Montclair schools set out road map from listening sessions
By ERIN ROLL
During Monday night's BOE meeting at the George Inness Annex, Superintendent Kendra Johnson laid out a proposed road map for the district after months of listening sessions with parents and staff.
Earlier this spring, the newly-appointed Johnson embarked on the sessions held at various schools asking for input on issues facing the students and the district as a whole.
Transparency in school communications was a prominent issue, as well as special education and harassment, intimidation and bullying. Sometimes, she said, parents aren't entirely clear on what constitutes bullying and harassment.
One topic that Johnson brought up involves life pathways.
"It is important to remember, that not all students in the Montclair schools will end up going to college. Some may enter the military, or start a job apprenticeship, or go to technical school," Johnson said. The district must prepare all students for whatever career path they choose, she said.
In the months ahead, the district plans to roll out an updated website, and to revisit its social media presence. Other future projects include the Alex's Compassion Project, named for late Montclair High School graduate Alex Patenaude. The project will help students cope with mental health and well-being issues.
Self-care services for employees will also be implemented.
"Because when staff members are happy, kids are happy. And when kids are happy, they come to school. They want to learn," Johnson said.
The topic of security upgrades also is a priority. School administrators had met with their security team, and with the Montclair Police Department. The priorities include extra protection of exterior doors and updating of security cameras. Before the school year begins, each school will have a safety plan that will be communicated to the public, she said.
Latifah Jannah had been sworn in as the board's newest member earlier in the evening. She replaces Jevon Caldwell-Gross, who stepped down in June to accept a new job in Indianapolis.
The board voted to start soliciting bids for the Woodman and Fortunato Field projects, as well as a new HVAC system for Watchung.
The subject of school lunches also came up. Board member Anne Mernin suggested that, since the district tends to lose money in meal service, the district should look at raising the price of lunches. But BOE President Laura Hertzog said an increase in lunch prices could end up hurting students who are not on free and reduced-price lunch, but who are not well-off, either.
Business Administrator Emidio D'Andrea said that the board needed to vote on a resolution concerning meal prices that evening, but that the district could revisit the topic with their food service provider at a later date.