MONTCLAIR, NJ - The Montclair NAACP has issued a statement regarding Interim Superintendent Nathan Parker's comments on racist teachers.
Parents allege that Parker said that he does, "...not have a problem if a teacher is found to be racist, as long as it doesn't disrupt instruction."
Parker then apologized during the Wednesday Board meeting.
The Montclair NAACP, who hosted the two meetings the comments were alleged to have been made at, responded after holding a meeting of their Executive Committee.
Montclair NAACP President AL Pelham has issued this below statement regarding BOE Superintendent Parker’s comments:
“While the NAACP has concerns about the alleged comments by Superintendent Parker, we have tremendous amount of respect of the leadership of the Board of Education and that the NAACP would support whatever action the BOE wished to take regarding Parker. At this time, we are encouraging the Montclair BOE to continue their search for a new superintendent with all appropriate urgency.”
For several months, community activists have been challenging the Board to comment on those allegations. After Parker's apology, parents and activists called for Parker's resignation.
Parents have alleged that when Parker was invited back to the NAACP education committee meeting to explain his initial comments, they became concerned when he allegedly told them that he felt comfortable around black people because he grew up on a dairy farm where his family employed four black families.
During the Montclair Board of Education meeting that took place on Wednesday, Parker apologized for his remarks.
He said, "It has been my pleasure to come to the Montclair School District and learn more about its history and development. Part of that history includes deep wounds over segregation and the lack of educational and equitable access and opportunity. I did not intend to cause more harm or open old wounds by my comments. I seek to be involved in healing past practices and improving our schools and will continue to work in that endeavor. I am sorry that my words may have been misinterpreted and I appreciate the opportunity to explain my intent."
Parker is a retired Superintendent who formerly served as Superintendent of Orange Public Schools and Summit Public Schools. He retired from the latter and returned to Montclair as an interim.
One Board member expressed that they hesitated to comment because they had received versions of the commentary from people who weren't at the meeting.
However, lifelong Montclair resident and representative of the National Independent Black Parents' Association (NIBPA), Kellia Sweat paraphrased Parker's alleged comments during the Board meeting so that everyone was clear on what had been said. Montclair parent June Raegner also spoke and confirmed that she heard the commentary directly.
Sweat addressed the Board saying, "...racism is a weapon. I want to make it clear, there is no rationalizing racism. You never rationalize racism. When someone makes it clear to you that they're okay with racism, or even if-and I'm not buying it-but even if someone is that reckless, to speak words like that in an institution, you're automatically bringing harm to the most vulnerable children. Children of African descent."
Since Parker is serving in an interim capacity, the Board has a search for a permanent superintendent already in place.