Comments By Shelly Lombard Contain Big Revelation About Montclair Charter School Supporter: MEA Union Head Gayl Shepard

We missed watching the board meeting on Monday, but finally got a chance to watch the video.

First, we read the account on BaristaNet. It gave those who spoke in support of Larson and Lombard a sentence or two, and devoted several paragraphs to printing the full – and redundant, and often  unsubstantiated – attacks of MCAS activists like Regina Tuma and Marcella Simidaris (seriously, how many times do we have to waste time listening to the same old ideological rants? It’s really a disgrace that BaristaNet is still giving them the airtime for their same old attacks on the district).

One big thing stood out to us: In the midst of Shelly Lombard’s farewell speech, some comments she made about the old charter school debate in town. This news – probably the biggest news of the night – wasn’t in the BaristaNet piece for reasons we don’t understand, but it should have been.  Specifically, if we’re understanding her words right, Lombard named the initial supporter and instigator of a charter school in town as the head of our local teacher union, Gayl Shepard.

Here’s what Lombard said (85:00):

“A few years ago, a friend of mine who was a teacher told me that she was working on starting a charter school. This is someone I respected, someone who was a great teacher. I still meet her former students today and they tell me that she changed their lives. That teacher was Gayl Shepard.

I told her that I did not think that a charter school would work in Montclair…there wasn’t enough money, no space…but I had so much respect for her as an educator that I figured that if she thought we should be doing something different, then maybe we should be doing something different. Plus, we all know Gayl by now, I knew I couldn’t stop her anyway.

So I introduced her to Norm Atkins of Uncommon Schools so she could get some advice from someone who ran a successful charter school. She and Norm didn’t end up connecting, and her charter school never came in to fruition.

But I respected the fact that a teacher that I respected was concerned enough about children to consider something that was actually controversial for a teacher to consider.

Not much in our schools has changed since that time. The concerns that motivated Gayl a few years ago are still concerns today. I don’t support a charter school in Montclair but we should be honest enough with ourselves to say that the status quo-peace without progress-is unacceptable.”

We’ve mentioned a few times before that we aren’t supporters of a charter school here in Montclair either, and we think it’s interesting that the union head was initially pushing the idea – especially given the vitriol that she and her allies like Michelle Fine and MCAS have directed towards other folks who are involved in charter schools. In fact, it’s an admission that the way we’re doing things isn’t working – and rather than trying to defend and entrench the status quo, we should be building support for progress. Of course, that’s not at all how the politics of the last two years have gone.

We also wonder what the revelation Shepard’s support for charter schools (and specifically, bringing one to Montclair) will mean for her in her role as union head and among her activist allies. Over on the MCAS page, they’re currently obsessing about the evils of charter schools (as they have been for years), so that ought to be interesting.

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