Letters to the Editor, April 30
Letters on any subject can be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org, or mailed and addressed to “Letters To The Editor,” 309 Orange Road, Montclair NJ, 07042. All submissions must include name, address, and phone number for verification. Letters must be received by 1 p.m. Tuesday to be published in Thursday’s paper. Only the letter-writer’s name and town of residence will be published.
Letters may be edited by Montclair Local for style and length. While our goal is to publish all letters we receive, Montclair Local reserves the right to not publish letters for any reason.
‘Town Square’ is our space for longer-form essays by residents designed to generate discussion on specific topics affecting the town. Topics and submissions should be emailed to email@example.com for approval at least one week in advance of publication.
Mail-in voting should become the norm
Many are talking about making mail-in ballots the norm. This should be universal! What also should be universal is voting online/electronically. Everyone should be able to vote by mail, online, or in person. Access to voting all three ways should be a major focus of our current news landscape. Surely a few companies in the tech sector, or the companies that already have contracts with the government and enable us to pay our taxes online, should develop an app or online voting capability in time for our November 2020 elections. It took a few minutes to fill out the census form. We can register for Social Security and unemployment online. We can pay our local, federal and state taxes online. We bank online, can pay almost any bill online. So many more people would vote, especially our youth, the home-bound, and of course busy working families, or people who can’t get off work to go to the polls to vote. How great would it be to be able to vote while we’re waiting to check out our groceries or while walking a dog? More ways to vote will create a more robust democracy — something we sorely need immediately and of course into our future.
Our states need funds for safe voting
As we struggle through the extended COVID-19 crisis, there are many things up in the air right now, but our democracy shouldn’t be.
Experts estimate that our states need $4 billion to prepare for elections in the time of coronavirus. Otherwise millions of voters might be disenfranchised.
In its first round of pandemic emergency legislation, Congress passed $400 million, which gets the process started. But everyone needs safe options to vote by mail, vote early or vote on Election Day. Congress must vote the additional funds now to make sure our November elections are prepared for this unprecedented threat.
Call Senator Menendez and Senator Booker.
The author is an active member of BlueWaveNJ’s Electoral Reform Working Group and a co-chair of its Healthcare Committee.
Sitting out mayoral election
Neither of the candidates for mayor respects property rights and both voted for rent control. To me there is no difference between the two.
I’m protesting by not voting for the first time in over 20 years.
Responses to ‘achievement gap skeptic’
I am writing because I was appalled by a letter that was published in the Montclair Local on April 23 written by Mark Haefeli. Mr. Haefeli commences his letter by clearly stating his belief that the Board of Education is wasting time and money in attempting to reduce the achievement gap and, instead, should fund programs for “overachievers.”
I was infuriated by his premise that parents bear the brunt of responsibility in terms of the children’s achievement. In his letter, he quickly discounted economic status, stating that “there are plenty of people who work two jobs and manage to participate in their child’s educational career.” However, socioeconomic status is one of the primary reasons that many parents cannot be as involved as they might like to be in their children’s education. It is no easy feat just providing for one’s family’s basic needs, as many of us can attest to during the current health crisis. Yet, throughout his letter, Mr. Haefeli contends that parents who are busy working just to survive are not interested in their children’s education.
In my humble opinion, he is writing from a perspective of privilege, which blinds him to the economic reality and to disparities that begin in elementary school. He cannot comprehend that there are many parents who want to participate and support their children’s education but genuinely are not able to do so. Moreover, as a white parent with children who went through their entire educational career in Montclair on reduced lunch fare, I can personally attest to the fact that the struggle to endure is real.
My own children experienced the inequities of economic class firsthand. After all, it begins with the ability to feed, clothe and provide shelter. If these primal needs are inadequately met, it is challenging to succeed. Although my children were successful academically in the Montclair school system, they will be the first to tell people how mortifying it is to have to ask for handouts, ranging from funding for an afterschool class in elementary school to waivers for the SAT and college application fees, not to mention taking home used copies of SAT books from the high school’s guidance office because new books were too expensive.
In addition, in contrast to Mr. Haefeli’s children, my children sadly remember all of the racial inequalities that existed during their time at Montclair High. Like Mr. Haefeli’s children, they were also in CGI, although they viewed it as a racist environment, which did not encourage minorities to participate. Overall, they were deeply disturbed by the racial divide that they viewed firsthand at Montclair High and how it impacted on students’ academic success.
Mr. Haefeli ends his letter by talking about looking honestly at the achievement gap. Due to his own insulation from economic and racial truths, he is the one who is being dishonest. Ultimately, he is flexing his white privilege muscle, as evidenced both by his lack of awareness and his ominous tone regarding suing in the event of pass/fail grades.
Here we go again. Even in the middle of a pandemic, someone crawls from under a rock and waves a racially divisive flag disguised as one skeptical of the achievement gap. One definition of racism is the belief that intellectual and academic differences are based upon race, clearly suggested by this letter. As black parents, we raise our kids to expect to hear this sooner or later, and they always do. It comes in different voices but makes itself heard.
Truth is, we are one high school, one town, one state, one nation, regardless of race or socioeconomic class. If one child fails, we all do because our lives are intertwined. This is the America I want my children to believe in, not one based upon selfishness, ignorance and contempt for those who are different. Such beliefs will destroy us as surely as this coronavirus may.
VALERIE WILSON WESLEY
I moved to Montclair in the mid-’70s when I was 4. I’ve read hundreds of letters to the editor and have never responded with one of my own. Mark Haefeli’s “Achievement gap skeptic” printed in the April 23 Local offended me profoundly. The overt racism, privilege and entitlement blew me over. To refer to the achievement gap as an intelligence gap is blatantly racist and just plain wrong. As someone who has given hundreds of intelligence tests in my role as a psychologist, I assure you the gap has nothing to do with intelligence. I can’t believe this needs to be stated, but the achievement gap is the result of racial disparities that exist because of our country’s long and painful history of racial inequity that continues today, everywhere. Not just at the high school. To claim that the gap is due to lack of support at school events among people of color and that you don’t want to hear the “two jobs a day excuse” is insulting and callous. Supporting our children in extracurricular events is very important, but the belief that this is the root of the gap is ignorant and overly simplistic. Those who work two jobs and still attend their children’s events, like myself, are able to do so because they are privileged. Not everyone is in this position. Not everyone has equal opportunity or equal access. Racism is embedded in every system white people benefit from. To assert that “every student who attends Montclair High School gets a fair and equal opportunity to achieve and succeed” is an ideal that isn’t possible given the context of our society. I love the high school. I’m a Mountie, my brothers are Mounties, and my three kids are Mounties, but the high school is plagued by the same injustices that exist in our country. Period.
With regard to Mr. Haefeli’s legal threat to the district if a pass/fail grading system is implemented (I didn’t know this was being considered), I too would be very upset if my 11th-grader did not get the grades he earned. I would certainly understand, however, if the district made that decision to diminish the negative impact of remote learning on children in our district. It is the district’s responsibility to support all of the students in the district, not just the white ones who have their own electronic devices, good WiFi, family members who are healthy due to adequate health care, parents who have stable income, and those with “sharp pencils.”
Don’t be racist. Go Blue.
I was shocked at the decision of Montclair Local to publish the racist screed in the letters to the editor by Mark Haefeli. We are card-carrying members of the ACLU and I am not a fan of censorship, but I fail to see how publishing this letter did anything to inform or improve the public good. He seems to ignore the historic roots, continuing to the present, that led to the achievement gap. Persons of color throughout our history have been denied employment, housing, health care, and education in America. He seems to ignore the pernicious effects of poverty that came about by overt and now insidious racism in America. I’m sure that Mr. Haefeli or his parents were not affected by the segregated schools, hospitals, colleges, and employment that were in place when they grew up, yet he fails to acknowledge the benefits he received due to the color of his skin. And what is his evidence of that lack of participation of parents of color in what he refers to as “extra-circular” activities? I have coached high school and recreational wrestling in town since 1991 and have never experienced any difference in parental participation in their children’s activities in town. My experience, frankly, is just the opposite. It is appalling that this level of overt racism is rearing its ugly head in our town.