience as a business administrator and has helped in 32 searches for superintendents in other districts, and Dr. Adams reported that there are as many as 54 applicants for the position, with 36 of those applications completed,.  Applciants have been informed that Montclair school district is seeking to have someone start in the position in time for the 2018-19 school year and advised them to remove their applications if they will not or cannot wait that long to start the job.  Drs. Adams and Ferguson hope to screen applicants by early November and present finalists for the post in December, with a hire son after the winter holidays. Board member Anne Mernin feared that the proximity of the schedule to the holidays was too tight, but the two search consultants said the search calendar could be adjusted.

Board President Laura Hertzog had announced at the board’s June 19 meeting that the district was looking to have a permanent superintendent start in time for the 2018-19 school year, and she sought to dispel the commonly held belief that the search has been going on for three years (Dr. Penny MacCormack actually resigned as schools superintendent in April 2015, two years and three months earlier as of July 2017).  Hertzog said the search had been begun in the fall of 2016, but it had not worked out; the current search is a new effort.

In public comment, the main topic was the tracking of less academically accomplished students at Renaissance School.  Several residents said that tracking and segregating such students violated the spirit of equal education and contradicted the mission of Renaissance School to provide a more enriching middle-school experience.  Michelle Fine recalled the success in getting the school up and running, with its sense of community and its more challenging, motivating course work.  She feared that tracking students was like pulling at a thread that could cause the whole Renaissance experiment to disintegrate.  Zachary Herring and his mother, Kate Greenfield, testified to Renaissance’s success in getting Herring to succeed at academics and go to Harvard. Herring also said that, given that many students that would be “tracked” are black and Hispanic owing to the achievement gap, institutionalizing re-segregation and threatening racial and economic diversity in the schools.

Montclair High School student Noah Gale, bringing up the amphitheater graduation ceremony at the High School, said he hoped the ceremony for his class, 2018, will be held elsewhere to accommodate more students, but resident Latifah Jannah said the amphitheater graduation ceremonies allowed people of different ethnic and economic backgrounds to celebrate together and preserve tradition; she suggested that there might be a way to accommodate more people at future ceremonies.  Meanwhile, Abraham Dickerson reiterated his call for healthier food in the school lunch program. 

Montclair High School Graduation: To Stay, Or Not To Stay… At The Amphitheater (POLL)

BY  |  Thursday, Jul 06, 2017 8:58am  |  COMMENTS (7)

Montclair High School graduated the Class of 2017 on Thursday, June 22 at the school’s 150th commencement. If you watch this video, you can see the beautiful ceremony and the cheering crowds. Starting at around the 34 minute mark of the video, the camera pans the audience for two minutes and you can see crowds of families standing all along the amphitheater, because no seats were available. Then the camera pans over to the fence along the amphitheater where you can see a group of parents and family members standing on the other side of the fence, who weren’t allowed into the amphitheater.

Nancy Witter was one of the many disappointed parents left standing outside the ceremony looking in and estimates she was one of at least 100 family members not admitted into the ceremony. “Our older son graduated in 2015 and the ceremony was in the auditorium due to rain,” Witter tells Baristanet. “That was also chaotic. No (or inadequate) air conditioning, overcrowded, standing room only. Only two tickets each family but clearly not enforced.”

The problem with overcrowding isn’t new. Gail Prusslin recalls the issue coming up back in 2007-2008, with parents concerned about lack of room in the amphitheater as well as concerns around safety and comfort for those attending who may be in wheelchairs, have mobility issues, etc. “Personally, I love the look and feel of the amphitheater, but it was/is just not practical for a graduation class of our size,” says Prusslin.

At that time, a group of parents met and researched some options, including the football field and other nearby venues at Montclair State. “Our consensus was that the football field would be the best way to accommodate the families and still feel connected to the High School. We thought the graduates could meet at the amphitheater with their parents, cross the bridge, and “parade” to the field (with the band accompanying them, of course),” says Prusslin. There were concerns about the heels of shoes potentially damaging the field, so the group looked into renting a surface that would protect the field. However, the plan, presented to then Principal Mel Katz and Superintendent Frank Alvarez never got past the initial idea, due to resistance Prusslin believes was related to cost, logistics and a change in tradition.

That tradition includes walking over bridges at the amphitheater, a symbolic right of passage that’s unique to Montclair High School. Continue Reading

Watch Montclair High School Class of 2017 Commencement Broadcast Live

BY  |  Thursday, Jun 22, 2017 3:45pm

Watch the Montclair High School class of 2017 graduation broadcast live — coverage starts at 6:00 p.m. tonight on channel 33 for Verizon FiOS and channel 34 for Comcast viewers.

The program will also be streamed live from 6:00 p.m. on the TV34 streaming site:

And you can watch on Facebook live – at

This year’s graduation speaker is Benilde Little, novelist, journalist and Montclair resident. Congratulations to the Class of 2017!

Montclair BOE: Protests Against More Staff Cuts; Discussion of Proposed Solar Panels For High School

BY  |  Tuesday, Jun 20, 2017 8:42am

The Montclair Board of Education’s June 19 meeting had a light agenda, and the threat of storms no doubt kept many people away – an electrical blackout caused the proceedings to be taped rather than broadcast live on TV34 – but those that did show up were very vocal in their support for retaining teachers who could be affected by budget cuts.  This time it was Glenfield Middle School math teacher Faisal Sheikh.

Glenfield Middle School students at the June 19 Montclair Board of Education meeting protest the potential firing of math teacher Faisal Sheikh for budget reasons.

A bunch of Glenfield students sat up front to show their support for Sheikh, and Board of Education President Laura Hertzog took it upon herself to explain the procedures of the meeting before it began should any of them want to contribute to public comment.   A few of them did, with Noah Fishman telling the board Sheikh has made learning math fun and with Joanne Keyser calling him “amazing.”  Several adults spoke up on Sheikh’s behalf as well, with Evan Cutler saying the teacher has made math his daughter’s favorite subject after she started sixth grade hating it, while Scott Richards said Sheikh helped his own child come a long way in getting his math grades up. Sara Mosle, herself an educator and an education reporter, opined that to hire talented teachers and then not retain them would make it difficult to attract new teachers. Continue Reading

Montclair Cooperative School Graduates Eleven

BY  |  Sunday, Jun 18, 2017 12:53pm

The 11 members of the 8th grade at Montclair Cooperative School graduated on Thursday, June 15, 2017. Described as “few, but mighty”, the students were accepted into the following high schools:

Montclair Cooperative School Class of 2017 and their 8th grade teacher, Judy Bereczki.
Photo: Joy Glenn

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Shop For Beautiful Jewelry Created by Renaissance’s Students for An Equitable World

Friday, Jun 16, 2017 2:00pm

Renaissance middle schoolers, “beading” the change they want to see in the world, participated in Students for Equitable World (SEW), creating and selling beautiful jewelry with the proceeds going to charity. The students showcased their creations at a reception.

Wade Maxx Framing on Vallet Road in Upper Montclair has offered to extend the sale of the students’ pieces until Sunday. Stop by, see the students’s work and purchase a piece of jewelry.

Residents Protest Staff Cuts at Montclair BOE Meeting

BY  |  Thursday, Jun 08, 2017 8:40am  |  COMMENTS (1)

The Montclair Board of Education had a light agenda for its June 7 workshop meeting, but the meeting itself lasted a long time due to the overwhelming number of comments from residents protesting the various cuts in the 2017-18 school-year budget and the proposal to cut 55 paraprofessionals and 35 teachers. At the same time, 10 science teachers were present to receive awards for their participation in a science fellowship.

The Montclair Board of Education


Parents of Nishuane School students were out in full force to protest the proposed dismissal of Assistant Principal Evan Kozak, who was lauded by one Montclair resident after another for his attention to the students and for his innovative program of elective classes. Kozak had developed an elective curriculum allowing first-graders to select classes that included instruction in Shakespeare, architecture, and astronomy. Nishuane parents also praised him for being engaged with families with children in the school. Continue Reading

MFEE Amazing FundRACER Raised $97,000!

Tuesday, Jun 06, 2017 12:31pm

On May 21st, The Montclair Fund for Educational Excellence (MFEE) town-wide community event — The Amazing FUNDRACER: The SEQUEL — grossed approximately $97,000 to support MFEE’s new initiatives to better prepare our youngest learners for school and to better equip our tweens/teens for life after high school.

Photo: Chanda Hall

One hundred brave racers took on the challenging course that lasted over four hours, covered the entire town of Montclair, included 13 challenges (plus an additional four mini-challenges) and three Pit Stops! Challenges included scavenger hunts in Montclair Center, eating dried bugs, building a Big Wheel and riding it in Glenfield Park, a water balloon toss , and many more. In the end, Team Fricke and Frack, both Renaissance Middle School parents, were victorious! Continue Reading

New Montclair High School Fashion Club Finishes Year With First Annual Student Fashion Show

BY  |  Tuesday, May 30, 2017 3:00pm

The new Montclair High School Fashion Club presented its first annual student fashion show on Saturday, May 20. The Fashion Club was founded by graduating senior and president of the club, Charlie Williams, during the 2016-2017 school year. The club’s adviser is Mr. Jeffrey Freeman, who teaches English classes in the MHS Center for Social Justice (CSJ) Small Learning Community.

The fashion show was a fitting send off for the club’s seniors. The outdoor event was hosted by Williams, one of four student designers who presented a collection at the show. Williams will attend Parsons School of Design to study fashion photography this fall. Fellow senior club member, Maiya Wright, a club officer and resident photographer, will attend the Fashion Institute of Technology (F.I.T.) to study fashion photography. Senior club member and fellow officer Sakina Balija-Toure will attend school in NYC this fall at the Laboratory Institute of Merchandising, to study the business of fashion.

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