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, Justin Comini for your comments. We believe that schools should be a safe, supportive and respectful environment for all students.
I would like to start tonight with the operating budget. We know that the budget shows a serious deficit. We see that the user-friendly budget is now online and plan to go through it. As we remain focused on ensuring that education standards and offerings in Montclair are not impacted by budget cuts, we would like to ensure transparency and that budget related information be shared with families in advance of the budget hearing and adoption. Having an involved and engaged community will allow us to think about solutions together. Sharing this information will also serve to remind all that we are working together towards a common goal.
School Tours – As you know, they were “in-person” this year and the school tours were a resounding success. Each of the school PTAs worked hard, some with little notice, and did a fantastic job in putting together informative and productive tours for families. The principals and in many cases the teachers also chipped in. Every school community was excited about having these tours back on in-person and it showed. 596 people signed up for the tours. I think even more showed up. Each of the elementary schools had anywhere between 50 and 110 families per tour. Each of the Middle Schools had anywhere between 85 and 120 families per tour. Emails of the registered participants were used by the PTAs to continue the communications with the attendees and answer any questions.
Moving on to Reflections. Reflections was launched in Montclair on November 1, 2021. I hope you can hear the excitement as I update you on Reflections. As you know, Reflections is a Nationwide Art competition for the students. The theme this year was “I will change the world by…” We were thrilled with the enthusiastic participation from the students and 38 of the entries made it to the state level. Two of our Reflections submissions were chosen by the state for awards. We will be celebrating the students who participated in Reflections tomorrow. Reflections was a true collaboration between the district, the Montclair Education Association, and the community. As you may recall, this is a program that PTAC conducted for the very first time in Montclair and thank you Dr. Ponds and Ms. Cathy Kondreck for your strong support and help. I would also like to give a special shout out to Natasha Cummins, who chaired the program and put in long hours administering it.
Finally, this is “Teacher Appreciation” week in our schools. If there was ever a doubt about the important work that our teachers do, the pandemic was a stark reminder to the contrary. Each school PTA has taken this on in earnest and has shown their love, respect, and appreciation for the teachers in their own way. We are grateful to the teachers. We as parents and caregivers place our trust in Teachers when we send our children to school. In many cases the children spend more time during the weekdays interacting with the teachers than with parents and caregivers. The students in Montclair are not only learning reading, writing, and math from their teachers, but more importantly they are also learning critical thinking skills from them. This experience sets the students on a lifetime journey of learning and contributing to the world. The future Presidents, Governors, CEOs, Doctors, Lawyers and other leaders of the world are in the class right now and are being guided by the teachers.
On a personal note, I am the daughter of a High School Math teacher and know firsthand that teachers are a special breed that have a strong commitment to their students and go out of their way to support and educate them. It is a serious responsibility and teachers fulfill it with grace and dignity. Each of us remembers the great teachers in our lives and we carry their voices in us through our lives. There are countless examples of students’ worlds being opened up by inspiration from their teachers. So, on behalf of all the parents, caregivers, and students – a big thank you to the teachers in our district. Thank you for all that you do!