Good evening. The Montclair Council of PTAs (PTAC) is an elected body that represents and supports the whole community. My name is Tessie Thomas and I am the President of PTAC.
I would like to start today with a quote from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King – “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy”. By this measure, the Montclair community has shown true character during the pandemic, and specifically through this rough period of coming back to school after the holidays. We proved that we can stay calm and work through it together. We proved that we can be patient. We proved that we can keep our anger and frustration in check and not misdirect it at each other.
Although we don’t know what the next phase of the pandemic looks like, we are grateful to be on the other side of the Omicron wave. We are especially grateful to the teachers and staff who carried the lion’s share of the additional burden imposed under the hybrid arrangement over the last two weeks. You went above and beyond – so on behalf of the community, I would like to express our sincere gratitude and a big thank you. In the last BOE meeting I had expressed a hope that the Covid numbers would fall as fast as they rose and am thankful that is indeed the case.
So how great is our community…I would like to echo Ms. Jannah and Ms. Kondreck's comments and acknowledge the group of parents that organized a quick fundraiser and bought 6,000 KN95 masks for teachers, staff, and administration. The PTA Presidents stepped up and supported this effort and I would like to give a special shout out to Eileen Birmingham for taking this initiative and providing the leadership for its timely execution.
The PTAs in the district celebrated MLK day on service activities. PTAC’s DEI Committee is bringing in a speaker on Wednesday, January 26 at 7 pm. Professor David Kirp from the University of Berkeley will speak to us about the importance of pre-K in improving educational and other life outcomes, the achievement gap, and “steady improvement” reform in education. He will be speaking for 20 minutes and focus the majority of his hour to answer questions we may have.
So there are a number of initiatives that the PTAs continue to support and carry out to maintain a sense of normalcy. As we return to more normal times, hopefully soon, our attention must turn to some of the shortcomings in our schools that the pandemic has exposed in a very direct way. This is the state of the infrastructure of our schools. I am going to hold off on more detailed comments on this for now, but do want to emphasize for the Board the urgency and the large magnitude of this problem. This is a problem that impacts all, but especially the teachers and students who spend large portion of their day in that space. Years of neglect have created the problem, and we are running out of options of short-term budget constrained fixes. One doesn’t need studies to reach this conclusion. You know it when you hear about the limitations of the HVAC systems in many buildings, 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.. We at PTAC are going to continue to focus on infrastructure issues and provide constructive inputs as capital plans and fund-raising plans are finalized. We look forward to discussion on the way forward here.
Finally, I would like to congratulate the Board for moving swiftly to fill the vacant BOE spot and bringing on Mr. Inyang. The discussion and the engagement with all the candidates was heartening to see. Thank you.
PTAC, with contributions from the community, has created a list of questions for the upcoming BOE election candidates. We are glad to see enthusiastic participation and the numbers of the candidates for upcoming election on March 8. We will be sending the final list of questions to each candidate (same questions to all) and posting the answers from each of the candidates on the PTAC website. This will act as a central repository for all information related to the BOE elections.
As we find ourselves on the other side of the Omicron wave and everyone is back in the buildings, I would like to end today by expressing a hope of a return to normalcy in the near future – can’t wait! Thank you.