Montclair, NJ – Montclair recently hired a new communications director and while you may be hearing from the district more as a result of this hire, you will be hearing less from the Montclair Board of Education, specifically its individual members.

Following a discussion at its September 7 meeting, the Montclair BOE passed a motion to do away with board comments. Board Member Melanie Deysher made a motion to eliminate board comments and have the president of the BOE be the representative to make comments; Board member Phaedra Dunn seconded the motion. The motion passed 6-3.

BOE member Kathryn Weller-Demming was one of the members against the idea. When it came time to vote she said:

“No – and we need to get our shit together.”

The end of the meeting, with BOE members’ audio dropping out because they weren’t using microphones, made it difficult to hear all the points of view.

Unlike the September 7 meeting, you won’t see Board Comments as an agenda item on tonight’s meeting. BOE President Latifah Jannah confirmed the change.

“Board members will still be having discussion and questions regarding agenda items, including presentations by the Superintendent,” Jannah said.

What do you think?

Will you be glad not to have BOE members commenting at the end of meetings, which in the past was often events they wanted to highlight or recognition of holidays and the like. Or, will you miss the opportunity to know where members stand on certain issues?

You can watch the last Board Comment section during the September 7 meeting (beginning around 1:48). Board member Priscilla Church talked about whether the board should consider a review of the state’s sex education standards, saying the Board had not looked at it in depth. Mfreke Inyang spoke about how public comment could be more collaborative with people asking for improvements versus being inflammatory. Phaedra Dunn echoed Inyang’s comments, calling for less angry voices and saying “we don’t have to like what is being said, but we have to listen to one another.”

Dunn also spoke about how the meetings were too long; that the time was not being utilized properly and that people who need to be heard were not coming to meetings because of the way they are structured. Jannah spoke about the passing of beloved teacher Mr. Clifford.

Tune in and watch tonight’s BOE meeting here.

9 replies on “Big Change to Montclair Board of Education Meetings Happens Tonight”

  1. 1. The $188MM bond ordinance is not on the agenda, so only the President can speak to it.

    2. The public can speak during off-agenda public comment, but only the President can elect to respond.

    3. I hope board is reminded about meeting/communications outside of formal mtgs and what constitutes a quorum.

    4. Phase 1 HVAC project cost was less than expected, so a $143,225.28 credit to receivables. This was funded under the old bond system Township financed. Does the Township get a refund or does the district keep the money?

  2. The BOE has standing Executive Sessions meetings outside the public view. It would be nice if the President reassured the public this private meeting agenda will faithfully abide by the Open Public Mtg Act and not go off on tangents. I just need her assurances as she is now the only one can speak to it…and be accountable.

  3. What I absolutely abhor, really abhor about this is Montclair voted to elect and expand the BoE to increase the diversity and number of voices sitting at the table. What didn’t change, a least not yet, is each member gets a vote. The BoE President also. But, what I find ironic is with all the talk about the majority silencing the minority viewpoints in this country, Montclair’s elected “education’ officials decide to do the same silencing of minority voices. Supposedly because the majority isn’t sign up for late nights and have more important things to do.

    I’m ashamed of my town. I am disgusted by the Board members who voted for this.

  4. Frank you are exactly right. The majority voted to silence the minority- and initiated by the two first elected BOE members. The vote was for less transparency. It’ll backfire, trust that. We saw a little bit of it tonight. Those with the smart questions are still speaking up, thankfully!

  5. I always find it illuminating to listen to our elected representatives in what they choose to comment on, follow their thought process, in their purely discretionary, unstructured allotted time provided by Board Comments. The Sepember 7th Board Comment was an excellent display of their individual qualities and abilities in action. In hindsight, I would have voted differently.

  6. This is not a new item; designating the BOE President as spokesperson used to be the norm. If it doesn’t work out, the BOE members can vote on it again. Or, since we now have an elected BOE, those who want to have more time to speak during meetings can run for a BOE spot next time around.

    I was and am against an elected BOE in Montclair, but I’m in full support of this change because I am for a streamlined use of time and information. The public comment, including whether or not BOE members utilize it — and for what — ends up becoming one more item for speculation and misdirected frustration that resolves into personal attacks. As someone who has been on the receiving end of assumptions and nastiness in public forums and private conversations, I believe the ironic result of fewer comments will be fuller, more free discussions.

  7. Don’t blame the ongoing BoE dysfunction and inability to collaborate with our new elected board shutting down comments from people we elected so we can hear each meeting from the union, the PTA, et al. I had no choice in their operations, but they get a standing slot, for every meeting, to make whatever comments they want. Really?

    Everyone seems to overlook, and apparently the old timers, the change to the elected board means members have legislated constituents. Not fuzzy-fuzzy stakeholders, not organizations that get copies of line item budgets the public doesn’t. Children? They’re minors. This is a business meeting.

    They now serve the voters. If the board wants to change this they will have to go to Trenton and tell them the reasons why they are so special.

    When board members make statements that strongly suggest they are only accountable to parents of children in the district tells me this elected choir is incapable of real change. The new members are oblivious and myopic to the new paradigm…even after several training sessions which the pop quiz show they failed.

    And we are going to give them $188MM? Give them $188MM when they can’t figure out for 4 years how to collect $1.8MM in SDA checks just waiting for us. Well, waiting on our paperwork. Don’t rely on me. Read the auditor’s report. Same old, same old.

    I’m will not even address the argument of the Pressident being the BoE spokesperson beyond saying she has always been the spokesperson. What does that have to do with the price of eggs?

  8. Off on a tangent from the Board discussion on 2022-23 Goals…

    The Board members (and district employees) are using their accounts to collaborate on district work product. They should understand using personal email accounts for district business, using district property and/or contract services subjects them to OPRA.

  9. I was crying’ I was laughing so hard at the almost elected BoE. They vote to muzzle individual comment by members and reaffirm that the President is the spokesperson for the entire Board. Yup, we not thinking’ people, we’re doin’ people.

    Now, one of their Board members is given their own agenda slot to push their own agenda to change policy. Which, as we all know, if the domain of the BoE President only. Regardless, this Board member gets to bang on about a truly pressing matter – homework. Specifically, homework routinely assigned to their personal time, at home.

    Why does one Board member get a privilege other board members do not get? They’re just making this stuff up as they go. They aren’t giving it much thought, or incapable of giving it much thought, as elected or appointed, it doesn’t matter at all. But, extremely entertaining!

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