MONTCLAIR, NJ - Montclair Superintendent Penny MacCormack’s organization seems to be slowly unraveling before the community's eyes since her resignation announcement on Wednesday. Just two days after sending a letter to district staff notifying them of her intent to leave, the Montclair Principals' Association (MPA) has sent a letter to the Board of Education members with a list of demands.
In addition to angering district principals over proposed budget cuts and lack of pay increases, MacCormack's resignation has struck a nerve with community members, as well. Parents and various community leaders have vocally expressed their concern that MacCormack has not yet notified the parent community of her intent to resign. Although district officials state that a formal announcement cannot be made from the board until it is voted on at Monday's Board meeting, parents were disappointed that no formal letter from MacCormack came to them. Since her letter was sent only to district staff and not to parents, they were vocally expressing dissatisfaction that they had to find out through third-party and media outlets.
Upon hearing of the resignation, community group, Montclair Cares About Schools (MCAS) penned a letter yesterday to Board of Education members urging them to accept MacCormack's "resignation effective immediately and appoint an interim superintendent to steer our community through the difficult school budget process that is about to begin." MCAS Members have been vocally opposed to PARCC assessment, urging parents to ' opt out'. The 'opt out' movement in Montclair proved successful when the Board of Education voted to adopt a policy allowing parents to 'opt out' during the February 9 Board of Education meeting.
On Thursday, MPA president, Dr. Joseph Putrino responded on behalf of the Montclair Principals. In his letter addressed to the Montclair Board of Education members, including Board President David Deutsch, Putrino asked for specific qualities in an interim candidate, he expressed the principals’ views on the proposed budget cuts, asked that MacCormack is relieved of her duties and not allowed to participate in the budget process and requested that the board pay the principals their salary increments as per negotiated contract.
Putrino asked that the board seek an interim candidate who has the "knowledge of how the district operates" and is “familiar with our magnet system."
He also added that the “MPA has recently been informed of over $6 million in cuts that need to occur at the school level." Putrino further stated that the principals do not see eye to eye with MacCormack’s method of closing the budget gap, calling major cuts in staffing or programming on the school-based level "problematic and damaging to the school districts magnet system."
He went further to add that the principals do not agree with such drastic cuts being taken without their input and asked that MacCormack not be involved in the next phase of budget planning and staffing since her resignation announcement demonstrates that she is no longer vested in the community.
In addition to the entire Montclair Board of Education members, Mr. Joseph Zarra, interim Essex County superintendent was also cc'd on the letter.
District officials also confirmed, off the record, that Matthew Frankel, PR person for the district has also resigned. Frankel, who was hired this summer, was instrumental in trying to build relationships and communicate a positive image of the school district to the community. At the time of publication, Deutsch, Frankel and Putrino were unavailable for comment.