By RICHIE CHIVAT
From Montclair Local
As a wise and prescient voice (well, this column) has already told you, to get a school board selected, you need to listen, people!
Well, the first school board election is upon us since the citizens of Montclair voted to abandon the system of electing the mayor to the board above us, on March 8, and I have the idea that you don’t listen.
Here’s a test. Who among the following is not a candidate for the Montclair school board in the election, who will fill two additional seats: Dorothea Brooke, Edward Casaubon, Tertius Lydgate, Mary Garth, Rosamond Vincy, Will Ladislaw, Elinor Cadwallader , Nicholas Bulstrode, Jane Waule?
don’t know? It’s a tricky question. These are all names of characters in George Eliot’s 1871 poem, “Middlemarch.” (Note to self: read “Middlemarch.”)
Let’s try again. Which of the following is not a candidate: Yvonne Bouknight, Melanie Deysher, Phaedra Dunn, Jerold Freier, Noah Gale, Lauren Q. Griffin, Holly Shaw, George C. Simpson, Jennette L. Williams?
Wrong again! Another trick question. They are all candidates.
This school board may be more difficult to choose.
Lucky for you, the League of Women Voters is holding a candidate meeting on Thursday, Feb. 17, from 7 to 9 p.m., will be broadcast live on Channel 34, YouTube, and Radio Free Montclair. You can submit questions in advance if you register on the League’s home page, lwvmontclairarea.org.
Past columns by Richie Chevat
What are the questions? Sadly, if you want to learn something useful, you need to know something useful. You need to know, for example, about short-term problems such as labor problems caused by the coronavirus, the drop in attendance due to the disease, and you know, the disease. Also, there is the need to replace the HVAC systems of the schools. One coach put the cost at $26 million in 2020, and now the board is considering $15.5M or more for a future bond — that sounds like a lot, but not if it’s a student. You are happy wearing a dress in your classroom.
Then there are long-term problems, such as affordability. Five years ago (in Before Times) a special class found a wide gap between white and black students in Montclair schools. Five years on, the problem hasn’t changed.
You should probably ask about that.
Some other things you might think about: How to change the generation of baby boomer teachers, created by distance learning, is entering the Great Leave. How to change the old schedule of Montclair schools. How to balance the use of technology with human education (again, teachers). Also, you might ask why the Board of Education doesn’t contact us every now and then, so we don’t have to ask these stupid questions?
Don’t be afraid to ask about finances or class sizes or teacher fees, things that make a big difference in the quality of our children’s education. (Also, the things most people care about are money and taxes and money.) The school board has no control over financial improvements like HVAC. , which will require a city-wide referendum. The budget can go to a vote, if the board wants to increase the amount every year. (Any choice! Yes!)
It turns out that the curriculum is about cool things like, you know, how to balance the use of technology with human education. It sets general policy goals, elects a chief executive, and then tries to ensure that his policies are implemented. (Another question: how in the last 10 years have we had six superintendents or interim superintendents?) Unlike, say, writing a column thought for the Local, being on the school board requires more than being able to bag about things. you don’t know. You need to know the ins and outs of how kids learn in school.
I will be listening to candidates who can demonstrate that experience, who have long-term experience and a deep understanding of how school districts operate and the specific issues facing Montclair. On top of that, I will look for candidates who match my values.
Each candidate says they believe in public education. They have an idea. But it is not enough to say that you believe in public education or that you want to prove it at the same time. It should take into account the diversity among students, the vast differences in family resources and ability. The opportunity is to give each student what they need to overcome those odds and succeed. A good school board candidate believes it is a shared responsibility of Montclair schools and residents.
However, all of this may hold because the election, held on Tuesday in March, seems to be designed to ensure a low voter turnout. How low is it? The best options at On the Other Hand are between 9 and 35 (allowing family and close friends). But as you can tell, we’re an adventurous bunch. Maybe you can prove us wrong.
You’re planning to vote, aren’t you?
Richie Chevat has been a writer, activist and Montclair resident for over 30 years. He is the author of the sci-fi comic “Count me in red,” the game “Who needs men?” and the young reader version of “A Queer History of the United States,” among other activities. He can often be seen driving around town in his car.