On March 8, Montclair voters will have the opportunity to elect members to the Board of Education.

As someone who has made my career in local K-12 public education and dedicated extensive volunteer time to Montclair’s schools, I view public service at the local level on behalf of public school students as the highest of callings. Service on our BOE should never be a stepping stone to the next office, a reward for political donations or fealty, or a final feather in the cap of a career. When I think about the ideal candidates for our BOE, I think about the people whom I have seen actively and productively engaged and doing the work to stay informed about the issues facing our schools, our children and our community. I think about people who have a clear stake in the achievement, health and welfare of our children, and who have demonstrated a will to give of themselves to advance the best interests of all children in our community. I think about people who view service on the BOE as the highest calling, and who will make a positive difference for our schools and our kids. I am heartened to see several candidates on the ballot who I believe meet those criteria.

I know Phaedra Dunn through our collaboration on the Montclair PTA Council’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. Her values, commitment and will to act are quite clear to me. If elected, she will serve as a true champion for equity, inclusion, transparency and accountability. She believes that inclusion and transparency are key levers for equity, and has committed herself, through the founding of Montclair Moms of Color, through her School Action Team for Partnerships and PTA work in schools and through the PTA Council to the creation of additional opportunities for engagement and knowledge sharing that strengthen home-school partnerships.

Melanie Deysher first came to my attention as a passionate parent advocate at BOE meetings for more effective dyslexia screening and services. I have subsequently served with Melanie on the Montclair NAACP Education Committee, where she’s led a Dyslexia Task Force to advocate and engage with district administration, and I’ve seen her studiously expand her expertise beyond specific focus on dyslexia to a broader focus on early literacy and its criticality to educational opportunity and achievement.

Neither Phaedra nor Melanie are experts in school finance, operations or facilities management, but they have clearly been doing their homework, as reflected in their responses to Montclair PTA Council questions to candidates and at BOE candidate forums. Each has reached out to me, as a former Montclair BOE business administrator, to deepen their understanding and talk through their questions, ideas and insights as they study the district’s finance and facilities issues, and I have confidence they will be effective in their oversight of the budget process and in the development and execution of a capital bond referendum.

Our investments need to reflect our values as a community and a school district, and I have faith in their values.

Brian Fleischer


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