As the pandemic subsides and schools reopen, it is natural to revisit the institutions and processes by which policy decisions are made. However, I urge the citizens of Montclair to retain the appointed board of education, and vote no on Nov. 2 to the referendum that would change Montclair from a Type I to Type II school system.
The fabric and strength of Montclair has long been its commitment to diversity, and our appointed board is designed to enable the elected mayor to assemble through appointment a group of citizens reflective of the community and possessing the skills necessary for good decision-making on behalf of our public schools. As with any institution, some appointees and assembled groups work more effectively than others, and we can all point to more as well as less effective eras.
Nevertheless, our schools, especially through our magnet system, have complemented the goals of maintaining diversity and enabling our children to work and learn in community schools that reflect the world in which they will live. Indeed, many of us with children who have graduated from our public schools have heard them cite the excellent academic preparation, interpersonal relationships, and resilience-building skills they have acquired to navigate the future. Our magnet schools could be jeopardized by an elected board eager to reduce operational costs.
However, accountability is always key to an effective board of education, and we strongly urge our community stakeholders, parents and press to ask hard questions and demand answers. Because appointment to the board of education is both an honor and a responsibility, the League of Women Voters of the Montclair Area (of which I am member) recommends the Township council’s creation of an advisory committee to suggest excellent candidates for nomination. This has been helpful to other towns (such as Summit) that have appointed boards of education.
In our divisive times, we read of much strife played out all over the United States at board of education meetings regarding mask mandates and other hot-button issues, and single-issue candidates can drive elections. Montclair deserves better, so I urge voters to reject the proposed change and maintain their commitment to a diverse and excellent public school system.
Cynthia M. Rogers
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