Judge Denies MKF Motion For Spiller Restraining Order (Updated)

Judge Denies MKF Motion For Spiller Restraining Order

Updated with statement from Sean Spiller and comment from Shavar Jeffries below.

Montclair Township Attorney Ira Karasick tells Baristanet that, after a two hour hearing, Judge Thomas Moore, Superior Court, Chancery Division, denied Montclair Kids First’s (MKF) motion for a restraining order prohibiting Councilor Sean Spiller from serving on the Board of School Estimate.

Karasick says that while the Township did not formally intervene and enter the case, he did submit a letter outlining the Council’s concerns, which the Judge acknowledged.

According to Karasick, the essence of the judge’s opinion was that the issue of conflict was far from settled, that it’s hard to claim irreparable harm at the last second when Councilor Spiller has been an NJEA officer and member of the BSE for at least 18 months old, and there are many procedural and jurisdiction issues unresolved.

Karasick said the Judge Moore indicated that MKF would need to identify at least seven members, and several jurisdictional issues would need to be addressed, if the case were to go forward. Karasick said the issue of dismissing the case outright was not on the table today.

“Today’s hearing was strictly about whether the Court should issue an injunction prohibiting Councilor Spiller from serving on the BSE,” says Karasick, adding that the Judge did not rule on anything else.

Meanwhile, Montclair Kids First sent an announcement to its members, copying Baristanet. Here is how MKF described today’s events as they relate to the court proceedings:




On Friday, March 20th, Superior Court Judge Thomas Moore ruled that the Court would not dismiss the ethics and conflict of interest violations Montclair Kids First (MKF) showcased in its formal complaint.

The following is a statement from Montclair Kids First:

“We applaud the Court’s ruling today. This decision is just the beginning, and an important first step, in bringing greater transparency to our community.

“Montclair’s Board of School Estimate controls the school budgets of our community. As Mr. Spiller is a paid, elected official of the Teacher’s Union, whose first priority is to his membership, Mr. Spiller’s responsibilities to the NJEA preclude him from providing the impartial, independent decision-making that the residents of Montclair deserve. The judge had the option to follow Mr. Spiller’s request and dismiss the case, but he did not.

Councilor Sean Spiller sends Baristanet his statement of the events:

I am pleased that the court today found there was no basis to restrain my service on the board of school estimate. I understand the judge acknowledged not only that this anonymous group would have to identify itself before it could even proceed with the case, but that it is unlikely it could prevail even if it identifies its members and continues with this lawsuit. As in past years, I will continue to devote my services to ensuring we have strong public schools with extensive educational opportunities for our students provided in the most cost-effective manner.

Additionally, MKF attorney Shavar Jeffries contacted Baristanet to say that in papers submitted to the court, Spiller’s own attorneys, Zazzali, Fagella, Nowak, Kleinbaum & Friedman, (not Karasick) had tried unsuccessfully to have the case dismissed.

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  1. So looks like the first step in “greater transparency” is to out 5 more of the members.

    Nice how they turned it around to look like the ruling was totally in their favor.

  2. This should be interesting. We’ll see if MKF can get 6 more members other than the apparent founder to put their names to this and out in the open. Do they even have 6 members not counting all the people on their list that just signed up to see what they were about? How many people sit around that table at their meetings?

  3. In case you missed what happened in court today because you only read the rather opaque MK1 announcement filled with layers of verbal meadow muffins:

    Judge Thomas Moore, Superior Court, Chancery Division, DENIED Montclair Kids First’s (MKF) motion for a restraining order prohibiting Councilor Sean Spiller from serving on the Board of School Estimate.

  4. The duration of Spiller’s conflict of interest shouldn’t factor into whether it exists. He never should have held both the NJEA position and sat on the BoSE.

  5. Kidsfirst if I am understanding correctly, that these would have to all be Montclair residents and you can’t count having multiple personas on Barista, I would guess not. But I will certainly be intersted to see if I am wrong and there are 6 other, actual residents involved.

  6. This is simple to me but maybe I just don’t get it. The NJEA wants him to get the most money possible for their contracts and members and he’s also voting on budgets. He should have to choose one or the other right? What am I missing?

  7. I asked google and here’s what I got:

    “A conflict of interest (COI) is a situation in which a person or organization is involved in multiple interests (financial, emotional, or otherwise), one of which could possibly corrupt the motivation of the individual or organization”

    That is the situation Spiller is in.

  8. BSE will meet 3/23, 3/30, and4/6-apparently Mr. Spiller will participate as he has since 2012. Salaries/benefits that are in the budget are current. BSE does not negotiate the upcoming contract with MEA. Will MKF reveal itself and try to keep budget from moving forward?

  9. kjaxs,

    Read NJ statute on the matter. It’s very clear in spelling out that not every financial interest represents a conflict of interest (previous commenters have smartly pointed out that *any* Montclair taxpayer could be said to have a conflict of interest when serving on the BOE or BOSE if we apply the standard that the complaint from MKF seems to be applying).

  10. Then read Counselor Karasick’s letter. –“The BOSE has limited role in the budget process and absolutely nothing to do, by law, with the collective negotiation process or resulting collective negotiation agreements.” It’s clear MKF likes to distort things because according to them the BOSE is in control. I still can’t figure who is in control of anything when it comes to MPS.

  11. Back when MKF started making noise about this complaint, I posted that they were going to need to come on out of the shadows before a complaint could proceed. Only takes an acronym to exist on blogs. Takes a bit more than that for courts to remotely care about your filing.

  12. Sean may not directly negotiate contracts, but he votes on the whether to approve the budget. If he doesn’t like how the negotiations went he can say no. His job at the union is to lobby for the best contracts possible so he really should go to the union full time and let someone else serve on the BOSE.

  13. But I believe the ruling is based on the fact that he does not negotiate contracts or have anything to do with any aspect of collective bargaining and that the BSE vote is limited to yea or nay of budget.

  14. Seems that beyond all of this spin the issue here is that this complaint is not going away – it is still alive, the Judge still has not ruled. I hope Spiller knows what he is doing (or has done) because if he looses this case, this is going to be one hot mess for him, the Mayor and the town.

  15. The mess wouldn’t be too bad, he would step down. In my opinion he should skip the suspense and switch over to full time at the union right now.

  16. Will the real Spiller please stand up? Spiller ran as a “teacher” and we believed him. He seems to be no teacher, he was and is an elected teacher’s union official. There is a big difference, especially when you have power over the school budgets. It will be interesting to see how he addresses his responsibilities on the Board of Estimate this year, since we will all now be watching him. What his lawyer seems to ignore in his comments above – is that everything Spiller has now done on the Board of Estimate will now be discoverable, so for example last year the Board did make changes to the budget, perhaps we will now find out why. I hope the Mayor just asks him to resign.

  17. Everyone knows Spiller has had his eye on Mayor Jackson and wants his job. Jackson is a smart man, so he will let this play out. The case has real merit and will destroy Spiller’s political career at least in Montclair. This will be good for the Mayor and good for those who are supportive of the Mayor. Spiller should have waited his turn and been respectful. He went too hard, too fast, he threatened many, and now many different people in town want him gone. Not sure if you have ever been in a meeting with him, while he has a nice smile, he is not very bright. It won’t be a big loss.

  18. Jon…me, myself and I won’t be enough signatures, you’re going to have to come up with some more names. Come out, come out!

  19. So MK1 “would need to identify at least seven members…” Reminds me of the Stephen King novel, It

    “Seven, Richie thought. That’s the magic number. There has to be seven of us. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.”

  20. LOL. The judge sounds like he is in totally over his head, is swearing at the assignment judge and is afraid he is going to get overturned on appeal lickety-split. Go the safe route…throw it out on a procedural error April 1st and let’s move on. 7. Really, not 10, or 6. You just gotta love NJ and Essex County!

  21. The next time a politician tells us NJ has the strongest & most comprehensive ethics laws in the county, just remind them they they forgot to put a common sense clause in any of them.
    Since the legislature or the judiciary don’t understand what was passed or the intent, I can’t really hold the last Council accountable for passing a law they didn’t understand. I feel badly for Councilor Baskerville that the Law of Unintended Consequences has placed a shadow over her decision.

    If the Old Gray Lady doesn’t pick this up, well, I’ll just say dang!

  22. Sean Spiller has never hidden any facts of who he is unlike MKF. He attends many functions in town, gives his constituents his time and served the BOSE before and did a fine job! Please MKF, tell me what your problem is with him now? I’ll be waiting for your answer.

  23. Sorry. My mistake. Councilor Baskerville introduced the change to our Ethics Code Ordinance during the current administration. You just can’t make this stuff up!

  24. The spin on this reporting is getting interesting. Anyone else find it odd that within the updates we have a quote from Spiller, but only blurb from what Jefferies told Baristane?. Hmmmm…….

  25. “Anyone else find it odd that within the updates we have a quote from Spiller, but only blurb from what Jefferies told Baristanet? Hmmmm…”

    —paranoid delusions are indeed “odd”, I would say…

  26. The way I see it jcunningham is the MKF lost the first round. Your nasty comment is quite telling that maybe you are a little bitter about that. I’m just wondering why a direct quote wasn’t made by both, that’s all. Maybe baristanet could answer that? I am not a writer, so I wonder why if Baristanet heard from both parties why one was a quote and one wasn’t?

  27. Ha ha. Of course I MUST be part of the conspiracy if I disagree with you, qby33!

    I have no sentiments one way or another in this mess. I just think it’s fun to watch how the human mind is capable of such extraordinary thinking. You continue to entertain…

  28. I’m sure Spiller is a nice enough fellow. But he should not be on the BoSE while serving as a NJEA rep. On the face of it, it appears to be a conflict, and reading the provided statutes, it probably is.

    It’s times like this, grace should be in order. And for that, Mr. Spiller should recognize he’s become part of the side-show, and he should step down.

    But he won’t. Because like too many politician/union folks, he’s in it for the FIGHT.

    Additionally, this anonymous group, which Mr. Katz would surely love to be a part of, is an embarrassment. I’d have a greater opinion of them, if they were NAMED, concerned citizens.

    I’ve stepped back from this because we seem to be surrounded by fools and idiots.

    KIDS FIRST!!! ????????

  29. There are many odd things about his case.

    Did Mr. Jeffries, the attorney for MKF, really believe he could walk into a court room and present a law suit, without identifying who are the aggrieved parties, Really? That was probably the first order of business for Justice Moore. The actual complaint fails to identify any individual. That complaint only identifies the plaintiff as MKF. Really? Legal counsel should have known better. This is going to be a slow crawl, uphill, for MKF.

  30. Prof and dherron seem to have interesting things to say. And jcunningham, you have been many people’s entertainment for quite some time. I’m glad to return the favor and give you a chuckle this morning 🙂

  31. So, I’ve read that Judge Moore indicated, “several procedure and jurisdiction issues would need to be addressed, if the case were to go forward.” Is one of those “Jurisdiction issues” the statute, N.J.S.A. 40A:9-22.1 et seq, under the New Jersey Local Government Ethics Law which MKF is claiming Mr. Spiller violated? But wait, N.J.S.A. 40A:9-22.1 et seq, are statutes that are incorporated under the New Jersey Local Government Ethics Law which governs, government agencies, but these statutes , “shall not include a school board.” Which is how these statutes read. In fact, the New Jersey Local Government Ethics Law, has no jurisdiction over school boards. Guess legal counsel missed that one too. Yes indeed, a very slow crawl. Uphill.

  32. Finally, there is this annoying rule of jurisprudence in New Jersey’s judicial system. That annoying 45 day rule, which is the time one has to file a lawsuit against any government action, once that action has occurred. Yep 45 days. Once you miss that 45 day window, you must present a good reason why you failed to bring your action in the permitted time. It is public knowledge that Mr. Spiller was on the BSE in 2014.

    Mr. Spiller has been on the BSE, for how long, 2 years? That would be way past the statutorily imposed 45 day rule.

    Wow, who is in charge of this circus? And when do they bring in the clowns.

  33. dherron,

    You misinterpreted the application of the statue. Yes, read on, school board of ed (state agency), BoSE (no mention), Council (muni agency).

    Ah, MKF didn’t exist 45 days prior (hence the 7 person requirement / remember the first order of business), it was Ira’s interpretation that this is a service issue, and the injunctive relief was specific to an upcoming action that is unique (new school year), and the absolutely greatest part of this is Mr Spiller voted, with the rest of the council 4 months prior to starting on the BoSE, a local ordinance that’s primary purpose was to clean-up Montclair ethically and place municipal government service beyond reproach.

    Well. I think we can now ignore that part of the Ethics Code. Pay to play, baby!

  34. Frank Rubacky
    I would have to disagree with your assessment. While you are correct, school Bd of Ed is a state agency, that statute points out that it does not pertain to school boards of education.
    The 45 day rule would still apply as to when Mr Spiller was appointed to the BSE, not when some group was formed. There are several issued coming into play. MKF is also seeking to have Mr Spiller removed from the BSE. That action occurred, his appointment, quite some time ago. The 45 day clock began when he was appointed to the BSE.

  35. Dherron – I am confused. Considering the many legal challenges you have brought to the District and town, include the most absurd filing against Leslie Larson, why are you against this one? I thought something this silly would be right up your alley? Mr. Herron – please be sure to update and clue in all of these blog posters on who you are, your history of using the courts. Perhaps, you can think about the damage your law suits have done to good people in our community as well.

  36. dherron,

    Yes, and the courts can determine applicability & if the clock is a determining factor. But, you also know that the BoSE members terms are for 1 year and Mr Spiller and Mr Hurlock, being in their 3rd years, serve at the pleasure of the Mayor. So, in the court of public opinion, the Mayor has a problem.

    dherron will defend himself, but in the case of Ms Larson, and as far as I know, the State has not made a determination on the complaint points referred to the Administrative Law Office.

    With ethics, it is not a benefit of the doubt because no one is saying Mr Spiller acted unethically. The point of law is that it is a conflict. The character or integrity of the person with the conflict is not relevant.

  37. Got to love Mr Herron being called out with the old “but he did it too” defense. Sounds like my kids.

    Frank, if anyone said to me NJ has the strongest & most comprehensive ethics laws in the country I wouldn’t be able to say anything, I’d be laughing too hard.

    Now everyone, go outside. It’s amazing. Someone hit the “Spring” switch around 9am.

  38. @ mcasgate,
    Let’s see if I can clear up some of your confusion. Any legal challenges I’ve brought to the District or town, I was within my rights to do so. You are not insinuating that I have no rights to bring such challenges, are you? No different that Mr. Bonesteel or MKF, whoever they may be. If you are questioning my right to bring a legal challenge, one would have to ask, how is Mr. Bonesteel within his right to bring forward a lawsuit, but Mr. Herron has no such rights. Hmmm.

    I do not see a conflict for Mr. Spiller, since he does not have direct input into our school budget. He is not involved in contract talks, and his participation on the BSE will fail to financially benefit Mr. Spiller . Don’t see a conflict there, surprised you do.

    You mentioned, “most absurd filing against Leslie Larson, why are you against this one? You consider the conflict of interest filing against Leslie Larson, absurd, yet the New Jersey Ethics Board does not share your bias opinion. Larson, repeatedly voted to spend Montclair’s funds with organizations which her husband either ran or controlled. My question, that doesn’t sound like a direct conflict of interest to you, and why You are not bothered by that?
    After all, tax dollars, are your money too.

    You want me to update bloggers, about who I am and how I used the courts. Why? Some people know who I am,others don’t care, and I have never “used” the courts, I merely utilized our wonderful judicial system, my right, just like Mr. Bonesteel and MKF.

    Unaware of any damage my lawsuits have done to good people in our community, if they feel I have behaved inappropriately, they also have legal recourse. I can recommend a couple of good attorneys.

    Going outside, spring has sprung.

  39. Dheron – On no!!!!! I was not saying you do not have the legal right to throw lawsuits against the town and the district the way you have. You have done it aggressively, for so long, who am I to judge. However, if you are going to talk about lawsuits and make judgements on this blog about them, certainly letting people know your expertise in this area could be beneficial to all of us. To be clear. you are certainly within your right to do what you are doing. I was just stating how shocked and surprised that you were against this particular lawsuit, since you seem to love throwing them around, that all. Keep doing what you are doing, buddy. It is really helping this town. As far as your case and this one – I say, let just let the Courts decide. I am sure all of us would love to circle back with you once a ruling is made.

  40. mcasgate,
    Still waiting on your response as to why you don’t think Ms. Larson’s membership on the BOE and her votes to award companies/corps. associated with her husband is NOT a conflict of interest.

  41. Mcasgate,
    I misunderstood. What few people rarely understand is that any lawsuits which I have filed came after begging, pleading and trying everything I could think of to gain information/force compliance. Or otherwise get people to do the right thing. All to no avail. Case in point, when Montclair started charging tuition for its public Pre-k program. A bad policy and the courts agreed. Many on this blog were not in Montclair then. Would love to see that program returned back to the public schools. Lawsuits are action of last resort. Always. I was supposed to file a suit against BOE eliminatIing Pre-k, but got too busy. I will write my opinion now of how this will end. But wait to publish after court decides.

  42. The legal ruling is going to be what it will be. The issue has jumped the pond now to a Council issue and now is approaching a lose-lose a lot political scenario.

    I believe there is a growing perception in town that the MEA employees have co-opted the BoE role. The degree this is a concern for residents varies. Throw the NJEA into the process, via Mr Spiller’s role, as well as the direct NJEA employee support in negotiating the contracts (Mr Spiller is the NJEA Treasurer?).

    The Council is, because of giving Mr Spiller an extended term, consciously making a decision even though their lawyer says it not for their consideration or jurisdiction. This Council rode the wave of election victory by rewriting the Ethics Codes within the first 3 months in office….I guess because they felt real, or perceived ethics issues were an immediate order of business. Just a mess for them.

    They can sit tight and do nothing. They are also saying nothing, Zip…which pains me.

    Meanwhile, residents are, at the least, trying to understand the issue and at worse, feel they have to take a side while their Council says nothing. Regardless of how the budget plays out, the contract negotiations plays out, the lawsuit plays out….this Council is screwing themselves politically and they are doing it of their own free will. Residents won’t remember the details of this Spring, but that taste in their mouth is going to linger for many years if they don’t get out in front of this soon. At a certain point, they will not be able to unring the bell of “lack of leadership”.

  43. mtclrsown – I have no idea what to make of the Leslie Larson lawsuit that Dheron has brought to the Courts. As I said in a previous post, let the Courts decide on both these cases. I do hope the actual outcomes, and the reasons behind these outcomes, are reported and discussed so there is accountability.

    DHeron – You stated, “lawsuits which I have filed came after begging, pleading and trying everything I could think of to gain information/force compliance. Or otherwise get people to do the right thing. All to no avail.” I do not know enough about this Spiller case, but seems like the same thing is happening here as well.

  44. As a mom, not a lawyer, my background in settling ethical disputes is more in the range of splitting desserts amongst siblings. If there’s one piece of cake left I’ll let my daughter cut it and her brother gets to choose which half he wants. You can’t let the child with the knife pick her own piece of cake too, and since Spiller is a representative of the NJEA he shouldn’t be overseeing the budget which pays his constituents. It is common sense.

  45. This is more than cake, it is millions and millions of dollars. Spiller knows he needs to leave the the BoSE if he’s going to stay on the payroll of the NJEA. The question is whether he has the ethics to step down or if he will have to be removed.

  46. I believe the Council feels they have to see this through to a decision. I also think MKF has achieved their purpose and could withdraw the complaint under the pretense of not wanting to reveal their members. I doubt either party will step back because they’re both ‘highly principled’ and this is not about the kids. Pure grown-up stuff. Regardless of the outcome, I would be very surprised if Mr Spiller remained on the BoSE for next year’s budget cycle.

  47. I keep repeating a question that no one wants to answer for me….Why the concern THIS year? I’ve watched Spiller do a fine job on the BOSE before! Is this MKF causing a fuss because they lost the Superintendent they liked so much?

  48. Because the MEA contract negotiations are this quarter. Mr Spiller joined the BoSE after the last MEA contract was finalized.

  49. Well, I think that is the question, isn’t it?

    I will elaborate with the understanding that you should take my viewpoint as opinion and fact check yourself.

    As I understand Mr Spiller’s Treasurer’s position for the NJEA, he is responsible for setting policy – much like our Council does for the Township. The NJEA Executive Director runs the organization much like our Township Manager. So, for example, Mr Spiller would decide the policy of allowing, and under what circumstances, NJEA employees help the locals (e.g. MEA) negotiate their local contracts. I assume he is privy to information how effectively the NJEA is executing that policy – including collecting information about proposals/offers in other districts statewide. Further, regardless of the specifics of the policy, I would think his justification has to be to maximize the benefit to the members. So, even though he is technically a step removed from the NJEA negotiators execution of the policy, it also assumes an information firewall, that in practice, is a very, very big reason for out extensive State ethics laws. Also, I don’t know if the BoE has shared what it, and the MPS, set aside in the budget for estimated salary & benefit increases. I suspect part of the 35% increase in health care costs is partly due to the upcoming contract. Mr Spiller has already gone on record that he wants to drill down on this budget item to understand it better, as has Mr Hurlock.

    Bottom line is if it quacks like a duck, then I have a hard time thinking outside the box that it is pig.

  50. Well, Jon, do you agree with my earlier point that MKF doesn’t need to follow through on the complaint as you have made your point. It would be nice to move on and fix our serious problems without MKF taking the opportunity to add an exclamation point.

  51. “I have no sentiments one way or another in this mess. I just think it’s fun to watch how the human mind is capable of such extraordinary thinking. You continue to entertain…”

    I don’t like to agree with JC but I must admit the back and forth is quite entertaining. Not unlike an elementary schoolyard debate or Jay Leno’s old skit, point – whats your point.

    This issue has to account for 70% of Baristanets recent traffic, they cant help but fuel the fire!!!

  52. Yes, stayhyphy, I admit I can’t resist posting and you’ll have to admit you can’t resist reading. Yes, Bnet should be happy.

    Sadly, I am approaching the end of my attention span on this topic. Spring has sprung and when it comes down to it, it is really just like Words With Friends…on steroids. Still, the game has to end.

  53. ….but, before I go, if the judges hangs his hat on the 45 day rule, it will get overturned lickety-split. Spiller was technically appointed July 3rd, 2012…the day he took office. The first BoE budget was not forwarded to the MPS until March, 2013 – 9 months later. Technically, very attorney-like. But, in the tennis bubble, quite a few winks.

  54. Well Frank, that really says to me that folks that have a problem with Spiller are just ASSUMING the worst in him. You know what they say about people who assume things…..

    “Mr Spiller has already gone on record that he wants to drill down on this budget item to understand it better, as has Mr Hurlock.” Obviously two very smart men!! 🙂

  55. Jon, may I ask why your group sees this as such a crucial issue? What if Spiller votes up or down on the budget? Would you prefer he votes it down? When are you actually going to focus on educational issues instead of hunting down people for mudslinging? Because all this group has done so far is harass and vilify people through a high-priced lawyer, while clamoring for “civility”.

  56. Frank Rubacky has joined me in realizing the Spring is here!! And unlike the seasons, arguments getting blown out of proportion with lawsuits, secret donors, anonymous groups, and websites taken down seem to be a sad, daily sample of life in Baristaville.

  57. “The NJEA is explicit that its core purpose is ‘to protect the rights, benefits, and interests of its members,'” not students and certainly not the financial well-being of the district.

  58. qby33,

    My point was not to disparage Mr Spiller. My point was that you have two BoSE members who have expressed an interest in a fundamental component of the teacher’s contract and one could have access to certain information & insights while the other member, because of his union position, could not.

    jon, noted your position.

  59. @qby33

    We are not assuming the worst about Sean Spiller. Experience teaches that unless we maintain high standards in all ethics situations we will inevitably have bad actors that slip through and take advantage of the system. Do I think Spiller took on both roles to push for sweetheart deals for the union? No, but in his dual positions he has opportunities, on a broad level, to shoot down or support budgets based on how they impact the union members he represents at the NJEA. Stepping down from the board is the right thing to do.

  60. This question is why you anti-Spiller people think you understand conflict of interest law better than an actual judge? If you cared about the thing itself not just being anti-him, you’d let it play out in court.

  61. Having a moral compass is no fault, and sidestepping the reality of Mr. Spiller’s situation by way of legal technicality isn’t a virtue.

  62. Having a moral compass is no fault. Having a moral compass when it’s politically convenient….well hmmmm.

  63. I would love to see everyone who is responding to this blog show up at board meetings, and stay, regularly.The last one lasted well into the late evening, past 11pm usually. See you all next year and every year after as well until that magical moment when our taxes actually go down because we get rid of the horrible teachers that are draining our pockets dry. If we could just get computers to teach our children we wouldn’t need them at all.We wouldn’t even need a BoSE.

  64. Oh man, I wonder if a computer could write a college recommendation for my 12th grader, or celebrate a birthday for my 7 year old. Are there computers that can look into my child’s eyes and tell that something is wrong? I hope some advanced computer system can tell that my child is really hurting from the announcement that my husband and I are getting a divorce. Hopefully a robo call can alert me to the fact that My child had a bad day. Out with the humans bring on the machines!!! They are so much more less expensive. Now if I could just get a computerized nanny, au pair or baby sitter I could buy that 4th car I’ve been wanting.

  65. The posts just keep getting better and better (as in entertaining)…but I think abc123 just jumped the shark.

  66. Thanksalatte, I don’t see anything ethical about MKF. Not one thing. I’m pretty sure it’s the same person (people) that think their child deserves everything. The ones who sit in Central Office and complain because their little precious one got put into Nishuane. Then they sit there until their child gets placed into their first choice which was Watchung. It’s people who hide behind computers and say that they are anonymous because they think teachers would hold it against their child. Give me a break. Pathetic is what they are. Hopefully even one of them has the nerve to go to the BOE meeting tonight and speak to who they are. But I would guess they will be sitting at home and sipping their wine and tweeting about it. ‘Cause that’s what they do.

  67. These aren’t just pinot-sipping dilettante parents with concerns about Sean, we really do think there is a problem with a union officer overseeing our budget. What is it this year, $116 million? That is a lot of our tax money to place in the hands of someone with a conflict of interest. I would feel more comfortable, and so would a lot of people, if Spiller was removed from the BoSE.

  68. Have you met Mr. Spiller? If not I suggest you go to the meeting tonight. He is very approachable. Express you views in person, not behind a computer screen and lawyer.
    I am also not comfortable with Mr. Bonesteel being the ringleader for MKF. His neighbor and good pal is the President of the BOE. I feel that is a conflict of interest. If people think this is all on the up and up, think again.

  69. So amazing that the many of the same people demanding that spiller be given the benefit of the doubt were the ones calling for the head of the super from day one because of her broad foundation background. I am not comparing anything personally about the two (outside of emailing spiller during hurricane sandy about estimated time for power to return have had no interaction with either person). Just think it is ironic that the same group damning the super from before day 1 for how they perceived her now defend Spiller and don’t understand how others perceive him as being part of the teachers union while having any amount of say in the school budget process. Same thing with some people being completely within their rights when filing tons or public records requests and/or lawsuits against the town and then having an issue with a different group trying to do the same thing.

  70. There is a very large difference. It was clear from Day One that Penny was here to serve an agenda which involved going above and beyond even the state requirements for testing. She was trained by the Broad St. Academy to carry out a philosophy with which many in town heartily disagree. There are certainly legal arguments which would support or deny Spiller’s continued appointment to the BOSE, but the issue with MacCormack was certainly much more important to the educational climate in Montclair.

    As for filing requests for the town’s public records, this is also a far different matter than going after people’s identities and seeking emails from an activist’s place of employment. The requests are needed because the town refuses to provide info that citizens have a legal right to know. Example- MPS refuses to release info on how many students opted out of the PARCC tests. Clearly this is being done because large amounts of opting-out doesn’t conform with their message that a tiny group of dissidents are making all the noise, and everybody else is either on the MKS side or just doesn’t care.

    The actions against Spiller and Michelle Fine are attempts to intimidate and harass. People with money are pouring it into expensive lawyers to accomplish this harassment. Why do you think that is?

  71. This is not about our students. This is a run-of-the-mill separation of powers issue when you get down to it.

    The purpose of the Board of School Estimate is to be a local check on the financial impact of the actions of a State agency, the BoE. Its municipal majority is intentional and significant. The BoE minority are on the BoSE because their formal educational job description has responsibilities at both a local and State level. They represent the public good…and also bring the budget they, themselves approved to get certified.

    So, it becomes a taxation issue. Just as the Federal government is not allowed to dictate school curriculum, our State is very big on home rule law and right of self-determination and representative taxation that are embedded within. Any plausible, reasonable perception and likely to occur of a diluted fiduciary responsibility of the municipal majority – even if it is for a State public good – is a larger issue than LGEL.

    On a minor housekeeping note, I think the municipality should pay Mr Spiller’s legal costs and not the school district. The Council created this situation, not the BoE.

  72. MacCormack herself approved an even larger budget than she needed to. I don’t think that the issue is that Spiller will vote for the budget. It’s an attempt to harass a union member and teacher. Not because of the union’s demands for more money, but because the teachers have been very clear in their opposition to the so-called “reforms”.

  73. bloomer – Regardless of the legal requirements for conflicts in this case (I guess for the judge to decide), one big issue here is that you (and many others) aren’t appreciating how others perceive things. Frank R said it well – the spiller thing is not about the kids, it’s about separation of powers and having the Montclair taxpayer (not parent, but taxpayer) believe that those on the BOSE represent the taxpayer and look out for the interest of the taxpayer – that includes those with kids and those without understanding that having an excellent school district is important for those with kids and without. So in much the same way you perceive someone with a Broad Foundation background as “clear from Day One…here to serve an agenda” others see someone involved as a leader in the state teachers union maybe not looking out for the town’s best interest.

    Given that the school budget is, what…like 60% – 70% of our property tax bill, having everyone trust in the process is important. Maybe Spiller should just said, “you know what I can understand the concern given my day job” and not have accepted the position in the 1st place. He can also step down now……or he can dig in and fight which makes for an odd choice if the position really has limited power as many claim. Another thing indicative of the combative nature of Montclair – much like the BOE budget meeting last week. Deutsche, Kulwin, et. al. should be throwing bones to the MEA and those who want to see CO cuts before classroom cuts as a gesture of good faith to say, you know what, we understand that teachers are being asked to do more with less so the CO is also being asked the same thing and will be even more bare-bone than the schools. Can’t get admin items, well we have nobody there but you understand.

    However, there’s little leadership here – you need buy-in for those effected to have faith in the system and spiller and the boe aren’t willing to show that type of leadership. Until you have some leadership, a broad swath of taxpayers, parents, teachers, principals, paraprofessionals, students, etc… won’t all believe we are actually all in this together.

  74. Everything you say may be true, Frank, but you really think, for MKF, going after Spiller is all about a “taxation issue”? What is the true motivation?

  75. “This is not about our students. This is a run-of-the-mill separation of powers issue when you get down to it.”
    Yup, I also see it as a bunch of people who think they had power in this town, lost it this year and this is their tantrum. So sad to see their revenge strategy cost so much, their are so many other ways they could put KIDS FIRST with that kind of dough.
    So happy with the new appointed BOE members. Let’s just keep movin’ folks….
    Oh and about that PARCC you mentioned latebloomer….and interesting read I was sent today..

  76. latebloomer,

    As far as I know, I’m the only one framing this a representative taxation issue…so, no.
    MKF going after Spiller is a symbolic, tactical move. It’s a one and done. The new board members are now appointed. So, what is the next chapter?

    Montclarions don’t historically spend this kind of money on an exclamation point. Motivation? I don’t know. Groups like these are rarely homogeneous in their thinking and are often bound by narrowly defined, near term goals and more fluid long-range agenda.

    I do think one of their strategies is to create a new platform to shape and influence educational policy here. My interest is piqued as I can’t figure out how they are going to achieve it. They haven’t publicly progressed beyond the current legal/information collection activity, but that would be consistent with their not seeing the need to show their cards. Objectively, MCAS hasn’t diversified either from their original methods and practices. Yes, individual supporters have thrown out various best practices and case studies, but realistically they have not move the compass needle in any one direction of solutions.

    So, I’m just one of those unaligned residents frustrated with the lack of progress to date, the level of discourse, and the absence of leadership watching people rearrange the deck chairs of the existing educational system in this town and State. Meanwhile, I get to watch a bunch of stakeholders – new and old – claiming legitimacy while they take turns cutting a leg from chairs because I guess they feel they need to tear it down to rebuild it in their image.

    If it were not so entertaining, I would spending my time on redevelopment zones.

  77. Well, saw Spiller sitting right there on the BOSE, so MKF must be pretty upset. Also saw a BOE meeting run with a much kinder tone. Looks like the BOE president could take a few notes on civility. If you treat the speakers with kindness and respect, you would get the same in return. ALSO, was nice to hear our new Interim Superintendent say that he’d be there to answer questions at meetings for the public. Wow! What a turnaround 🙂

  78. LOL qby33. It’s because 1)it is a BoSE mtg, not a BoE mtg and 2) the MEA & MCAS are no match for our esteemed Mayor if they dared tried their childish antics. I never see the “unaligned” parents disrupting the meetings.

    You are trying way to hard to peddle this stuff…and you’re not particularly effective at it. But, you are right the BoE needs to take a lesson on how to run a meeting.

  79. Frank, I have attended 90% of the BOE meetings for the past four years. I have succeeded at many things in this town that you just hide behind a computer and discuss. You can talk the talk but not walk the walk. Fact.
    Same people spoke tonight that usually do, minus a few because they were at work. You have no clue. None.
    Go enjoy your spring 🙂

  80. Oh and Frank, since you think you know it all, I’ll be looking for you at future meetings. 😉 put your money where your mouth is.

    And btw, the MEA and MCAS both have more class and knowledge than you. Another fact.

  81. I was there tonight- I didn’t see one person identify themselves from this anonymous group and nobody questioned Spiller. It was a well run meeting and qby33 says exactly what I’ve been thinking all night, aside from it’s nice to be home before it’s actually a new day, the board could take a lesson from this. People for the most part were really well spoken and respectful – no real time limit. The interim Super was great, stayed around to talk and answer questions and the BOSE actually had some back and forth with people, answered some questions and carried the meeting with a tone that was a far cry from the way the BOE conducts itself. Frank- one of your “unaligned ” parents was actually quite rude and disrespectful to the mayor tonight. Not really fair to generalize the meetings- it depends on how the tone is set in the beginning. I didn’t see you there but then again I don’t know what you look like so I think it’s hard to get a feel from this just from TV, internet and then what you hear form people. Blaming the MEA and MCAS for disruption and “childish antics” is really uncalled for given the way the board conducts itself during a lot of the meetings. They set the tone and they’d do well to follow the model from tonight. I don’t think anything is being peddled- I think many of us who have endured late night, intense BOE meetings were really nicely surprised by how this went, and to meet an interim super who is here to actually do something and has no alliances.

  82. I didn’t speak tonight but the usuals mostly did and a lot of groups of secretaries, paras, nurses. It was great. I’d be happy to wear a name tag next week and the following and then at all future BOE meetings. I’ve spoken and I think people know who I am though I’m not particularly loud but I agree that those in the computer should come out to the meetings, get sitters, have the spouse come home early like many of us have to do and actually come see. It’s not the same on TV/internet and it would be nice for people to really show who they are in person.

  83. “So, I’m just one of those unaligned residents”

    Oh no Frank, It’s pretty clear who you are aligned with. Lol.

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