Parents and other supporters of the special education community came together Wednesday, June 23 to honor 11 students advancing through the Montclair school system.

Alexis Dudley, Mother of Max Dudley, said when her son Max and his friend Xyon Pauleus attended a ceremony at Northeast School, there were no certificates available for them.

Dudley said Principal Gail Clarke had initially told one of the children they'd been accidentally left in the car, but School Secretary Diane Pugliese later told her they hadn't been printed. An email to Clarke from Montclair Local sent July 8 hasn't yet been returned. 

In response, she said, Wendy Lacey, owner of the General Store at Cornerstone Montclair organized the “Celebrate Everyone” ceremony, held with members of Montclair’s Special Education Parent Advisory Council and the Friday Group, a support community for families of children with disabilities. Cornerstone provides employment opportunities and social engagement for people with disabilities. 

The event honored students from several grade levels: Kayton Reece, DJ Reece, JP Reece, Max Dudley, Xyon Pauleus, Ilyas Zhambekov, Christian Sullivan, Jack D’Errico, Zoe Simone Henry, Minal Rosenblum and Lincoln Saltzman.

Dudley said the event was “for all special education students in the Montclair School System who felt overlooked, forgotten or needed extra love from the community.”

Lacey said the event meant “we are celebrating everyone who deserves to be celebrated.”

Schools superintendent Jonathan Ponds attended as well.

“As superintendent, this means everything to me. We need to all see that every child matters, and I’m excited to be here,” Ponds said.

— Lauren Peacock

An earlier version of this post described Dudley and others as organizing the event; it was organized by Wendy Lacey.