The Montclair High School Civics and Government Institute (CGI) will host a community-wide Mayoral debate on Thursday, April 26 from 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm in the LGI. The focus of the debate will be on education in Montclair and will be moderated by two high school seniors, Chris Murphy and Gabriella Peterson. The  three candidates running for Mayor are in alphabetical order: Robert Jackson (Montclair 2012), Harvey Susswein (For Montclair) and Karen Turner (Real Progress Montclair).

Barista Kids asked the two CGI moderators several questions about their thoughts on what’s important in a mayor:

1) What do you think is the #1 priority for the Mayor?

Chris: Education. Our Mayor should implore the board to better equip our schools with the funds necessary to purchase textbooks for every student, hire the best teachers and provide the kind of technology that will keep us competitive with kids from other districts, such as the current sophisticated smart boards that are draining our educational budget. The schools are a great strength for Montclair, and every Mayor needs to build on that strength.

Gabriella: The Mayor should be invested in creating a Montclair that the citizens want. In some terms, that entails more education initiatives, and in other terms, the citizens might prefer less spending. I think the Mayor and City Council should dedicate their time to serving the people that voted them into office.

2) What do you think Montclair Public Schools do best?

Chris: Personally I believe Montclair Public Schools do a great job of marrying diversity and education. From a young age Montclair youth work and learn with kids of different ethnic, racial, and economic backgrounds. I think this is important because Essex County has such diversity, as does the country as a whole. It’s really valuable that kids in Montclair get to experience that range from a young age, and begin to appreciate the things that make us alike and respect the things that make us different.

Gabriella: Montclair Schools provides students with options, and they also bring people together with similar interests. The magnet school system, and the numerous opportunities offered within Montclair Public Schools allows children to choose what they want in a school, while also fulfilling their requirements. For example, the more creative students can attend Nishuane, Hillside, Glenfield, and then particpate in the SVPA program at Montclair High School. In addition, these students get to build relationships with others who have similar interests from a young age. Although other schools have classes that fulfill many interests, I feel like Montclair Public Schools promotes this more, by providing opportunities for students to pursue their interests at an early age.

3) What do you think Montclair Public Schools lack?

Chris: Montclair Public Schools should reform their Physical Education courses so that kids are forced to be more active and stay in better shape. I believe competitive activities foster desire to succeed and could help keep students fit, and encourage people to step out of their comfort zone and make new friends.

Gabriella: I think Montclair Public Schools should work more on test-prep initiatives. I attended Renaissance, where every Friday students had to take test prep courses. I think that the test scores would be better district-wide if students of all ages had to take test-prep classes through out the year. Test prep can help in standardized tests, and more importantly in the class room, where grades in some classes rest heavily on the way the students perform on his/her tests.

4) What do you love most about Montclair?

Chris: I love how accessible Montclair is, everything is within walking distance.

Gabriella: There are so many things I love about Montclair, but I think the opportunity is the coolest thing. Everyone has the chance to get involved in the town. Whether they are opening a small business like my mom did, or they are participating in a rally, everyone has the chance to pursue their passions. I think the town creates an environment that encourages this type of enthusiasm, and I am grateful that I grew up here.

5) How could Montclair become a better town for all?

Chris: Montclair would become an even better place to live if it stopped substance trafficking and offered rehabilitation support groups for families, and individuals of all ages.

Gabriella: I think Montclair could be better for all if there was an event, or something in town that got all of the citizens together for one cause. I remember attending the Save Darfur Rally years ago, and it was amazing to be united with a variety of different people over the same injustice. I think we should do more of these events in town, but they should have more of a local focus. Rallies, soup kitchens, marches, can bring numerous people together, and they can also inspire the next generation to be more actively engaged in civics. Although we are talking about leadership, I think that EVERYONE in the community is responsible for working towards this goal.

You can submit your questions for the candidates via email at or on Twitter @CGIdebate.

One reply on “Montclair High CGI Mayoral Candidate Debate”

  1. What?… No love? OK, I get it, you are all holding your comments for the debate. See you all on the 26th, 6:30pm in the LGI at Montclair High School.

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