It took Walter Springer 1 week to reach 1000 signatures on his petition to reinstate Athletic Director Jeff Gannon and Assistant Principal of English Kim Westervelt. On Wednesday June 7th 2017, Springer will present that petition to the Montclair Board of Education.
On May 15th 2017, word circulated in Montclair that there had been major cuts to personnel within the school system. No official statement had been put forward, but several coaches were made aware that the Athletic Director, Jeff Gannon, had been removed from his post.
A Montclair Board of Education meeting the next day was flooded with concerned and confused students, parents and residents of the town. Over 30 people took advantage of the public speaking session to ask the board why they had cut a successful Athletic Director. One of these voices was Walter Springer, who was first to get up and speak when all students had finished speaking. Springer voiced his frustration at the fact that there was no evaluation of the employees, and thus said they were unjustly demoted or fired.
I asked why Springer was so impassioned about the problem at the Montclair Board of Education. He said “At MHS we have two administrators that were successfully completing their duties and these recommended changes will create additional interim positions and instability. My motivation here is to ensure a proper and fair job assessment procedure is followed.”
In an effort to get the community involved with the issue, Springer created a petition that outlines the problem. Springer’s plan is to deliver the article to the Montclair Board of Education at its next meeting in the George Inness Annex Atrium, on Wednesday, June 7th, 2017 at 7pm. The petition states:
“The 2017-2018 School Budget was passed with the position of High School Athletic Director and Assistant Principal for English funded. The outgoing interim Superintendent for the Montclair Public School system recommended to the Board of Education the removal of the High School staff members who filled these two positions. The Board Of Education has removed Mr. Jeff Gannon (Athletic Director) and Ms. Kim Westervelt (AP of English) from these positions. Prior to being removed these two High School staff members DID not receive an evaluation that detailed a poor performance. These two High School staff members DID not receive an unfavorable evaluation from their direct supervisor. The recommended removal is without cause and is personal in origin. What we the citizens of Montclair would like is the reinstatement of Mr. Jeff Gannon as Athletic Director and the reinstatement of Ms. Kim Westervelt as Assistant Principal in charge of English (Language Arts)”
It took Springer’s petition one week to get over 1000 signatures from Montclair residents. Comments flooded in from as far as California, Oregon and Texas to support the petition and the mission to reinstate Gannon and Westervelt.
Many of the comments express disgust and distrust of the Board of Education. Jalen Murray commented “There’s no legitimate reason for the removal of their positions”, and commenter Mark Bess simply stated “transparency = truth.”
Julian Pinnix-Odrick, a recent Rutgers University graduate and Montclair alumni that was captain of Rutgers Football also showed dismay at the decision. Pinnix-Odrick wrote “Mr. Gannon has been one of the most down-to-earth and respectable human beings I’ve had the pleasure of being influenced by during my time at Montclair High School.” He also said he can “definitely vouch for his attitude and relationship with the student-athletes.”
When the petition reached 1,000 signatures, Springer posted an update to the petition and a final call to support the cause:
“I would like to thank and acknowledge each person who took the time to read my petition, sign it and comment. The protected right of free speech is evident here. As our school district continues the search to fill key open positions within our schools and district office I believe it is important and logical to retain district staff members who have successfully completed the tasks assigned to them and have school district experience. We need our neighbors on the School Board to reinstate Mr. Gannon and Ms. Westervelt to their High School positions. The Board has witnessed the positive support given to this request with this petition and at the last BOE meeting. If you can please come out and show your support at the next BOE meeting on Wednesday, June 7th, 2017 at 7PM.”
It is vital that the public show full support for transparency within public entities, especially entities that have a direct impact on our children’s education.
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