By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

Some Montclair parents are complaining that they didn’t receive important first-day-of-school information until a few days before the schools were set to open.

The Montclair school district posted a lot of first-day information, including teacher placements, on its online portal for families on Friday, Sept. 1.

The parents say that getting that information less than a week before the first day of school is creating unneeded stress both for them and for children. Some took to social media on Friday afternoon to express their frustration at not receiving critical information about the first day of school until 3 p.m. on Friday.

“There’s a lot of things we find out later than other districts,” said Debra Caplan on Friday. Caplan has two children at Nishuane School, entering kindergarten and second grade.

She said the relative lateness of Montclair’s first-day information was a source of frustration for many families.

Laura Hertzog, BOE president and also a parent and aunt of students in Montclair schools, said that she herself had not received any feedback or comments from parents about the issue. “My understanding is that people are unhappy about this every year,” she said on Friday.

The BOE is responsible for oversight, rather than direct management, Hertzog said. On issues such as when to release first-day-of-school information, she said, the board has traditionally deferred to the superintendent and the central office administrators. Certain information, however, such as school supply lists, comes directly from the individual schools or houses within schools, she said.

When asked whether the BOE might discuss the scheduling and logistics, Hertzog said she would be open to bringing it up for discussion, but noted that the releasing of first-day information was one of many moving parts involved in the planning for the new school year.

Genesis portal
Montclair makes first-day information, including teacher placements and bus schedules, available through the Genesis web portal. On Friday, just after 3 p.m., several parents reported that the teacher placements were only then being made available through Genesis, and one or two parents reported that the system had crashed through overload.

“It creates a lot of stress for parents,” Caplan said. When her older child was getting ready to enter kindergarten, she said, her family didn’t have access to the bus schedules until right before the first day. This in turn made it difficult to arrange her work and commuting schedule, she said, adding that other parents need the bus schedules so they can arrange for child care.

She also said that in many other districts, children know well ahead of time who their teacher will be, and that many schools are able to arrange meet-and-greets during the summer. “Those rituals are really comforting for kids.

“I think the teachers are in a hard position too,” Caplan said.

“It’s a shame. It’s not good for kids (especially kids with special needs who may have more transition difficulty), but I completely understand why they do it,” Colleen Daly Martinez said of the district’s practice of releasing information right before the start of school.

Part of the problem, Martinez said, is that many parents appeal to the district to get a certain teacher or certain school for their child.

“If only [the district] would start laying down the law and actually not caving to parents it could create a culture change, but that requires someone permanent and strong,” she said.