After a difficult year for everyone, it is more important than ever that students receive individualized attention and form personal relationships at school. Teachers and school staff are the frontlines of addressing social and emotional learning and combating any academic slide.

Why then, does the proposed school budget for next year include cuts of as many as 53 staff positions? Why would the leaders in this district, those who are entrusted with our tax dollars to care for our kids, decide that those very people should be slated for layoffs? Our children need people who know them and will connect with them. They need educators.

In following the budget process this year, we are struck by the silence of unasked questions. Where will these cuts, affecting every school, come from? Will they increase class size, lead to fewer electives, or strip special education services? As for revenues, what has the district saved while the buildings have been closed? What happened or is happening with the CARES Act money? Why is Montclair’s Title 1 funding expected to be cut by 40% next year?

Most of all, we are confused about why Montclair continually ends up in the same springtime crisis. This year, the district started the budget process with a $6.2 million deficit. Last year, it was $7.5 million short. The year before, $2.2 million. Why are we annually caught by surprise? Is it overspending, under budgeting, or a manufactured crisis? Regardless, these emergencies cause panic and harm. Parents worry about classes and opportunities their children will miss out on. School staff, whose attention should be on performing their best for kids, worry about their jobs and taking care of their families. It disrupts the entire school community.

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that relationships matter, people matter, human connection matters. This is not reflected in the current budget proposal. It is often said that a budget is a list of values. What are our values when we propose cutting 53 people? These cuts have a ripple effect, from scheduling to class offerings to maintaining the integrity of our magnet system, which draws people to Montclair in the first place.

The Montclair 250 is a group of Montclair residents who work in the school system. We are taxpayers, experts in the field of education, parents, and your neighbors. We ask the community to stand with us to support our kids and our town. Email your town councilors, ask questions to the Board of Education, and make sure we get some answers before the budget is finalized at the public Board of School Estimate meeting on April 5.

Members of the Montclair 250: Beth Albert, Anne Baney-Giampoala, Tanya Bitar, Lisa Bishop, Mary B. Blackburn, Dina Cagliostro, Marcie Chanin, Rachel Chelius, Jerry Citro, Sharron DiDonato, Susan Eckert, Trish Feely, Brian Ford, Karen Friedrich, Pamela Gerdes, Lorna Giron, Judith Grodner, Sue Guip, Hope Gulledge, Valerie E. Hampton, Sharon Hurwich, Tonja Isola, Eloiza Jorge, Solange Jorge, Bonnie Khan, Riddy Khan, Stephanie LaVail, Janette Lawrence, Jonathan Meyer, Jessica Michaud, Rachel Murphy, Harriet D. Parker, Sirena Richardson, Margaret R. Saraco, Gayl Shepard, Jamie Siwinski, Sally Solo, Shana Stein, Susan Thomas, Drury Thorpe, Margaret Whitsett, Beverly Weitzman


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