NJEA President/Montclair Mayor Sean Spiller’s conflict of interest continues to negatively affect Montclair and its school system. This time, it’s the dozens of young teachers and paraprofessionals being laid off, who will be leaving the school system along with the hundreds of kids who fled the extended school closures abetted by Spiller. All of this hurts Montclair and its families.
Northjersey.com reports that the Montclair BOE voted to cut 31 teachers and 34 paraprofessionals. This comes on top of a reduction of 83 teachers and paraprofessionals last year (although some were rehired). While some residents are focused on revenue shortfalls due to commercial tax-breaks, BOE President Allison Silverstein made clear the BOE’s reasoning: a post-pandemic 9% decline in student enrollment in Montclair schools — or 611 fewer students — which means less demand for school personnel. As Silverstein said: “it is not fiscally responsible to employ more staff in 2022 than in 2019 when we have 9 percent fewer students.”
And why did 9% of students leave the school system? Recall that during the pandemic:
- Montclair schools remained closed for more than a year, long after most New Jersey schools had reopened.
- The Montclair Education Association (MEA) boycotted Superintendent Jonathan Ponds’ plan to reopen schools in January, 2021.
- The MEA demanded that all teachers be vaccinated before schools could reopen, a position that resulted in schools remaining closed for the rest of the school year.
- Conflicted NJEA Vice President/Montclair Mayor Spiller publicly sided with the MEA in the reopening dispute, all but ensuring that schools would remain closed.
Just as Sunlight and others predicted, Spiller had a massive conflict of interest between his duty to NJEA members, including the MEA, and his duty to Montclair citizens and families. At this critical time, Spiller backed his union over the town — despite 70% of Montclair parents saying they wanted their kids back in school.
Is it any wonder that Montclair parents pulled their kids from the school system?
Now we know that these extended school closures caused massive learning loss as well as severe mental and emotional distress for New Jersey kids. At the time of the school reopening dispute, Superintendent Ponds presciently stated: “We have children who are suffering. Our children need the support and education provided by their teachers; they need the structure of in-person learning and the socialization that comes with being in a classroom with their peers.” History has certainly vindicated Superintendent Ponds.
As for Spiller, we’ll use the counter-example of Superintendent Ponds, who said at the time: “When forced to make a decision between competing interests, I will always do what is best for our students.”
Not President/Mayor Spiller: he chose his union. The laid-off teachers, the kids, the families, the school system, and the town are still suffering the consequences.