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.
Thank you for presenting the Capital Investment plan. Clearly, hours and hours of time has gone into the meticulous work done to identifying all the infrastructure needs and prioritizing them to create a plan – none of this is easy or quick. The presentation tonight covered work that typically takes much longer and it is clear that we do not have the luxury of time and the situation warrants immediate attention. Thank you for making the decision to put a stop to years of neglect of the infrastructure in our schools. “Kick the can down” is not a sustainable or affordable solution given what is at stake here.
Kudos to the Board members and specifically kudos to the Finance and Infrastructure team – Eric Scherzer, Priscilla Church, and Monk Inyang. Thank you.
Let me reiterate what is at stake here. The pandemic cut through the underbelly of our school infrastructure and exposed the deficiencies and years of neglect. We knew from just walking around the school buildings, or sitting in broken chairs in the auditorium, and countless other examples that our children are surrounded by infrastructure that doesn’t meet their educational needs. The pandemic exposed the shortcomings of the HVAC systems – and hearing how old some of this equipment is it is not a surprise that we as a district had unique challenges. The pandemic was disruptive, but our inadequate infrastructure made it worse. When we combine our experience during the pandemic with incidents like staircases falling, it makes you wonder whether the infrastructure is meeting even the basic needs of our children – one that keeps them safe and healthy.
So thank you to the Board for bringing us to this point.
Where do we go from here? Each of us as citizens of Montclair now has a choice on how we respond to the plan presented tonight. We can engage deeply, provide constructive feedback, and help make the plan better or we can choose to go petty and search for “what’s in it for me”. I urge us all to not choose the latter. The pandemic has shown us that we as a community are in this together.
Regarding the tax increase let’s acknowledge this increase is better than “Status Quo”. It’s not a stretch to see that the “Status Quo” will result in breakdowns, emergency repairs, and legal liabilities, not to mention the potential liabilities related to sickness or worse loss of life from let’s say a structural incident. We are living this reality right now. So this tax increase gets us out from living under borrowed time beyond the engineering life of the major components of the infrastructure.
I also want thank the Board for incorporating our asks of transparency and professional management of the Capital Investment Plan.
As we move forward, we need to keep in mind that as a community we are only as strong as our weakest link. Our infrastructure is the weakest link in our education system and our children, their teachers, and the school staff deserve better. We at PTAC support this Capital Investment Plan.