It’s a simple premise, but one not always followed: The commissioner of education should have a background in the schools they will oversee.
Gov. Phil Murphy took pride in that fact Tuesday, when he nominated Angelica Allen-McMillan to be the commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Education.
“From Day One, I pledged to select a commissioner of education with experience in public education,” he said. “We fulfilled that promise through the nomination of (the since-departed) Lamont Repollet and maintain that promise today.
“A product of New Jersey’s public schools, Angelica has worked at all levels of education and knows exactly what our teachers and students need to succeed. She is an exemplary educator, and I’m confident she is the leader we need to carry our school communities through the remainder of this pandemic and beyond.”
If approved, Allen-McMillan would succeed Repollet, who left the office this summer to become president of Kean University. She’ll take over for interim Commissioner Kevin Dehmer.
Allen-McMillan said she is eager for the challenge.
“I am a proud product of New Jersey’s magnificent public education system, and I have dedicated my career to ensuring that the children of this state continue to get the type of education I received,” she said. “I am extremely proud the governor has put his faith in me to continue New Jersey’s tradition of educational excellence.”
Since 2018, Allen-McMillan has served as interim executive county superintendent for Morris County, where she supports and oversees school districts within the county on behalf of the Department of Education.
For over 25 years, Allen-McMillan has worked as a teacher and administrator in various school communities throughout New Jersey. From 2017 to 2018, she served as assistant superintendent for secondary education for the Newark Public Schools system. Prior to holding that position, she served as assistant superintendent for curriculum & instructions in the Irvington School District.
She also served as a middle school life and physical science teacher in the East Orange School District, the executive director of the Marion P. Thomas Charter School in Newark, assistant principal of Clinton Elementary School in Maplewood and principal of the Marshall School in South Orange.
Her nomination was supported by New Jersey Education Association President Marie Blistan, Vice President Sean M. Spiller and Secretary-Treasurer Steve Beatty.
“We look forward to working closely with Dr. Allen-McMillan in her new role,” they said in a joint statement. “Strong leadership is more important than ever right now, as New Jersey’s public schools continue to navigate this challenging school year.
“We are committed to working with the new commissioner to ensure that our students are safe, healthy and learning, and we look forward to bringing the voices of working educators to the table to ensure that happens.
“At a time when every classroom, virtual or in-person, looks very different than before, it is more important than ever to listen to the people who are still helping our students flourish. Dr. Allen-McMillan is taking the helm of America’s premier public school system. We can maintain that excellence and build upon it by continuing to invest in public education, respect educators and prioritize student success.
“We trust that, as an experienced educator herself, the commissioner shares those priorities and will work alongside us to lead new Jersey’s public schools to even greater success and even better outcomes for the students we educate.”
Murphy thanked Dehmer for his service during what Murphy called an unprecedented time for the department in the state.
“He’ll continue to serve the DOE as (chief financial officer) and assistant commissioner and will work alongside Angelica to advance an agenda that puts our students’ health, achievement and well-being first, and maintains our state’s reputation as home to the nation’s best public education system,” Murphy said.
Allen-McMillan is a graduate of Cornell University, where she received a baccalaureate degree in industrial and labor relations. In addition, she received a master’s and a doctorate degree in education, leadership, management and policy from Seton Hall University.
She lives in Montclair with her husband, Randy McMillan, and their three children.