Rally Unites Families and Community Members in Support of Public Schools
Thursday, September 15, 2016
Interim Superintendent Ron Bolandi opens the rally by congratulating Montclair on its united and determined opposition to the proposed charter school.
The bolt of lightning and boom of thunder that interrupted the Montclair Public Schools rally in the high school amphitheater was deemed a statement of divine intervention by many attendees: no charter school in Montclair.
The rally, organized by the Montclair Board of Education, began with Interim Superintendent Ron Bolandi addressing the parents, staff, students, local government and community members who gathered to show their support of the Montclair Public Schools and collectively voice their opposition to the proposed Fulbright Academy.
“I am so impressed with Montclair’s efforts to stop this charter school,” said Bolandi. “I’ve never seen a community come together like this. We are not split here. We are all in agreement. We all see how harmful a charter would be for our district financially. Our kids will be affected – not the adults. We are united under one banner and need to stay together. The fight is not over.”
State officials back opponents of the proposed school From left to right: Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver, Senator Nia Gill, and Essex County Freeholder Brendan Gill.
Montclair Town Council members also voiced their opposition. From left to right: Mayor Robert Jackson, Council Member Renee Baskerville and Council Member Robert Russo and Fourth Ward Township Council member Renee Baskerville.
The application for the French immersion charter school was first submitted to the DOE on March 30 and advanced to a second phase on July 15. The New Jersey Department of Education is conducting a detailed review of the proposed school's application and a decision is expected by Sept. 30.
Montclair resident and Assemblyman Thomas Giblin was on hand saying the township could count on his support and that he will be a vocal opponent to the charter school. “There’s an old adage: If it’s not broken don’t fix it. This district does not need fixing,” he said. “One of the reasons realtors say families consistently say they move to Montclair is because of this school system. We need to maintain what we have here as one of the flagship districts in the state. Just say no to the charter!”
Senator Nia Gill, also a lifelong resident of Montclair, recalled the history of the school system. “Montclair was one of only a few in the state of New Jersey that began a voluntary desegregation plan through efforts like this,” she said. “Your energy here today says Montclair is still a force to be reckoned with. We are stronger when we fight together.”
As the skies darkened, Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver echoed Giblin’s sentiments. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! The Montclair schools are doing just fine. I will not support taking money away from our district.”
When the crowd moved inside to the auditorium, Essex County Freeholder Brendan Gill took over, reiterating that the creation of the charter school would siphon resources away from the district and the importance of being committed to the longstanding magnet system that serves the diversity of the community. “They tell me in politics not to take things personally,” said Gill. “Well, this is personal. Not only should we say no to the charter school but we should do what we do best: say yes – to strong public schools, our magnet system and the social and economic diversity that we all know and love.”
Mayor Robert Jackson, Town Council member Robert Russo and Fourth Ward Township Council member Renee Baskerville encouraged community members to stand up to support the public school system and fight together, while Montclair Board of Education member Franklin Turner said the district should not only use the energy and unity to stop the charter school but continue it after Sept. 30 “to ensure all students have equal opportunities.”
Members of the grass-roots group Montclair Residents Opposed to the Fulbright Charter School, who at the time of the rally had sent a petition to the NJDOE with 1,153 signatures opposing the charter, encourage community members to voice their opposition to the charter by calling Commissioner David Hespe at 609-292-4450.