Now the Candidates are Posing the Questions

For Montclair has some questions for Real Progress Montclair opponents


For Montclair Mayoral Candidate Harvey Susswein and At-Large Candidate Tim Barr released a statement Monday in which the two asked a series of questions to their Real Progress Montclair opponents led by Mayoral Candidate Karen Turner.

The questions come just a few weeks before the May 8 local nonpartisan election.

Susswein and Barr say they are releasing the questions: “To help inform the public as to differences between the slates running for township council, we respectfully pose the following questions to Real Progress Montclair. We, in turn, would be pleased to respond to any questions from other slates” noted the candidates."

Patch has asked Real Progress Montclair for a response, as well as Susswein and Barr for answers to their own questions. However, For Montclair says that "our questions seem to imply our answers but we will certainly clarify if asked." In the meantime, here are the questions posed by For Montclair:

1. Educators know that a quality pre-K education is an important marker of a child's future success in school. Do you support continuing our tradition that that any Montclair child, regardless of ability to pay, can get a quality Pre-K education?

 2. Montclair's Magnet School program, along with the bussing that makes it possible, was developed as a creative response to the Federal desegregation order Montclair is still subject to. Do you support the Magnet School program?

 3. You've spoken of identifying all non-mandated programs currently funded by Montclair. Offering a full-day kindergarten is not required by the state—NJ mandates only a half-day. Are you in favor of retaining full-day kindergarten, even if the state does not require it?

 4. A charter school has been proposed in Montclair, which would divert millions of dollars from an already strapped K-12 budget. Do you support or oppose establishment of a charter school in Montclair?

For Montclair has posted its slate’s positions on a range of issues on its website www.formontclair.com


frank rubacky April 09, 2012 at 06:24 PM
I'm glad you are not opposed to the idea of pre-K....I can put my torch and pitchfork back in my ADU.
frank rubacky April 09, 2012 at 06:27 PM
I believe a previous Council conceived the loan idea. Not sure which Council. Since both 1st Ward candidates are for funding the MEDC, the 1st Ward will support MEDC this year and going forward.
montclairgurl April 09, 2012 at 06:29 PM
Their questions certainly imply their point of view on the issues, but don't provide any information on how they plan to fund any of these programs they support. RPM should answer their questions with their own questions regarding how FM would de with the financial portion of the questions.
Right of Center April 09, 2012 at 06:33 PM
You might have to get your pitchfork out again. I'm not against it on principle, but when the debt load is 20% of the budget I'm dead set against public funding for it.
frank rubacky April 09, 2012 at 06:47 PM
No need. I was just addressing the first part of your statement, not the funding part. I actually think we made 2 mistakes. First, way back when by allowing the BOE to give up pre-K. Having a public, BOE-run, pre-K probably would be a strong selling point for Montclair vs. other towns. But, we sold off our assets and that is not a viable option now. We tried to compensate by doing an ill-conceived municipal partnership version. No one foresaw the charter school scenario back then, but it is here now and not going away. So, we argue not to divert $ to private charter schools, but have a seemingly policy & application inconsistencies with pre-K. Having the mission of schooling children in both the BOE and municipal worlds is the question that remains. We will allow it to continue, but it doesn't make it good policy.
A. Gideon April 09, 2012 at 07:10 PM
Two aspects of the questions are telling. First: There’s no mention of how money will be found to pay for any of this. I’m might be in favor of a pony in every kid’s garage, but that doesn’t mean I can fund it. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t fund, for example, full-day-K. But it is telling how First Montclair wants to talk about wanting but doesn’t bother to bring up the issue of paying. One w/o the other is half a conversation. Second: I get a bit suspicious whenever someone describes the magnet system merely as a response to segregation. Yes, it is that. But it is quite a bit more. Even if the town were completely integrated, there would still be value to the existing system. Coming from people that prefer a BOE under exclusive control of one politician, that disconnect is worrisome. There are probably cheaper ways to deal with the segregation order (esp. with a GOP Governor). I worry about a mayor that might put into place a BOE that would look for such a thing, thereby giving up our magnet schools. ...Andrew
A. Gideon April 09, 2012 at 07:14 PM
"Three, I would argue that prenatal care is a close peer to the pre-K issue. Babies of mothers who do not get prenatal care are three times more likely to have a low birth weight and five times more likely to die than those born to mothers who do get care. " But does this save the BOE money? Part of the pre-K argument is that it acts as a form of early intervention that ends up reducing the cost of each student over that student's entire time in-district. Whether this is actually *known* or merely hoped, I could not say. ...Andrew
frank rubacky April 09, 2012 at 07:14 PM
Speak for yourself. I'm riding their coat tails and those of AARP into my twilight years!
althea April 09, 2012 at 07:18 PM
Frank or ROC, Where can we access the pre-k finances. I looked on their website and their annual report has no financail information???
A. Gideon April 09, 2012 at 07:24 PM
I'm not sure that the "loan" should play a role in today's decision making with respect to the Pre-K. On the other hand, it should play a role in our examination of the candidates. Anyone involved in that should be asked to explain exactly why this loan was created, whether it is true - as has been stated by some - that this was never intended to be paid back, and why in fact it was ultimately forgiven. This is less about the Pre-K, as ROC notes above, and more about how the finances of the town are "managed". ...Andrew
A. Gideon April 09, 2012 at 07:34 PM
While on the topic of asking questions about the funding of the pre-K: Why was a new pre-K created? Why not simply arrange for scholarships to one of the several pre-K programs already in town? ...Andrew
Right of Center April 09, 2012 at 07:40 PM
You can find their tax returns here: http://www.guidestar.org/organizations/22-3525184/montclair-early-childhood-corporation.aspx# (you have to register for a free account) Personally I wouldn't bash the pre-K or it's operation. I think they do valuable and good work and wish them well. They also, now, receive essentially nothing from the taxpayers ($12,500).
Belletones April 09, 2012 at 08:55 PM
Isn't Barr currently on the Montclair Pre-K board of trustees? Wasn;t susswein previously on the board? Isn;t Don Zief (one of For Montclair's advisors) on the board? Are they looking to use their possbile position on the town council to fund the Pre-K? Isnpt that a bit of a conflict of interest? When they ask.. "Do you support continuing our tradition that that any Montclair child, regardless of ability to pay, can get a quality Pre-K education?" Does the funding only support the education of low-income Montclair families, or any family that attends the Pre-K. And it's so nice to see Susswein stay true to his roots of scaring people much as he did with the elect vs. appoint the board of Ed issue. That's right, donpt vote for him and you risk others gutting the BOE budget and dismantling the magnet system!
althea April 09, 2012 at 09:13 PM
Don't know about the pre-k but Barr not only supports the Pre-K but also believes giving taxpayer dollars to the Adult School, this from the Montclait Times. Can't believe he used the word "dignity" Former Board of Education member Tim Barr urged the panel to reconsider the decisions not to increase financial support for the Adult School of Montclair and the Montclair Community Pre-K. "The two budgets combined of these programs, are about one tenth of one percent of the overall combined Board of Education and township budgets," Barr said. "These two very important programs really deserve a much better fate, and I think, a little more dignity than is being courted to them at this point."
althea April 09, 2012 at 09:25 PM
Yup, Belletones- you are correct! Tim Barr is in fact a Trustee at the Pre-K, so is Sussweins wife. Murnick used to be president of the board... seems like lots of conflicts to me too. Oh yeah, Don Zeif is on the board too. I am sure that these folks will see to it that their funding goes way up. I thought the BOE was going to take over the Pre-K, isn't that what they wanted to happen??
montclairgurl April 09, 2012 at 10:50 PM
So this is the "fund pre-k" slate.
Stuck in the Middle April 10, 2012 at 02:21 AM
I would appreciate if someone could answer this question... after the MCPre-K lost most of its funding from Montclair last year, were fewer scholarships granted, or was the Pre-K able to make up the difference through fundraising and tuition increases and grant the same number of scholarships?
Jeff Jacobson April 10, 2012 at 08:45 AM
This statement came from my friends and For Montclair running-mates Harvey and Tim, not from the full slate. My position on the lone issue of the Pre-K, as Harvey and Tim know from many hours of discussion, isn’t exactly shoulder-to-shoulder with them, as our slate usually stands (evidenced by the statements we’ve made as a full group about numerous important town issues). On the basic question of whether to continue annual funding for the Community Pre-K’s scholarships for needy families, however, there’s not much distance between us, if any. One of the backdrops of the debate about funding Pre-K in Montclair is that, in my view, we’re currently under-resourcing critical aspects of K-12 education. At one end of the cycle, kindergarten classes in Montclair’s public schools have 27 or 28 kids in them (in Millburn, the target is 20), while the elementary schools have lost librarians and scaled back foreign language instruction. At the other end, guidance counseling in the high school, including college and career counseling, is just one of many areas that could benefit greatly from additional investment. And so, even assuming there’s a “spare” million-plus dollars to spend in education in Montclair, is Pre-K the place to spend it?
Jeff Jacobson April 10, 2012 at 08:45 AM
I’m running for a seat on the Town Council, not the Board of Education. There’s a limit to what Councilors can do to affect education policy, but having spent a lot of time with Harvey, whose daughter is a Montclair teacher, and with Tim, Bill Hurlock and Walter Springer, who have kids older than mine and who have long been active in Montclair’s public schools, I know there is a great deal that our slate wants to do and can do on the Council to improve public education in Montclair. Through shared services with the BOE and, yes, some bully-pulpit encouragement to keep trimming administrative fat, we should be able to find more money for the classroom without more overall spending or yet-higher taxes. Which brings me back to the Pre-K. We don’t have a million more dollars right now to spend on early education, but the immediate question Council faces is only whether to continue spending $100,000-$200,000 per year to provide scholarships for needy families to send their kids to the Community Pre-K. When the question is framed that way, especially when one considers that candidates on two slates have said they won’t take the unjustified health insurance benefits that are costing taxpayers $24,000 per Council member this year, it’s much easier for me to get to yes.
Jeff Jacobson April 10, 2012 at 08:47 AM
This annual funding dance isn’t a feasible long-term solution for the Pre-K, as the Council’s funding yo-yo over the past couple of years demonstrates. If I’m elected, I want to help find a long-term solution for the Pre-K – a goal I know the entire “For Montclair” slate shares. I personally hope that solution will involve many more private dollars than public ones. During the short term, however, modest grants from the Council can help ensure that the Pre-K need not turn kids away from a fantastic early education because their parents can’t afford full tuition. We have every reason to expect that this modest investment in early education will pay future dividends. We also know (and I can attest personally) that the Community Pre-K is an attractor of young families to Montclair. For these reasons and others, if I’m on the Council and the Community Pre-K comes with a reasonable request that we can meet without need of tax increase – and if I know that the Pre-K has diligently pursued and exhausted private funding options – I will support that request. Yes, that ‘without need of a tax increase” line is an important caveat, but I have confidence we’ll get there. Our slate has proposed numerous money-saving ideas, and we know we don’t have the monopoly on them. That’s where I stand on this issue, and I’m asking for the votes of my neighbors in the Third Ward.
A. Gideon April 10, 2012 at 06:29 PM
"I’m running for a seat on the Town Council, not the Board of Education." True, but let's not forget that being on the TC gives one at least an opportunity to be on the BOSE. My impression of the BOSE over the past couple of years has been one of a fairly hands-off, approve-at-the-end group. That doesn't, though, need to be the case. BOSE members from the council can be involved from the very start of the budget process, even if only as the rest of us "citizens" are: participating in meetings, asking questions, making requests, etc. I'd like to hear more about your/your slate's intent with respect to our schools given this. You write, for one example, of "administrative fat". Yet every budget presentation includes a comparison of our admin salary/student spending, and that statistic indicates we're not far from average in NJ respect to administrative overhead per student. If we brought this down to NJ average, we'd save a bit over $500,000 ($78/student). Is that the fat to which you're referring? See pg 23 of http://www.montclair.k12.nj.us/WebPageFiles/699/budget-12-13-book-120319.pdf Is this the savings you envision? Is NJ state average a reasonable goal given the price differences in this area vs. southern NJ? Or are you envisioning something different? To what else do you refer by "a great deal that our slate wants to do and can do on the Council to improve public education in Montclair"? ...Andrew
Walter P. Springer April 10, 2012 at 07:34 PM
To what else do you refer by "a great deal that our slate wants to do and can do on the Council to improve public education in Montclair"? Andrew: What the For Montclair slate brings to this election is a group of township public education support volunteers that is unprecedented. The For Montclair slate consists of past and present: Board members of the BOE and the Pre-K, Executive level PTA participation at the Secretary, School Action Team and President levels,PTAC members, PTA event organizers, PTA event supporters, MFEE sponsors and supporters. We are town residents who have spoken at BOE general meetings "before" we decided to run for TC. These mentioned positions have been held or are presently held by members of the For Montclair slate. Yes, we have many real ideas that we hope to bring in support of the public education system in Montclair. Yes, we are already a pro-active presence for public education and we intend to be a pro-active council in direct support of a chosen BOE board, the school administration and most importantly our students. I do not know if you have any neighbors who are active in the Montclair school system. If you do you can ask them to verify this statement.
A. Gideon April 10, 2012 at 08:54 PM
"Yes, we have many real ideas that we hope to bring in support of the public education system in Montclair." Such as? Simply saying "we have ideas" isn't all that impressive in that plenty of people have ideas with which I'd disagree. A little specificity would be helpful. For example, what about that "administrative fat" mentioned above (just to give us a single starting point)? How does the cited admin cost/student ratio fit with this? "I do not know if you have any neighbors who are active in the Montclair school system. If you do you can ask them to verify this statement." You're asking me if I can find any neighbors that are active in the Montclair school system? That's...interesting. I suppose I might be able locate one or two. ...Andrew
A. Gideon April 10, 2012 at 09:04 PM
It's perhaps overly specific for this level of discussion, but one question I've had for a few weeks about Mt. Hebron in particular - which Mr. Springer should be well positioned to answer - is about its library. Does it still have one? A few BOE meetings back, a budget item was presented which - if I understood correctly - involved replacing the library with some type of lab. I don't recall the lab's details; what caught me was the idea of losing a school library. Did that actually happen, or did I misunderstand? Esp. given that the elementary schools now have minimal librarian coverage, I worry about the district's vision with respect to libraries. I'm actually a big proponent (and user) of digital/electronic media, but there's a great deal to be said for librarians as "curators" as well as educators that can teach students to nagivate the wealth of information available in a library, be it virtual, paper, or even papyrus. Trying to stay on topic: What is your [group's] vision with respect to school libraries? ...Andrew
Walter P. Springer April 10, 2012 at 10:18 PM
I want you to ask neighbors to confirm what I have stated. If that is not necessary and you have been keeping up with the events with the BOE you know that I have stated facts. Regarding ideas, on the For Montclair slate's web site you can read a host of position papers regarding our platform. For this discussion I can tell you that a town councilman I will request the BOSE begin meeting at the start of the school year and continue until May. As councilor I will be interested in developing stakeholder meetings that include all participants in the school system.
Walter P. Springer April 10, 2012 at 10:43 PM
Andrew: again you and our fellow neighbors can read the For Montclair position on the Bellevue library branch (which is next door to MHMS) at www.formontclair.com. As part of this position I have recommended expanding the use of the Bellevue branch in coordination with MHMS and the other schools in the area. Regarding the MHMS library, the space is being refitted as a thematic lab. The volumes held by the school have been moved to another space within the school. Regarding libraries, I believe the issue of libraries and data information retention/access is something that needs to be looked at a district level.
Walter P. Springer April 10, 2012 at 10:48 PM
ROC, For Montclair might be the Teacher's Union ticket. Not even close.
Right of Center April 11, 2012 at 01:09 PM
I guess RPM isn’t going to answer. I’m not surprised, Turner doesn't seem interested in questions she doesn’t ask herself to herself. Witness the RPM “interviews” which were in Q and A format. Both the Q and the A written by the campaign. Anyway, sure makes one wonder why RPM is so reluctant to tell us much or answer those questions. They’re legitimate questions. I guess keeping voters in the dark is also “more of the same”. (or perhaps they’re waiting to catch a Trolley)
A. Gideon April 12, 2012 at 12:26 PM
"The volumes held by the school have been moved to another space within the school. " I'm not sure how to interpret this. Are the volumes available to the students? Does this move simply mean that the library is merely now in a smaller space, or are there other implications/limitations? "Regarding libraries, I believe the issue of libraries and data information retention/access is something that needs to be looked at a district level." Well, yes. But I'm curious how you [and your group] view librarians/libraries amongst the lengthy list of priorities facing both town and school. ...Andrew
A. Gideon April 12, 2012 at 12:40 PM
"For this discussion I can tell you that a town councilman I will request the BOSE begin meeting at the start of the school year and continue until May." That's an interesting idea, and a potentially positive one. What would these meetings be intended to achieve? "As councilor I will be interested in developing stakeholder meetings that include all participants in the school system." Are these the same as those meetings you describe above? What would they be intended to achieve? How would they be different from BOE meetings, for example? ...Andrew


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