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Patrick Todd, First Black Man Elected President of the Montgomery School Board

By Barbara A. Preston | Posted February 5, 2024


Patrick Todd worked as a detective in the Essex County Prosecutor's Office, located in New Jersey's largest city. Newark, home to the Grape Street Crips, Pirus, and the Sex Money Murder Bloods — to name a few active gangs — is a far cry from suburban Montgomery Township, or, as he says, “down here in Mayberry.”


Aah, Mayberry, the fictional town featured in The Andy Griffith Show (1960-1968), where life was simple and the sheriff didn’t carry a gun. Where kids played checkers, and the weather was always sunny.


Nowadays, school officials in just about every demographic across the U.S.A. have to worry about mass shootings, and there is even a police presence at Montgomery school board meetings.


Patrick Todd, Montgomery School Board President.

Patrick Todd, president of the Montgomery Township Board of Education.


Montgomery and Rocky Hill voters elected Todd to the school board in November 2020.


First Black Man Elected President

The Montgomery School Board selected Todd as president during the organizational meeting on January 5, making him the first Black man to serve in the position. Todd says, “It’s a bigger deal because of the make up of this town. If you look at it, the African American make up of this town is 5 percent or less.”


“I never really thought of running for office. But Sadaf [Jaffer] approached me in 2020, and encouraged me to run. I thought, why not? It would be a good example to my children.”


Todd is married to Patricia Taylor Todd, a lawyer who is a Montgomery Township Committeewoman.

They have two children, a 24-year-old son, Cameron, who attended Morehouse College and is now a software engineer. Their son, Evan, is a Montgomery High School senior.


While Todd is the first Black man to serve as president of the Montgomery School Board, he follows in the footsteps of two Black women who served in the role:  Phyllis Bursh was selected as the first Black president in August 2020. Then, Zelda Spence Wallace was selected in 2022.


Todd noted that the George Floyd murder in May 2020 influenced many people to either run for office, or to support Black people who ran for office.


When asked what he thinks about being named the first Black man to lead the school board, he answerered:


“Sometimes I reflect on it. I know both of my parents would be proud that their youngest of five children rose to this level,” he says. 


He adds that his mother grew up in Mississippi and his dad in Indiana in the 1940s and 1950s. “I do wish they were alive to see this,” he said.


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A Detective in Charge

Todd brings a diversity beyond race to the Montgomery school board. He brings the mindset of a professional detective. He had told The Montgomery News when he was campaigning in 2020 that he would bring the lessons he learned, while working for 25 years in law enforcement, to the position of school board member.


School officials nowadays work side-by-side with law enforment experts to pursue solutions to prevent school shootings. There were 346 incidents in 2023, according to the K-12 School Shooting Database.


The Montgomery school district hired a Safety & Security Director a few years ago. Tom Wain, who retired as the head of the Montgomery Police Department, now holds that role. Having a school board leader who understands the importance of being proactive could make a difference.


As a detective, Todd says he "learned how to negotiate with people from all walks of life."


In addition to working with people from varying cultural backgrounds, citizen status, race, and ethnicity, Todd has interacted with people who had different levels of social-economic status and education, and a spectrum of employment and occupations. Some were involved in credit card theft, mortgage fraud, corruption, and arson. Many were upstanding citizens, and victims.


The Mitsubishi Motors Arson Case is an example of the types of cases on which he worked.


At one point, Mitsubishi Motors was offering a zero dollars down with 19 percent interest for their vehicles. After owning the car for a while, it seemed an individual would owe way more money on the car than it was worth, so “they would find someone in Newark who would burn it,” he said. At one point, there would be five to six Mitsubishi arsons a night.


After working for the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office from 1994 to 2019, Todd retired and took a job as associate director of test security for The College Board.


Founded some 120 years ago, The College Board pioneered tests such as the SAT and AP exams and courses. His job was essentially to make sure people did not cheat.


“I love what I do,” Todd told The Montgomery News. He has traveled to Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, and domestically (Florida, California, Colorado), to do investigations, primarily around test content breach.


“That’s when we had paper tests,” he said. The college exams went fully digital on January 1.


The digital SAT will still be given in schools and test centers with a proctor present in the testing rooms. Proctors will be responsible for monitoring testing rooms and checking student devices throughout testing.  The testing app is constructed so that it fully locks down students’ devices once testing starts, so students won’t be able to access any other apps or access the Internet during testing.


So Todd is evolving into a cyber dectective of sorts — changing with the times — and maintaining and enforcing the Digital SAT security that is crucial to the integrity of the test. He is implementing security measures to prevent cheating, and to protect the test's content — producing scores that accurately reflect a student's abilities.

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