No Glenfield Schedule Change Without Community Input.
No Glenfield Schedule Change Without Community Input.
We the undersigned call on the administration of Montclair Public Schools and Glenfield Middle School to postpone any changes to the schedule at Glenfield until teachers and parents have an opportunity to engage meaningfully in the process for considering any such changes. We are concerned by the lack of transparency, communication and input by parents and teachers around the proposal to change Glenfield's schedule to a block schedule. We oppose any changes to the schedule that negatively affect the arts program at Glenfield that has been one of the keys to its success. We are concerned by how such a major change in schedule might affect Glenfield's position as the district's middle-school arts magnet and how it could thereby also undermine the Montclair Public Schools' magnet system that has been core to our school system's national renown. We also call for community inclusion in the search and hiring of the next Glenfield Principal.
We recognize education as not being one-size-fits-all, and we believe strongly in the need for our public schools to be publicly governed and publicly accountable as well as for them to work in partnership with parents and the community.
Over the past two years, Glenfield has gone through a series of leadership transitions. Dr. Joseph Putrino, Glenfield’s longtime principal, was transferred to another school in the district in August of 2018. Anthony Grosso, formerly the principal of Watchung School, began the 2018-2019 school year as Glenfield’s new principal. He met with parents and teachers, listened to community concerns, and seemed to be thoughtful about putting a plan in place to help Glenfield become even better at its twin missions of providing high-quality core academics and high-quality visual and performing arts, as well as high-quality electives to meet the needs of those students not engaged with the visual and/or performing arts. But within just two months, Mr. Grosso was transferred to Montclair High School, and Ms. Cheryl Hopper was transferred from Edgemont Elementary School to become Glenfield Middle School’s new acting principal. Ms. Hopper led Glenfield for less than a year before we were informed in June 2019 that she was resigning. We do not yet know the status of Glenfield’s principal for next year.
Against this backdrop of constant major leadership upheaval, there have been long-rumored significant changes to the Glenfield daily schedule, its electives and visual and performing arts programs. On June 5, 2019--the day before she resigned--Ms. Hopper sent an email announcing forthcoming schedule changes, with no detail as to what they will entail or when we will be given full information.
We now have an announcement of major schedule changes that appear likely to seriously disrupt Glenfield’s Visual and Performing Arts magnet theme as well as make significant changes to the teaching of Glenfield’s core classes, but without consistent — or even named — leadership to champion those changes to successful implementation. Glenfield teachers have expressed that they are concerned that these changes were made without soliciting broad input from the Glenfield faculty, and that at least some Glenfield faculty members who sought to share input regarding the schedule change planning were rebuffed.
As members of the Glenfield and Montclair communities, we believe that our public schools should be incubators of democracy, and that it is important to model making policy changes that are thoughtfully implemented with widespread input from working groups throughout the community.
REQUESTS FOR COMMUNITY INPUT AND CONVERSATION
In the interest of ensuring that the public has the opportunity to democratically participate in the governance of our public schools, we propose opening a community conversation. We would like to see the following:
(1) This summer, a Glenfield principal search committee will be created that will include democratically-chosen representatives from among the teaching faculty, as well as a representative cross-section of parents from throughout our community, with attention paid to ensuring that the parent representatives include parents from across the Glenfield community instead of only those involved in Glenfield’s PTA leadership.
(2) The Glenfield schedule will largely remain as is for the 2019-2020 academic year to allow a new principal to be hired, settle in, and to solicit community input and to lead a community re-visioning process in the interest of building ground-up community support for any proposed significant changes to the Glenfield schedule and to Glenfield’s magnet theme. That community re-visioning process needs to include data about Glenfield’s academic performance, including Glenfield’s results on the district-wide math assessments, broken out by grade, by course, and by demographic categories so that the entire Glenfield community can name and address any inequities that these district-wide assessments reveal. That community re-visioning should also include qualitative data, including presentations from subject matter leaders on creative approaches to curriculum and instructional practices, so that we can re-vision the Glenfield schedule in ways that will best support teachers in our classrooms.
(3) A committee should be formed composed of administration, teachers, and parents to address an immediate concern regarding compliance with state-mandated physical education minutes for the 2019-2020 academic year.
We hope that this petition will be the start of a productive and inclusive conversation around the proposal to change Glenfield's schedule to a block schedule and eliminate the school-wide 9th period elective time. We are concerned that the decision to turn play production and orchestra into after-school activities — instead of integral parts of the school curriculum — will inevitably weaken Glenfield’s visual and performing arts magnet theme, as well as make these programs less accessible to the students who need them most. Glenfield’s centering of theater and instrumental music as integral to the school day has been a key draw for many families. We value Montclair Public Schools’ magnet system, which has effectively integrated our public schools for 40 years and is key to our school system’s national renown. We look forward to partnering with our administration to ensure that any schedule changes made at Glenfield will help to strengthen our district’s mission.