By ERIN ROLL
The Montclair school community got a chance to meet the three people vying to become the district’s next superintendent Monday night.
The district held a forum with the three candidates in the Montclair High School auditorium. About 150 members of the public were in attendance.
The candidates are Rachel Goldberg, Kendra Johnson and Ross Kasun. Each candidate spoke in turn at the microphone over the course of the evening.
Goldberg currently serves as the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in the Passaic school district. Johnson serves as Montclair’s assistant superintendent for equity, curriculum and instruction. Kasun serves as the superintendent for the Freehold school district.
Goldberg worked in public relations prior to becoming an educator, while Kasun left a career in sales to become a teacher, starting out as a kindergarten teacher in Summit. Johnson mentioned that after she got her degree in chemistry, she realized that it wasn’t her preferred career choice, so she entered into a contract to be a science teacher.
Business Administrator Emidio D’Andrea asked each candidate a question from the following categories: curriculum, management, special education, the achievement gap, budget, the magnet system and Montclair’s educational values. Each candidate was also asked to share their vision for Montclair, should they be selected as superintendent.
Goldberg said that one of Passaic’s missions was to make sure the staff had high expectations of the students – that the students were capable of achieving great things. “These were kids who were in the system going from kindergarten to middle school with low expectations,” she said. She said that over the past four years, Passaic had quadrupled the number of students sitting for AP exams, including the number of students earning a score of three or better.
Johnson mentioned that during her time as a school principal, she worked at a school that was in need of improvement. During her tenure, she said, the school saw improvements in student performance among students of color, special education students and students on free and reduced-price lunch. “Teachers are the first line in helping us identify the needs of students.”
In his time at the microphone, Kasun discussed the importance of meeting the child on their own level as they tried to learn. When asked about his vision for the district, he said that was a difficult question to answer, because the vision for the district wouldn’t be his alone, but that of the entire leadership. “If we could look five years [ahead] and forget what’s in place and develop the ideal school, what would it look like?”
Board President Laura Hertzog said that the BOE expects to make a decision on a new superintendent within the next few weeks.
The meeting concluded with a brief public comment section.
Audience member David Troutt thanked the board for holding the forum, but said that he was concerned by one of the three candidates. However, as he started to identify that candidate, the board advised him against speaking about specific candidates.
Audience members were asked to write feedback about the candidates on color-coded index cards: yellow for Goldberg, orange for Johnson and green for Kasun.
Members of the public who were not in attendance at the meeting, but who watched it on television, may still email feedback on the candidates to the board.