Controversies and strained relationships mark the tenure of Angelica Allen-McMillan as the state’s education chief
After three eventful years as the acting Commissioner of Education in New Jersey, Angelica Allen-McMillan has announced her departure, set to take place in January. Allen-McMillan’s tenure has been marred by controversies surrounding sex education curriculum and gender identification policies, as well as a strained relationship with the state’s largest teacher and public employee union, the New Jersey Education Association. As Governor Phil Murphy searches for a successor, the departure of Allen-McMillan raises questions about the future direction of education policy in the state.
Turbulent Tenure and Controversial Policies
During her time as acting Commissioner of Education, Allen-McMillan faced numerous challenges and controversies. One of the most significant issues was the implementation of new sex education curriculum, which drew criticism from conservative groups and parents who felt it went against their values. The curriculum included discussions on gender identity and sexual orientation, leading to heated debates and protests.
Additionally, Allen-McMillan’s support for policies related to gender identification faced opposition from some parents and conservative lawmakers. Critics argued that these policies infringed on parental rights and raised concerns about the potential impact on children.
Strained Relationship with the New Jersey Education Association
Another major obstacle for Allen-McMillan was her strained relationship with the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), the state’s largest teacher and public employee union. The NJEA, which wields significant influence in education policy, often clashed with Allen-McMillan over various issues.
The tensions between Allen-McMillan and the NJEA were evident in public disputes and disagreements over policy decisions. This strained relationship hindered collaboration and created further challenges for the acting commissioner in implementing her agenda.
Senate Confirmation Challenges
Despite being nominated for the position in October 2020, Allen-McMillan was never able to secure Senate confirmation. Under the unwritten rule of senatorial courtesy, she received signoffs from Democratic senators in Essex County and was on track for a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in June 2021. However, her nomination hit a roadblock when it was revealed that she had recently moved to a different legislative district without informing Republican State Sen. Kristin Corrado. This lack of transparency led Corrado to hold up the nomination, ultimately preventing Allen-McMillan from receiving confirmation.
Impact and Legacy of Allen-McMillan’s Tenure
Despite never officially being confirmed, Allen-McMillan’s authority as the acting Commissioner of Education remained intact throughout her tenure. Her background as a former science teacher and elementary school principal brought valuable experience to the role. Allen-McMillan also served as interim Morris County Executive Superintendent of Schools and Assistant Superintendent of Schools in Newark and Irvington.
However, her departure leaves a void in the leadership of the Department of Education, with Governor Murphy yet to announce a successor. The next commissioner will face the challenge of navigating the ongoing debates surrounding sex education curriculum, gender identification policies, and rebuilding relationships with key stakeholders, including the NJEA.
Conclusion: Angelica Allen-McMillan’s departure as the acting Commissioner of Education in New Jersey marks the end of a tumultuous tenure. Controversies surrounding sex education curriculum and gender identification policies, coupled with a strained relationship with the New Jersey Education Association, have defined her time in office. As the state looks to find a new education chief, the challenges and controversies faced by Allen-McMillan highlight the complex landscape of education policy in New Jersey and the importance of building collaborative relationships to drive meaningful change.