MONTCLAIR, NJ - During the regular meeting of the Montclair Board of Education held Monday at Montclair High School, Interim Superintendent Ronald Bolandi outlined two targeted problem areas in his report.

During the meeting, Bolandi discussed the two areas he would like to work on: registration, where he feels there is confusion; and the algebra placement. In addition, two newly appointed principals were introduced to the public.

Samantha Lennon, former teacher and former vice-principal at Glenfield Middle School, was announced as Hillside’s Principal.

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Anthony Grasso, formerly a principal in Saddle Brook, was also announced as principal.

Bolandi also discussed his concerns over registration and algebra placement with the public. He said he didn’t know exactly how the formula worked for registration, only that it appeared not to be working. His observation was, “We do not have the racial breakdowns that we think we have.”  He added, “We have to look at the way we place in the magnets.”

The second issue of algebra placement, Bolandi described as problematic. Bolandi said, “If I can’t explain it, imagine what parents go through.” He stated that data will be collected and parents will be involved going forward.

On the plus side, Bolandi announced new hires, letters will go out Tuesday morning. He said the teachers will enter the building on Sept. 1-3, and that there will be an opening convocation with a guest speaker to talk about attitudes of personnel dealing with kids. Speakers at the convocation will also include the PTA president, board president, mayor and teachers. He stated that the district would be moving forward in a positive way.

Jessica de Koninck said there had been a workshop all day in which the board discussed board and district goals, as well as the student achievement gap report.

Diana Anglin, PTA president, addressed the group, saying, “We are energized, ready to go.” She stated that meetings were held with Brian Fleischer and Barry Haines, with Bolandi, Dr. Felice Harrison, and others, which created a great rapport. She also said the Montclair Public Schools website has been updated and thanked the board for inviting her to be a speaker at the convocation.

Patti Samper, a parent of varsity athletes in the high school, spoke about sending an email to Bolandi, which had not been answered. She addressed the board with her concern saying she was baffled at why coach Robert, who was on vacation with his family, tried to help out by forwarding an email that had certain clearance information. She expressed that he was suspended for forwarding a spreadsheet with a list of all athletes, which all coaches receive.

Samper asserted that the coach’s suspension was an unjust punishment to all involved. She claimed that his was an honest mistake and that the bigger issue was “inadequate protocol for protecting our privacy” which she claimed was an administration issue.

Parent David Palling also expressed his concern to TAP into Montclair over the absence of coach Robert saying, “I am here because I want to know why he is not available.”

Lifelong resident Kevin Allen and two others spoke in support of naming Mt. Hebron School after Buzz Aldrin.

Patricia Devine-Harms also attended the meeting in support of the renaming of the school. She told TAP into Montclair that while she was not a parent, she was invested in renaming Mt. Hebron after Buzz Aldrin.

Colleen Martinez thanked the board for taking their time in considering the principal replacement and added that in her opinion, portfolio assessments for students are a good, and holistic way, to assess student achievement. She also recommended getting feedback on teachers through student evaluations, which she felt would be a better way to assess teachers than basing the assessment on standardized tests, which she stated that many students opt out of.

Martha Evans approached the podium to express concern over the offer of Montclair Kids First to fund Wi-Fi for students who do not have means. The basis of her concern was that students may not have access to devices, she believes the source of the achievement gap is not necessarily technology, that such funds would be more beneficial going toward Pre-K for all, and finally, that she felt there was a conflict of interest.

She said, “the funds come with strings attached and a serious conflict of interest”, and added,  “This offer is the equivalent of buying votes… they’d like to sell their education reform agenda… and is part of the mayoral campaign and campaign for future appointments of the Board of Ed.”

Board President Jessica de Koninck stated there would be a public hearing for the renaming of buildings, but it is not yet on calendar.

Approvals:

Pupil services items L1-8 were approved.

Items M1 and 2 were approved.

Items N1 and 2 were approved.

Items not on the printed sheet were approved: It was noted and agreed that employee separation would be discussed in closed session. The appointment of an attorney was also approved.

Items O1-4 were approved with some abstentions.

Item O5 was approved but Laura Hertzog voted no.

Items O6-24 were approved.

de Koninck announced a backpack giveaway this coming Sunday at Glenfield Park from 1-5 p.m.

The next board meeting will be held Wednesday September 9 at 6:30 p.m. at the George Inness Annex Atrium. The new format will be two meetings per month, one workshop and one public.

The agenda can be accessed at: http://www.montclair.k12.nj.us/WebPageFiles/44/150824.pdf