New to Montclair Public Schools? Is your kid transitioning to elementary or middle schools? Starting kindergarten or 6th grade?
On April 14, 2021, PTAC held two sessions over Zoom for incoming families. Superintendent Ponds kicked off the event and PTA Presidents from each school addressed school specific questions. These sessions were recorded and can be viewed on PTAC’s Youtube channel at:
The Montclair PTA Council elected a new executive board, which will take office July 1. Current president Deborah Villarreal-Hadley and treasurer Kristin Wood-Werner will be stepping down after four years of service as required by the Council’s by-laws.
The new executive board consists of:
- Tessie Thomas, president (2021-2023)
- Reggie Valentine, vice president (2021-23)
- Brian Fleischer, vice president (2021-22)
- Diane Tehranian, treasurer (2021-23)
- Courtney Redfern, secretary (2021-22)
The council provided the following biographical information on each of the officers:
Tessie Thomas: When the pandemic hit, Tessie Thomas decided to continue a journey dedicated to contributing to the community by learning Zoom and building upon her 14 years of work supporting the Montclair Public Schools. She conducted the very first virtual Montclair Mayoral Forum, and as vice president of the PTA Council, brought the PTAs of all the schools together to work on common goals and learn from each other.
With a daughter who graduated from Montclair High in 2020 and a son who is now a Freshman at MHS, Tessie believes that it does take a village for the best development of our most precious and vulnerable resources – children. Her new role as President of PTAC, is the logical next step from her experience in various roles in the Montclair Schools including Nishuane PTA President, Chair of Fireball, PTAC Treasurer, Hillside/MHS MFEE grant liaison and Glenfield Chair of SATp.
Her love for our community also comes through her contributions as a Board Member at the Montclair Art Museum, the Garden Club of Montclair and Side Door Montclair. Tessie is a founding Partner of Enersights, a boutique consulting firm. Her work with the Montclair community leans upon the work ethic and learnings from Goldman Sachs, DE Shaw, and launching a language school in Italy. Her life on three continents and fluency in multiple languages have made her acutely aware of cultural differences, biases, and inequities. She is a strong advocate of fairness and equity and feels her life has prepared her well for this moment and the issues of our community.
Reggie Valentine: As vice president of schools, Reggie will be continuing the work of facilitating collaboration between all the PTAs in the common interest of all Montclair school children and their families. Reggie served as PTA president for Nishuane Elementary School during this last “pandemic” year. Reggie is also Tteasurer for the Montclair Pre-K Board of Trustees. His daughter, Lillian, attends Nishuane Elementary and is a graduate of the Montclair Pre-K. Reggie lived in Montclair during his “wonder years” between 1976 and 1986, and is a graduate of the Montclair Public Schools.
Professionally, Reggie is a Scaled Agile Framework program consultant leading companies through their portfolio budgeting and technology delivery, serving companies both small (e.g. Food Network) and large (e.g. Thomson Reuters) and others in between.
Reggie enjoys applying Agile methodologies in his personal life — he “scrummed” his wedding, the birth of his baby girl and all family vacations, spending time with his family, contributing to social media, scuba diving, following Depeche Mode and being jolly.
Reggie’s motto in life, which he borrowed from Walt “Clyde” Frazier, is “team work makes the dream work.”
Brian Fleischer: Brian Fleischer is returning for his second year of a two-year term as PTAC vice president for committees, and also serves as a member of the PTAC Equity, Anti-Racism and the Opportunity Gap Committee and the PTAC Finance and Facilities Committee. Brian’s daughter Marlee is in seventh grade at Glenfield, and his son Xander is a fourth-grader at Hillside. Brian is also finishing his second year as president of the Hillside PTA and in July will begin a two-year term as Co-President of the Glenfield PTA. Brian is a proud product of the Montclair Public Schools, having attended Watchung, Glenfield and MHS from 1976 through 1989. His mother, Carolyn, is a retired Montclair Public Schools kindergarten teacher, his father, Joe, is a retired architect whose projects included the mid-1980’s renovation of Glenfield, and his wife, Beth, is a school counselor at Teaneck High School.
Brian is a “recovering attorney” who has spent most of his career in K-12 public education administration, focusing on school district operations, finance, risk and compliance. Following 11 years in internal audit for the NYC Department of Education, including eight years as auditor general, Brian worked for the Montclair Public Schools as the district’s chief operating officer and school business administrator from 2013 to 2016. Since 2017, he has served as director of internal audit for the New York City School Construction Authority.
Diane Tehranian: Diane Tehranian has three children at Nishuane, Hillside and soon to be Glenfield. She has been an active member of the Nishuane/Hillside community and has served as Treasurer for Nishuane for the past two years. Diane also served as an MFEE liaison to Hillside and a SEPAC liaison to Nishuane and Hillside.
Most recently, she has enjoyed volunteering as a facilitator for MFEE’s Learning Circles on Race and working with the Nishuane and Hillside teams on their racial equity grant proposals. She is also racing in this year’s MFEE Amazing Fundraiser “The Clash of the Quaranteams” with her family and could use all the cheers she can get.
After taking time off from a career as an engineer and project manager, Diane will be starting MSU in the fall for her Masters of Teaching in High School Math.
Courtney Redfern: Courtney Redfern will be returning as secretary of PTAC for the fourth year and in July, will once again be serving as secretary at Buzz Aldrin Middle School. She is a huge fan of the magnet system and her two children have attended the Montclair PreK, Nishuane, Watchung, Hillside, Buzz Aldrin and now Montclair High School.
She has served as treasurer, secretary and vice president at Watchung PTA, PTA secretary at Buzz Aldrin, MFEE liaison, and vice president of the P.S. 165 PTA in New York City. She also worked as vice president for Title I schools in District 3 in NYC which includes Harlem and the Upper West Side. She volunteers with children and youth in foster care as a court-appointed special advocate. Professionally, she has worn multiple hats as a lawyer, executive coach, and diversity and cross-cultural trainer/consultant.
This morning Montclair Public Schools welcomed its students back to school for full-day, in-person instruction. “We have worked tirelessly to get to this moment and despite setbacks as a result of Hurricane Ida, our buildings were ready for our return,” said Superintendent Jonathan Ponds. The district was able to implement all remediation necessary to open. Ponds went on to express his gratitude to everyone who helped make this day possible. “Especially in the weeks leading to our opening, I was so thankful for the neverending support of the Board of Education, my administrators, staff, Buildings and Grounds personnel, Township officials, Mayor’s Office and Police, Fire and Community Service departments.”
View full press release here.
Montclair school officials say despite damage to multiple buildings in Ida, students will return today, Sept. 9, for full, five-day-a-week, in-person instruction for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We will be open and ready for students on Thursday, Sept. 9,” schools superintendent Jonathan Ponds wrote in a message sent to families and staff late Tuesday.
Ponds had told the school community as early as Sept. 2 — the morning after Ida’s floodwaters overtook roads and buildings throughout much of Montclair — he was confident school buildings would be ready, and he followed up with a second community message the next day saying repairs were on track.
Montclair High School, Bradford School and Hillside School all suffered severe flooding. A tree fell on Edgemont Montessori School. And a leak caused damage to a fire panel at the district’s Developmental Learning Center.
The district maintenance and custodial staff were working in collaboration with outside cleaning companies, an arborist and an electrician, Ponds had said in his initial community message. In his update this week, he said the district worked with disaster relief company First Onsite to remove damaged materials and sanitize flooded facilities.
“We want to thank our buildings and grounds personnel, the township officials and mayor’s office, and the fire, police and [township] community service departments for their tireless work all weekend long even through the holiday,” he wrote Tuesday.
‘WORST I’VE SEEN IN 30 YEARS’
There were 4 to 5 feet of water in the basement of each affected school, Montclair Deputy Fire Chief Robert Duncan said Tuesday. Pumping the water at each school took about three to four hours, Duncan said.
At Bradford, the boiler room flooded and an electrical panel was damaged. As of Tuesday, he said, power was back on and all repairs had been completed. Electricians had been expected to inspect the building Tuesday, he’d previously said.
At Edgemont, the tree had been removed by late last week, and a scissor lift was expected to be transported to the school for a structural engineer to inspect the gym on Tuesday. That has been completed and the entire building can be occupied, Ponds said Tuesday.
At Hillside, the ground floor flooded. The Montclair Fire Department pumped out water, but Ponds said Tuesday gyms would be off-limits until their floors were fully dry.
At the Developmental Learning Center, a new fire alarm panel needed replacement. Ponds had said last week that would be done by Tuesday, but in his update this week he said it would instead be in place by Thursday.
At Montclair High School, the basement and “the pit” — the auditorium’s storage area — flooded. The fire department pumped out water and debris had been discarded. Ponds said cleaning and disinfecting continued this week but would be complete by Wednesday afternoon. Several rooms needing abatement will be sealed off but the rest of the building can be occupied, he said.
Sept. 2, MHS head custodian Brian Bunk described the flooding as the “worst I’ve seen in 30 years,” while the fire department pumped out water.
In “the pit,” the flooding was 3 feet high, Bunk said. There were also 4 to 5 inches of water in the rest of the building, he said.
Professional development was canceled for Montclair public school teachers that day as the district worked to assess the building damage, according to Montclair Education Association President Cathy Kondreck. Teachers had only returned on Sept. 1 to begin preparing for the start of school.
The MEA is also still waiting for a list of other building repairs completed over the summer along with a breakdown of the future repairs and what they entail, Kondreck said.
Montclair parents teacher associations at Bradford School and Hillside School provided lunches for buildings and grounds staff working to repair the flood damage, Montclair Parent Teacher Association Council president Tessie Thomas said.
At Montclair High School, the PTA — formed in June — worked alongside PTAs from other schools to cover food costs for the high school staff and staff from other schools that joined in on the cleanup.
During the first day, with only half an hour’s notice notice, PTAC members dropped pizzas off at the high school, Thomas said. But the next day, they were more fully prepared. Local restaurants, including Café Moso and Montclair House Grill, provided discounted or free food for the school staff and parents across the district pitched in to help.
“I think this is a great way for the community to come together and help out during this crisis,” Thomas said. “I see it as, you know, not-so-random acts of kindness and Montclair showing its true character.”
The private Montclair Kimberley Academy had flooding at the Upper School campus, and the administration was working to resolve the issue, Head of School Nigel D. Furlonge said Sept.2.
“We are sensitive to the impact this storm has had on MKA families and colleagues as well as on our neighbors and the community of Montclair,” Furlonge said. “While we continue to prepare for the start of school next week, we extend our sincere gratitude to everyone who offered their assistance to those in need during this unprecedented weather event.”
Flooding and related damage at MKA has been resolved, and all buildings are ready to welcome students for their first day on Thursday, Director of Communications and Marketing Kim Saunders said Wednesday.
Immaculate Conception High School suffered no flooding or damage, Principal Michele Neves said.
*This is a September 8, 2021 post from The Montclair Local. Click here for original article.