The Montclair PTA Council, along with the Montclair Fund For Educational Excellence (MFEE) held a forum today at the Montclair Public Library for the school district PTAs and new Superintendent of schools, Dr. Penny MacCormack. The purpose was to introduce Montclair’s new superintendent and to open a conversation between the Parent/School-based leadership (the PTAs) and Superintendent MacCormack about each school’s strengths, challenges and opportunities.

Board of Education president, Robin Kulwin, opened the forum discussing the process the Board took in searching for a new superintendent. She joked that it was, “the biggest, most important decision (other than marrying my husband and having my children) that I’ve ever been a part of.” Kulwin said that the decision of choosing Superintendent MacCormack was a unanimous one and said, “I think you will join me in believing that it was the right decision.”

After introducing herself and discussing the difficult time of starting at our district (Dr. MacCormack took the position on November 1, amid the power outages caused by Hurricane Sandy), Superintendent MacCormack said, “I am humbled by Robin’s words. Your BoE worked very hard to ask questions and get the responses they expected when looking for a superintendent.”

MacCormack said her first 90 days objective is to learn about the Montclair school system. She has been visiting the schools and getting to know and understand the magnet system daily. She said her first plans are, “To inform my own educational expertise of what works well and what are some of the challenges here in Montclair.” She then went on to share the three things that drive and guide her:

  1. I believe and act on the belief that all students can achieve on high levels.
  2. I am impressed with the innovative idea that drove this district to create the magnet system in order to integrate.
  3. In order for us to meet goals, we have to put together a strong plan with defined strategy that has ownership

Superintendent MacCormack went on to say that Montclair has a foundation that we can build on to become a model system.

A PTA representative from each school was then given time to address MacCormack to explain the magnet theme, name the strengths and challenges and discuss opportunities for each school. While each representative emphasized what they felt was special about their specific school, the forum’s focus was on the idea that Montclair is “One District, One Community. That all of our children will benefit from a strong school district and that all of our children end up in the same place—Montclair High School. On that note, the School Action Team leader at MHS, Helen Mazarakis, said that they feel that “The high school is the diamond in the rough, but should be the jewel. It’s the school that all of our kids go to and should be a priority.

After that segment was complete, the forum was opened for a Q&A with Dr. MacCormack. The first, and perhaps the most important, question was, “Is the magnet school theme in danger?” To which Dr. MacCormack replied:

“I start with the foundation that the magnet school system remains in tact. It was one of the things that brought me here. It is the foundation. It is here to stay.”

Superintendent MacCormack will be making the rounds to each school in the next couple of months to give parents and residents the opportunity to meet her and discuss what they feel is relevant. Check the district website for dates.