The Montclair Board of Education has just announced the resignation of Board member Tanya Coke, who tragically lost her sister Sandra Coke last month. The community, through Parents Who Rock, have made an effort to raise money for the Sandra Coke Fund.
The Montclair Board of Education regretfully announces the resignation of Board member Tanya Coke. Ms. Coke’s sister, Sandra, died in California last month. Ms. Coke informed Board President Robin Kulwin of her decision last week, and stated that the needs of her immediate family, which has now expanded to include her sister’s daughter, mean that she must put volunteer commitments aside for the foreseeable future. “Tanya resigned for the most wrenching reason imaginable,” Ms. Kulwin said. “We accept her resignation with great sadness and with enormous sympathy for her and her family.”
“Coming to terms with losing a family member suddenly and to violence is a punishing process, and will take time,” said Coke. “My sister was an exceptionally positive, loving person who prioritized time with family and friends. Losing her has been a lesson for me in the importance of holding family close, and sweating the small stuff of life a little less.”Coke continued, “It has been a privilege to serve on the Board of Education, and I will miss the work and my colleagues immensely,” said Ms. Coke. “We have wonderful staff and leaders in the Montclair Public Schools, and I will be cheering them on from the sidelines as they begin the new school year.”
“Tanya’s first priority must be her family,” Ms. Kulwin said, “but we will miss her insight and dedication to the Board. She has been an advocate for all children in our school community, especially the under-served, and in the face of some difficult dynamics, Tanya’s is always one of the strongest voices for excellence and equity in this town and on the Board.”
Before her term on the Board, Coke was instrumental in the expansion of the IMANI program in Montclair, which provides extra academic support to children who need it. In 2009, Coke founded and chaired the Montclair School Integration Task Force. This all-volunteer group of nationally recognized civil rights and human rights lawyers worked with district officials to develop a legal and sensible way to comply with Supreme Court rulings on integration in public schools. With the assistance of Ohio State University’s Kirwan Institute, the Task Force delivered a new school assignment plan based on residential “zones” instead of individual student characteristics.
Coke brought her background as a former federal public defender and a current public interest lawyer, along with her expertise in racial justice, education, criminal justice, and juvenile justice to Montclair’s Board of Education. As a Board member, she has worked hard on critical issues of fairness, equity and accountability.
Montclair School Superintendent Penny MacCormack said Coke was “one of the brightest, most passionate and committed community leaders I have ever been privileged to work with. Her departure from the Board is Montclair’s loss.”
“All who send their children to Montclair public schools owe Tanya a debt of gratitude,” Ms. Kulwin said. “I add my personal admiration and deep sorrow over the loss of her beloved sister.”