Montclair Board President’s Statement on Agenda Order Changes and Last Night’s Meeting

BY  |  Tuesday, Sep 24, 2013 7:00pm  |  COMMENTS (32)

Montclair Board President Robin KulwinMontclair Board President Robin Kulwin sent Barista Kids the following statement about last night’s meeting and agenda order changes:

Last night the Montclair Board of Education altered the agenda order for its meetings, implementing two important changes. First, the public portion of the meeting was split into two—one 30-minute section for comment on agenda items, prior to those items being taken up, and an unlimited section at the end of the meeting for non-agenda items (in both circumstances, each speaker is limited to three minutes). Second, we moved the MEA and the PTA Council from time unconstrained slots to immediately before the first three-minute slots in both public comment sections.

We made this change to address two issues. The first issue is one of timing. A meeting of the Board of Education is a meeting of the Board to conduct its business, in public. The Montclair School District has over 1,000 employees and a budget exceeding $110 million. For the Board to conduct effective oversight, its members need the time and energy to ask questions, debate and decide how to vote on the myriad of financial, legal, personnel and policy issues that arise from such a large, complex organization. Since the Board meeting takes place in the evening and many members work during the day, changing the format enables the board to address the items requiring a vote earlier in the evening.

The second issue relates to the creation of a climate hostile to free expression. Over the last 18 months, I have received increasing complaints that the behavior of the MEA at BOE meetings is intimidating to non-MEA members; that parents are uncomfortable to speak at BOE meetings; and that parents are worried to speak in favor of positions opposed by the MEA. And, indeed, last night when a few parents expressed the fact that yes, it was intimidating to speak at the meeting, they were heckled.

The Board wants to hear from all the constituencies in Montclair. Under the new format, the MEA has the first speaking slots in both public comment sections; its members have unlimited time to speak in the non-agenda public comment portion of the meeting. Any contention that their voices are stifled is nonsense. However, it is our hope and desire that the change in format will enable Montclair parents and Montclair residents to express themselves once again without fear of harassment, intimidation or retaliation.

I am  particularly distressed by Gayl Shepard’s attempts to wrap the cloak of desegregation and race relations around what is a labor issue. Behind every demonstration at a BOE meeting over the last 18 months is one fact: Teachers in Montclair are worried. They are worried because the State of New Jersey has instituted a more robust evaluation system; they are worried because the State of New Jersey has significantly weakened tenure laws. Combine that with significant change resulting from the implementation of a new curriculum aligned to the more rigorous Common Core State Standards and it is no surprise members of the MEA are agitated.  However, Ms. Shepard’s attempt to suggest the change in Board format is any way analogous to the fight for desegregation is disingenuous and her claim that the Board is failing to honor the democratic process because “not all parties are heard and represented” is simply not the case.

We recognize the importance of our teachers to our schools. As the point of contact with our students, the success of our schools lies in their hands. We also sympathize with their concerns regarding new evaluation systems and weaker tenure protection. Recognizing how much change the Common Core State Standards would require of our teachers, the Superintendent pushed hard to give our teachers a raise (2.8%), which was 25% higher than the state average. We wanted to send a strong message to our teachers:  we need you and we appreciate you.  At the same time, we don’t have the luxury of delaying our new curriculum and we’re confident that as this year progresses, the positive effects on our students of the new curriculum will please both teachers and parents alike.

We want to hold BoE meetings not only where the business of the Board can be accomplished, but where parents, MEA members, and the community at large can freely express their opinions and concerns without being heckled. We firmly believe that with the support and cooperation of the MEA leadership this can happen.

32 Comments

  1. POSTED BY idratherbeat63  |  September 24, 2013 @ 8:52 pm

    This is an unfortunate explanation of the mayhem created by the Board of Education. It is even more unfortunate in that it encourages conflict between teachers and parents, as if the Board of Education is in a position to adjudicate following its own behavior.

    The Chairperson of the Board of Education should not be providing excuses for a non-inclusive agenda she cannot control. She has a responsibility to ensure that the Board of Education reaches informed decisions, not just any decision, and certainly not decisions dictated by an ill-informed School Superintendent.

    This statement does not represent a genuine attempt to reduce conflict and move ahead as a community. It is, again, unfortunate.

  2. POSTED BY agideon  |  September 24, 2013 @ 9:17 pm

    “This is an unfortunate explanation of the mayhem created by the Board of Education.”

    It did miss an important point. Last night, some kindergarten parents were forced to wait for hours to speak on the issue that concerned them. I wonder how many of their peers were among the people that signed up to speak but who had to leave before they’d their chance.

    I know someone that had something informed and interesting to say about world language education, but he gave up his opportunity due to the hour. I thought that a pity, having heard a preview.

    While a non-hostile environment for these parents is crucial, they also need a meeting that’s not subverted by antics like those of last night. This is not the MEA’s meeting nor the PTA’s. The PTA already has meetings where it can present to its own agenda; the MEA can do the same. The MEA – and the entire staff of the district – has as much right as anyone else to speak at a BOE meting, but those others have that right too.

    I feel like we’re watching the religious right and its arguments over contraception. The issue isn’t the RR’s right not to use contraception; it is their right to deny it to others. This isn’t about the MEA speaking. Hundreds of members at 3 minutes a head is a lot of speaking, should they so desire.

    Rather, this is about keeping others from speaking.

    Or maybe it’s really just about one person’s love of the spotlight.

    …Andrew

  3. POSTED BY marcella  |  September 24, 2013 @ 9:23 pm

    “wrap the cloak of desegregation and race relations around what is a labor issue” If you don’t think race relations and labor issues are directly correlated then you need to check your privilege or call it for what it is. It is obvious there is no hiding from the elephant. A petition with 500 signatures means nothing while a couple of conversations in the supermarket move the board. For those parents who are concerned about the ranking of our towns schools, it is quite simple. We will never be Bergen County or other high ranking districts who don’t have a population with diverse socio economic backgrounds. The only reason why we are having these issues is because of the achievement gap. This reform could not make it here if there was no gap. They have been pushing this reform in inner cities all over nation where citizens are not vocal because of a lack of privilege. You don’t have to be an expert to know where this board is going is wrong. Take 20 minutes and google things like “education best practices” or “achievement gap.” I am grateful that MEA stands up for their students, I wish that more teacher’s unions did. Unfortunately in inner cities the lack of parental involvement and labor issues discourages teachers from taking a stand. Oh an FYI Bergen County Freeholders have written a resolution to pull out of Common Core. Looks like common core is not good enough for them. http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/bergen-county-new-jersey-resolution-to-stop-common-core/

  4. POSTED BY marcella  |  September 24, 2013 @ 9:34 pm

    “It did miss an important point. Last night, some kindergarten parents were forced to wait for hours to speak on the issue that concerned them.” Whose fault is this? Who changed the format of the meeting and pushed non agenda public comments back? Who sat their and lectured a number of people who disagreed with the boards for 10 minutes? Who runs the meetings? Andrew I am starting to think you are just as good as an artist as our board members. You love painting pictures. Stick to the facts.

  5. POSTED BY qby33  |  September 24, 2013 @ 9:36 pm

    “The MEA – and the entire staff of the district- has as much right as anyone else to speak at a BOE meeting” Isn’t it true that in order to speak at a BOE meeting you have to be a Montclair resident Mr. Gideon? I don’t believe all MEA members are Montclair residents, therefore the MEA is their voice!

  6. POSTED BY berthamason  |  September 24, 2013 @ 9:58 pm

    As a parent and a teacher in the district there are two points of Ms. Kulwin’s statement that I find disturbing. First is the idea that teachers are worried. Yes, there have been many state and district level changes, but we are not worried. We handle change every day as a central part of our jobs. We DISAGREE. As professionals who have spent our lives dedicated to children, who have bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and in some cases Ph.D.’s in education, we are not convinced that these changes will increase learning and that they should be implemented in our schools. The research simply isn’t there. Many districts, including our neighbors in Bloomfield, have spoken out against the common core and culture of testing. I would like to see the board in progressive Montclair do the same.

    Second, to state that this is a labor dispute and ignore race relations is a danger. This new form of education reform– standards-based teaching, data-driven instruction, increased testing– is very much tied to poor and failing schools who are populated with minority children. The fact that very few wealthy private and prep schools (mostly white) have adopted the common core or any standardized testing supports the idea that the rich get taught while the poor get tested. The fact that AP students are not participating in the quarterly assessments while lower-level students are, evokes issues of race within our own district. I encourage anyone in a position of power, as Ms. Kulwin is, to never shy away from the discussion of race.

  7. POSTED BY a321  |  September 24, 2013 @ 10:35 pm

    The head of the MEA has been increasingly rude and self-aggrandizing over the past year +. She thinks that her role is to wage constant dramatic war on the BOE. That teachers and “concerned citizens” spent 4 hours pontificating over whether she has the “right” to speak as an agenda speaker or should wait until the comments portion of the meeting, shows their priorities, which certainly do not include the education of the students in this town.
    Shame on her!!!

  8. POSTED BY montclairparent87  |  September 24, 2013 @ 11:36 pm

    I’m glad Andrew Gideon noted that some parents who had important things to say gave up last night and left. That is very unfortunate. But it is a direct result of the board’s abrupt and anti-democratic change in policy of requiring all public speakers to wait until the end unless they are speaking on a matter on the agenda.

    I also agree with the commenters who note the disingenuousness of Kulwin’s blaming this on teachers feeling scared. Please. That is false and so insulting to the educators in our town, as if teachers and other members of the MEA could not be motivated by anything other than fear?

    But the other part of Kulwin’s statement that I find most troubling is the pure falsehood that the board changed its meeeting agenda so that parents who want to speak won’t fear “harassment, intimidation or retaliation.”

    Is she kidding? I’ve been to the board meetings. The only intimidation is coming from the dais. The fact is that this board is facing growing resistance and concern about the policies it is inflicting on our schools and our children. Rather than heed and respond to these concerns, it is trying to stifle the voices of parents and the public.

    Commenter a321 is also misrepresenting the facts. From all that I have seen of the MEA president, she was not looking for a fight with this board. And even when disagreeing with the board, she is always respectful and measured. As the commenter above said, she is the voice of the MEA. She is speaking for the teachers, the paraprofessionals and the other MEA members in our schools. We need to listen to what they have to say.

  9. POSTED BY unintimidated  |  September 25, 2013 @ 6:16 am

    Board President Kulwin needs to do her due diligence. When she says ‘the State of New Jersey has instituted a more robust evaluation system’ she is factually incorrect. The State has instituted a weak, arbitrary system, dependent upon metrics which were not designed to be used to evaluate teachers. The evaluation system uses descriptive indicators of student progress which do not in any way indicate why they made the progress they did. As I said, this is by design.

    As a parent, I say thank god we still have tenure. Without it teachers will never be able to stand up and try to stop these kind of abuses of our children.

  10. POSTED BY idratherbeat63  |  September 25, 2013 @ 8:58 am

    It appears it will be difficult for the Montclair School District to recover from the actions of the Board of Education and the School Superintendent. It is time for these people who should occupy positions of leadership to consider carefully if they are contributing to improved education in Montclair or simply implementing standards and practices about which they have little understanding.

    The persistent use of conflict and avoidance seems to have reached a pinnacle. If they generally care about the students and they have some sense of personal integrity, they should consider stepping aside and allowing for new and honest people with an understanding of education to take over the positions of responsibility.

  11. POSTED BY skeptical  |  September 25, 2013 @ 9:37 am

    I am a parent who sat through the 5 1/2 hour three-ring circus to speak. What disturbed me more than anything else was the constant emphasis the Board put on information members had learned “at the supermarket” while they more or less ignored the comments made by parents and students who finally spoke after having sat there patiently waiting for a chance to speak during what is supposed to be the appropriate channel for such things.

    The public comment section did not begin until after midnight (the meeting itself began after 8 pm when the Board leisurely took its seats) and so any parent or student who wanted to speak had to have waited at least 4 1/2 hours.

    This was my first board meeting and I can say that the intimidation does not come from the MEA, but from the Board itself, members of which yawn and leave to use the restroom while the PTA reps and parents and students speak. The Board’s disrespect of the audience was staggering and I will find another forum in which to address my concerns in the future.

    I, too, work during the day and volunteer in the school system. I don’t know why the Board feels that its work and volunteer commitments are superior to those of the parents and teachers who are trying to contribute their perspective to some of the challenges facing the district. We’re all in this together, working to make the schools better. This kind of public recrimination among people working toward the same goals is really a waste of time and energy.

  12. POSTED BY alic314  |  September 25, 2013 @ 9:42 am

    Once again, I’m just so annoyed, so disappointed in the way the MEA has reacted to this situation. And even more so for the non-MEA members who are continuing to beat this drum along with the MEA.
    I thank BOE President Robin Kulwin for her steady and consistent approach here.
    I would ask the MEA to stop with the grand standing. These are fights and arguments that are not necessary for the public BOE meetings.
    Can we stop with the dramatics now?
    Really, I’m still just appalled about the “back of the bus” comment. That was just so far reaching, so incredibly disrespectful to the struggle for equal rights, I can’t even fathom the decision to put that phrase out there, and even more so for the countless people in the auditorium the other evening could blindly read that aloud.
    Look at yourselves, we are not Selma, AL. We are not 1964 Mississippi. Get a grip, act like the professionals and adults that you are.
    Be respectful. It’s not a bad thing.
    Life is short-there are much more important things for us to be focusing on here. Like educating our kids and improving our schools. Instead, all we have is an argument about whether or not the BOE meeting is democratic.

  13. POSTED BY idratherbeat63  |  September 25, 2013 @ 10:11 am

    It is unfortunate that the Board of Education has gone so far in its rhetoric and actions as to deliberately create tension and conflict between parents and teachers. It is even more unfortunate to see parents pushing that conflict further here.

    A Board of Education that ignores its community and its professional teaching staff is not fit to lead in education. This Board appears to lack educational values as well as insights.

    There is a sense in which the “back of the bus” comment was inappropriate. Gayle Shepherd could of, and perhaps should have, handled herself differently for the sake of the community and the students.

    Nonetheless, the personal attacks and general disrespect from the BOE for the teachers and their leaders have been building over a period of time. This abrupt and uncalled for agenda change, with no prior consultation, was intended to drive conflict and contribute to further insult.

    alic314, you are wrong. How we educate our children and the atmosphere in which that education takes place is a result of the Board of Education actions, good and bad. Your dismissive suggestion that “all we have is an argument about whether or not the BOE meeting is democratic or not” certainly misses the point. This argument was directly caused by the Board of Education’s decisions and actions. This argument needs to be fought, for the sake of education, for the sake of our children and for the sake of the kind of society we want to live in. In this sense, it is understandable that members of our community with legitimate and insightful concerns do not want to be forced to the back of the bus.

  14. POSTED BY alic314  |  September 25, 2013 @ 10:37 am

    idratherbebeat63. Sorry-I just see a lot of people shouting. Shouting, stamping feet, and shouting. I have seen no discourse here. And you just took that comment a step further-again. Really. YOU just said Ms. Shepherd should have gone a different route, and the n you went down that same route. C’mon!
    Just stop it.
    If my 3 year old acted this way…for the sake of our children, I would hope that this type of behavior wouldn’t be happening.

  15. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  September 25, 2013 @ 10:41 am

    I find it extremely inappropriate that Ms Shepard used the term “back of the bus”.
    If that represents the sentiment of the MEA, than we have much bigger problems than whether she gets 3, 5 or 10 minutes.

  16. POSTED BY idratherbeat63  |  September 25, 2013 @ 11:56 am

    The mayor should request urgently a meeting between all BOE members and the leadership of the MEA. They should all agree to respect and common decency, and then agree on a shared set of working procedures for discussion and conflict resolution. They need to demonstrate responsible cooperation in an appropriately constructive environment at the next BOE meeting with parents and students. If they cannot do this, the BOE will need to admit that it has lost control and can no longer fulfill its mandate.

    The damage already done by Superintendent MacCormack is largely beyond repair. But future damage needs to be prevented. New leadership at least here is required.

    The real problem behind all of this is a Board of Education that has been led around by the nose by the School Superintendent. This is putting the cart before the horse, it is the failure of the BOE to take its own proper responsibility, and inevitably it will lead to bad decisions that are not even recognized.

    alic314 and Frank Rubacky (and others here), you are correct: the “back of the bus” remark was entirely inappropriate. Playing the race card is neither helpful or acceptable (or real). There was enough wrong to go around in the room, but at the end of the day it is the BOE’s meeting, they are the ones responsible and accountable. And the BOE is failing the children and the town.

  17. POSTED BY montclairparent87  |  September 25, 2013 @ 12:09 pm

    Everyone interested in Montclair Public Schools should come to a parent-sponsored forum on Sunday, Oct. 6 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Unitarian congregation’s sanctuary on Church Street. Here is story that ran earlier on Baristanet on the forum which is titled, “Which way Montclair? A community conversation about our schools.” There will be a panel discussion and an hour will be reserved for community dialogue.

    http://kids.baristanet.com/2013/09/montclair-education-reform-group-holding-public-forum-montclairs-public-schools/

  18. POSTED BY dherron  |  September 25, 2013 @ 12:25 pm

    I really can’t believe what I am reading/hearing. Forget about whether someone said, “back of the bus.”
    Forget about who was allowed to speak or not speak; that matter will be addressed by others, perhaps more knowledgeable than us all. Did anyone who attended the Montclair BOE meeting not notice, WE HAD COMPANY, FOLKS. And why do you think they were present. They were from; the state, NJEA, and from the county, all there to see Montclair in its glory.
    I am more concerned about LEGAL ISSUES. The BOE said they changed the agenda, due to complaints. Did they vote? If not, that is illegal, they must vote as a full BOE.
    see NJSA 18A:12-24.1.
    Did the BOE president send those complaints to the Super to act upon?
    If not-that is a violation of NJSA 18A:12-24.1
    WEREN’T you listening? MacCormack admitted to not evaluating principals. State law mandates that ALL principals be evaluated annually. It’s the Law.

  19. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  September 25, 2013 @ 12:54 pm

    I’m sorry, I can’t forget what Ms Shepard said and I respectfully & strongly disagree with you dherron.

    I try to stay out of Montclair School issues because I do not have any children. The BOE & Superintendent issues you raise can easily be addressed and corrected.
    Where Ms Shepard wanted to take her issues now makes it a township issue and one that is an ongoing issue of mindset.

    So unless the MEA want to join into a township issue as an organization – through their leadership – then they need to stick to the educational issue and I’ll stick my nose out of their business.

  20. POSTED BY Frank Rubacky  |  September 25, 2013 @ 2:19 pm

    dherron,
    After reflection on your point about the State & the NJEA being present, I would like to hear Ms Milly Silva’s point of view about the appropriatness of the “back of the bus” remark. I somehow doubt the NJEA will have a comment.

  21. POSTED BY dherron  |  September 25, 2013 @ 3:44 pm

    I just want to know one thing, who is ok with our BOE violating the law.

  22. POSTED BY agideon  |  September 25, 2013 @ 4:37 pm

    “who is ok with our BOE violating the law”

    This is called a leading question. Sure, if you believe this to be the case then you should seek the appropriate remedies. I myself find some difficulty in believing that the BOE must vote in public to set the agenda of a meeting, given that this appears to create a cyclic dependency. But I don’t pretend to be a lawyer.

    http://www.state.nj.us/education/ethics/coe.htm is worth reading, though. For those complaining about the BOE letting the superintendent administer the school, see items c and d.

    …Andrew

  23. POSTED BY dherron  |  September 25, 2013 @ 6:08 pm

    agideon wrote,
    “Sure, if you believe this to be the case then you should seek the appropriate remedies.”

    You misunderstood my post. I did not say that the BOE had to vote to set the agenda, I believe what i actually said was, “The BOE said they changed the agenda, due to complaints. Did they vote? If not, that is illegal, they must vote as a full BOE.
    see NJSA 18A:12-24.1.
    The BOE’s change was an altering of the format, that cannot be done by the BOE president alone.
    What would prevent a president from say, removing resolutions altogether from the agenda, certainly would save time, if that is a concern to the BOE.
    However cyclic dependency you believe voting on changes to the agenda would create, it is designed that way to prevent consolidating power in the hands of the BOE pres.
    Check it out, do the research. B/cuz. I already have. As far as seeking other remedies, well that is always an option. Thanks

  24. POSTED BY dherron  |  September 25, 2013 @ 6:15 pm

    I just want to know one thing, who is ok with our BOE violating the law?

    That is still my question of the day.

    There is a law which states-School principals must be evaluated…

    There is a law which states-actionable items must come before the BOE for a vote.

    There is a law which states-weapons in schools, or suspected weapons must be reported to the police.

    Failure to do these tasks is a violation of state law.

  25. POSTED BY a321  |  September 26, 2013 @ 8:37 am

    Monday night’s BOE meeting was an impressive performance by Gail Shepard. She did a shockingly comprehensive job of garnering support from many part of the community, including Renee Baskerville, Town Council Member. Where was this display when the paraprofessionals did not have any benefits? Why was there 100x the outcry when Ms. Shepard was moved from speaking (untimed) during the agenda to speaking (timed) during the comment period compared to when the most vulnerable members of the MEA went without benefits and many lost their jobs? The screamng, yelling, foot stamping, finger wagging, insults and endless lecturing about her “right” to speak for as long as she wants during the business portion of BOE meetings would have been a joke if it was not such a sad statement. What does this say about her priorities? Her star billing status is more important than member jobs and benefits? How much sooner could those members of the MEA gotten their benefits if this much effort and energy had gone into representing them? Maybe some of this effort and energy could be re-directed into focusing on what can be done about the getting rid of the achievement gap in Montclair. Does the MEA really think that its members have absolutely zero responsibility for changing their practices to address the achievement gap? Is the widening achievement gap really 100% the fault of the BOE and the superintendent who has been here less than 1 year? The BOE’s job is educate children, not to provide a speaking platform for a megalomaniac and her fan club. It is time to allow the BOE to focus on the business of running a school district.

  26. POSTED BY R. King  |  September 26, 2013 @ 8:49 am

    a321 – Well said!

  27. POSTED BY idratherbeat63  |  September 26, 2013 @ 9:02 am

    a321 You are correct in that Gail Shepard did not behave entirely professionally and the MEA could have handled this much more positively and still achieved the same message.

    It is indeed time for the BOE to start to do something positive for the benefit of the children in the Montclair School District.

    A. Gideon shows us nicely just how extensively this BOE is failing. Points C&D of the NJ Code of Ethics for School Board Members are particularly relevant regarding how the Board of Education has allowed the Superintendent to take over its responsibilities (and to do so with no accountability):

    “c. I will confine my board action to policy making, planning, and appraisal, and I will help to frame policies and plans only after the board has consulted those who will be affected by them.

    “d. I will carry out my responsibility, not to administer the schools, but, together with my fellow board members, to see that they are well run.”

    Regarding point c., all policy making, planning, and appraisal (BOE responsibilities) have been put in the hands of the School Superintendent, including the strategic plan for the school, high level (and low level) position creation and hiring, budget (increases), curricula policy, and employee appraisals (even the ones that don’t happen). The BOE simply rubber stamps Superintendent MacCormack’s wild ideas. And this is done largely behind closed doors. Consultations with parents, students and teachers (“those who will be affected”) comes after, if at all (“those who suffer the affects”).

    Regarding point d., how many people in Montclair still believe that the schools are “well run?” Just what has the BOE done to ensure the schools are well run?

    So it may not only be a question of a BOE that breaks the law. It may also be a question of a BOE that is without the appropriate ethics.

    It is understandable that responsible teachers, parents and students are protesting loudly the BOE and the School Superintendent.

  28. POSTED BY agideon  |  September 26, 2013 @ 10:45 am

    “have been put in the hands of the School Superintendent, including the strategic plan for the school”

    Still more misinformation. A BOE vote in this area occurred on Monday, in fact.

    Take a lesson from the GOP’s difficulties you can find described in http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/26/us/politics/cruz-tea-party-hero-rankles-senate-gop-colleagues.html where even GOP Senators like Tom Coburn are now complaining about their own low-information supporters. A steady diet of misinformation is caustic, and eventually burns even the purveyor.

    “It is indeed time for the BOE to start to do something positive for the benefit of the children”

    The problem you have is that many of us see exactly this happening. After finding out that the entire town had been misinformed about the achievement gap, for one example (see some of the data in http://kids.baristanet.com/2013/04/op-ed-a-new-look-at-the-new-look-at-montclairs-academic-achievement-gap/), the BOE and the new superintendent have acted. Is their answer perfect? That would be nice but it seems unlikely. Yet it takes us away from the status quo and moves us in a direction that should be an improvement. This isn’t a one-time point-and-shoot deal. The district’s plans will evolve over time as it sees how well different aspects are and are not working.

    I don’t agree with everything that’s occurring in our schools. Someone even mentioned one of my pet peeves on Monday: the elementary school libraries. Others mentioned K-5 world language. But we’ve little chance to push the issues people see as important because of all the shouting, real (in the meetings) and virtual (in fora such as this). One of the speakers that gave up his time after all the shouting and chanting was going to address world language (with some ideas I thought could be quite helpful). We lose so much of that discussion about how to improve amidst the noise.

    Accusations of a lack of ethics etc. do nothing to help the district improve. They serve only to maintain the status quo. This is working for some kids. Perhaps even for most kids. But we’re not doing everything we can for all of our children, and that’s simply wrong (as well as against our own long-term interests).

    Stop the misinformation. Stop the shouts about one person’s spotlight. Stop the shouts period. Let’s see where we are, see where we’re going, and see how we can do better.

    …Andrew

  29. POSTED BY idratherbeat63  |  September 27, 2013 @ 6:56 am

    agideon, how can you be so entirely disingenuous in this discussion? You were the one who raised the question of the ethics of the members of the Board of Education and even referred to the Code of Ethics they are required to respect. When it is shown that they do not take their responsibilities as their own Code requires, you state “Accusations of a lack of ethics etc. do nothing to help the district improve. They serve only to maintain the status quo.” This is neither true nor helpful.

    The unethical behavior of the members of the Board of Education has a direct impact on the education of the children in the school district, including your own. When the School Superintendent states directly that she broke the law at a Board of Education business meeting and there is no reaction from any member of the Board of Education, then there are serious issues of Board’s ethics that directly affect the district’s education. When the School Superintendent admits that she stayed in a “guidance counselor office opening” when informed of a gun incident at a school, when she refused to phone back the school principal, let alone inform the police and parents and go directly to the school, and then fired her subordinate rather than take responsibility, there is a serious question of ethics on the Board of Education. When the Board of Education refuses to discuss constructively with teachers and parents and students the serious issues of a strategic plan for the schools, the hiring of expensive administrators, the writing out of new bonds to pay for an increased school budget, the implementation of curricula and testing, the large failure of foreign language learning, then there is indeed an issue of ethics on the Board of Education that affects the daily learning environment of the students.

    Accusing those who address the genuine concerns regarding educational governance, law and ethics of “misstatements” and “misinformation” and trying to override the discussion with anecdotal reports of one parent’s struggle to educate their individual child does not lend itself to credibility. If you do not agree with the statements others make, you should explain why. If you believe that the information others bring to a discussion is wrong or incomplete, you should explain how it is wrong or incomplete and what you believe is correct. If you put an issue on the table for discussion, you should not then attempt to remove it because it does not support the position you want to defend.

    Frankly, you come across as a young parent who is passionate but also anxious in trying to get everything right for your child. It is understandable. But you need to relax a bit your immediate worries and look around more carefully to see what is going on. This is difficult to do when your child needs 24/7 care. But it would benefit you and your child in the long run to do so. No one doubts that you are a good person and a good parent. The same with the members of the Board of Education and the School Superintendent. But what they are doing is deeply damaging to the school district and the town as a whole. The failure to act legally and ethically should not be taken lightly or simply dismissed. It is precisely the status quo that you have been defending, the same status quo that will damage your child’s education and that of many others.

    You would do well to take a few more days and reflect on what is really in the interest of your child.

  30. POSTED BY idratherbeat63  |  September 27, 2013 @ 12:30 pm

    Has Baristanet received an update on this statement from Ms. Kulwin?

  31. POSTED BY dherron  |  September 27, 2013 @ 9:38 pm

    I am surprised and astounded by many of the parents in Montclair, who obviously care very much about the education of their children. We heard, precisely and clearly at the recent BOE meeting, that our superintendent did not conduct evaluations of principals in Montclair. We know that our superintendent is really a “superintendent in training.” She has yet to get her super’s certification. “Should have it in a couple of months,” was the statement used by BOE member Leslie Larson. But wait, part of the process for “superintendents in training,” is a requirement that they do evaluations of principals. How can our superintendent get her certification, when she failed to complete one of its major requirements? Are we no longer concerned about ethics? Are ethics a mere inconvenience, to be ignored, based on who violates them?

    Being in compliance with the law, and upholding ethical standards trumps everything else, regardless of who claims otherwise.

    From what I see, the Montclair BOE has/is violating several laws, and their ethics, well, that was compromised a long time ago.

  32. POSTED BY walleroo  |  September 28, 2013 @ 12:26 am

    This thread reminds me of the last mayoral race, when Jackson supporters took to the blogs and shouted everyone down. It wasn’t pretty then and it’s not pretty now.

    The schools super is breaking the law, huh? What a load of horse puckey.

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