Meet the Board candidate: Michael Weaver

Michael Weaver is running for the open Montvale seat. The other candidate running for the seat is Singleton Beato.

Weaver is a former Montvale town councilman and is the principal of Thomas Jefferson Midddle School in Fair Lawn. He has four kids –– Michael, 13, Maddie, 12 , and Logan and Will, 8.

Weaver is centering his campaign around providing equal access to a good education and better communications by the Board.

Why Weaver is running

Michael Weaver: Montvale is the town where my wife’s grandparents raised their family, and it is a community we have been proud to call home for the last eighteen years.  We could not have found a better town to raise our four children (Michael – 13, Maddie – 12, Logan and Will – 8) and volunteering as a member of the Pascack Valley Regional Board of Education will provide us with the opportunity to give back to a community that has given us so much.  My top priority as a member of the Pascack Valley Regional BOE is to work with follow Board members and ensure that all students, from all four towns, have equal access to the best educational experience we can provide.   

On his experience

MW: Board of Education members do not work in isolation.  The success of the district is dependent on the ability of all nine members and the Superintendent to work together in establishing mutually agreed upon goals that align with the district’s mission and vision.  They should be strategic/specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based.  I believe my work as an educator and volunteer in the community over the last twenty-five years is reflective of this commitment to a team approach.   

On the reopening of school and safety concerns

MW: As a parent, my four children are learning in this model at the K – 8 level, and many districts in Bergen County have implemented something similar.  While every family’s circumstance is different, I can tell you that I see a difference for the positive in my children when they are learning in-person versus remote at home.  On days when they are home, while the live stream into their classrooms does have its shortcomings (by no means the fault of administration or the teaching staff, just a reality of the situation), it does provide them with the necessary structure to their day and access to instruction.  

No plan is ideal, and nothing short of a full return to normal will make everyone happy.  Administration and teachers have been working tirelessly to deliver instruction and be an emotional support. They take great pride in their craft and have been committed to doing the best job possible for our children.  For this, we cannot thank them enough.

On parent’s concerns about safety

MW: Saying the last six months have been a difficult time for many is an understatement.  In addition to being isolated from their friends, many of our students’ families (and their teachers’ families) have experienced job loss, illness and death of loved ones.  In making the transition back to school, the mental and physical health and safety of students and staff must guide decisions on, and be the priority for, planning in-person and remote learning.  As the father of four school-aged children, husband of a teacher and principal of the second-largest middle school in Bergen County (bigger also than 80% of the high schools) with 125 faculty/staff and 1,060 students, I have a full appreciation for everyone’s concerns.  It is the responsibility of the board of education and administration, in consultation with association(s) representing the faculty and staff, to ensure the established guidelines are followed, proper protocols have been put into place and necessary resources made available to all.

On the Board’s communication goal

MW: In terms of the Board’s goal to “refine methods of internal communications between the Board of Education and the superintendent,” I would encourage conversation among Board members to see how this could be extended to include external communications with the communities we serve.  Residents must feel as though their thoughts, questions, suggestions, and concerns are valued.  By actively soliciting public opinion on needs and priorities, and encouraging residents to participate in the decision-making process, we are able to balance opposing demands and find common ground from which to build.

On equity and inclusivity

MW: I fully support the district’s 2019 – 2020 goal to “advance the work of inclusivity and equity throughout the district. Expand institutional awareness, establish stronger connections with marginalized groups, and engage students and regional partners.”  Understanding to what extent this goal was achieved will ultimately drive decisions on the establishment of future goals.

In my current role as a school administrator, our strategic plan is based on significant collaboration between stakeholders across the district.  This produced a district-wide focus on student health, wellness, and social purpose, as well as culture, community, and family.  To best support students and enable for a healthy balance between school and social life, while creating a culture and climate of inclusion/fostering respect for and acceptance of diversity, we offer extensive learning opportunities through the curriculum and support programming.    

In terms of community outreach, I am most proud of the work my organizations have done with our female sports and increasing opportunity for girls.  As coordinator of K – 2 and travel basketball for the Montvale Athletic League since 2013, we introduced a new model for girls to play starting in kindergarten, and this increased participation by girls on travel teams in grades 3–8 from one team in seven years ago to five teams today.  In my roles as Montvale Athletic League President from 2013–2015 and a member of the Montvale Council from 2016–2018, I was adamant in my support of an on-campus softball field, handicap access to fields, and a tennis facility comparable to those at Valley.  At the county level, I have worked as an advocate of women’s health by directing the Breast Cancer Basketball Challenge (2007 – 2018), a Governor’s Award recipient for Health and Wellness, to bring education and awareness to female high school athletes.  And, as the Girls Basketball Tournament Director for the Bergen County Women’s Coaches Association for the last five years, we were the first sport to offer an invitational tournament to supplement the championship as is offered for the boy –– a tournament Pascack Hills has participated in the last two years (advancing the championship game in 2019).

On the mascot removal

MW: A board of education member’s primary responsibility is to see that the district is well run by developing well-crafted written policies that provide guidance and direction to the chief school administrator for making decisions and taking action.  And with that, a responsibility to be educated and informed on topics before them, while ensuring members of the community are also educated and informed to the greatest extent possible.  Having said that, my disappointment with the board of education on the topic of mascots is not with their decision. Rather, it is the process by which they were retired. 

The Indian mascot has, understandably, been a sensitive topic within the Hillsdale and River Vale communities for the last fifteen years.  However, there was little to no mention that mascots would be such a prominent point of discussion at the BOE’s June 22 meeting other than a bullet on Page 26 of that night’s agenda… after the school year had ended… in the midst of a global pandemic.  It is an emotional and important conversation to have, and one in which the residents of all four towns should have been made abundantly clear was happening that night.

During the June 22 meeting, there were two hours of open comments where the overwhelming majority (if not the entire meeting) focused on the Indian mascot.  When a motion to change the mascots was made, a board member asked for clarification on whether or not this also included the Cowboy (2:06:40 mark of the video posted to the district website).  The response was, “Yeah, cause the Cowboys itself is also non-inclusive.”  To the best of my understanding, there was no evidence offered at any point to support that position and/or allow for an alternative viewpoint.  And Board members, when provided with the opportunity to discuss and state their position on both mascots, offered no comments other than to vote for the change.

Based on conversations with stakeholders in the community, there is a strong feeling that the appropriateness of the Cowboy mascot had not been a topic of conversation in Montvale, Woodcliff Lake, or publicly among Board members prior to the June 22 meeting. Good policy is well-informed and follows a process, and the Cowboy mascot decision did not receive the attention it deserved. 

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