Montclair community responds to news of teacher recalls
By ERIN ROLL
Montclair will be bringing back some of the teaching staff that were facing layoffs because of the budget cuts.
Last week, the district announced a recall of some of the teachers and paraprofessionals that were previously expected to be laid off.
The district has not yet clarified how many staff members resigned or retired, or how much money was recouped from those retirements.
“The recalls of teachers were not for specific schools as those were eliminated positions,” Interim Superintendent Barbara Pinsak said via email. “In one or two cases, the teachers were assigned to the same school because of retirement/resignation of others. Where possible, paraprofessionals were assigned to the same school or classroom.”
Pinsak said that staff retirement dollars tended to be used for the five new paraprofessional positions, or to recall employees who had been subjected to a reduction in force. These savings were also used, for two full-time and one half-time special education positions, one new mathematics position at Renaissance and one new social work position for the Academy at Glenfield, she said.
Parents criticized the staff cuts, particularly the proposed elimination of 50 paraprofessional roles, the elimination of Nishuane’s assistant principal position, and the termination of Jeff Gannon as Montclair High School’s athletic director.
In May, in response to Gannon’s expected termination, a large crowd of parents and students showed up to protest at a BOE meeting.
There is currently an interim athletic director, Pinsak said, while the district is in the process of hiring a new one. The district is also searching for a student assistance counselor at the high school, she said. The district has not indicated whether it will bring back Nishuane’s assistant principal position; when asked about that position’s status, Pinsak stated that the position had been eliminated during the budget cuts.
Petal Robertson, the incoming chair of the Montclair Education Association, did not return a request for comment before press time. Gayl Shepard, the former chair of the MEA, could likewise not be reached.
Colleen Daly Martinez, a parent, said via email on Friday, “I’m very happy to hear that more previously RIF’d teachers and paraprofessionals are returning to school for this upcoming year. Our classrooms and schools are already overcrowded. We need more staff to work toward more appropriate teacher-student ratios and class sizes.”
Daly Martinez said it was critical for students and schools to have stability, as well as for staff members and their families.
She hopes the district will learn something from this year’s budget situation.
“In what other setting, whether a family, business, or nonprofit, is it realistic to not have a long term budget?” Daly Martinez said. “With the amount of tax money that our board is spending each year, I think it’s irresponsible to spend as they go, and then come up short at the end of the cycle. I hope that our board works diligently this year to develop a multi year budget.”
Wendy Lacey, of the Special Education Parent Advocacy Council, issued this statement on behalf of the group: “SEPAC supports the district as it recognizes the importance of keeping Montclair’s special education services fully staffed in order to adhere to students’ [individualized education plans], and to ensure that all our children receive a high quality, cutting edge education resulting in high outcomes.”