By ERIN ROLL
Board president Laura Hertzog resigned from the Montclair Board of Education Thursday, May 16, the same night the board elected new leadership including Eve Robinson as president.
Latifah Jannah was elected as vice president. Alfred Davis was sworn in as the board’s newest member, replacing former Vice President Joe Kavesh.
In a prepared statement, Hertzog reflected on the board’s accomplishments during her tenure. But she condemned what she saw as a persistent culture of toxicity and hypocritical behavior on the part of some of the board members. “I have spent four years dealing with people who present one face behind closed doors and a very different one when the light is shining on them, yet have the temerity to falsely accuse others of improprieties when they don’t get their way. This has been hugely distracting, and clearly will not be changing.”
Hertzog said the stress of serving on a divisive board was taking a toll on her and her family, including her parents and her son, and that she had decided to resign for her family’s sake. “I believe that my commitment to children will be put to better use elsewhere,” she said.
Hertzog accused Robinson of trying to garner votes from board members to unseat her. It was “hurtful,” she said, given the fact that she thought the board had been working on building better relationships. “I was genuinely blindsided when Ms. Robinson called me late this past Friday afternoon and I learned that she had been spending weeks gathering votes for her and Ms. Jannah to take over as president and vice president,” she read. “That while I was sitting in a circle thinking we were being open and honest, she and another person in that circle were smiling and looking me in the eye, already knowing that those votes had been secretly gathered without any conversation with me.”
Hertzog was appointed by Mayor Robert Jackson in 2015, and has served as president for two years. She said she would send a letter of resignation to Jackson and to Business Administrator Emidio D’Andrea.
Hertzog left after the public comment period was completed, and before the board could vote on routine business.
Hertzog’s announcement took members of the board by surprise.
Board member Priscilla Church said Hertzog’s departure would be a significant loss to the board. She said she welcomed Hertzog’s insights on important issues. “If she doesn’t rescind [her resignation], she’s going to be missed.” Church also said that the board has been working on improving relationships. “I feel really bad that we weren’t able to repair certain things,” she said.
Board member Jessica de Koninck said she hoped that Hertzog might take some time to reconsider her decision to leave the board.
“I will miss her, and her texts,” said Jannah, referring to Hertzog’s text messages filled with lots of emojis. “But I also think… there’s a lot of leadership ability on this board,” she said.
Robinson thanked everyone for their vote. On the subject of Hertzog’s accusations, she said only, “I’m sorry this had to come in under such misunderstood circumstances.”
UPDATE: This article has been updated to include information on Hertzog’s family.