New Beginnings Update

New Beginnings Update
Posted on 02/28/2020
Dear Families and Colleagues,

Thank you for your support of our district and for partnering with us for the wellbeing and achievement of all students. As we are more than halfway through the year, I want to provide an update on our progress as we put in motion many of our New Beginnings. 

2020-2021 Montclair Public Schools Budget Approval
We began the preparation for next year’s budget in November 2019.  Our process has been ongoing since that time and on March 3, 2020 at 7:30 PM, the Board of Education will approve our tentative 2020-21 budget. After Board approval, the budget will go to the Essex County Superintendent for further review and approval.  The next steps in the process include Board of School Estimate meetings which are tentatively set for March and April.

I thank the administrative staff at the building and district levels for their hard work in developing the budget and helping us to balance the budget within the mandated 2% tax increase. Our leadership focus has been to address some of the long-term academic issues in order to design learning that is more engaging, rigorous and aligned with state standards. In addition, we are introducing several new strategies to create a path to eliminate the opportunity gap.

To this end we had four Board of Education presentations on various sections of the budget.  In addition, we met three times with representative community groups to discuss each phase of the budget development.  Costs for personnel and health insurance increased significantly. This, along with low enrollment in some classes, attrition, and the need to realign assignments, may cause a reduction in staff.

Human Resource Update

As you know, the Board of Education is in the process of recruiting and selecting a permanent Superintendent of Schools. We will be holding a Diversity Career Fair March 14 to recruit high quality staff for current and future appointments. The Personnel Office has been making a conscientious effort to attend new career fairs, including but not limited to those at historically black colleges and universities. Additionally, we have advertised for permanent positions for Assistant Superintendent for Equity, Curriculum and Instruction and Director of Personnel.  In anticipation of the possibility of adding new positions, we also advertised for a Director of Elementary Education and secondary subject support positions in STEAM, Social Studies and Visual and Performing Arts.

Long-Range Facility Plan Development

The Board of Education has contracted with the architectural firm EI Associates to prepare a long-range facility plan which will provide a roadmap for restoring the structures and grounds and repurposing certain elements of our buildings to be consistent with 21st century teaching and learning. EI Associates will meet with each of our principals to listen and learn about what is best for the educational landscape while they develop the plans for the bricks and mortar. 

Montclair High School Update

Montclair High School Principal Anthony Grosso presented a State of the School address for Montclair High School on February 27 in the high school auditorium.  The address is archived on the website. Principal Grosso will give an overview of his presentation at the March 4 Board of Education meeting. This presentation showcases many of the positive changes that are currently implemented and reveals exciting opportunities on the horizon for the high school and its students.

Regarding the bomb threat incident that happened on February 26, I thank the Montclair students, staff, and Montclair Police Department for their prompt and professional response. Fortunately, after a relatively short time of shelter in place, students were dismissed just three minutes after the normal dismissal time.

Restorative Justice Initiative

Restorative Justice (RJ) in Montclair garnered national attention and its principles have been infused in professional development, support for teachers, active circles, and policy. In its second year of implementation, we have expanded to three schools: Bradford, Bullock, and Buzz Aldrin. We are happy to announce that our district is hosting National Education Association Vice President, Rebecca Pringle, who will visit in March to learn about our implementation of RJ and its successes.

America to Me Initiative by MFEE

The Montclair Fund for Educational Excellence (MFEE), in collaboration with other stakeholders including the Township and the Civil Rights Commission, will launch the community-wide phase of the America to Me Real Talk Montclair initiative on Sunday, March 1, from 2 pm to 5 pm. All members of the community who are interested in examining their own racial literacy are invited to come and learn more about what this three-month process will provide.  Please click here to learn more and to RSVP.  Interested, but unable to attend on Sunday? Consider forming a community watch group (similar to a book club) or joining a group.  Visit https://mfee.org/america-to-me/ to learn more and sign up.  Questions? Contact the project coordinators at info@mfee.org.

Recognitions & Highlights

  • All schools hosted a multitude of African American History Month assemblies, programs and classroom activities. Read all about it on our website.
  • Edgemont School recently received a $2,000 Sustainable New Jersey Grant.
  • Buzz Aldrin Special Education teacher Jennifer Kosuda is a finalist for the 2020 Princeton Prize for Distinguished Secondary School Teaching.
  • MHS Boys Swim Team won the division championship and State Sectional Championship for North 1A.
  • MHS Girls Swim Team won the Essex County Championship.
  • Both Boys and Girls Indoor Track and Field Teams were the champions in the Essex County Tournaments.
  • The MHS Cheerleading Squad participated in the Sweetheart Cheering competition in February and took 1st place.
  • Niche.com recognized Montclair Public Schools on its 2020 Best Schools list and recognized Bradford, Bullock, Watchung, and Buzz Aldrin schools on its Best Teachers list.
  • Montclair Academic Dual Enrollment (MADE) program was designed and implemented this year in partnership with Montclair State University.
  • The MHS Mock Trial team became the North Jersey Regional Champions and is on its way to the state semi-finals on March 4. There are only three teams to beat for the state championship!
  • 139 MHS juniors will be inducted into the National Honor Society this year.
  • Four MHS students have been honored for their exemplary volunteer service with a President’s Volunteer Service Award.
  • A Glenfield sixth grader won the grand prize for the Rightfully Yours Youth Art Competition, which celebrated the centennial of women’s suffrage.

I look forward to updating you as we progress through the second half of the year in our work for New Beginnings. Sincerely, Dr. Nathan N. Parker Interim Superintendent

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