Three new Board of Education members were named. One departing BOE member lashed out in a statement. The district announced middle schools will reopen May 10 in hybrid mode. The Spring 2021 NJSLA tests were cancelled. Is there any education news that DIDN’T happen during the past few days?

All the News That’s Fit to Mint

Long-ago school sitcom “Room 222” spawned “Room 666,” a new TV series set at a different school…in Hell. When people ask how to get there, they’re told: “When you come to a pitchfork in the road, take it.”

Glad “Room 666” doesn’t exist despite that interesting variation on a “Yogism” uttered by Montclair’s late Mr. Berra. Anyway, who are the BOE newcomers and departees?

It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over

Crystal Hopkins, Eric Scherzer, and Kathryn Weller-Demming are arriving and Jessica de Koninck, Eve Robinson, and Sergio Gonzalez are leaving. As coin-show observers say, “That’s a lot of change.”

Gonzalez was the member who lashed out — at Sean Spiller (who, as mayor, makes BOE appointments) and at the Montclair Education Association union’s leadership. What did he say?

For Bitter or Worse

His statement was VERY long, but what struck me most was Gonzalez blasting the MEA leadership for delaying the reopening of schools. Actually, that MEA action was commendable — and I’ll explain why as soon as I remove the aforementioned pitchfork from my dishwasher.

Your explanation?

Clara Fy

I should first say that when you slam the MEA leadership, you’re basically slamming the MEA as a whole because the leadership represents its members — who, if they were dissatisfied, would oust their leadership. There’s been no ousting — another piece of education news that didn’t happen.

Why was it good that the union delayed the reopening of schools during our COVID time?

Ezra Expound

The MEA was concerned about the health of its members, students, and students’ families when it questioned if school buildings were safe enough — plus there was a mass-vaccination light at the end of the tunnel. Not sure if that light was a compact-fluorescent bulb, which vaguely resembles the old Marble Raceway game. Just sayin’…

Even as MEA members kept working hard and well teaching remotely. Anyway, elementary schools reopened in hybrid mode on April 12, and, as mentioned earlier, middle schools are scheduled to follow on May 10.

April Showers Bring May School Hours

What do you mean “follow”? On social media? Middle schools will follow elementary schools on social media? Is that a thing? And where do cat videos fit into this equation?

Meanwhile, the federal government has granted our state’s request to cancel this spring’s NJSLA tests. Are you thrilled that Pearson’s formerly named PARCCs won’t be given in Montclair?

Not Central, PARCC

Yes! No time siphoned from valuable local teaching, less anxiety for pandemic-stressed students, etc. Profit-focused Pearson execs might be grinding their teeth, but they can breathe easier knowing dental offices reopened months ago.



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.



10 replies on “MontClairVoyant: BOE Also Means ‘Barrage of Education’ News”

  1. I must assume the just announce May 10th scheduled opening of our middle schools is predicated on the continued incremental reduction since April 1st of COVID cases in Montclair . Without seeing such a continued reduction I would be concerned the middle school openings will be premature. The basis for my concern is how we currently measure the level of community spread and the associated risk level.

    The amount of community spread is typically measured by the 14-day running average of daily cases per 100,000 of population. Community risk levels are derived from the range the case count falls within. I use the Johns Hopkins & the NY Times 5-Level scale: Extremely High, Very High, High, Medium and Low.

    As of yesterday, Montclair ’s 14-day running average count was 28 cases/100K, landing Montclair at the exact middle of the second highest Very High risk level (11-45 cases). Montclair has been within this same risk level since March 1st.

    What the cases/100k metric does not factor in is Montclair’s vaccination rate. The Township is currently using the entire population base for its calculation- and the basis for my concern as it obscures the COVID infection rate among the non-vaccinated population. Why include the portion of the population who theoretically can’t get infected? Even if those vaccinated may be infected, they are mostly asymptomatic, hence unlikely to be tested.

    We need to add a second cases/100k measure that calculates case rates just in the non-vaccinated population. I appreciate we lack Montclair-specific vaccination rates, but we can extrapolate the Essex County numbers and to calculate a reasonably useful additional guide. We can also err to the conservative side and use a lower vaccination rate.

    Essex County is at 24% fully vaccinated. I would think Montclair is higher, but let’s stick to the EC number. If our case count on May 10th remains at the level it is today and we have also vaccinated 33.3% of the Township by then, we would have an effective infection rate of 43/100k. In short, this indicates an increasing rate of spread among non-vaccinated people and is approaching the Extremely High risk level.

    Clearly, if we trend slightly higher on either vaccination rate and/ore infection rate by May 10th, we will enter into the highest risk category as we start the middle schools.

    The Township should add this measure and the school district should add it to their decision-making matrix.

  2. The Montclair Public School District should fire its engineering consultants. The solar project should be place on indefinite hold. Now a needlepoint bipolar ionization system we won’t turn on…because it was a dumb, uninformed purchase. Without question. Needlpoint? Bipolar? Words that should have sent a tingle up your spine as educational leaders. The Federal Government won’t even touch this ‘technology’. My go to authority is the Country of California. I’m guessing needlepoint is not killing it there.

    SIDEBAR: Bob, this is why Federal unfunded mandates, a.k.a. knowledge sharing, can be a good thing. Local jurisdiction actions – or decades of lack of action – can hurt people & waste taxpayer $’s in the end.

    The 3-elected/2-appointed members of the Board of School Estimate really, really needs to get on their giddy-up and insert themselves into this engineering & ventilation debacle…and the capital waste involved.

    And then there is the BoE. So sad. Please, please try and do something right for a change. Get out front of a problem. It has a nice view. FYI, there is this cliche going around that you might have heard, “follow the science”. The corollary is, “follow the lack of science”. And the corollary to that is, “if it walks like an Edgemont goose, quacks like an Edgemont goose, blah, blah.” As you can tell, I’m more angry than usual. I get that way when I’m righter than rain.

    I have not seen a lack of this level of just horrible since the district didn’t file for $4+ million in reimbursements to the State’s SDA. We had to hire a financial consultant many years later who recouped what he could – and took his cut. We lost millions. Poof! Gone!

    This is that all over again.

  3. Thank you for the comments, Frank!

    Why was May 10 chosen as the date for middle schools to reopen in hybrid mode? For all we know, it could be a somewhat arbitrary date…chosen in large part because elementary schools already reopened April 12 (perhaps in a fairly safe way?), it’s getting near the end of the school year, etc.? Or maybe there’s some science and perception of decreased COVID cases involved; who can say? The May 10 date IS better than April 12, because more people will be vaccinated — albeit not nearly everyone.

    Re your second comment, I just don’t know enough about the subject you discussed to say anything in response.

  4. Dave,
    I don’t care when they open. It was more about not repeating the same ‘shaping expectations’ mistake the Superintendent made often since being hired. The man is not learning any lessons. That is a bad sign.

    Also, sending a letter to the middle school parents and then not sharing with he community? It is a little gesture. A simple gesture. But, it is consistent with the district. The MPSD is an island unto itself.

    The parents, the MEA and the administration – has a long-standing cultural disability when it comes to transparency. I would rate it around a 75% disability. It’s funny to watch each episode when a faction of these 3 adult groups feels they have been left on the outside. Not fair!!! The slighted parties revert to publicity as their weapon of first choice. Of course! Obvious.

    Then they come back into the fold after an appropriate venting – or they just don’t have the attention span with all the rest going on in their lives – and the status quo resumes.

    It is fun. Sometime. these stakeholders in public education even put a very unique twist on it.

  5. Frank, there is definitely some dysfunction going on. Re the parent part of your tripod, some parents deserve some blame but many don’t. Re the superintendent, I thought he was doing a good job during the earlier days of his tenure, but I’ve been less than impressed more recently with the wrong decision to sue the MEA and with (as you mentioned) the not-being-transparent-enough issues.

  6. Exactly why I love Montclair.

    You can’t blame the children, of course.
    Almost all the parents (swingers or not) don’t deserve any blame, they never got the proper training.
    The teachers and paras? No way are we going to blame them for their thankless jobs.
    Can’t blame the superintendent because we really haven’t had one here long enough recently to make anything stick. OK, we can blame them for accepting our job offer.
    The Central Office reports to the Superintendent, so they are just tools with advanced degrees.
    The Council clearly is off the hook.
    Caregivers? Not enough of them.
    I know!!! Le’t blame the 60% of the Montclair households that don’t have children in public schools! The empty nesters! The childless! And, just stating the obvious, those card-carrying AARPs should take the brunt of the criticism. They have the time & wisdom – they could have fixed this years ago. Sluggos.

  7. Funnily written, Frank. 🙂 I hear you about the tendency on the part of some people to pass the buck/blame others. But that’s certainly not unique to Montclair!

    When I said many parents don’t deserve blame during this COVID time, I was referring to those parents who didn’t push to reopen schools too soon, who respected the caution of teachers who thought reopening schools too soon would not be safe, etc.

  8. Dave,

    I will acknowledge that the agreed upon near-term COVID priorities are being adhered to. Foremost was to not allow the health system to be overwhelmed. Second, was to get economy back up & running. Third, was to open schools. The consensus tradeoff was to accept high infection counts and the 1-2% death rate. Objectively speaking, under these priorities & values, school COVID testing is unnecessary. We have the diagnostic testing for anyone who has symptoms or has been directly exposed. That was the deal. Anyone who follows more stringent standards can make those individual choices as their personal situation allows. Again, this was the deal. Everyone had an opportunity to give input.

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