Although the Town Square pieces and many of the letters to the editor in the Oct. 28 edition of the Local included thoughtful arguments for and against an elected or appointed school board, there was one jarring note in Councilman David Cumming’s piece that I felt was out of sync with how our town and our country should view both elected office and gender.
In his piece arguing against an elected Board of Education, the councilman points out that our current board president is Ms. Latifah Jannah, a well-respected member of our community who also happens to be a mother and grandmother. Councilman Cummings implies, without indicating any reason for his belief, that if the town chooses to have an elected board, Ms. Jannah will not run for a seat — in fact, he has the temerity to suggest no grandmothers will, stating: “Please find me a grandmother who will be willing to run for a board seat.”
I make no claim as to whether Ms. Jannah will run for her seat if the town votes for an elected board (although personally, I would appreciate seeing all of the current Board members throw their hats in the ring and have an opportunity to share their views on the direction of our schools). However, I would like to remind Mr. Cummings, our community, our daughters, our mothers and our grandmothers that having a family and having raised a family are not only no bar to elected office, but electing those who have had those experiences can help ensure a more informed, empathetic and practical government.
At this point in the 21st century, the list of grandmothers in elected office is long and growing, including, to name a scant few in a range of elected offices at this moment, grandmother and Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi; grandmother, U.S. Sen. and former presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren; grandmother and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence; grandmother and New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham; and grandmother and acting Mayor of Boston Kim Janey.
Moreover, it almost goes without saying, grandfathers have been elected to all levels of office throughout the United States, including our current president and many presidents, governors and mayors before him.
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Mr. Cummings, it is clear that you do not think that an elected Board of Education is right for Montclair, but please do not assume that if we do elect our Board, Montclair grandmothers need not apply. And grandmothers of Montclair, I’m looking forward to seeing your name on the ballot whether for Board of Education or any other elected role!
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