For the last 21 years that we have lived in Montclair we have experienced highs and lows. We moved here as a couple, raised a family and became part of this amazing community. A community that now has an opportunity to make a historic transformation that will help us as a whole.

The Board of Education (BOE) has worked diligently and provided us with detailed data on much-needed capital projects adding up to the $187.7 million bond issuance that has been proposed on the ballot on Nov. 8. The state of New Jersey, after careful review of the plan (upkeep, safety, and bringing school infrastructure into the 21st century), has offered us $58 million toward the debt service. That’s a 31% discount, if we pass the bond referendum. 

Hardworking volunteers, over multiple sleepless nights, weeded through the data provided and created the #RebuildMontclairSchools webpage to distill key points and clearly lay out the “what, why, how and tax calculator” of this transformation for us, the Montclair citizens. The need for urgent repairs doesn’t go away by itself and this plan results in the lowest tax hike, especially with the infusion of the $58 million debt service from the state.

Although Montclair’s chief financial officer has filed a lawsuit against the township, these are two different entities; the BOE has been independent of the township since November 2021 and is fully accountable for the $187.7 million project plan. The BOE is answerable to us, the Montclair citizens. 

That being said, one of my roles in this beautiful town of ours is as president of the Montclair PTA Council (PTAC). I have worked very closely with the BOE and have learned that the BOE members are driven to do right by us. These fellow Montclair citizens put in long unseen hours, go through pages and pages of documents and ask millions and millions of questions. This is a group that is sticking their neck out with this $187.7 million plan – not because it is the most popular thing but because it is urgently needed for our community. I attend every BOE meeting and sit through several BOE committee meetings. I got to know each BOE member, observed and learned how they work. These are unpaid volunteer positions where the perks include long hours and harsh public comments. The BOE oversees the Montclair Public School District (MPSD) and holds the superintendent’s feet to the fire. The current team of the MPSD, in just two years, has applied for and successfully received the Pre-K grant of more than $950,000, the special education reimbursement of $4.3 million this summer, millions in technology grants to provide 1-1 laptops, and now got the state to approve $58 million debt service support for the $187.7 million plan. The theme here is to infuse capital, expand offerings for our children, and do it without solely burdening the taxpayers of Montclair. We have gone through eight superintendents in 11 years – it’s not surprising that that didn’t solve any of our chronic problems.

All we Montclair citizens now have to do is vote yes on Nov 8. Make this proposed historic transformation a reality by rebuilding our Montclair schools, while minimizing our tax hike and enhancing our property values. 

Tessie Thomas