Good evening. My name is Tessie Thomas and I am the President of the Montclair Council of PTAs (PTAC) an elected body that represents and supports the whole community.
I would like to start with an update on our participation in Reflections, a Nationwide Art competition. I am pleased to inform you that with Ms. Kondreck’s help, we reviewed the submissions received and 42 entries have now been submitted to the state level competition. Thank you, Ms. Kondreck! All the entries are a great reminder of the amazing talent we have in our schools. I would also like to give a special shout out to Natasha Cummins, who chaired the program and put in long hours administering it. Reflections was a true collaboration between the district, the MEA, and the community. This was obvious from the first day we launched the program with the kickoff video from the MEA, the district, and PTAC and that theme carried through. This was clearly a case where we could have walked fast alone, but we wanted to go far – so we walked together.
The next update is on the BOE Elections. As I have mentioned before, we have created a dedicated space on the PTAC website for every candidate who is running for the BOE election. With help from the community, we put together 20 questions for the candidates. All nine candidates now have been sent the same set of questions and have been given time through Sunday, February 6 to respond to the questions. The questions are designed to enable each candidate to put their best foot forward on a level playing field. The dedicated space on the PTAC website is a central repository for voters to have all information related to the BOE elections and to provide them with a chance to familiarize themselves with the candidates. We look forward to the responses from the candidates to understand how each of them will positively impact the Montclair schools, their views on what needs to change, what needs to stay the same, and how their life has uniquely prepared them to take on this mantle.
The PTAs in the district have been and continue to be busy with a variety of activities and programs that provide community engagement in the schools. There were several initiatives including teacher appreciation, across the board powerful programs for celebrating black history month, and community conversations.
Today I would like to pivot to highlight some of the amazing activities from our Committees – the advocacy part of PTAC. We have seven committees that focus on specific areas and are made up of parent volunteers who typically have expertise and interest in that area.
As I go through some of the highlights from the incredible work that these groups are doing, I hope you will hear the theme of concrete deliverables echoing through it all. Here goes, in no particular order –
Communications Committee recently updated the District Guide to reflect the changes to a Type II district. You may recall this District Guide is a 101 guide that covers everything that a parent or caregiver would need to navigate the Montclair School system. This group is now actively at work on all things communications – emails, social media, etc. to bring us closer as a community and eliminate issues that arise out of miscommunications or inadequate communications.
Community Engagement Committee is planning to help SEPAC with school tours, continue PTAC’s tradition of Transition to Elementary School and Transition to Middle School forums. The Committee also plans to add a Transition to High School forum this year. In the works are also a group bike ride, a bike safety course and a regular informal happy hour where all are welcome.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee or as we call it our DEI Committee hosted the first speaker, Professor David Kirp who spoke on the importance of Pre-K for improving educational outcomes. A recording of the event can be found on the PTAC YouTube page. The DEI Committee is planning two speaker events in honor of Black History month on Health and Wellness and on the NJ Amistad Law. The Committee is also planning to address the kindergarten placement algorithm.
Finance and Infrastructure Committee is doing incredible work to support the upcoming bond proposal. It’s a team made up of volunteers who have experience in referendums, finance, engineering, etc.
Technology Committee continues to provide technology solutions and technology based tools to capture institutional intellectual capital for future volunteers to use. They are also connecting with the district on how they can be of help.
So there are a number of important initiatives that the PTAs and these committees are carrying out to continue to support the school district. As the Board knows, these initiatives come about only with volunteering long hours. Thank you to the amazing group of volunteers that do this in the background most of the time and thank you BOE for giving us the time to update and express our thoughts today.