Montclair BOE: Major Jennings Named Acting Principal of Renaissance Middle School

Montclair is starting the school year with the challenges of continuing remote learning in a pandemic and some significant staffing changes as a result of a an offensive video that was played during a virtual staff convocation Wednesday morning.

During the Montclair Board of Education meeting Wednesday evening, Superintendent Dr. Jonathan Ponds reiterated even more strongly the message he sent to staff, this time directing an apology to students, staff, parents, guardians and the community for what he described as a completely inappropriate video that was shown.

“On behalf of the Montclair Public School administration and the Montclair Board of Education, I want to apologize to the students, staff, parents, guardians and community. During today’s Welcome Back Convocation to staff, a completely inappropriate and unacceptable video was broadcast which was inconsistent with our school’s strong values and ideals regarding diversity. Montclair Public Schools, and I as your Superintendent, are committed to providing our staff and students with a school environment free of racism, prejudices and biases. The matter is being handled internally by central administration,” said Ponds.

Ponds did not mention any names in connection with the incident, but the video in question was part of a presentation by Dr. Joseph Putrino.

Ponds said the matter is being handled internally by central administration.

“Lastly I want to say tonight that Mr. Major Jennings, will be the acting principal of Renaissance Middle School,” said Ponds.

Jennings has been an assistant principal of Buzz Aldrin Middle School since 2012, when the school was Mount Hebron. Jennings replaced Samantha Morra.

Dr. Samantha Anglin, Hillside principal, who is now acting president of the Montclair Principals Association (replacing Putrino), said that members of the Montclair Principals Association did not vet nor do they condone the message that was given at the convocation. Anglin spoke of the ongoing, unending commitment to core values of diversity and said, “now more than ever, all children, families, staff and community members need to be treated with equality and respect.”

“I want to say that we’re an anti-racism district,” Dr. Ponds said, following public comment. “We’re going to follow our policy to the ‘T.’ When things happen, we will address them quickly and promptly. We do not tolerate racism. I will not tolerate racism.”

Members of the Montclair Board of Education stated their support for the actions Ponds took and the timeliness of the actions.

Ponds also spoke of search for a new Montclair High School principal.

“We will be getting input from our community, from our organizations, regarding the high school principal search. It will start soon. I want to thank you and look forward to meeting with people about our high school principal. That is one of the most important positions we have here in our district,” said Ponds. “I’m taking it seriously. We need to have our students led by nurturing, caring, diversity-believing leaders and educational leaders in our district.”

Click here to sign up for Baristanet's free daily emails and news alerts.