Long-time Montclair resident Lee Siegel penned a scathing article in City Journal on the poor condition of Montclair’s schools and the apparent indifference of its mayor, NJEA President Sean Spiller. Siegel notes that Montclair’s political elite, including Spiller, mouth progressive platitudes, but their actions speak louder than their words. As always, it’s the kids — and particularly minority kids — who suffer. As with Montclair, so it is with the NJEA: Spiller talks about caring about the kids, but he really cares about his own political ambitions.
Siegel makes several trenchant observations:
- Montclair school children have “among the lowest math and science test scores in the nation and mediocre reading scores” while the town [and its mayor] allows “terrible lapses with regard to the students in its care.”
- Despite this, Montclair just cut “a large number of teachers and paraprofessionals — mostly for special needs children …” which “fell disproportionately on a middle school that served the town’s poorest children, many of whom are black …”
- Montclair’s high school has long been in a decrepit state: “many of the bathrooms are in disrepair, with broken toilets, sinks and stall doors” and the locker rooms are “apparently unusable.” The school is also understaffed.
- Montclair has some the of the highest property in the nation but not a “successful and fully functioning system of public education.”
- The fault lies not with the “honorable superintendent” [Jonathan Ponds] but with the town’s political overclass, especially “professional politician” Spiller, whose teacher-cutting budget “makes happy those whom he needs to make happy.” Meaning Montclair’s influential realtors NOT Montclair’s “suffering” school children. No doubt those realtors will be big supporters of a rumored Spiller gubernatorial run.
As will, no doubt, the hyper-political NJEA (which has already funded Spiller’s own Super PAC). Under Spiller’s leadership, the NJEA has served more as a piggy bank for his own political career than a teachers association concerned with educating school children. Recall that when it really mattered, when Superintendent Ponds proposed a school re-opening plan to get Montclair kids back into school during the pandemic, the Montclair Education Association boycotted Ponds’ plan and Spiller sided with his union rather than the kids. Montclair schools remained closed for far longer than most other school districts.
The rest is history. Kids — and especially minority kids — suffered horribly from the extended school closures. 587 kids left the Montclair school system. What a disaster.
Now, Montclair is cutting teachers and paraprofessionals in the very schools that need them the most. And Montclair’s single high school stands in disrepair. All under the leadership of NJEA President/Montclair Mayor Sean Spiller.
Montclair’s school kids and families deserve better.