petitionA group of a Montclair parents calling themselves “Support Montclair’s Schools” have just created an online petition in support of  the “Board of Education, Dr. MacCormack and the rest of our district’s current administration.”  This comes after last week’s contentious Board meeting:

Our Schools Are Good–But They Can Be Much Better

We believe that our dedicated teachers, our Board of Education and our fellow Montclair citizens want the same things:

  • To close the achievement gap;
  • To raise the bar for all students;
  • To provide teachers with necessary professional development.

We believe that improvements are needed throughout our district, in the classrooms as well as at Central Office.

As well served as many of our children are by the district, the status quo is not acceptable. In March of this year, we were given a more complete perspective of the achievement gap in this district. Together we can do better.

Our district is not perfect, nor do we expect that all the changes we are seeing in the district will be perfect. As both BOE members and numerous administrators – including Dr. MacCormack – have said: we will be carefully and continuously evaluating the results of what we are doing, constantly seeking further improvement.  Let’s give this a chance, knowing that we will be making even more improvements in the future.

Sadly, recent meetings concerning our schools have become contentious, heated and difficult.  Many parents have conveyed their concern about the tenor and rancor of these meetings–that it prevents meaningful, open-minded conversation from taking place and creates an atmosphere that distracts us from the important work of improving our schools.

It is important to note that improving the quality of our schools preserves the values of all our homes, including those of the many Montclair residents who don’t currently have children in the public schools.  As a community, we are ALL truly in this together.

We sign here to indicate our support for the Board of Education, Dr. MacCormack and the rest of our district’s current administration. We understand that changes occurring at both the State and Town level mean a lot of work for our teachers. In fact, many of our teachers dedicated this past summer to help draft the new curricula for the district. We cannot express our appreciation enough for our hard working teachers, what they’ve done, and their commitment to our children. They, too, have our support.

We believe that as a community we can be patient, reasonable, thoughtful and constructive as we move forward. There is great work to be done. Let’s set forth together, with respect and civility, toward our shared goals.

The petition can be found here on

35 replies on “Montclair Parents Create Petition Calling For Civility, Respect and Patience in the District”

  1. Of course I will sign a petition in support of non-educators making educational decisions like: larger class sizes, more standardized testing, merit pay for principals not based on evaluations, a superintendent who breaks the law by not doing evaluations, paying thousands per diem to outside consultants, a superintendent who uses the schools website to spread her propaganda (Have You Heard?) which is misleading, a BOE that is indignant and childlike in the face of any criticism. Sounds like a petition that’s really going to push Montclair’s schools in the right direction.

  2. Everyone wants civility, respect and patience as we confront this crisis in the Montclair School District. The petition includes everyone and supports everyone, but it is itself without any authorship and it is addressed to no one. It provides no indication of what the conflicts are and how this petition will help to sort things out. It appears that the intentions are good, but the “I like everyone” approach will not help us bring the best in education to the town’s children.

  3. Civility is great and all–but this petition seems to think that the board and the administration is the victim instead of a cause. People get mad when they feel they aren’t being listened to. People get mad when board members hold administrators to different standards than they hold teachers. People get mad when they are told that how the schools are run is not actually their business and they should be quiet. Sometimes they even act uncivil as a result.

    Montclair is a place where a lot of smart people care a lot about how the schools are run, the teachers are treated, and their children are educated. Instead of stifling public dissent, maybe the board should find a way to listen to it.

  4. Excerpt from Baristanet’s link to a “Pleas For Democracy”, Gail Shepard, President, MEA, September 23, 2013:

    “This is the equivalent of asking the MEA to sit in the back of the bus, and we just won’t do it.”

    Post from Montclair Patch, Milly Silva October 19, 2011 at 01:22 AM:
    It is a sad state of affairs when a resolution has to be introduced on rules of engagement. Presumably each representative on the Council will conduct him/herself in a manner respecting the elected office and Montclair’s residents. It is a wonder there isn’t a “plague o’ both your houses”.

  5. “non-educators making educational decisions like: larger class sizes, more standardized testing, merit pay for principals not based on evaluations, a superintendent who breaks the law by not doing evaluations, …”

    More misinformation. The people making the educational decisions are the administrators and teachers making those decisions. They are educators. Those the community had plenty of input in the creation of the district’s strategic plan, it was the educators that took our concerns and desires and formulated them into a plan for the improvement of our schools.

    The “more standardized testing” is wordplay. It is not more testing, though it is testing that is more standardized throughout the district. This is a Bad Thing only if we’re not supposed to care about some students being unprepared for the next grade. But then I get the feeling that some really don’t care. As long as their children are well served – and many, if not most, of the children are well served – then why should we care about those that might fall behind, right?

    As for the evaluations, those were done (as was stated in the meeting) but only in a fashion consistent with the superintendent’s incomplete information (as she’d not been in the district for the entire year). I’m sure, had she done full/normal evaluations with incomplete information, people would have been complaining about that too.

    The reality is that some people are doing nothing but complaining. The day after the superintendent’s hiring was announced – well before she started here – people were complaining. This is no different than the GOP’s meeting during our President’s first inauguration. Their plan was set that evening: obstruct, obstruct, obstruct.

    That’s what we’re seeing here.

    “paying thousands per diem to outside consultants”

    This earns special mention, in that it is a different form of misinformation. The district has been paying various consultants various fees since well before I started paying attention. But let’s blame the entire deficit on him…I mean the consultants on her.

    “a superintendent who uses the schools website to spread her propaganda”

    Before, she wasn’t sufficiently transparent. Now she’s too transparent.

    Obstruct, obstruct, obstruct. There’s no winning because that’s the only goal they have: no winning.

    I’m signing the petition. I’m not doing so for its call to civility (though that would certainly be a good thing), but for the fact that it calls for this so as to move forward with a plan to improve our schools. It may not be the perfect plan; what plan ever is? The affordable care act isn’t perfect either, but that doesn’t mean I want the obstructionists so visible in the news today tearing it down.

    Don’t let perfect become the enemy of the good, and don’t let the obstructionists prevent improvement merely because it isn’t perfect. We get better today, and then we do it again tomorrow.


  6. “People get mad when they are told that how the schools are run is not actually their business and they should be quiet.”

    Yes, I have heard this for decades from people with children who tell people like me without children.

    I accept this as long as the stakeholders who play in this $118MM sandbox keep the throwing of sand inside. When a stakeholder like the MEA starts throwing sand outside the box into the larger $6B sandbox, that’s when I push back.

  7. The union leader saying “this is the equivalent of asking the MEA to sit in the back of the bus” is a not so thinly veiled charge of racism. This kind of rhetoric is appalling. Why doesn’t anyone call her out? Shameful.

  8. Most of the current problems come from the State. The acting commissioner there is as much the problem as our acting superintendent here. Our board needs to take a stand on behalf of our students, against the state board and the commissioner – the privatization, the corruption, and the testing schemes. If they are unwilling to come out and say that what the state is doing is wrong, they need to be replaced with a new board that takes our kids’ interests seriously.

  9. So, peterzorich were you in attendance at the last BOE meeting when Ms. Lombard lashed out at the MEA president? It’s become pretty apparent the the BOE isn’t even in agreement with each other these days. I have attended 90% of these meetings over the past two years and I can’t understand why parents and the PTA seem to feel intimidated ? The union respectfully listens to the Board , and yes maybe sometimes gasps when they hear untruths or injustices (such as not evaluating Principals last year). This petition is ridiculous as is taking the MEA off the agenda!

  10. To me, the subtext of the MEA’s “A Plea For Democracy” is institutional racism. So, to me, the first question is why?

    If it was simply hyperbole, then it was wholly inappropriate for the union to use in addressing their lost spot on the agenda issue. The MEA should clarify this as these were not ‘heat of the moment’ remarks. This document was thoughtfully written, formatted, copied and distributed on MEA letterhead.

    If this was not hyperbole, than the next question is what to do about it?

    Facing this head-on should be our only course of action. We can not “unring the bell”, short of a retraction by the MEA.

    I believe institutional racism is not asymptomatic, nor is a single occurrence a justification for the label. There has to be more.

    This situation is amplified because the institution is Montclair’s appointed eduction leadership. To cloak this with a call for civility is an answer, but it is not related to the questions raised in “A Plea For Democracy”.

  11. qby33

    The MEA president used an outrageous comparison to make her point. I assume she is smarter than having to resort to playing the race card when she disagrees with the board.

    FYI.. I was not in attendance but I did watch it on TV.

  12. Frank Rubacky, so indeed “what to do about it?” The writers of this petition have expressed their unmitigated praise for everyone: the Board of Education, Superintendent MacCormack, all of the administration (it just baffles to mind for those who know the administration) and the teachers. (They do, however, ignore the teacher’s union and their leaders.) We are all just one big happy family and we should pretend every day is Christmas. The authors appear more concerned about their Montclair image and property values than they do about the education of their children.

    There is a lot of provocation that comes with the pretense. The BOE and the Superintendent and the writers of the petition want everyone to pretend that this is the happy village of multiculturalism and diversity. One of the denizens here recently wrote: ‘Montclair of old was a race-blind nirvana where all got along and the schools were islands of peace and goodwill where no one “saw” race.’ Perhaps one of the authors of this petition, who knows?

    Pretending there are no serious problems and that we should all play follow the leader is simply not adult.

    Playing the race card is never acceptable, either in unjustly claiming the offense or in celebrating your diversity. It inevitably builds tensions and leads to conflict. However, not wanting to claim expertise in Derrida and play the game of subtexts, I understood the President of the MEA largely to be saying that the teachers deserved a place at the table as much as the administrators and they felt themselves disrespected in the discussion.

    Perhaps we should put the race card back in the deck and move on with the issues themselves, without the pretending.

  13. Not surprisingly, idrather is her usual disingenuous self here as well. As the “denizen” who wrote the line quoted, I can point out that idrather neglected to mention that it was written in response to her absurd “I don’t see race” comments, and was of course directed to her in sarcasm. She, and others who say they “never see race” and who have maintained that old Montclair was a place where everyone got along, are living in a dream world.
    Claiming not to “see” race is very much “pretending there are no serious problems.”

  14. croiagusanam, with apologies, I missed your sarcasm on race and believed your were genuine. If you or profwilliams or Holly Korus or Sillyphus want to explain how you do your racial profiling from Raymond’s on a Saturday evening, then perhaps you can convince me. Simply claiming that race is something you see and everyone recognizes and then putting people into these categories and defining them this way appears racist to me.

    I invite you to identify the races that you see living in Montclair and what their defining properties are, be they historical, biological, cultural or linguistic. You can limit your list to 10 races in Montclair. If you think there are less, that is fine too. Just state those are the only races living in Montclair according to you. Make a list, your own list if you want, and indicate how you identify people as belong to one or another race. Be specific. Be clear. And make sure it is real and not just your assertion.

    If there is something real that defines me or you as belonging to one race or another, then I do not see that race would be a “serious problem.” It would be simply how things are. If, however, there is nothing you can point to in reality that categorizes people as belonging to one race or another, then the empty assertion of race is a serious problem and does lead to racism.

    I think I am in the company of my hero, Martin Luther King, Jr., on this. Not on everything he wrote or said, but on the gist of his life and his message. And I tried already to point you in the direction of Louis Armstrong’s version of “What a Wonderful World.”

    This is not a vision of the Montclair of old, the one of “estates” and “staff,” of confused architectural styles framing servant entrances and servant quarters, but a vision of what Montclair could become.

    Nirvana it will never be.

  15. It is difficult to determine if you are deliberately obtuse or simply naturally so.

    “Racial profiling” involves making assumptions about an individual or group based on appearance. For example, assuming that all blacks are criminals, all Irish are drunks, etc.

    “Seeing” race means that you simply SEE that a person is whatever that person is. Period. A man. A woman. Black. Asian. White. There is no profiling there, simply observation. This is beyond obvious.

    It is worth noting of course that many aspects of a particular group are celebrated, and are a source of great pride. Or is appreciating the growth of jazz (sorry, prof) which sprang from the African-American community an example of “racial profiling”?

    One can only hope, by the way, that the MPD never has to come to you as a witness to a crime:

    Police officer: “What did the perp look like, ma’am?”
    Idrather: “I don’t know, officer. I don’t see race.”

  16. croigusanam, really, my good fellow, who is being obtuse?

    I count five races you identify in Montclair: man, woman, black, asian, white? That is all? No other races in Montclair?

    All based on “simply observation. This is beyond obvious.” Sounds goofy to me.

    Of course there is a history to jazz music as there is a history to soul music, country music, rock ‘n roll, Ethiopian music and classical music. So? These are cultural histories, not racial.

    If you want to insist on race in Montclair, list the races in the village that you “see” and say what their characteristics are. Be real.

  17. Man and woman are races? Good God, at least you’ve answered the question as to whether the thickness is deliberate or natural.

    Natural, 100%!

    But don’t worry! I don’t see obtuseness!

  18. I was just about to go and grab the US Census info on our community’s racial & ethnic demographics to clear up this last point for you all, but alas, Government Shutdown…

    I still think Ms Shephard should have refrained from her comment about the back of the bus too, though. It was a step or two too far I think. All in all, my opinion was that it was bad form-whether planned, heat of the moment, or whatever. They still have time budgeted into the meetings. Not as much as they would like to have, so the entire Plea for Democracy, and the dramatics, for me personally, it leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

    AND-the MEA, the BOE, Dr MacCormmack, the Central Office, and the Mayor are all in constant contact with each other, talking, negotiating, etc already. Probably all getting in touch with each other multiple times over the course of each week. There is no “back of the bus” going on here. The stake holders are all still talking to each other. Often.

    This was a grand stand moment. It’s done by all good politicians, of any variety. We are all watching it happen down in DC right now.
    And in a sense, Ms. Shephard got what she was looking for-a lot of angry feelings, a lot of noise, so there’s that too…Again-seeing it happen somewhere else today too.

    If you want to sign the petition, sign it, that’s it. Why the constant arguing here again? Don’t you have better uses for your time, people? Speak your mind, move on. It’s not debate club, it’s a comment section.

    The conversation is devolving here, rapidly.

    It’s about our schools and our kids. Refocus.

  19. croiagusanam, let’s make it simple. Obviously I asked too much of you and your Raymond’s companions: Just name five races in Montclair. Just name them. You don’t even have to say what the characteristics of them are, why you invented them, nothing. Just name five races in Montclair.

    Be careful, we want to “see” race. So just use racial names. I mean, you know, not names like “man” or “woman,” but the real names of races that really exist in Montclair. Be precise. Be clear.

    Try your hardest. Let’s see what you can come up with. (If you want to let us know how you identify one person or another as belonging to one race or another, you can also divulge that too. But I fear that may be connected to the “secret handshakes at Raymond’s.”)

  20. It amuses me that the creators of this petition want civility, respect and patience. I wonder if they have studied the behavior of our beloved appointed board. What I get from some of the supportive comments on behalf of this odd petition is that there are some very privileged Montclair residents who dislike our politically active African American residents, and really dislike our teachers. I hope Montclair is still a town where these prejudices masked by a completely contrived call for ‘civility’ [more like acquiescence] is still a minority view.

  21. alic314, if you refer to the government’s race categories, it will be little convincing. The government has a bad record on race, supporting slavery based on race, supporting segregation and discrimination based on race, itself separating people based on race and even forbidding marriage based on race. Underlying all of this was a concept of race that was never defined, just “seen” and propagated for its economic and political practicalities. None of the categories the government uses for race are definable or real. They are used to separate people and maintain arbitrary discrimination.

    US government forms cannot be used legally in many progressive countries in the world today because these countries explicitly forbid racial profiling. Categorizing people according to race has been outlawed because race does not exist and the insistence on race leads to racism.

    It has been obvious in the course of our history that some people were slaves and others masters simply because you could “see” it, some people were smarter than others because you could “see” it, and some people deserved more than others because you could “see” it. And what people inevitably saw was “race.”

    There is no evidence that “-the MEA, the BOE, Dr MacCormmack, the Central Office, and the Mayor are all in constant contact with each other, talking, negotiating, etc.” If they are they should be doing this with full transparency. They hold public positions and their business is the public’s business. However, it seems fairly obvious from how BOE meetings have been run that this is not the case. But you are free to assert it. One wonders based on what secret (mis)information.

    I disagree with you about what Ms. Shephard was looking for. I think what she was looking for was maintaining what she understood to be the appropriate place for the teacher’s at the table and respect for the teachers (and their union) in the decisions on education in Montclair. It is easy to accuse another of grandstanding and just making a ruckus. It often misses the point.

    The petition ignores the MEA. Why?

  22. croaigusanam, wow, you win. Great picture. And every person in the picture does indeed look different. Everyone of them. What a great multi-cultural, diverse village. I should have realized. Now I finally “see” it.

    By the way, how many “races” do you count in the picture? Just wondering.

  23. Yes. It IS a multi-cultural, diverse village. That’s great. Especially for those of us who can “see” it.

  24. We all need to be thinking, encouraging, demanding that we move forward with some level of decorum, intelligence and humility and with the kids at the center of all we do. The meetings were no longer working. Period. EVERYONE is/frustrated at the end of them. And tired. Really tired of it all. The teachers union must be heard in a productive way. Not sure what forum is best for that, but I’m sure it can be figured out. How does the town council give its unionized workforce a voice at its meetings? Do they have an agenda slot or is it handled some other way? The Board does need to use the meetings to get work done, to hear from all sources, to handle the logistics of running a $110 mm budget. These meetings need to be open but realistically can not the equivalent of open-mic nights. Instead of focusing on the “sides” and the various personalities, I would like us to focus on the needs of the kids, the strategic plan, which was developed after a whole series of community meetings. I have been in the schools for 12 years and I’ve never seen a Superintendent seek out so much involvement and counsel from the public. You don’t have to agree with her, but I think this fact should be acknowledged. We have been told the plan will be revised as it is evaluated during rollout. It is not perfect but we need to act to meet the district’s very immediate shortcomings. We need to also recognize that our former Superintendent and his staff left the District woefully unprepared for the move to the Common Core standards, mandated teacher evaluations, and to the new PARC assessment that is coming next year for the kids. These deadlines were not set by the Board or Dr. MacCormack; they are from the State and there isn’t the option to disregard them. We need to get to work, and do work that our children can be proud of. Many thanks.

  25. idratherbeat63…two words. Oy.Vey.

    You have too much free time, and I don’t need the history lesson, save it for your classroom.

    And yes, I do think they are all talking, not saying it’s a love fest, but yes I do think there is communication going on between all the channels at various points and times here. The business of the schools simply would not be happening without that give and take.
    This is all theater here. Sound & Fury…

    We need FOCUS here, we need to be good neighbors to each other, these arguments are circular and not doing anyone any good.

  26. I hope the the broader community, including the most frequent commentators here and on other sites are aware that there are great, diverse and supportive, fun things happening in our schools. Just take a look at the photo link in the recent Bkids story on the “Mountie Pride Fun Run” I’m not sure if the link below is live. If it is not search for “Mountie Pride Fun Run” on September 26 on Bkids site. It is the spirit and energy of events like this that should animate our Board of Ed and other school-related meetings. As someone else has said, Refocus. Let’s move forward. Tx.

  27. mcinntc, it is not clear that teachers, parents and students have been asking to ignore state requirements or deadlines. It seems rather that they want to be included in the discussion on how the requirements and deadlines are met. All the “great, diverse and fun” things, such as the Fun Run, are not what is exactly on the table or at the center of debate. Red herrings don’t help solve problems. As alic314 says, we need focus.

    alic314, we might do well to listen more closely to our neighbors and not simply discount what they are saying. The real theater has been in the BOE meetings, sound and fury indeed. The Board of Education and the School Superintendent should look for other ways to involve structured input from teachers, parents and students. And this not simply in the way of PowerPoint slides and Post-Its that come largely after the fact.

    Are you really sure this “communication” is taking place as you assert? Simply asserting something doesn’t make it real. Dates? Times? Places? People present? People not present or not invited? Just some simple transparency in public life – if indeed such communication is happening.

    If you use government statistics to assert race exists, then you perhaps do need a lesson in history, as well as in a few other subjects.

    You are indeed a good neighbor. That wasn’t being questioned. Surely I would never respond oy vey to you. Thanks.

  28. I do think it’s happening, I remember Mayor Jackson actually talking about it in one of the many reports over the past months (was it Barista? Montclair Times? I can’t recall right now), talking about having lunch with Ms. Shephard and speaking with Dr. MacCormack.

    I think things are happening, people are talking. It’s probably an ongoing give and take. Do I think Dr.MacCormack & Ms. Shephard are sitting down to chat over coffee? Probably not. Others involved here? Most definitely. We don’t live in a vacuum.

    And yes-I did say racial and ethnic demographics and made a jab at the government being shut down to add some levity to your back & forth with croiagusanam above.

    If you do in fact know me as you have said previously, you probably know I’m not going down that road that you are trying to lead this conversation. I see a person, not a race or an ethnicity. I was not raised by wolves.

  29. Within just the last 18 months, we read stories involving issues of racism on the front pages of the Montclair Times. The issue of racism arose in the local election, it arose this year with the unions around the DCS negotiations and now with the BOE agenda issue. Recently, some leading community members perceive an issue and are looking at ways to reconstitute the Conversations On Race program.

    Is there a connection? I don’t know. I could take each occurrence individually (except the CoR), look at the circumstances & timing, and see it as a leverage tactic for a different agenda. But, when I look at the pattern and the different parties involved, I feel this doesn’t fully explain what I read.

    We can certainly take this latest episode and say the scope of change and complexity has contorted the issues. And yes, we should always celebrate what is good & great about the schools to anchor our perspective and illuminate the path ahead.

    Maybe I should give this whole episode a pass and chalk it up to fear of change involving representation, education or livelihoods. Based on the posts here, the lack of public follow through by the MEA, and the civility petition, I infer this is the consensus. We can easily defer this to the next time, when and if it happens. See, the card goes back in the deck.

  30. alic314, ignoring the naive innocence of the first two paragraphs of your last post, I am definitely getting myself ready for the high-five you promised. So much agree with you on both race and ethnicity. And really some of us could do with time spent with a pack of wolves, just for relief.

    Frank Rubacky, it is large of you to help bury the card back in the deck. If it later gets played again in the same pattern in this game, I will certainly put all my chips in behind yours. Much appreciated.

  31. “How does the town council give its unionized workforce a voice at its meetings?”

    When the threat of muni worker layoffs and outsourcing arose, the town workforce came out en masse and disputed the council meeting where it was to be discussed. Sounds like what the MEA did as well in this meeting and their contract negotiation meeting.

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