Tag Archives: Montclair

Signs of Spring

Dear friends,

Spring has sprung and the snow is melting. Finally!

This meme was posted on Diane Ravitch blog and sums up a lot of what we support and are working towards: To reclaim and re imagine public education, to protect childhood and the joy of learning for all.

collegeready

Just for a step back,  different perspective, take a peek at what Finland is up to recently via The Independent.

And back to Montclair….

There’s a petition going around that was created by
parents in Montclair.  Here’s an excerpt from an update they posted on the petition after the MBOE meeting on 3/16/2015:

While the board of education restored some of the classroom staff and school programs it initially proposed to cut, there are still too many being eliminated. The BOE now proposes cutting 33 instead of 55 teachers and other personnel who directly impact our children’s classroom learning. Meanwhile, the board has repeatedly refused to consider cutting more than a few positions at central office (despite objections of several board members.)

The proposed budget is now being reviewed by the board of school estimates, comprised of the mayor, several town council and board of ed members. We need to let them know that the budget is still not acceptable.

The BOSE (Board of School Estimates) will be meeting tomorrow, Monday, March 23.  Here’s the info from the MPS website:

The Board of School Estimate meetings on Monday, March 23, Monday, March 30, and Monday, April 6 will be held at 6:30 p.m. in the George Inness Annex, 141 Park Street. The Mar. 23 meeting will be broadcast live on Comcast/FiOS Channel 34, FiOS Channel and streamed live on this website. See agenda.

Have a great day and a good week ahead.

Montclair Voices

A critical juncture in Montclair, NJ and what is needed for our next Superintendent

Dear Friends,

Our  community and town are grappling with several critical events happening in our district; the resignation notice but not yet leaving of Superintendent, Penny MacCormack, the budget shortfall crisis and budget meetings (the next one is scheduled for tomorrow  evening Thursday, 3/5/2015), and the PARCC testing which is happening this week along with a growing test refusal movement in Montclair and around the state.

The letter we share with you below, was sent to Mayor Jackson and all members of the Montclair BOE on February 22, 2015. Montclair Voices has received it from the author, a parent and resident of Montclair, NJ. We post with permission.

Our voices matter. Here is one:


 

Dear Mayor Jackson and Members of the Board of Education,

I am writing to share some thoughts about the common core, PARCC testing, this critical juncture Montclair is in with the departure of Penny MacCormack, and the need for a replacement, especially as the momentum against the common core and high stakes testing is increasing in this town and all over the country.

My name is Eileen Russell.  My husband Mario and I have lived in Montclair since 2005 and have had and are raising our 3 children here.  I grew up in Orange, NJ in the 70’s and 80’s and understood then the strength and wonder of Montclair’s diverse community and even of its progressive approach to education and commitment to equal education for all. I hardly expected or anticipated a return to Essex County after graduate school and living in the city, but I was delighted when our path lead us here and I have highly valued the social philosophy behind Montclair’s educational system as well as it’s rigor, creativity, and kindness.  I thought it was a blessing we could take for granted until we couldn’t take it for granted anymore with the appointment of Penny MacCormack.

We are very relieved by the news of her departure, provided it makes room for a replacement that will be a bit more critical of the major, powerful, and profitable push behind the common core and its accompanying PARCC Test. Even Governor Christie, who has unfailingly supported and pushed these rapid changes to NJ’s curriculum has recently expressed “grave concerns” about the common core as it appears that finally officials are paying attention to the “grave concerns” parents and teachers have had for a long time now.

My understanding is that teachers have been pretty systematically silenced in the public sphere about their concerns about the common core, the PARCC, and the implementation of both.  If teachers cannot speak out, they cannot educate well-meaning parents who otherwise take for granted that their kids are in good schools, getting a good education.

I am frankly flummoxed by the fact that the Broad Academy, where Penny McCormack was trained to be a Superintendent, is considered so prestigious. It seems to me that its bragging point that it accepts “leaders” from all industry whether or not they have any experience in the education of children is highly suspect as a marker of prestige, unless one is a cynic who really believes that the school system is a mess and educators have really no idea how to improve themselves.  In my field one would not consider attending an “academy” that is not accredited and has no real overseeing body to which it is accountable.

While MacCormack herself comes from an education background, it is known that people at the Academy are prepared to expect opposition when they come into a community, presumably because people are lazy-minded, resist change, etc.  MacCormack said such things herself when she explained the reason for teachers’ opposition to the changes involved in the common core by saying “It’s hard work.”  I heard her say that at a Bradford meeting in which teachers and parents were invited to come have “a conversation” with her.  I could not have imagined a more condescending response and I felt for the teachers who had clearly worked very hard and with great care and creativity in educating my children.  It was a seductive and facile way of dismissing authentic, thoughtful, and intelligent misgivings about this whole endeavor.

I am not a cynic.  But I did come to believe that if the common core and the PARCC could be so rapidly pushed through a thoughtful, integrated town like Montclair with its history in progressive education, then it could or should easily sail through anywhere else.  Other places in the country are pushing back.  Other states are pulling out of their commitment to implementing the common core and using so much of their class time and financial resources to preparing for the PARCC.  If those bold decisions are not happening at the top (i.e., governors and State departments of education) then the push has to come from the bottom; from parents, from teachers, from town BOEs, and even from students who are savvy (and already capable of “critical thinking”). Why shouldn’t Montclair live up to its history of thinking and acting outside the box?

In the very least I ask you to look for a replacement for Dr. MacCormack who has no association with the Broad Academy and whose professional history includes a record of open-mindedness, creativity, support for teachers, honest interest in hearing from parents and students, and real cooperation with the community of which s/he is a part.  I also think it would be in keeping with Montclair’s spirit that in this zeitgeist of high stakes standardized testing you consider hiring someone who is intelligently skeptical of this as the next best thing that is going to solve the problems of education and suddenly wipe out the effects of racial and income disparity among students.  Especially at this time, as opposition to what has been going on in the district and to the philosophy and approach of Dr. MacCormack, it seems wise to consider someone who is more balanced, more genuinely respectful of teachers and parents, and whose own philosophies are more in keeping with Montclair’s progressive history.

Respectfully and Sincerely,

Eileen Russell
Montclair, NJ


 

If you have letters or ideas or art you wish to share with us for consideration  on this blog relating to any Montclair school and education issues, including PARCC testing, PARCC refusals, the budget crisis, and more, please send an email to montclairvoices@gmail.com  with the subject line, “SUBMIT TO BLOG.”

Thank you for reading and sharing this with others.

Montclair Voices

The people speak up!

BOEmeet2

Made in June 2013 after a BOE meeting in which parents, students, and community spoke up against the Strategic Plan and high stakes testing. The BOE voted to approve the plan.

 

Dear Readers,

WOW! Last night’s Montclair Board of Education meeting (11/17/2014) proved that more and more parents
and community members are becoming aware of  the destructive policies being implemented by the NJDOE, Superintendent, and BOE.

Friends, people are experiencing the damage and harm it is causing our students, teachers, and schools in general. Lost learning time is only one of many things sacrificed to test prep for PARCC.

There was a terrific turn out, especially for a cold, rainy Monday night.
One after another,  passionate, caring, knowledgeable, thoughtful  community members stood up to publicly call on our Superintendent and BOE to pay attention, to listen, and to hear the community’s dissatisfaction with the status quo.

One by one, speakers took to the mic to express outrage, concerns, make statements, and ask questions. This is our town, our school district, and we will continue to stand up and speak out for OUR children.

While we’re busy unpacking all that transpired last night, we want to
thank district parent and blogger, Sarah Tepper Blaine from parentingthecore for sharing her comments made at the BOE meeting last night (11/17/14) on our Facebook page and we’re happy to share them here as well. Please read her post and share it with friends, neighbors, and fellow parents.

For anyone else who was in attendance last night, please keep your statements coming in to us here at montclairvoices@gmail.com. We want to post more comments so more people can read and find out what’s going on in our district!

Together we can make a difference.

Thanks for all you’re doing!

All of us at Montclair Voices