Given the stress and loss our community has endured due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we all have felt the need, at times, to express our anger and frustration. As an elected official who has always encouraged my constituents to express their concerns to me, I understand that it is often my job to be the recipient of their criticism and frustration.
However, I must respond to the baseless and personal accusations levied against me in the Letter to the Editor published on April 11 titled “Murphy, Spiller and more politicians have failed Montclair’s kids.” The letter nonsensically accused me of placing my own career goals ahead of Montclair’s school children.
As the father of two children enrolled in the Montclair school system, and the son of a 73-year-old active schoolteacher who has taught in Montclair’s public schools for the past 51 years, there are few issues closer to my heart, or of more concern and interest to me, than Montclair’s public schools and the health and safety of our students and teachers. For the authors of the letter to suggest otherwise reveals they were either unaware and uninformed that my immediate family was directly affected by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our schools, or that they purposely intended their statements to be defamatory and in poor taste.
As a parent, I have always, unequivocally supported the return of our children to in-person learning — provided that conditions were safe for students and teachers related to the risks of COVID-19. In my role as an Essex County commissioner, I have no jurisdiction or authority regarding the Montclair Public School District or the Montclair Board of Education. My ability to influence such matters is no different from that of every other concerned public school parent.
As an Essex County commissioner, however, I was able to advocate for providing the COVID-19 vaccine to all district teachers and staffers prior to the re-opening of our schools. There were many moving parts to this process, but through a partnership with Hackensack Meridian Health, the Essex County Board of Commissioners was able to set aside enough vaccinations for all K-12 public school professionals in Montclair. As a member of the Essex County Board of Commissioners, I have worked tirelessly with our county administration to provide all Essex County teachers with access to the vaccine through reserved appointments at our county vaccination centers.
On Monday, April 12, my wife and I celebrated our daughter’s return to hybrid in-person learning and look forward to our son resuming in-person instruction. Our family is grateful for this significant step in our community’s return to “normalcy” and support and applaud the various organizations and individuals who worked together toward this common goal.
Brendan W. Gill
Commissioner At Large, Essex County Board of County Commissioners
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