In a few weeks, we will go to the polls for the election of governor and members of the state Senate and Assembly — and, once again, Montclair voters will be asked if they wish to move our school district from a Type I to a Type 2. If we vote yes, several things change, including the taxpayers electing the nine (no longer sevel) Board of Education members and the elimination of the Board of School Estimate that approves both the operating and capital budgets for our schools.
Several times in the past, we have voted on this, and each time we have opted to remain Type I.
It’s a tough call for many — certainly more people are involved in the process, but moving to an elected school board means the potential of a lot of political money that, in my opinion, often pollutes the process; we’ve seen this at the local, state and national levels, and it’s not pretty. Also, at a time when we need to invest serious money into school infrastructure that has not been attended to. I’d rather not take the risk of not adopting a much-needed capital budget.
Montclair has always voted for what is in the best interest in our magnet school program that emphasizes integrated, quality education, and I think we should leave things as they are. Mayors are imperfect, for sure, but I believe most have appointed good people who care about the kids first. I would agree with the League of Women Voters’ suggestion that the process involve formation of an 8- to 10-member member advisory committee that develops a good pool of Board of Education candidates for mayors to use in their selection process.
The process we use is not perfect, but overall it has served us well. I think we should leave things as they are. An elected Board of Education seems attractive and may work out but it does not guarantee that magically the schools get better than under the current process and it introduces a political process that to me creates a lot of risk.
Former Montclair mayor (2004-2008)
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