Montclair is hoping to do a review of its special education program starting next year.

The logistics of how to get that review going were discussed at last week’s BOE meeting.

At issue was the wording of a resolution that would call for the board to start a review of the special education program by the beginning of 2018.

According to Board President Laura Hertzog, the sticking point is that the resolution contains a long list of components, and not all of the board members agree with each one of those components.

Interim Superintendent Barbara Pinsak said she had talked to the director of special services and asked what could be accomplished in terms of a special education review by January.

Board member Anne Mernin said 17 percent of Montclair’s students are classified as needing special education services. “That’s almost one in five of our students,” she said. She noted that the board had an obligation to the public as the caretaker of the school finances as well as of the students’ well-being and education.

What was needed, Mernin said, was a look at all of the special education program components and how they function together, rather than one or two specific items. “It’s a big commitment. It’s a heavy lift.” The wording of the resolution should reflect that, she said.
“We have had, for many years, conversations similar to this where we’ve waited for six months for a presentation by special services,” she said. “Those presentations, while they may have been good on a particular point... we, as a board, didn’t walk away knowing, where do we need to invest?”

In a follow-up conversation via email with Montclair Local, Hertzog said the next step is to meet with Tom Santagato, the director of special services, to go over the wording of the resolution and figure out how it can be phrased to outline the district’s needs.

Hertzog said she couldn’t comment on the exact content of the resolution, because draft resolutions are not made public. “But broadly speaking, the intent of the resolution is for us to make a commitment to do a comprehensive review of our special ed,” she said.

Superintendent search
The Nov. 1 meeting included a short update on the superintendent search.

Judy Ferguson of search firm HYA Executive Search reported that as of Nov. 1, there were about 90 applicants.

The board hopes to have a permanent replacement selected by January; that candidate would officially start work in July.

MCPK trustees
The BOE is getting ready to pick two people to join the Montclair Community Pre-K’s board of trustees.

Hertzog said the MCPK had reached out to the board and asked it to nominate two people to join the board, since there are vacancies.

Hertzog suggested that the BOE put an application link on the district website and invite people to submit their names.

During the public comment period, Diane Anglin, a longtime MCPK trustee, thanked the board for discussing the trustee hiring.