NJEA Officers, Community Visit Restorative Justice Montclair

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When you walk into Montclair High School, you feel like something is different in the hallways. That’s what Montclair community members and NJEA leaders President Sean M. Spiller, Vice President Steve Beatty and Secretary-Treasurer Petal Robertson discovered while attending a day open house to visit the characteristics of restorative justice (RJ) Montclair.

“As a teacher in Wayne and a resident and mayor here in Montclair, I could not be more proud of the leadership that the Montclair Education Association, the Montclair Board of Education and our students, teachers, educational support professionals and administrators have taken. in charge. showing what restorative justice looks like in action,” Spiller said.

Students take time to relax at the Welcome Center.

Opposite the cafeteria is the Visitor Center, the first stop on the tour. It contains a quiet space filled with mindfulness objects to help students find inner peace and calm their minds. There is always an advisor available for students. Students who continue to struggle after the drop-in can head to the Serenity Room. This quiet space sits between the offices of school counselor Arthur Settembrino and vice-principal Reginald Clark. It is a safe space where students can reflect and sit in silence to find their “zen” and calm.

“Advisors are always there for you,” said Armanie Pierre, senior at Montclair. “They help me through my friendship conflicts. They always check in with me to make sure I’m okay. I’ve visited this place whenever I felt conflicted with my friends, and it helps.”

Gayl Shepard, Past President of the MEA, is the Restorative Justice Liaison at Montclair High School.

The visit continued in the Circle meeting room, adjacent to the library. There are scheduled meeting times here at lunch or during study halls. It is a safe space where staff and students can share their thoughts and issues. “It’s more than a circle,” as RJ Montclair’s motto goes.

There is also an RJ Mobile Library to create a space where students and community members can check out books on various subjects. They can also leave books that may be of interest to other people. It is periodically updated with books on restorative justice so that members of the community can continue to be educated and informed about restorative justice practices.

RJ Montclair is a community effort that began in 2018 as an initiative between the Montclair Board of Education and the Montclair Education Association. At that time, Petal Robertson was the president of the MEA. Gayl Shepard, also Past President of the MEA, was then and continues to be the Restorative Justice Liaison at Montclair High School. To make the program a reality, MEA and the council secured a community engagement and partnership grant from the National Education Association. The whole initiative was a collective effort that included not only teachers and students, but also guards and security guards.

In the Farm-to-Table Garden, left to right, are NJEA Secretary-Treasurer Petal Robertson, NJEA Secretary-Treasurer Steve Beatty, UniServ Northeast Director Thomas Hardy, and President of the NJEA Sean M. Spiller.

A retiree volunteered her time to help prepare a farm-to-table garden. Here you can find herbs and vegetables planted in raised boxes painted by Passion, an MHS student. The garden contains a porch built by guardians. The porch has two picnic tables for students to eat lunch and enjoy the garden and the beauty of the space.

Farm to Table Garden, the final stop on the tour, served as the venue for a special program during the open house.

A tour of the serenity room.

“A principle of restorative justice is community and bringing community together,” Principal Jeffrey Freeman said. “We have students, staff, parents, Delaware nieces, sons, NJEA members, MEA members, board members and PTA members.”

“That was the basic vision we wrote and we’re now living the experience,” Shepard said. “It was a labor of love.” The students were here during their lunches, doing whatever it took to make it what you see today.

“When Gayl came up with the idea of ​​restorative justice to bring healing to children, we had no idea what healing it would bring to adults and to the city,” Robertson concluded. “It’s beyond my wildest, wildest, wildest dreams. To be able to say that I played a part in this is a blessing to me. On a very public note, on behalf of the associations unions from MEA to NJEA, thank you for showing us the way schools should be.

This story was submitted by NJEA communications consultant Mariann Kronyak.

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