More Fact-Free Attacks From MCAS/MEA Attack-Dog AssessmentGate

Part One: AssessmentGate, seemingly newly freed from the threat of investigation, is getting worked up about a bunch of stuffPrincipally, us.

They’re flailing a bit. In their post, they highlight a few quotes from us on some of their friends.

“• the opinions and actions of MCAS’ Michelle Fine “aren’t in the best interests of students” and “don’t improve education for students here.”
• the posts and quotes of MCAS’ Maia Davis are “slowing down the efforts” to make improvements for the district.
• MEA president Gayl Shepard isn’t working “collaboratively” to “focus on improving education for students.”

Their whole post is a bit of a roundabout thing, but basically they categorize these statements as baseless claims. We take issue with that. We’ve been careful with each of our posts to include strong substantial facts (i.e. newspaper articles, quotes, and public records.) And there’s a reason we’ve said each of these things they quote us saying – they’re facts. In fact, they’re actually so indisputable that AssessmentGate doesn’t even bother trying to dispute them or offer any evidence in rebuttle, and instead just calls the administration some names. Their post contains no facts rebutting a single one of these points. Free tip for the folks over there defending Michelle Fine, Maia Davis, and Gayl Shepard: if you want to push back on something, maybe actually provide some facts to dispute the claim. Otherwise, you’re just spinning.

So, while we don’t think we need to defend any of these claims since there’s no substance to defend them again, we will take a moment to repeat some of the reasons they’re credible, (not least because it’s worth having the opportunity to link to the evidence so that folks can read it again and make up their own minds):

  • Michelle Fine’s actions haven’t been in the best interests of kids where, as we’ve documented a number of times, she’s been more focused on using Montclair in her national political fights than in trying to improve schools here. We generally have respect for Fine’s academic record, and think she’s done some stuff that probably has been good  there (though we’ve heard some interesting charges of hypocrisy from a few folks, and it’s something we’re looking into), but this latest foray isn’t it.
  • We’ve provided plenty of examples of how Gayl Shepard has failed to be collaborative in the way that she said she would be, but we’ll just stick to the most recent one. Instead of working with the district on their effort to save over a million dollars (say, to use for educating students) by transferring health plans, she opted to play politics and flat out opposed it. No effort at collaboration whatsoever.

Part Two: The AssessmentGate gang is also very worried about the fact that the district is apparently hiring a PR consultant, which we first heard about in the comments section on BaristaNet. Finally, something we can agree one!

We’re against the district hiring a PR consultant/spinster, if it’s like what they’re describing (ie an effort gloss over issues). We don’t think that will help the debate, and will only make folks more polarized and suspicious. But if this is part of an effort to help district engage better with the community (which usually seems to be one of they and their allies’ main complaints, though we think it’s a mostly disingenuous complaint) then that might be worthwhile. We certainly don’t see it as a crisis for our schools. They’re spinning pretty hard over there though, and they seem to have gotten themselves confused, now claiming:

In the history of the Montclair Public School system, there has never been a dedicated employee or consultant whose job was to manage the questions and/or criticisms of parents, teachers, and community interest groups.

That’s either some intentionally tricky wording there, or they just haven’t been around that long. As we recall, the district did actually have dedicated communications staffers in various forms in the past, but they were lost recently in budget cuts. Jeanine Genauer, for instance. And it’s not really an unusual thing for a district to do. In fact, in a past life, one of us spent a fair bit of time on the phone, questioning school district flacks and the like. And most districts seemed to have them. So as far as we know, it seems pretty normal. Certainly it’s hardly “reprehensible” as their predictably detached-from-reality fan-club suggested:

Janet C. Mandel Hiring a PR person for a school district is beyond reprehensible.

The use of “reprehensible” to describe this pretty blase issue is really…well…there’s just no other way to put it. Reprehensible. Get it together, guys.

(And of course, we’re also not a product of this supposed consultant. We’ve been toying with the idea of this blog for awhile, and finally got it started after encouragement from a few equally frustrated friends. We’re glad to have you (and everyone else!) as readers.)


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