Sheila Montague is a lifelong resident of the city of Newark. She is a married mother of three and a tireless community advocate. Sheila is currently a professor at Essex County College, and a veteran teacher of 20 years in the Newark Public School system. She is a graduate of Kean University with a major in secondary education and a minor in African American studies. In addition, Sheila also has masters level credits in philosophy as well as administration and supervision from Montclair State and Seton Hall Universities, respectively. She has experience working with Newark Public Schools students on an elementary level as well as high school, with numerous local and national honors, which include, but is not limited to, The National Honor Roll of Outstanding American Teachers. Sheila’s teaching experience includes a decorated record as a debate and basketball coach that encompasses a decade of championships, debate tournament victories and numerous awards. Her dedication and work ethic has opened the door to higher education for countless urban students. In 2009-2010, Sheila was the first place winner in an Elementary School City-wide Film Festival Award for best Middle School film/documentary on the topic of how growing up in an urban district without a dad effected several student’s. Sheila is a published author of poetry and founder of community based organizations, CTLT (Changing The Lens Together) and Face Structure, which hosted The First Teen Hip Hop Competition 2010 where teens all across the city performed original pieces grounded in historical messages and political issues. Sheila has a passion for community outreach and aside from growing her own, supports many community driven meetings and events, inclusive of collaborating with neighborhood churches and other community organizations which also share the same common goals of community building and uplifting. Sheila is also an active founding member of PULSE (Parents United for Local School Education), an active member of POP (People's Organization for Progress), a member of The National NAACP (National Association for The Advancement of Colored People) and a certified notary public of New Jersey.
Based on your qualifications and experience, what makes you a suitable candidate to serve on the Newark Public Schools Advisory Board ?
For all of my adult life, I have served my community through the vehicle of education. I have had the opportunity to grow fractions of our society through teaching not just academics, but social growth as well. One core concept that accompanies coaching basketball and debate, teaches our youth early on that discipline, good listening skills, execution of best practices and being parts of a whole are key elements to effective citizenship that sustains a successful community. Understanding these essential attributes and having a strong academic background in administration and supervision form Seton Hall, makes for a wonderful mixture of ingredients for an adequate candidate to serve on the Newark Public Schools Board.
What are your reasons for running?
As a home owner, tax payer, parent and stakeholder, I feel that it is my responsibility to do more to help my society grow. In twenty years of helping students I discovered that the very best way to help a child is to be more dutiful in helping their parents. I have assisted and encouraged hundreds of parents to go back to school and redirect happier paths for their desired outcomes. It was so fulfilling to see the increase of happier students prevail, that I decided to continue serving my community on a higher level. And what better way to serve my community than to be apart of the decision making processes of The Newark Public Schools Board? I see this as the ideal way to insure the education gets prioritized in our city, straight form the table of decision making at the onset.
Are you running with an organizational slate? If so, please provide information about your platform.
I am running as a parent-teacher team mate to Jason Dotson. Somewhere along the line, a division has developed between the teachers and the parents. It is my goal that that relationship is re-established to ensure that I students thrive and have a dependable resource of support when needed. We are pushing for a hub in every ward where parents will be welcomed to come in at any time to address concerns and have their needs met. Community information will be readily on hand for them, such a services offered that otherwise they may not know about, i.e. food, shelter, clothing depots, curriculum information, workshops, etc. We also are encouraging that STEAM be implemented in to the curriculum to insure that our students are having access to adequate music, art, dance, wood/mechanical shop, home economics, recess, as well as gym, daily. Additionally, our platform includes collaborating with every entity available to increase safety for our children, by examining situations of bullying, as well as analyzing the urgent situation with lead in our students water and to not only take each and every proper precaution needed moving forward, but to also be transparent with our findings, to the community, to maximize expediency in resolution.
Moreover, we want to be a part of the change that initiates taking the politics out of education. Teachers and parents provide an excellent collaborative foundation to accomplish this goal.
What are your priorities for the district in the coming year?
Our top priorities for the year are to:
- Get to work on resolving this issue with our water and insuring that these filters are up to date.
- Insuring that every classroom has a certified teacher.
- Demanding that the Amistad Act is implemented into each and every classroom and our students know their history.
- Taking full responsibility to evaluate where exactly our district money is going. There will NOT be $230,000 being spent on food from local catering companies all day by any superintendent/staff, while our students are being denied breakfast for arriving five minutes late after a two hour bus ride!
At least, these are are highest goals we will be achieving.
What attributes and qualifications do you consider essential for effective school board members?
The ability to listen and evaluate situations ranks high in my opinion. Common sense and book smarts are a wonderful combination for a board member to be in receipt of because it allows for good independent decision making that is geared toward positives outcomes, as opposed to political agendas. The nine board members can only function at their optimum to serve a community when each are acting as sincere parts to a whole and not merely puppets. We have a moral obligation to not ever place politics over the masses. My additional training as it relates to philosophy, secures my understanding of logic in decision making. My supplemental training in African American history gives me a deeper knowledge, understanding and sensitivity to the plight of what my people are enduring and how to best be a part of the solution holistically. And my fear of God insures that I will be bound to make the best decisions for All of his children, not just some.