Interview with Dr. Monica D’Antonio: School Board Member and CCATE Teacher

How do you feel about the recent rally against Joseph Gale? In what ways do you think this gathering was necessary, and what do you hope it accomplishes? 

There have been two rallies against Joe Gale this past week: one at the Montgomery County Courthouse and one at Joe Gale’s home (actually, it was at his parents’ home because he is a 30-year-old elected official who still lives with his parents). We plan to hold more rallies in the upcoming weeks.  

While Joe Gale has shown us who he is on numerous occasions, his latest statement about the recent protests for justice is beyond the pale. Not only does he condemn the protestors who are out on the streets fighting for people’s LIVES, he calls Black Lives Matter a “domestic terrorist group,” knowing full well that this group has never engaged in large-scale acts of violence or terrorism. Nor is this group responsible for the looting or riots that occurred during the first week of protests following George Floyd’s murder at the hands of police. I find it hypocritical to call BLM a terrorist movement while never uttering one single condemnation of real terrorists like Dylan Roof (murdered 9 black members of church group in Charleston, SC), Patrick Crusius (murdered 22 people – mostly Latinx – at a Walmart in El Paso, TX), or Robert Gregory Bowers (murdered 11 Jewish people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA).  

These protests are absolutely necessary for several reasons. First, WE – the people of Montgomery County – pay his salary. He works for US. He represents US. However, his insensitive racist statements do not at all represent the diverse community that we are here in Montgomery County, particularly in Norristown and Pottstown. When I pay someone’s salary, I expect them to deliver on behalf of us all. He does not do that, so he should resign or be impeached. Second, Joe has political ambitions beyond County Commissioner. He has already unsuccessfully run for Lt. Governor, and I’m sure he’ll run for bigger office in the future. So, it is incumbent upon us to make sure that never happens. To do so, we have draw a lot of attention to his racism and xenophobia and make it very clear that a vote for Joe Gale – for any office – is a vote AGAINST communities of color.   

What we hope to accomplish with these protests is awareness and action. We need to be aware of our elected officials’ values and priorities because this will tell us HOW they will represent us. We also need to be more aware of how our local government operates. For example, in MontCo, we have three commissioners. We are required to have at least one seat dedicated to the minority party. Meaning, if there are two Democrats, there has to be one Republican and vice versa. However, we often forget that there are MANY minority parties in the world right now: Working Families, Green Party, Libertarians, and Democratic Socialists. We do not need the minority party to be filled by a Republican just because we have two Democratic commissioners. This is exactly what Kendra Brooks from the Working Families party in Philadelphia did. She ran with Working Families and took the minority seat on Philadelphia city council away from Republicans who had traditionally held that seat. So, I want people to know that they do not have to submit to the two-party system; they can run for an office like MontCo Commissioner with any party and possibly win! Let’s keep that in mind in 2023.  

We also want ACTION. We want people in the streets, writing letters, and making calls. We want people to have agency and be seen and heard. We want people to run for office so that we’re not left with selecting the best out of two terrible choices.    

What do you teach at CCATE, and what do you gain out of working for this organization? What is your favorite part of teaching? 

At CCATE, I mostly volunteer after school, helping students with homework. Last year, I volunteered in the summer camp and assisted with the food and gardening group. This year, Holly and I were working on a leadership/civic engagement group, but then Corona blew up our spot. So, Charlotte and I are now working on developing something similar for the summer program.  

If I had all the time in the world, I’d be at CCATE every day. While I am a teacher in my day job, I work with college-aged students. I don’t often get the opportunity to work with high school, middle school, and elementary school-aged students. It’s a whole different ballgame than working with college students. These kids bring so much joy to my life. They are creative, smart, loving, and kind. They are funny as hell, too! They make me laugh, they make me think about the world differently, and they make me think about teaching differently.  

My favorite part of teaching is watching someone learn something new. I’m not a parent, but I’m sure parents can understand what I’m saying because they watch their children grow up. But, there is nothing more special in this world than watching a person’s face completely light up when they have mastered something new. It’s truly amazing. I’m lucky to do this every day and get paid for it (at my day job)…because, honestly, I’d do it for free.  

What is your role in the School District Board? Why did you opt to join the board, and what do you hope to accomplish? 

Education is social justice. Full stop. From curriculum to testing to the teachers we put in the classrooms to the ways schools are funded – these are all social justice issues. I ran for this position in hopes of bringing a few different perspectives to the NASD School Board: First, I wanted to bring a higher education perspective. As a college professor, I see what students’ lives are like after they leave high school, so I thought I could offer that lens to the Board when we’re considering curriculum, college readiness plans, and career development. Second, I wanted to bring a union perspective to the Board. Boards and teachers’ unions are notoriously adversarial. This tension often makes it difficult to do big systemic change within a district. As an American Federation of Teachers (AFT) union member, I am hoping to be able to build bridges between the Board, the administration, and the faculty/support staff union. Last, and MOST IMPORTANT, I wanted to bring a social justice/advocacy lens to the Board. I hope to be able to develop and institute anti-racist policy and promote an abolitionist/anti-racist curriculum. I’m also currently working on family engagement initiatives that will put families in the central role of crafting their own workshops and resources. I’m looking into starting a parent mentor program that I learned about through my research on community organizing and activism in the Chicago public school district.  

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