Reframe the Montclair Public Schools Reopening Debate

An Open Letter to...
Dr. Jonathan Ponds, Superintendent, Montclair Public Schools
Petal Robinson, President, Montclair Education Association
District Principals
Latifah Jannah, President, Montclair Board of Education
Priscilla Church, Vice President, Montclair Board of Education
Mayor Sean Spiller
Councilor-at-Large Peter Yacobellis

The school reopening issue has been a contentious one in the Montclair community. As parents from the undersigned committees, we are reaching out to you in good faith, in an effort to amplify marginalized voices that may be lost in this debate.

We understand that legal negotiations that we are not privy to are ongoing between the MEA and the district.

We would like to respectfully suggest that the parties involved consider the following:

To assume that everyone has the same goal of returning to school safely, even if they have different definitions of what that looks like. We all want the same thing.

To challenge the vilification of any of the stakeholders working towards safely reopening Montclair schools.

To value the safety of both teachers and students as paramount when decisions about reopening are made and ensure that safety guidelines are created in dialogue with those most at risk.

To question the idea that a single either/or, hybrid/virtual schooling, solution is the only path forward.

To acknowledge that much of the advocacy work for the safety of teachers and students in this reopening effort - and historically around issues of equity and inclusion - has been led by Black women.

To reframe this conflict through the lens of restorative justice rather than as a zero-sum game (a framework that is already in place in a number of schools in the district);
recognition of harm
seeking "power with," rather than "power over"
collaboration and integration rather than coercion and isolation
respect rather than placing blame
empowerment rather than punishment
community involvement in finding a solution and repairing harm

The teachers, staff, parents, and most importantly, students of this district deserve real transparency and nothing less than open, direct, and honest communication from the district as the negotiations continue.

In return, as parents we stand ready to do what we can to ensure that teachers and students feel safe to return to in-person learning. We need to come to an equitable resolution so that our community can begin to heal the deep divisions that have been heightened in this process.


Parents of BARET, the Charles H. Bullock School Anti-Racism and Equity PTA Committee

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