There seems to be broad dissatisfaction with the current Montclair Board of Education, and the notion that an elected board will fix what we don’t like is all the rage today. After all, holding elections appeals to our sense of democracy and following the will of the people. Please consider these points.

The “ideal” is a diverse board of committed professionals with the appropriate skills and expertise to run our schools. If we don’t feel we have that now, what is the best remedy? The option currently on the table is an elected board. Now, ask yourself: Who is most likely to run, and why? Issues often come to the fore in communities that cause a great deal of agitation. It might be masks/vaccinations, school closures/re-openings, athletics funding, how our kids are being taught about sex, what books they are required to read. People can easily get whipped up for or against any of these or other issues and work hard to get their candidates elected. 

The reality is that only 30% of registered voters in Montclair participated in the last municipal election. Our current mayor won by a slim margin with the votes of only about 16% of registered voters. If you’re not pleased by those numbers or results, consider what will happen for school board elections. Your expectation shouldn’t be much different, meaning a relatively small number of voters will get to decide. 

Most of the decisions that the school board makes are of the humdrum and everyday variety, but benefit from informed participants and community input. However, single, contentious issues often make the most noise. An elected board that has been motivated to run because of these singular issues challenges the idea that the board should represent the whole community and recognize the value in all points of view and not be run by factions and stirred by pet peeves. 

Our children and the education system that supports them are the biggest assets we Montclarians have. Their success is our success. Is the status quo acceptable? No. Is an elected board the right solution for Montclair? Also No. There are other ideas that can help solve this but they will not be on the ballot. So, vote no on an elected board and let’s get to work on the right solution for Montclair.

Peter Braley


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