Lori Price Abrams

Third Ward Councilor Lori Price Abrams and member of the Board of School Estimate shares her opinion regarding the Township Ballot Question on an elected BOE:

I have historically believed that an appointed school board has served Montclair well. And while I value the ongoing robust public debate throughout Montclair, my position is affirmed.

The following are my top reasons to vote NO on Ballot Question 3:

Ability to proceed with school funding decisions more expeditiously.

Perhaps no issue has animated discussion more regarding our schools than the ability to get necessary funding approved for bonding to address HVAC and other infrastructure needs of our aging school buildings. Know that the necessary, sometime cumbersome, process of funding approvals and bonding will not be expedited through a change to a Type II District. In fact, School Boards are constrained to seek voter approvals for the facilities expenditures to limited times of year under the Type II. A switch will delay the ability to pursue much needed approvals, which the BoSE is currently addressing with the District. If the primary goal of switching is to get the building improvement plans approved as soon as possible, then the conversion to Type II is very much ill-advised.

Mayoral appointment allows for balanced skills, talents and experiences to serve a diverse BoE:

The good of the Township is intimately timed to the success of the schools, which is why it is among the mayor’s responsibilities to appoint leaders to foster enriched educational opportunities for all students. In so doing, s/he must constitute a board reflecting thoughtful representation across various facets of diversity—including race, ethnicity, as well as areas of expertise, such as education, finance, administration, law or having experience with special needs students. The appointive process provides for that balancing and rounding out of the board’s strengths. By contrast, an elected board will be subject to the pool of those who choose to run, which guarantees no such reflective process.

Risk that treasured Magnet School System will be lost

Montclair’s magnet schools have been a jewel of the Township, providing for a rich learning opportunities for all children in town. An election will leave open the possibility of a reversing trend by those who may run on different priorities. This opens to a possible redirecting of the funds for busing which are now understood as essential to the magnet schools.

The experience and financial acumen of the Township is an asset to the Public School System

Presently, the Board of School Estimates, comprised of BoE and Council members, works with the School District to review and approve the tax levy for the budget and fix costs associated with the bonding for infrastructure investments. The Township has a strong financial team in the form of our CFO and financial consultant, who work with the Township Manager to guard the fiscal health of our communal institutions. Having the expertise and track record to secure, manage, and re-finance bond debt will enable us to do more for the schools.

It is a shared goal of all parties to provide excellent school facilities as part of excellence in education for our children and their families. Ultimately, my view is that our current form of “representative democracy” is more effective and efficient in securing these than would be provided by conversion to Type II district, which would require putting all funding decisions to a referendum of all voters every time.

— Lori Price Abrams

3 replies on “Opinion: Montclair Third Ward Councilor Says Vote No To Elected BOE Ballot Question”

  1. These arguments are to say the least, disingenuous. Addressing each of the author’s points:

    “Ability to proceed with school funding decisions more expeditiously.”

    There is no basis for the argument that funding for critical infrastructure projects at the schools would suffer under a Type II configuration. The majority of the districts in NJ do just fine in this regard thank you very much.

    “Mayoral appointment allows for balanced skills, talents and experiences to serve a diverse BoE.”

    The current Mayor has only selected BoE members who he knows support the goals of the organization of which he is the paid VP of. How is this “diverse”? By pushing the decision of who the residents believe can do the best job, not someone beholden to special interests, we and our children are better served.

    “Risk that treasured Magnet School System will be lost.”

    This is simple fear mongering. Where is the evidence that any elected Board of Education would eliminate the historic and vibrant magnet system in Montclair?

    “The experience and financial acumen of the Township is an asset to the Public School System.”

    There is no evidence that an elected Board would not work with the Township to improve our public schools. Also, appropriate borders between the BoE and the Township are desirable. Need I remind the author of the story of the servers?

    Vote for an elected Board of Education.

    Jon Bonesteel

  2. What a remarkable treatise this is. Let the mayor draw from the pool of people that he or she knows, who are clearly the best people for the job? Offer voters the option of approving expenditures?
    Yes, an elected BOE might have different priorities than political appointees. And I hope that they do.
    This district already spends more per student than many private schools, and outcomes are not better than in towns spending much less.
    The ridiculous approach to school last year is a clear marker of how absolutely important it is for more direct involvement in decisions.
    Clearly the schools have been mismanaged, from expenditure per student to infrastructure and it is time to have a more direct say.
    Spending nearly $18k per student and still not being able to maintain buildings is, and I’m not going to be diplomatic, a travesty.
    Personally, I’ll be voting for an elected BOE.

  3. I’m confused about this Democracy thing. The Elected Board arguments are anchored in greater direct access & influence by We The People. Move the election to November because We The People are more likely to show up. OK. Require only 10 signatures to get on the ballot. That’s about as accessible as one gets in these parts. Can I get a witness?

    Now, as I understand the process as I heard explained – specifically about our substantial need to bond – we can expect quite regular off-cycle special referendum votes. March was mentioned as typical timeframe. Unless we are backpedaling on the benefits of a November vote, shouldn’t we expect a serious drop off in turnout? What if the bond referendum is scheduled during Spring Break? Do young renters and empty nester dominate? (Just kidding)

    The part I like best is the 10 signatures to get on the ballot. Why we can’t we be this accessible with our Council candidates that require anywhere from 80 signatures for a garden variety ward candidate to 325 signatures for At-Large and Mayoral candidates? And what’s with this outrageously anti-democratic threshold to obtain over a 1,000 signatures to get a public question on the ballot? Let’s bring all down to the 10 signature requirement and let the informed electorate decide. We’re holding the elections anyway. Why do we tolerate these obsolete and arbitrary obstacles that constrict choice? These are simply remnants to protect the status quo.

    Implementing these simple & obvious changes would result in more responsive governing bodies. And why we are at it, let’s do away with the Mayor appointing all the members of the Historic Preservation Commission and the Environmental Commission! Even worse, the Mayor actually designates the Chair of the MEC. Who thought going to this extreme was a smart decision? Do we really think we will shift the climate change paradigm under this system.

    Yes, change is in the air. Or is it just more particulates?

Comments are closed.