MONTCLAIR, NJ - A new superintendent has been appointed to take the helm of the Montclair School District, officials announced Wednesday. He will officially begin on July 1 and has been awarded a 5-year contract.
By a unanimous decision of the full Montclair Board of Education members, Dr. Jonathan C. Ponds was appointed Superintendent of Schools at its regularly scheduled May 6, 2020 meeting.
Officials announced that Ponds, is the current Superintendent in Moonachie, NJ, and his contract with Montclair extends to June 30, 2025.
Despite the unexpected and challenging events that have transformed the District and town with COVID-19 and the lockdown orders, the Board stated that they were committed to continuing its timeline for the search for a permanent Superintendent as announced in the fall of 2019.
Using remote meeting capabilities to conduct interviews, the Board screened 14 applicants out of 50 who applied and reached a unanimous agreement with the New Jersey School Boards Association assisting with the search.
According to his bio, Ponds has served as an educator, coach, and scholar and Board members expressed that they were impressed by his depth of knowledge and experience, as well as his articulate descriptions of his educational philosophy and approach. His professional experience in a variety of settings has been successful in impacting both practice and climate in schools.
As the Superintendent of Schools/Principal of the Moonachie Public Schools in Moonachie, NJ, he is credited with turning around a culturally and economically diverse student and family population. Under his leadership he raised student achievement, increased public support, established significant university, state, and local support, and established exemplary fiscal practices. He will be completing his fifth year in Moonachie when he transitions to Montclair.
Prior to Moonachie, he was Principal of the 780 student Parsons Elementary School in North Brunswick, NJ from August 2012 until August 2015. He implemented notable best practices in the school aimed at improving student achievement as well as creating thriving acceleration programs for students performing above grade level.
He earned his Doctorate in Educational Leadership at Johnson and Wales University in Rhode Island.
According to the release, his doctoral thesis is entitled, “A Case Study of Culturally Responsive Training Influence on Teachers’ Self-efficacy and Instructional Strategies Regarding their Low-income, Minority Students.”
Ponds earned a Master of Education degree with a concentration in Moderate Special Needs from Cambridge College, in Cambridge, MA. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science at Queens University of Charlotte in North Carolina where he earned a full scholarship to play Division II soccer. As a lifelong learner who takes seriously the promise of education for all, he also earned a Certificate of Advanced Educational Leadership (CAEL) from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Eve Robinson, Board President, shared comments from one of Pond’s many references, who noted that, “He is a generalist with specific knowledge – doing all the jobs of a school district. A solid, solid professional man of character!”
Another said, “He cares deeply about equity and all people and what is right and wrong. He is a good listener and will work well with all constituents. He has the humility to listen to those who have advice. He is a person with a bright future and an asset to any district.”
Robinson also offered a reflection on the Board’s decision. “The Board of Education is happy and proud to introduce Montclair to Dr. Jonathan Ponds,” she said. “We are excited to enter this new decade with a proven leader at the helm.”
Upon his appointment, Dr. Ponds released the following statement:
My passion to educate all children and my conviction that all children can learn stems from my roots growing up in rural Alabama and seeing the power of opportunity provided through education. For over 20 years, I have collaborated with all stakeholders to meet a plethora of educational challenges with the foundation of educating all children. I began my educational journey in Massachusetts before relocating to New Jersey. I started my career as a special needs teacher in Boston and worked through the levels as a building administrator, Principal and Superintendent. While pursuing my doctorate, I researched strategies that would enhance the education of all children. Upon the many strategies that I investigated, Cultural Responsiveness is one strategy that I have not only used as a practitioner but have presented as a guest speaker, discussed as a panelist and currently teach to future principals, central office administrators and superintendents as an adjunct professor. I have been blessed to be an educator in diverse communities, and I have witnessed the power of diversity excel all children to excellence. I truly believe that diversity is a strength.
Following the virtual Board meeting and announcement of his appointment, Ponds was accompanied by his wife Jennifer and three sons.
“I am excited to serve for many years in Montclair. I’m excited to collaborate with all stakeholders to enhance education for every child,” Ponds said.
Outgoing interim Superintendent, Dr. Nathan Parker has been in the position since July 2019. Since taking the helm Parker had come under fire for what some parents perceived as insensitive remarks about African Americans. The superintendent prior to Parker was Dr. Kendra Johnson, who had previously served as the assistant superintendent for equity, was appointed as superintendent. She left the district abruptly in July 2019 for another position in Maryland. Between 2012 and to date, Montclair has had a total of six interim or permanent superintendents.
Prior superintendent searches included a public forum with three final candidates, however, this search was done confidentially. In the wake of COVID-19, community gatherings had also been halted. Robinson explained that the reason for not hosting a virtual forum was that several of the candidates, including Ponds, had requested confidentiality until a finalist was chosen, so not to affect their present positions.
Robinson added that the board was impressed with Ponds’s knowledge about achievement gaps, school climate, and student equity.
"Every student deserves a good education, whether your parents own a BMW, or you’re coming with a bike.”
The district announced plans to arrange a community meeting with Ponds and the general public at a later date. They will also give him a drive-around tour of Montclair to introduce him to the community.