Hearty congratulations to Phaedra Dunn and Melanie Dysher, the winning candidates in Montclair’s first school board election.
Dunn and Dysher were part of the Vote Montclair slate and bested seven other candidates. Remember that Vote Montclair, a grassroots parent/citizen group, was behind last November’s referendum that changed Montclair from a mayor-appointed school board to an elected one, a referendum that passed overwhelmingly by 70% to 30%. Montclair has now followed through by electing two board members who are independent of NJEA President/Montclair Mayor Sean Spiller. This is a real victory for ordinary Montclair parents and citizens.
This is also another stunning repudiation of Spiller. To recap, in 2019 then-Councilman/NJEA Vice-President Spiller was removed from Montclair’s Board of School Estimates by a New Jersey court because of his clear conflict of interest. Supported by $310,000 of NJEA money, Spiller eked out a win for mayor in May 2020. Spiller obviously didn’t care about the taint of an even larger conflict of interest as mayor, but Montclair citizens did.
And when Spiller sided with the Montclair Education Association during Montclair’s extended school closures during the pandemic, Montclair’s citizens and parents acted. They formed Vote Montclair and pushed for the referendum and won. The repudiation of Spiller was loud and clear.
And it was loud and clear when two Vote Montclair candidates were elected on Tuesday. There is more work to be done: Spiller appointed four board members, so Montclair citizens must continue to elect independent board members before they can overcome a Spiller-dominated board, but this is a strong step in the right direction.
The message for all New Jersey is that ordinary citizens can – and will – step up when they see control over their schools being co-opted by conflicted politicians like Spiller, who are on the payroll of self-interested parties like the NJEA. It’s a real David vs. Goliath story. Keep it going, Montclair!