By ERIN ROLL
The Moonachie superintendent will make a move to Montclair as its new superintendent.
Board of Education members announced Dr. Jonathan Ponds as the new superintendent tonight, May 6.
Under his contract, he will serve from July 1 through to June 30, 2025.
Prior to his work in Moonachie, Ponds served as the principal of Parsons Elementary School in New Brunswick. He has also worked as a teacher and basketball coach in the Boston Public Schools. He has a doctorate in education from Johnson and Wales University, a master’s in education with a concentration in moderate special needs from Cambridge College in Massachusetts, and a BA in political science from Queens University at Charlotte in North Carolina.
“We’re excited to enter this next decade with a proven leader at the helm,” Board President Eve Robinson said.
Unlike the previous search for a superintendent, which included a public forum with three candidates, the search was done confidentially. Robinson claimed the reason for doing so was that several of the candidates, including Ponds, had asked that the names of the candidates be kept confidential until the finalist was chosen.
Robinson said the board was impressed with Ponds’s knowledge on several aspects, including achievement gaps, school climate, and student equity.
Ponds joined the meeting after the BOE voted, accompanied by his wife Jennifer and their three young sons.
“I am excited to serve for many years in Montclair. I’m excited to collaborate with all stakeholders to enhance education for every child,” Ponds said.
Every student deserves a good education, Ponds said. “Whether your parents own a BMW, or you’re coming with a bike.”
Ponds shared some of his work in coaching basketball players in Boston, keeping an eye on the players and their needs, and making sure they were keeping up on grades.
Ponds admitted that he was a Red Sox and Patriots fan. “I’m sorry, but Boston’s in my heart,” he said, amid some teasing from BOE members about sports allegiances.
“Dr. Ponds, we’re happy to have you here. Even if you have some faults,” joked board member Sergio Gonzalez.
Robinson said the district will arrange a community meeting with Ponds and the general public at a later date, and a drive-around tour of Montclair for Ponds.
Interim Superintendent Nathan Parker offered his congratulations to Ponds and wished the district well.
“I wish you a wonderful next five years with Dr. Ponds,” Parker said.
The Montclair NAACP extended its own welcome to Ponds.
“The Montclair Branch of the NAACP congratulates Dr. Jonathan C. Ponds on his appointment as the new superintendent of the Montclair Public Schools. We offer Dr. Ponds a warm welcome to Montclair and look forward to working with him and the District on the important Educational issues facing our community,” the organization said in a statement released Thursday.
“The Branch wants to thank Board President Eve Robinson and the other members of the Board of Education for their hard work during these difficult times. We also offer our gratitude to Dr. Nathan Parker for his excellent work during his short tenure and particularly his leadership of the Montclair Public Schools during the pandemic,” the NAACP said.
“The Montclair NAACP is committed to work with the new superintendent to provide quality and equal education opportunities to all Montclair students,” NAACP President Albert Pelham said.
Since the departure of Frank Alvarez as superintendent in 2012, Montclair has had six permanent or interim superintendents.
The repeated turnover of superintendents has been a concern to parents and to district staff.
The district worked with the New Jersey School Boards Association on the search. Seventy people asked for applications, with 50 who completed applications. Of those, 14 candidates were selected to proceed to interviews with the district.
For the prior search in 2018, the district worked with private search firm Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates. Kendra Johnson, then the assistant superintendent for equity, was appointed as superintendent at the conclusion of that search.