Vote Montclair Petition Seeking Referendum For Elected Board of Education Goes Live

An official petition was launched Saturday seeking a referendum for an elected Board of Education in Montclair. The petition appears on the website of Vote Montclair, an independent civic group started in 2020 with the aim of increasing voter participation in the Township.

“After more than six months of outreach, voter surveys, legal research, fundraising and technical fiddling, I’m overjoyed to finally see voters having their say,” said Vote Montclair founder and campaign co-chair Erik D’Amato.

The official Committee of Petitioners is led by campaign co-chair Jason Sargis, and consists of “a diverse and engaged group of community members who believe Montclair should join the 97% of New Jersey municipalities where voters rather than politicians choose who sits on the BOE,” according to Vote Montclair.

“What we’ve seen over the last few years is that the time has come for the people themselves to decide who represents them in setting educational policy,” said Committee member Reggie Valentine, who is a product of the Montclair Public Schools and is now president of the PTA at Nishuane and a board member of the Montclair Community Pre-K. In addition to Sargis and Valentine, the Committee includes retired educator Beatrice Price, longtime PTA and community leader Selma Avdicevic, and Rodolfo Valdez.

Under state law, the petition must garner a number of signatures exceeding 15% of the votes cast in the most recent election for state assembly in the district to trigger a referendum on converting Montclair’s school district from an unelected “Type I” model to an elected “Type II” model. This works out to 1,020 signatures though Vote Montclair’s campaign organizers aim to collect at least double that.

The Township of Montclair is currently one of only 11 out of 565 municipalities in New Jersey where members of the local Board of Education are appointed by the mayor rather than elected by popular vote. The League of Women Voters has released a statement in favor of maintaining an appointed BOE in Montclair, adding that past referenda on this issue were held in 1963, 1969, 1971, 1995 and, most recently, 2009 – and all were unsuccessful.

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  1. Have any districts that moved to Type II and then returned to Type I?

    I would like both the Petitioners and the LWV address how an elected board could impact the eventuality of charter schools here.

    How would charter school’s portion of capital bond issues be determined, by BoE or the voters?

  2. Thank you for answering my question in your FAQ section about the MPSD credit rating and how people say it will likely will track the Township’s rating. However, under an Type II elected board, you might want to clarify how the difference in voter composition, e.g. elected officials versus voters directly. You might want to explain how the Municipal AAA rating could then track closer to the MSPD. This is why our train service has two tracks…one each direction.

  3. Here are a couple of things that bother me as I do not subscribe to either national party.

    Mail-in ballots sent out automatically are our future (unless you are pandemic deniers). And on a given Type II vote is historically 10% of registered voters.

    1) Why wouldn’t we just combine our muni election every 4 years and still have elected actions in April off years? There is no cost difference.

    2) We elected the Mayor knowing full well he was the #2 in the NJEA. Why can’t a future candidate just run on a platform that says they will establish a search committee to identify candidates and the candidate’s diversity will best represent Montclair?

    3) Do the districts that converted see a performance improvement or not – and hence, don’t bother to change back?

    4) What is our exposure if NJ Chapter 72 protection is reduced?

    5) Our school debt exceeds our municipal debt and is projected to actually balloon if we bring the buildings up to recommendations. Will our municipal debt rating benefit from separating the school district or will it track to the school district debt because the same taxpayers are the reason for the rating?

    6) What happens to the geese at Edgemont Schools? Will we exhaust pipe gas them under an elected board?

  4. Did you ever wonder why the Montessori parents aren’t proposing outdoor classes in the front of Edgemont School?

    Just fascinating to look into their minds. The clarity. The narrow focus. The raw intelligence.

    I will say a prayer for the new principal.

  5. OK, I figured out why there won’t be classes in the front of the school. Skin cancer, right?
    Smart! The sun. Antibacterial sunscreens. Half circle driveways. Poisons.

  6. Edgemont parents and their PTA have been advocating for outside classes since the beginning of the year. They made plans over the summer, in fact, and bought tents. As you know, the teachers are not willing to teach indoors or outdoors at this point. Nevertheless, the PTA has proceeded and will be offering outdoor after school programs later this spring. All approved by the school and the district. I expect the programs will be fully subscribed.

  7. Interesting. I guess you should dispense with the T in PTA.

    As you will recall, I supported a proof of concept test last year. This is a more limited test. Still, there should be a lively hindsight discussion on what worked. Will that discussion be held in the spirit of an OPMA standard?

    You also know I am one of the believers of the imminent, 4th COVID infection surge. I’m a little uncomfortable with the MPSD transferring their State COVID standards for school environments to outside groups just because they are on school property. It would be an obvious avoidance of community standards & risk-avoidance practices.

    What such a program effectively does, if determined to be inappropriate, is bring the district’s infighting out into the community, and hence arguable legal standing for a non-parent or business to also file legal complaints. Basically, the parents & the district want to act like a school, but not be constrained by the actual responsibilities.

    It is very creative, but unless the MPSD is running this, illegal.

  8. Let me make it clearer. Someone could conceivably sue the Parent-Teachers Association. I’m not sure how you are structured, but the Edgemont PTA, MPSD & BoE would be the logical starting place…along with the Town if they closed the public street or park to facilitate a private citizen group gathering.

  9. I’m sorry. In my exuberance I overlooked the obvious answer: you will ensure the PTA is vaccinated.

    Well, that puts my mind at ease. If the PTA is vaccinated and the kids are not spreaders, this after school program should be a great stopgap until the teachers return.

    Sorry again.

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