The Montclair BOE presides over the Monday, Oct. 16 meeting. ERIN ROLL/STAFF

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

Monday night’s BOE meeting was a busy one.

A large number of teachers, many sporting Montclair Education Association T-shirts and sweatshirts, were in attendance.

Petal Robertson, MEA chair, explained to the board during the public comment period that the teachers had turned out to remind the board that Montclair’s teachers were paying close attention to the board’s discussions. “Today, we are here to remind you that we are here,” she said.

Robertson urged the board to continue listening to the concerns of staff members, and to continue working with the MEA to have a constructive dialogue on issues affecting the schools.

“Without the right information, you stand to make the wrong budget decisions, and even worse, the wrong choice as superintendent,” she said meaningfully, as the audience applauded.

PARCC tests
The BOE unveiled the most recent PARCC test scores, and the most recent NJASK science scores.

During the 2016-2017 school year, the percentage of students taking the test ranged from 23.3 percent at Montclair High School to 94 percent at Watchung School.

Most of the schools recorded an increase in the percentage of students participating in PARCC, with the exception of Glenfield, Renaissance and the high school.

Montclair’s scores on the literacy and math portions on the PARCC test were generally above the state average. However, the eighth grade average math score, 727, was exactly one point below the state’s average score of 728.

During the public comment period, a number of speakers criticized the state’s continued reliance on PARCC as a graduation standard, noting that New Jersey is one of only a handful of states continuing to do so.

Board member Eve Robinson was also critical of the reliance on PARCC data.

“It’s my hope that the state will start to reconsider and that we won’t be stuck in this mire, in this test … this test was created for one purpose and that purpose didn’t work,” she said.

Parent and
teacher concerns

MHS freshman Nafia Hampton gave a short dance performance at the start of the public comment period.

Her mother, Valerie, explained that Nafia had auditioned for the advanced dance program in the school’s performing arts program but was turned away, despite having studied various forms of dance for several years. She urged the board to look into evaluating the audition process for the performing arts program, including the institution of a standardized rubric for assessing a student’s performance.

A number of parents continued raising concerns about a controversial memo about the language arts program. The memo, sent in response to teachers’ questions and concerns on Sept. 6, appeared to promote reducing the number of novels in the curriculum in favor of shorter texts.

Christine McGoey noted that every other subject in the curriculum has opportunities to read short, informational texts. “As long as we have this PARCC graduation requirement, we have to address this problem.”

Other business
Other agenda items included discussions of the schools’ small learning communities, and policies on homework, staff attendance and refusal of standardized testing.

The meeting also included a presentation by members of the Montclair Fund for Educational Excellence, and presentations by eight MHS students who participated in the Weston summer program for science students at Montclair State University.

The next BOE meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 1.