On Tuesday, I will be voting for Melanie Deysher and Phaedra Dunn for the Montclair Board of Education. As someone who was strongly in favor of an elected BOE, I believe we need candidates with students currently in our schools, with track records of community involvement and with deep knowledge of navigating special education.

Phaedra Dunn has spent time working in schools as a certified school social worker and has led child study teams. She is currently an active member of her School Action Team for Partnerships, a co-chair of the PTAC Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee and co-founder of Montclair Moms of Color. Phaedra listens, connects and acts. I know this from personal experience. I met Phaedra when she pulled me into a Zoom meeting that she arranged with schools Superintendent Dr. Jonathan Ponds that gave Black mothers a chance to voice their concerns surrounding Robert Kelley’s whistleblower report and equity throughout the district.

From there, she has been present in several other community discussions that I have been involved in. Her passion and knowledge drew me to connect with her on a personal matter that I was having with navigating the Montclair schools. Phaedra has spent several hours with me on the phone in the past two years pointing me in the right direction, researching to help my family and connecting me with people who might have information outside of her scope. She has never met my children, but she cared deeply about making sure that they were getting all available resources. I know her to have taken time for countless others and know she will bring this passion to all of the students in our district.

Melanie Deysher is a Special Education Parent Advisory Council liaison, co-founder and chair of the SEPAC Dyslexia Parent Network, a member of the NAACP Education Committee and a co-founder of Let’s Talk About SmartPhones. I have gotten to know Melanie via a few Zooms and the public forums that SEPAC and The League of Women Voters have conducted. Melanie has been a strong advocate for universal early literacy testing. Early literacy is so important, especially with so many children having experienced unusual academic circumstances surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. She is a person who shows up to BOE meetings and brings data. Melanie believes strongly in data-driven policy decisions for the district and I am hoping to see this become a standard. Empowering Melanie to bring data to the board meetings will lead to more effective solutions and sorely needed transparency.

I strongly endorse both candidates and look forward to casting my vote for them both on March 8.

Kendra Johnson


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