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The Pioneer

Celebrating Black Excellence, Educator Spotlight: Ms. Tonya Flowers

West Orange Board of Education

This Black History Month, we take the opportunity to celebrate the West Orange district’s Black leaders. We celebrate them for their amazing work and how they help keep our school running and the students learning. The woman I am writing about is Tonya Flowers who is the West Orange district Business Administrator. 

Ms. Flowers grew up in Montclair, NJ, and was born on October 12th. After she graduated from High School she attended Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ, she then took a leave of absence and completed a Bachelor of Science in Business Management which was an undergraduate degree program which was at the University of Phoenix, Jersey City. She completed graduate school at Montclair State University and even completing a Master of Art in Teaching graduate program. 

Ms. Flowers upon answering the interview questions found out who inspired her to pick this career. She explained that as a kid she had two favorite pastimes which were playing school and Monopoly with her twin sister. When the two of them would play school they would always battle it out to decide who got to be the teacher and when playing Monopoly instead of battling for the teacher they would battle for the role of the banker. From an early age she’s always had a love of education and finance. 

She explained that her career as a School Business Administrator allows her to enjoy the best of both worlds and the job allows her the opportunity to help make a difference in the community that she lives in along with the school district where her children receive their education. Although she had her enjoyment for both education and finance she didn’t know that this would be her job today.

Originally, her career path started in retail banking where she was a Vice President and Branch Manager for a commercial retail bank. When banking changed from being a customer service driven to a job that focused more on sales she decided that she needed to make a change so she took a leap of faith and went back to school to become an educator. 

Flowers also explained who inspires her she said that many incredible people inspire her but she explained how two extraordinary women inspired her to live her life to the fullest, those two women being her twin sister Ms. Tashana Flowers, and her dear friend Dr. Pollins. 

In the interview questions, I asked if she enjoyed doing this career and she explained that she does, she explained that she enjoys working with her coworkers and colleagues, and enjoys assisting the district with all their financial and academic needs and how the children of West Orange are the #1 priority. Along with the question of if she enjoys her job, I also asked her what her favorite part of the job which she answered that her favorite part of the job is working with the amazing staff of the West Orange Public Schools and that she strives to make a positive impact in the lives of the people that she encounters every day. 

I also asked how she felt about being picked for the Black Leaders of Excellence article, responding with enthusiasm that her being picked for the article was a surprise and she was honored and humbled. She said that as a minority woman and Chief Financial Officer who oversees all the district operations, she believes that it is important for the young people to see obtainable examples in leadership that will encourage them to believe they can do and be anything they desire to be. 

When asked what Black History Month meant to her, she answered that she doesn’t feel that a month is sufficient especially since it is the shortest month of the year to celebrate, and shine a light on all the major contributions that black people have done for the world, she even pointed out how in her opinion Black History should be normalized and part of people’s everyday life. 

Finally, when asked “What were some of the biggest challenges faced as a black woman and what was the most impactful?” She spoke of her biggest challenge as racism and sexism, while still being at the bottom in earnings, falling below those of white men, black men, and white women counterparts, despite being more qualified, having more credentials, experience and responsibility. 

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