Lately, I have been perplexed by the reaction of some to three recent incidents.

#1: The media is awash with stories about the sharp drop in educational scores on the National Curriculum Assessment as a result of classroom disruptions during the pandemic. Data in a “national report” confirmed that distance learning was not as effective as classroom instruction in both reading and math. The COVID pandemic has wiped out two decades of academic progress. Declines were across the board in reading and math in both fourth and eighth grades.

While I wasn’t at all surprised by the dramatic drop in achievement during the pandemic, I was surprised that so many were surprised by the decline. Quality personal teaching is by far the most important factor in educational success. Good teachers matter.

What did people expect to happen to students’ performance when their academic regimen was abruptly interrupted? Did they think that students would stay motivated and if they had a problem, they would just Google the problem, fix it, and move on?

What needs to be done now to deal with the consequences of the academic interruption caused by the pandemic?

All students affected by a learning interruption should be offered additional support. This should include after-school and home-based tutoring where appropriate, and special summer school offerings for students who need extra help. All improvements would require additional financial support from the state for local school districts to retain additional staff. According to the New Jersey state constitution, such funding is required to ensure that all children receive an “excellent and efficient education.”

#2: There is substantial historical evidence that incidents of harassment and violence against Jews and Jewish institutions increase when public figures engage in anti-Semitic behavior. I was disappointed that the Brooklyn Nets basketball team did not act more harshly when Kyrie Irving tweeted a link to a blatantly anti-Semitic documentary (“Hebrew for Negroes” Wake Up Black America”) that includes Holocaust denial, anti-Semitic stereotyping, misinformation and conspiracy theories about Jews and slavery.

When it comes to celebrities who “failed to renounce anti-Semitism,” the consequences should be swift and severe, with dramatic financial consequences. Continuing to associate with celebrities who hold anti-Semitic views is morally wrong and a bad thing.

The Nets’ decision to suspend Irving for five days without pay and see if the situation calms down, rather than quickly parting ways with him, was a mistake in my opinion. Irving is a talented basketball player who has repeatedly shown that he lacks the internal control to curb his impulsiveness. It is not enough to demand that he take responsibility for the “negative impact” of his messages, undergo sensitivity training, meet with Jewish leaders in Brooklyn, and make significant donations to fight anti-Semitism.

I completely agree with the Anti-Defamation League’s reluctance to accept a $500,000 donation from Irving and the Nets because he did not say he had no anti-Semitic beliefs when asked by the press. I disagree with the assessment of Adam Silver, the NBA commissioner and owner of the Nets, that based on their meeting with Irving, they did not believe he was anti-Semitic. I am reluctant to accept his recent claims that he is “not anti-Semitic…”. I have never been. There is no hatred in my heart for the Jewish people or for those who consider themselves Jewish. I’m not anti-Jewish or anything like that.” Really, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, would you guess it’s a duck? Irving is a time bomb that periodically explodes because, despite more than adequate intelligence, he lacks the necessary decision-making ability to carefully study complex subjects and develop thoughtful, nuanced positions on them.

#3: Turnout in Trenton’s recent municipal election was once again very low (9,248 voters this year, compared to 10,435 voters in 2014 and 9,058 in 2018). Less than 25% of Trenton’s registered voters decided to vote, compared to 42.4% countywide. Undoubtedly, there will be slander about low voter turnout. However, why would anyone expect anything other than low turnout when voters really didn’t have a viable choice for mayor? Of the three mayoral contenders, one candidate lacked relevant experience, and the other two demonstrated during their time on the Council that they lacked the temperament to fill a role that requires the ability to civilly disagree and compromise.

I believe many Trenton voters decided it wasn’t worth their time to vote for mayor since Reed Guschiora was the only qualified choice. The sad thing is that among the candidates for the City Council there were many very good options for discerning voters. With that in mind, I sincerely hope that Trenton voters will take the time to vote in the upcoming Trenton runoff on December 6th in the North and South Districts.

The two finalists in the North District (Jennifer Williams and Algenon Ward) and the two finalists in the South District (Jenna Figueroa and Damian Malave) are quality candidates who have demonstrated through their civic engagement a strong commitment to improving the quality of people’s lives. Trenton. Over the next few weeks, they must express their views on what specifically they would like to see on the following key issues: crime, education, a cleaner Trenton, economic development and autonomy for the Trenton Waterworks.

Irwin Stolmacher is president of Stoolmacher Consulting Group, a fundraising and strategic planning firm that works with nonprofits serving the truly needy among us.

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