Why doesn’t the latest Lackawanna Plaza redevelopment plan — discussed at April 26’s Historic Preservation Commission meeting — do better by the impressive train shed that dates back to when LP was an active commuter station?

Off the Rails

Maybe the developers thought “shed” was “shred.”

What’s a possible solution?

THE Ann Ser, My Friend

Several great ideas from HPC meeting attendees. Basically, developers need to reduce their profit lust, be creative, and respect local history. I suggest they read James Joyce’s “Portrait of the Lackawanna Plaza As a Young Train Station.”


Joyce never wrote that novel.

Hugh Lissees

If someone ghosted it for him, that’s not my concern.

What IS a concern is that the PARCCs may last at least one more year in New Jersey, according to news reports. What happened to Gov. Murphy’s campaign promise to immediately end those worthless tests?

Opt Out and About

I worried about the credibility of that promise when Murphy also promised to extinguish the sun and replace it with a compact fluorescent bulb hanging from a bungee cord.

What would the bungee cord be attached to?

Spring in the Spring

The romantic life of bungee cords is not my concern.

Meanwhile, the Montclair Film Festival is running from April 26 to May 6. What does the MFF need to do to get a mention in your column?

Moo V. the Cow

That widely publicized, well-funded festival hardly needs promotional help from me, but here’s a marketing slogan: “Be There or Be Square — Like a Movie Screen.”

Aren’t movie screens usually rectangular rather than square?

Belle View

Thanks for using a “rec”-prefixed word to honor Montclair’s rec soccer season (now in full swing) and rec softball season (starting after practices were canceled by rain and wet fields a mere 105 percent of the time).

Isn’t the word “swing” more relevant to softball than soccer?

Bat Masterdaughter

The music that parents listen to while watching their kids play is not my concern.

Am I detecting a “not my concern” theme in this column?

Sleuth Tarkington

A “Detective of the Year” plaque is yours if you can figure out where in Montclair I hid it. Hint: The plaque is south of Clifton, north of Orange, west of Glen Ridge, east of Verona, and doesn’t exist.

Hey — what about last night’s Board of Education meeting?

May 2 in Montclair

The meeting took place after my column deadline. I tried to build an affordable time machine, but no gentrification-pushing developer was interested unless it included a rooftop bar serving craft beer.


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.





12 replies on “MontClairVoyant: Montclair’s Threatened Train Shed and a Test That Should Be Dead”

  1. Thank you Dave for your support for preserving the train station sheds…and the headline.

    I saw the Star Ledger article on PARCC. Clearly no one likes PARCC, but it seems standardized testing is not going away. I always thought the main argument against PARCC was that it was a standardized test. These tests create environments where teachers teach to the test and they take away from instruction time. It seems a PARCC Lite version is in our future. So, what will be the big gain once PARCC is replaced?

  2. You’re very welcome, Frank! Wish I had been in Montclair for that April 26 Historic Preservation Commission meeting to hear you and others eloquently speak in favor of saving the train shed.

    Very true that standardized testing is not going away. You’re right that if New Jersey drops the PARCCs, it will probably replace them with some other standardized test that also costs teachers and students valuable creative learning time. But hopefully the replacement exams would be at least a little better than the PARCCs. From my experience and my daughters’ experiences with various standardized tests, the Pearson-produced PARCCs seem to be the worst of the worst — badly made, given too often (every year from 3rd through 11th grade), etc.

  3. …replace them with some other standardized test that also costs teachers and students valuable creative learning time.

    That’s assuming they are both making the best use of that time. We want to answer the question of “how are we doing”. We want to compared to X. If X is just NJ, then there is no point in doing any of this. We would be reducing the teaching profession to that of parenting/caregiving.

    I agree Pearson should be sent off permanently some distant province or state.
    I do think the regional client approach to a standardized test is an essential minimum if we are truly serious about answering the question. That is the core issue … the fear communities might not like the answer. So, we revert to the everyone/every community is unique. Right now, Montclair is trying to return to self-assess model of MPSD performance. There are a lot of benefits with this approach. But, to avoid being hypocrites, we should rate our school’s performances on a pass/fail basis.

  4. Thanks, Frank!

    Some teachers are of course better than others in making best use of classroom time, but I’ve been VERY impressed with well over 90% of the Montclair teachers and paras my two daughters have had since 1993. Also, tests are necessary, but I’d prefer there be as many local/teacher-created tests as possible and as few standardized tests as possible. Only a few standardized tests — perhaps one in all of elementary school, one in all of middle school, and one in all of high school — would be enough to assess students in relation to other towns and states.

    And, yes, I wouldn’t mourn if Pearson went far, far away. We could even give it a planet in a distant galaxy, and rename it Alpha Pearsontauri or something.

  5. Well, it just so happens that over 90% of our teachers meet or exceed performance standards – and have so for a very, very long time. Unfortunately, the same is not true for our student’s performance… aside from it has also been this way for a very, very long time.

    I would say test them once at the end of 3rd grade and once after 10th grade. The first test will tell you the opportunity and the 2nd test will either tell us we failed or that we cannot compare because the tests were not longitudinally designed.

    It doesn’t get much simpler to kick the can down the road….as the governor has now shown. Just wait to see how his #1 Initative (fixing NJ Transit) goes this year. I think he and the BoE are handling/handles their #1 one about the same.

    Yes, Will Robinson, I think Alpha Pearsontauri would be a perfect locale.

  6. Ha ha! Nice “Lost in Space” reference, Frank!

    Two standardized tests seven years apart would be totally fine with me.

    And, yes, unfortunately a percentage of students — in Montclair and elsewhere — aren’t doing well in school. Some people blame a lot of that on teachers, but I think the problem is more general: racism, economic inequality, overwhelmed lower-income parents, etc. Of course teachers have some impact on how students do, but they can’t change what students are dealing with at home.

  7. OK, let’s not blame the players too much. Let’ place some blame on the management.

    Oh wait! The ME/NJEA or Principals have ever, in my lifetime, taken any responsibility for what is not working about education in NJ. So, that leave only the “owners” to blame.

    So, it is the owners (us, the residents) that are the cause of the bad system we have been living with. The complainers are to blame. Whew! Glad I resolve this before the weekend starts.

  8. LOL, Frank! Always nice to resolve things before the weekend. 🙂

    I guess it’s human nature for many people or groups not to accept blame, but I still feel the main “culprits” for education problems are the socioeconomic issues I mentioned in my previous comment.

    Or maybe beets are to blame. I don’t like that vegetable. 🙂

  9. There is room for both views. You can use yours for the underperforming space (& beets) and I’ll use mine for the underachieving space (& cauliflower).

  10. Ha! Well, there’s the very sobering achievement gap and then there’s the not-so-sobering beet/cauliflower gap. 🙂

  11. You two are so cute together. I am 100% behind you Mr. Astor. We should make it clear to everyone that our goal in the Montclair schools is to baby-sit our kids. Learning is a diversion we can not afford. Now, please let me return to my tennis game at the Bradford Club. Be sure to defend our head baby-sitter when they try to get rid of her. Thank you.

  12. Thank you for the comment, betsyk! Drolly said. 🙂

    There can be — and is — plenty of learning without an overreliance on standardized tests. I’ve seen it in Montclair with my two daughters from 1993 to the present day (though the PARCCs have reduced some of that learning time in recent years). Our town’s wonderful teachers are far more than babysitters.

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