Convocation Kicks off 2021-22 School Year

Convocation Kicks off 2021-22 School Year
Posted on 09/01/2021
For the second year in a row, the Montclair Public Schools held its annual Convocation virtually on Wed., Sept. 1 to welcome staff to kick off the 2021-22 in-person school year.

Dr. Kalisha Morgan, Assistant Superintendent for Equity, Curriculum and Instruction opened the presentation and introduced Superintendent Jonathan Ponds. “Our work is all about focusing on helping kids. We all got in this business for what we believe in, which is that ‘All Kids Can Learn and All Kids are Special.’ Think about what that means,” he said.

“I am excited for the new school year but we are still faced with challenges,” continued Ponds. “I’m calling on you to do what’s right for our kids and to take care of each other. We will do this. We have to be brave and be bold. We will rise together. Push forward!”

Following Ponds, Board President Latifah Jannah reflected on the past year. “Our teachers, staff, principals, all rose to the challenge. I was impressed with all of the outstanding work you did to address the needs of our families,” she said. “I am happy and excited that we are back full time in person, five days a week, six hours a day! You have the power to bring out the best in students and families.”

Eileen Gilbert, President of the Montclair Principals’ Association, echoed Jannah’s sentiment. “We continue to work through challenges and I’d like to take a moment to thank our buildings and grounds staff, nurses, teachers and everyone involved in making sure we are ready to return,” she said. “As we start the school year, think about what we’re here for: educating the children. I try to look at every situation as an opportunity to affect positive change. We still face many challenges but we can use this opportunity to learn, move forward and connect with our students.”

President of the Montclair Education Association Catherine Kondreck commended her fellow teachers who “stepped up to meet the challenges” during a year that was more stressful and more challenging than ever. Going forward into the new school year she said, “We need to attend to students’ social emotional needs as well as our own by exploring and expressing our emotions. We need to work as a family. If we stick together, we can do anything.”

keynote speaker  on Zoom

Dr. Marcheta P. Evans (pictured above), who became Bloomfield College’s 17th President in June 2019, was the keynote speaker. Evans is the first woman and African-American to be named President of Bloomfield College in its 151-year history. She has served in transformational leadership roles in higher education for 26 years at both public and private institutions. She has presented over 100 times at the state, regional, national, and international levels addressing topics such as empowerment, multiculturalism, diversity, and leadership.

Evans commended Montclair teachers for their dedication to transforming lives and having a positive impact on students and families calling them frontline workers.

She advised staff to look within when focusing on Cultural Responsiveness. “School can be the first place that a student experiences racism. Dig deep, hold a mirror up and face the things you may not want to face. To deny that racism exists misses the mark. We need to show up and lift up students.

“There is a lot of work and unlearning to be done to make real change,” she continued. “We have and will make mistakes but we have to keep our intent positive and push forward. We must promote and protect the well-being of students. Diversity has to be integrated into the classroom. Representation on every level matters.”

Evans quoted the famous lyrics to Whitney Houston's hit song “The Greatest Love,” before reiterating, “Children are our future. It’s up to us to teach them well and instill in them the tools they need to go on and be the leaders of tomorrow.”
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