Meet our RJ Staff

As Teachers on Special Assignment (TOSA), we are part of the team implementing Restorative Justice. Many question, “What is RJ, why do we need it, and how is it happening?”

Restorative Justice is a philosophy that promotes the building and nurturing of healthy relationships. The ultimate goal of RJ is to successfully integrate the philosophy through the school culture and climate in order to create safe and productive learning spaces that value every member of the community. This includes staff, students, families, and community members. It is important to remember that Restorative Justice is not a program, therefore, it is not a quick fix but rather it involves an entire culture shift focused on relationships and high levels of support to create long-term impact.

RJ was initially implemented in response to the ever increasing exclusionary discipline policies such as “zero tolerance” and suspensions. RJ seeks to address disparities in race, special education, sexual orientation and gender identity.

Implementing RJ will require restorative systems and mindsets. The board of education in conjunction with RJ team members have revised board policies in order to reflect restorative language and practices. We are also intentionally building a positive school climate by giving students voice through circle keeping throughout the district, as well as peer leadership opportunities at the high school and Glenfield Middle School. Restorative Justice Teams will be holding weekly meetings to discuss and create systems to support students, families and staff. As a proactive measure, we will be collecting both quantitative and qualitative data to help us stay informed and improve school climate. RJ’s reach extends outside the classroom and the walls of the schools as we partner with community members to do this work. 

LET’S MEET THE TOSA's

Syreeta Carrington - Glenfield Middle School - I see restorative justice as making an investment in ourselves and in our students for the betterment of society as a whole. There are no throw away people in this world. In that regard, restorative justice fosters the type of inclusive environment that gives voice to the voiceless. Restorative justice requires me to ponder the question, “How are the children?” If the answer is, the children are not well, then we as a community are not well and we have work to do.

Robin Alvarado - Edgemont Montessori Elementary School - As I watched more children losing privileges and losing quality time in their classrooms due to “unacceptable” behaviors I realized we need another way to approach our students, families and staff. Restorative Justice is for the whole community. It builds relationships we so badly need and brings us all together more. By using this philosophy of inclusion throughout the culture rather than just the classroom, I believe we will be creating a safe environment that all will benefit from, and children will be able to flourish in.

Candice Pastor - Renaissance @ Rand Middle School - I first told my mother I wanted to be a teacher the fall of my senior year in high school. After ample discouragement from her expertise as a 20-year special education teacher, she finally asked why. I wasn’t able to give her an answer because it wasn’t something I could put into words as an 18-year-old kid. It was simply something that I felt I had to do. I felt like I owed it to not just the teachers who were pivotal in my growth as a person but I also owed it to the teachers who looked at me and saw an underprivileged Puerto Rican from Jersey City, in a predominantly white private high school and thought I didn’t belong there. The reason I want to be an educator is because I want to support students in becoming who they already are. I want students to thrive inside and outside of their school buildings. I want students to see themselves as smart, powerful, impactful members of the community. Berne Brown once said, "To me, a leader is someone who holds her- or himself accountable for finding potential in people and processes." Restorative Justice is the process I can use to make this happen for as many students as possible. As a TOSA, I live to foster strong meaningful connections with students and the communities that build them. Restorative Justice isn’t just a philosophy that will revolutionize education, but it’s the feeling I couldn’t articulate to my mother when this job was simply a dream.

Arthur Settembrino - Montclair High School -
It has been my honor and privilege to work for and with the community of Montclair during the past 18 years. In the course of my tenure, I have served as a physical educator, ropes course manager, student assistance counselor and peer leadership advisor. I’ve always seen my role as a facilitator of experience more than a disseminator of information. My classes spent more time in circles than they ever did in rows. I’ve led from the center, embodying, rather than demanding the qualities I wished to nurture. In 2018, when I was trained in Restorative Justice to be a circle keeper; I found myself enveloped in my element; thinking, this is what I do... this is what it’s called. The more I study and experience restorative justice in education, the deeper it resonates with and inspires me. It feels like everything I’ve experienced as a person, as an educator, and as a SAC has been preparing me for, and leading me towards Restorative Justice Montclair. For me, RJM is more like a calling and less like a job. I answer this call humbly; knowing that I have a lot to learn and a lot of work to do. I answer this call in the midst of a pivotal movement… when we, as a society are being called to be better... to move forward towards a wholeness which is long overdue... towards true equality and justice for all. I am a part of this movement and my commitment is steadfast and enduring. It is not trendy and it will not waiver. I am a circle keeper and I always will be.


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