In February, the Montclair PTA Council won the Outstanding Local PTA Advocacy Award, an honor bestowed on one PTA in the country by the National PTA.

The annual award is given to a PTA “that through their dedication, leadership and efforts positively affected legislative and/or regulatory policy aligned with National PTA’s public policy agenda,” the National PTA website says

The Montclair PTA Council received the award for its work supporting the $187.7 million bond referendum measure to repair and upgrade Montclair’s schools. During the referendum campaign, the PTA Council organized more than 100 volunteers to make phone calls, knock on doors, distribute flyers and argue in favor of the bonds.

The group hosted informational events, launched a video series with the state commissioner of education’s office in support of the measure, hosted community conversations led by parent representatives and more.

“This historic investment for Montclair Public Schools was approved in November 2022, thanks to the passion and advocacy efforts of the Montclair PTA Council,” the National PTA website says.

The PTA Council applied for the award a few months ago, sending its submission on the last day possible, President Tessie Thomas said. 

“Like always, it was a scramble,” she said.

The members did not expect to win, Thomas said — there are 22,000 parent teacher associations in the country, and only one winner would be named.

“We were humbled, because we didn't expect it,” she said. “We feel privileged that we are getting this.”

Thomas is still in awe of the way that the community jumped in to help with the campaign, she said. She remains particularly impressed by one volunteer, pregnant at the time, who went door-to-door sharing information. 

“I think I'll be talking about that for the rest of my life,” Thomas said. “What she did was pretty amazing.”

As the PTA Council celebrates the award, the group continues to lead and support initiatives across the district. 

On Feb. 23, the group hosted Transition to Middle School, the first event in its annual Montclair Public Schools 101 series. The event, aimed at helping students and families move smoothly from elementary to middle school, featured two students, two parents and two staffers from each middle school, along with the three school principals, Thomas said. The representatives answered questions from the more than 250 people in attendance. 

On March 9, the PTA Council hosted a similar event aimed at students and families transitioning into elementary school. 

In the fall, three elementary schools won grants from the National PTA. The schools have pooled their funds and – with some extra support from the PTA Council – will hold a districtwide STEM fair, Thomas said. The fair, an opportunity for kids to interact with science experiments, will take place April 30 at Edgemont Park. 

Planning is still underway, but the goal is to have middle and high school students helping with the experiments and being credited with volunteer hours for their efforts, she said. 

“I’m very proud of the PTAs for doing this,” she said. 

Earlier this month, Thomas and a few other PTA Council members attended a legislative conference, meeting with elected representatives and other PTA members to discuss national policies and priorities for next school year.