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.
Tonight, I would like to start with the passage of the bond referendum! It is clear that the bond referendum passed with overwhelming support from the Montclair community – 84% of the voters voted yes for the Community Investment Bond referendum. If there ever was a question about Montclair, this vote provided the answer. Our community made it clear with our vote – what we value, what our culture is, and how to make smart decisions. We decided to snap out of the unsustainable thesis that quality of schools doesn’t have an impact on the quality of the town. One of the things of note here is that we are in times of high inflation and at the brink of a recession. Yet the vote was passed with overwhelming support and the community believes that this is important for the future and it’s about time. It is also noteworthy that overwhelming support was across the board – in each ward and within each district. This is not a vote that a certain part of the town supported. This is meaningful as it is a serious decision for many that may be in a position where the tax increases related to this bond referendum are not an easy accommodation. There are many who are managing on fixed income. In the end – our community came through and did right by our children and our town. Our community prioritized our children, our staff, and the future of Montclair!
What the bond passage also means is that the community has entrusted the district and the board to execute this massive project with professionalism and without any waste. We are pleased with the plans that the district is developing where transparency and integrity is at the heart of every decision related to project execution.
I would also like to give a shout out to the many volunteers who stepped up and put in long hours. These dedicated volunteers gave it their all. As many of you have heard, we believed in the community and focused on getting the information out. We went from focusing on summarizing all information, to getting the information out, to getting the vote out. You have heard about the website, the tax calculator, the lawn signs, the stands at the Farmers market and other events, the coffee klatches, the town halls, the video testimonials, the door-to-door volunteers for sharing information and getting the vote out and the Election Day volunteers. There are many instances of volunteers stepping up and going above and beyond. Let me share one anecdote that I feel captures the effort succinctly. In the last two weeks we had volunteers going door to door with voter lists in their hands. There were a lot of folks who took this on. They were sending us feedback from the field on how things were going and if there were unanswered questions and/or any unresolved issue. One afternoon, I got an email from a volunteer who said that she had been at it from the morning and was now planning to stop as she was exhausted as she was very pregnant. Her 14 month old toddler who accompanied her on this door-to-door campaign was also exhausted. We had no idea that she had taken this task on in her very pregnant state. But she did as she saw this referendum as incredibly important for the future. Her commitment and dedication was truly inspirational. There are so many of these stories…these serve as a strong reminder of what was at stake and the incredible community that we live in. There are so many names and tasks that went into getting this information out. The list is long and there are many who fit the “unsung heroes” moniker perfectly. Thank you. We will be listing them on our website shortly. I would also like to thank the district and the board for your leadership in creating this plan and putting it in front of the community. Thank you.
Switching channels to an exciting program being conducted by the PTAs at every school – Reflections! PTAC conducted this program for the very first time in Montclair last year. As you may recall, Reflections is our way to give all students an opportunity to express themselves in the medium of their choice. Reflections is a national competition where students in their respective age groups submit their works of art. This year’s theme is “Show Your Voice” and we are opening it up to three more categories of art. We are proud to continue our collaboration on this effort with the Montclair Education Association and the District. In fact, I would like to give a special shout out to the MEA as they stepped up their support this year by including Reflections in one of the grant applications. Thank you, Cathy Kondreck, for this invaluable support.
With this extraordinary support and collaboration, Reflections this year is a bigger and better program with deeper reach in each school. There are specific teachers designated in each school to be point for the program in addition to the PTA liaison for each school. This year students are participating in six categories – visual arts, photography, music composition, literature, film production and dance choreography – in their respective age groups.
Students can drop off work AND artist statements to their respective teacher at school in person or via email.
Entries are reviewed at local level (school), council level (all Montclair schools), state level (NJ State PTA), and National PTA level. Much like last year, all winners and participants will be celebrated at the Montclair Reflections Celebrations in May 2023.