Now he’s running Montclair schools

By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 

Former Kearny schools chief Ron Bolandi has a new administrative school post, this time as interim superintendent of schools for the Montclair public schools.

Bolandi, who was appointed by vote of the Montclair Board of Education March 16, will begin his new job on April 1 and his term will end June 30, 2016. He’s replacing Penny MacCormack, who has resigned to take an education job in New York.

Superintendent’s pay in Montclair is $177,500 but Bolandi said his salary will be prorated, based on 260 days of service, so it will be about $680 per day.

For Bolandi, who served in Kearny from July 1, 2011, to Jan. 4, 2013, it will mark his first time in 22 years as a chief school administrator that he will be working for an appointive school board whose members are appointed by the mayor and whose budget is struck by the Board of School Estimate.

He foresees no problems adjusting to the system.

What he will be facing, however, is a local maelstrom over the recently administered first round of the state-mandated PARCC (Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College & Careers) to grades 3 to 11.

The Montclair Times recently reported that possibly as many as 1,000 parents – in a district with close to 7,000 students – refused to allow their children to take the PARCC because of various concerns they have about the test. The district, according to the newspaper, has refused to share the number of opt-outs.

“They’re going through a lot of controversy and I’m going to do my best to calm things down,” Bolandi said. “My main objective is to bring all the different groups together and stop the arguing.” He also pledged to release the opt-out figures.

Still, when asked if he supported the use of PARCC, Bolandi didn’t try to hide his suspicion of the new testing vehicle. (Many Kearny parents reportedly kept their kids from taking the test although the district has yet to release the figures.)

“It’s hard to jump on board,” said Bolandi, “when you don’t know what it’s going to do to adjust instruction as an assessment tool.”

And compounding the uncertainty, he said, is the fact that, “The state [Department of Education] did a really bad job of presenting the PARCC to parents and educators. There’s been a lot of confusion around it. And if I as an educator have problems understanding it, I can’t blame parents [for having their kids opt out].”

Bolandi added that with all the emphasis placed by local districts preparing for the PARCC, regular classroom instruction took a back seat to the test. “If you’re going to take this much time, you’d better have a Cadillac system,” he said.

Before landing the Montclair post, Bolandi spent the past two years as interim superintendent in the Bedminster public school system. Asked if he wished he were back in Kearny, Bolandi said: “I do miss Kearny. I don’t miss the politics but I miss the people. There were a lot of good teachers, administrators and staff. And the kids were great but they were cheated by the crazy politics of the town. I always felt good about what I did there.”

He said he still maintains contact with some Kearny educators “and it seems like they’re doing a good job under [Superintendent] Patte [Blood],” who was director of secondary school instruction under Bolandi.

“I always want them to do well,” he said.

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