Education

Residents Reflect On Segregation and the Magnet School System in Montclair

d8f1694235b51954d80f_906fe3946ac128590c38_9c6660122e4ec4057020_IMG_6971.JPG
Panelists who are involved in the Montclair School District answered questions from audience members. Credits: Megan Spinelli
29325b49e3e475cb93b6_Screen_Shot_2017-03-23_at_4.15.32_PM.jpg
The film "Our Schools, Our Town" was created by Masiel Rogriguez-Vars and was shown as part of the 2017 Price of Liberty Film and Discussion series. Credits: Photo courtesy of the Montclair Fund for Educational Excellence
3ef3ac4a95a42428b113_IMG_6955.JPG
Dr. Lillie Edwards hosted the event as part of the 2017 Price of Liberty Film and Discussion series. Credits: Megan Spinelli
f9d3f5c3873aef99ac4d_IMG_6949.JPG
Dr. Lillie Edwards hosted the event as part of the 2017 Price of Liberty Film and Discussion series. Credits: Megan Spinelli
24608b0811dac05f4f54_IMG_6966.JPG
Panelists who are involved in the Montclair School District answered questions from audience members. Credits: Megan Spinelli
468f8041c3299de79927_IMG_6973.JPG
Audience members asked questions regarding segregation and the magnet system. Credits: Megan Spinelli
d8f1694235b51954d80f_906fe3946ac128590c38_9c6660122e4ec4057020_IMG_6971.JPG

MONTCLAIR, NJ - Montclair residents were treated Wednesday night to an informative film and discussion on the history of the magnet school system in Montclair.

Hosted by the Montclair History Center, the Montclair community gathered at the Montclair Public Library Wednesday, March 22 to view the film “Our Schools, Our Town. The film – which is part of 2017 Price of Liberty Film and Discussion Series – documents the history of the magnets, which were started in order to put a stop to segregation in town. Dr. Lillie Edwards hosted the event and began with a PowerPoint presentation.

The slideshow detailed the national and statewide trends of segregation and racism throughout history, and put into perspective how Montclair was a town that followed the trends of inequality.

Sign Up for E-News

“We are often afraid to put that on the table, but in fact it’s right in the middle of the table,” Edwards said. “It’s the centerpiece you might say.”

The film featured interviews with people who have either gone through or worked in the Montclair School District, including former principals, activists, teachers and residents, who all told their stories and experiences with segregation in the district.

Before the magnet system was put in place, schools on the south side of town were mostly minorities and schools on the north side were mostly white. The residents who spoke in the film knew something had to be done to stop this and so the magnet system was born.

Instead of sending children to school based on their neighborhood, parents and children got to choose their school based on the magnet they preferred. Although the magnets have changed over time, today’s magnets include global studies, gifted and talented, environmental science and visual and performing arts, among others.

The event featured a discussion following the film between the audience and various people involved in the Montclair School District. The panel included filmmaker Masiel Rodriguez-Vars, teacher Eli Siebert, teacher Davida Harewood, former Board of Education member Dr. Carole Willis, Councilwoman Dr. Renee Baskerville and long-time resident and former teacher Carol Brown.

One question that was asked by an audience member was about the direction that magnets have taken and whether or not they need to be changed with time.

“Your observations are spot on. Montclair is changing. Our demographics are changing,” Baskerville said. “There’s a value, though, in recognizing that we want to keep our magnets.”

With socioeconomic changes constantly happening in town, Baskerville added that the board of education needs to revisit the system and make adjustments accordingly, but that the system itself needs to remain in place.

“We’re not done. Things continue to change,” Baskerville said. “We need to constantly be vigilant, be aware and advocate for our magnet theme.”

Rodriguez-Vars also touched on how important it is to know why the magnets were even created in the first place, which is something she realized after doing research at the library.

“I had no idea how contentious it had been,” Rodriguez-Vars said, adding that after meeting Willis and Brown, she knew she had to tell the story. “The story was too amazing not to capture on film. I learned from that process that it is absolutely critical to continue to tell the story.”

The filmmaker and historian also touched on how important the PTA and parents are in the district, a sentiment that Willis also echoed.

“The thing that makes Montclair special in so many ways is the community -- Montclair residents who do take a look at what they want and make sure that it happens,” Willis said. “Yes, the magnet schools have changed. Through the kind of interaction between the community and the school district -- that’s an ongoing need.”

Although the Montclair School District has come a long way since implementing the magnet system, Baskerville – as well as the other panelists – agreed that there is work to be done and that the district needs to constantly strive to reach the people of lower socioeconomic statuses.

Still, Siebert pointed out how great the district is and how proud he is to have grown up in the magnet system. He also thanked his fellow panelists for the work they had done to get the school district to where it is now.

“I’m a product of this system and this has changed my life more than you’ll ever know,” Siebert said, adding that because of the magnet system, he was able to attend Hillside Elementary School. “Who knows what my life would be right now had I not experienced Hillside. So everything that you did, I can’t thank you enough because I couldn’t be happier as a teacher.”

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

East Orange/Orange

Corporate, Civic Leaders and Celebrities Set to “Swing” into Action at 58th Annual Men of Essex Charity Golf Classic

June 23, 2018

ESSEX COUNTY - Scores of northern New Jersey’s corporate and civic leaders along with a host of celebrities plan to join the Men of Essex, in their efforts to raise $50,000 at its 58th Annual Golf Classic. The prestigious charity event will be held at the Cedar Hill Golf & Country Club, 100 Walnut Street, Livingston, New Jersey, on Monday, August 13, 2018. Registration and lunch begins ...

East Orange Family Success Center Hosts Juneteenth “Family Freedom Day 2018” 

June 18, 2018

EAST ORANGE, NJ – The East Orange Family Success Center will be hosting a Juneteenth “Family Freedom Day” at the Ambrose Mansion 182 South Harrison St., East Orange this Saturday, June 23rd 12:00 - 5:00 PM.

Juneteenth is a celebration of African-American history and heritage. This American holiday commemorates the June 19, 1865 announcement of the abolition of ...

Essex County Executive DiVincenzo Announces Winners of Fishing Derby at South Mountain Recreation Complex

June 19, 2018

West Orange, NJ – Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. and Essex County Parks Director Dan Salvante congratulate Pedro Ildefonso from Orange for catching the first fish in the boys’ 6-10 age category during the Essex County Fishing Derby in Essex County South Mountain Recreation Complex on Thursday, June 14th. He caught four fish.

Gen Z on Twitter - Influencers and Trends

In the last article, we discussed the main differences between Gen Z and Millennials in terms of their favorite social networks. We also looked in detail at what they do on Facebook and the fact that less than half of Gen Z used it, as compared to nearly three-quarters of Millennials.

This time, we will look in more detail at what the 13% of Gen Z who use Twitter do on that network.

As we ...

Gen Z: Social Media is What It’s All About

In the last article, we looked at Gen Z’s very heavy music consumption on their smartphones, and their willingness to pay for online music services.

In this article, we want to focus on another main activity Gen Z does on their smartphones: engage with others on social media.

Here the patterns are very different from Millennials. In response to the question, "Which of the ...

Gen Z Music Consumption — a Marketing Gold Mine?

In the last article, we discussed the many things that Gen Z do on their smartphones. The main one is listening to music. 

This time, we want to look at their music consumption in more detail to see what marketing doors their patterns can open.

How Often Do They Listen to Music?

In a recent survey, 84% of Gen Z report listening to music every day on their smartphone, as compared ...

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_5e177eaae57739064cd4_397f63ad2fb50392a776_29178074_2107642336134787_2638697507160326144_n

Sun, June 24, 11:00 AM

Totowa

MakerFest 2018

Carousel_image_db027a04f103c81952b6_img_9030_m

Sun, July 8, 2:00 PM

Suzy Que's BBQ & Bar , West Orange

Arts For Kids 4th Annual "Not Just Jazz & BBQ ...

Arts & Entertainment

Susan G. Komen North Jersey Increases Program Funding by 15% for 2018-2019 and Awards 13 Grants to 11 Local Community Non-Profit Organizations

June 21, 2018

Susan G. Komen North Jersey Increases Program Funding by 15% for 2018-2019

and Awards 13 Grants to 11 Local Community Non-Profit Organizations

EAST ORANGE, NJ  – Susan G. Komen North Jersey announced that it will award a total of 13 grants to 11 local community non-profit organizations in its nine-county service area for 2018-2019, with an increase in total program funding at 15% ...