MPS Holds Virtual Convocation

MPS Holds Virtual Convocation
Posted on 09/02/2020
In an unprecedented time, the Montclair Public Schools held its annual Convocation virtually on Wed., Sept. 2 to welcome staff to the 2020-21 school year. Superintendent Jonathan Ponds, at his first year at the helm, was joined by administrators and principals on a collaborative Zoom call.

Dr. Kalisha Morgan, new Assistant Superintendent for Equity, Curriculum and Instruction opened the unique ceremony. “Welcome back, whether it is your first year or your 31st year, your 5th or 25th, every year brings a sense of excitement and joy.” She introduced the first speaker, Board of Education President Latifah Jannah.

“I am honored to be here because you have inspired me. You are the true inspiration of our district. You are preparing to give your heart and soul to this district and I gratefully say to you thank you for being here for doing what you do best,” she said. “This is an unprecedented year because of the pandemic, social justice and loss, not just of friends but loss of time and space. Take the time to acknowledge and address those feelings as you move forward. This year the Board is addressing issues of racism, equity and bias in our policy work and governance for the district. We encourage you to review our policies and district goals. We’re also welcoming our first student representative to the Board. Have a great ’20-’21 school year.”

student gives speech to teacher

Before Dr. Ponds spoke, he showed an inspiring video of Dalton Sherman. In 2008, at age 10, Sherman (pictured above)  gave a motivational speech to 17,000 teachers in Dallas that turned him into a YouTube video sensation. “I believe in me. Do you believe in me? I can do anything, be anything, create anything, dream anything, become anything,” he says in his address. “Let me ask you a question. Do you believe in my classmates, do you believe that every single one of us can graduate ready for college or the workplace? You need to believe we can reach our highest potential, no matter where we come from. Do you believe in yourselves?”

Superintendent on Zoom

“I love that video because it reminds me what I’m doing this for. I believe. I know all of you believe that every child in Montclair can learn, and every child in Montclair is special,” said Ponds. “Together we will lock arms and go down this road. We may be facing a pandemic, but together we can meet this challenge; together we can find our road to make sure our kids achieve at the highest level; that our kids know that we love and care for them; that our community knows we are together in this mission and vision. Together we will own the challenge of remote learning and excel in it. We will find ways of nurturing our colleagues, our community and most important our kids, especially during these difficult times. “We will take Montclair to new heights. We will do it in love and we will do it together,” he continued. “When we lock arms, we are stronger than anyone can imagine. No one can get in our way. And we’re doing it with very special people – our teachers, our principals our administrators, people who serve our food, clean our halls, drive our busses. Everyone. Together.”

Montclair Education Association President Petal Robertson, shared a personal story which she eloquently used as a metaphor. “I am a child of immigrants and it was myself and two older brothers. There was this Barbie dollhouse that I wanted and it was well over $100 and back in the day it was a lot of money,” she recalled. “My mom said to me ‘you can have it if you save the money.’ I was like seven. I had no income. So my brother Ryan would make me doll house with what we had. He would take all of his books down and make a foundation and a garage and bathrooms. At the end of every day, my mother made me clean up the doll house and the next day my brother would rebuild it for me. He always used the same set of books for the foundation. While my dollhouse came down every night, the foundation was always the same. I knew it was going to be there. That’s the message I have for you. I want to thank my foundation, all of you who have provided that for me. Cling tightly to people who support you when there are cracks in the foundation. It’s the only way we are going to get through this year."
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