I am Tessie Thomas, President of the Montclair PTA Council, an elected body that represents the school community throughout the district. As you know, our mission is to engage, represent and advocate for the interests of all our PTAs and the students, families, teachers and staff at all 11 of our schools.
I think we can all agree that our children deserve safe, attractive, environmentally and educationally sound learning environments. Unfortunately, sub-par conditions are found in many of our school buildings. The facilities have, for too long, failed to receive the level of investment required in preventative and remedial maintenance, in capital improvements and in educational enhancements. These deficiencies in facilities have impacted our children’s education over the past several years. One doesn’t need studies to reach this conclusion. You know it when you sit on broken chairs in school auditoriums, when you walk around and see make-shift solutions at work, or when stairwells collapse and our children are out in trailers in the parking lots…the list is long. Any further delay in addressing the pressing capital needs of our schools is simply unacceptable. Deferring maintenance and upkeep as a short term strategy to manage budgets has led to permanent problems costing us more in dollars, in educational impacts and is detrimental to Montclair’s reputation.
We need the Board of School Estimate to step up to the plate , and approve the full amount of the bond funding the district requires to address these needs. We understand the concerns expressed about the district effectively managing large capital projects and recovering all available funding from the State. But we cannot let this hold us back from adequately funding our public schools. We need to get the district the necessary resources now, define their accountability, and ensure transparency in reporting to the community. The district risks losing the opportunity to get projects executed next Summer when the schools can be closed to permit extensive capital construction if the bond funding is delayed even a few additional months. We must not allow that to happen.
The time is ripe. Interest rates are low. All of us – the Board of Education, district administration, district employees and their unions, and the district’s families are on the same page — a rare moment of harmonic convergence in a contentious age. On behalf of the Montclair PTA Council, and the children whose interests we represent, we join our voices to theirs and urge you to move ahead in approving the necessary funding and getting bonds issued as soon as possible