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Montclair Board of Education Sign.
PHOTO BY ERIN ROLL

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

Montclair wants to update its achievement gap advisory study done in 2015 by gathering more detailed and up-to-date data.

Three years ago, the Achievement Gap Advisory Panel had found discrepancies between white students and students of color in the placement of students into AP and small learning community classes, test scores and disciplinary actions including suspension rates.

The appointment of an assistant superintendent of equity and achievement was the result of the panel’s primary recommendation.

On March 28, the board discussed a resolution that would launch the study on factors that continue to contribute to the achievement gap in Montclair, as well as a fix.

The resolution requests the administration to provide the board of education with a plan including scope of work, specific actions required, interim deliverables, outcome measurements, required funding and a timetable.

“The Montclair Board of Education believes this is an appropriate time to request that the administration define the specific characteristics and outcomes of Montclair Schools when race, ethnicity and/or socio-economic status do not predict student achievement,” the resolution states.

Board vice president Franklin Turner discussed two different versions of the achievement gap resolution, which came up for discussion, but not for an official vote at the meeting. Only one version had been included in the agenda packet.

After Turner finished speaking, board member Eve Robinson abruptly gathered her personal effects and left.

“I’m going to excuse myself. I’m not comfortable sitting here and having this discussion tonight, after our discussion, so I’m going to excuse myself and leave. We’ve done all the voting that we need to do on issues, so…” Robinson said.

Robinson declined to comment on her reasons for leaving abruptly when Montclair Local reached out to her on Thursday.

Budget process

The board approved the 2018-2019 budget, but not unanimously.

The budget passed with five yes votes, and two abstentions from Robinson and board member Anne Mernin.

The voting pattern on the budget was the same as what occurred at the March 19 meeting. Initially, the vote on the budget had been four abstentions and three yes votes, before the board took a second vote.

Additionally, when the board voted on the hiring of a student equity advocate, the vote was not a unanimous one. Mernin voted no on that measure while Robinson abstained.

According to the resolution on the student equity advocate, the resolution approved a starting salary of $85,000.

Other items, including overhauls of two of Montclair’s athletic fields, passed with unanimous votes.

The school budget will next go to the Board of School Estimate for its last stage of approval later this month. It is expected that the board will officially vote on whether to adopt the budget on April 19, following two public hearing dates on April 9 and April 12.

Membership change

Board member Reverend Jevon Caldwell-Gross confirmed he will be leaving the board.

Caldwell-Gross confirmed that he and his family will be moving out of the area later in the year, but he emphasized that the details of the move were in the very early stages.

He also said that he would be fully committed to his work as a board member for as long as he was on the board.

Outside of his work with the BOE, Caldwell-Gross is the pastor of St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Montclair.

On the United Methodists of Greater New Jersey website, the organization posted a notice announcing that Caldwell-Gross and his wife, Nicole, had accepted new positions at a church in the Indianapolis area.