Mayor Spiller: ‘Disappointed’ By Montclair BOE Member

Montclair Mayor Sean Spiller released this statement in response to exiting BOE member Sergio Gonzalez remarks about the BOE appointment process and the MEA:

“I want to first start by thanking Mr. Gonzalez for his service on the Board of Education. I am, however, disappointed to see that he is making several false and puzzling assertions regarding the appointment of new members to the Board of Education. As Mayor, I have appointed three new members of the Board of Education who will, like the members before them, exercise independent judgement in advocating for our students and public schools. To assert that any member of our Board of Education is in some way controlled by another entity or individual is not only false, but also insulting to the intelligence of those who have served.

As a Board Member, Mr. Gonzalez was empowered for three years to help shape school policy. He is only now raising the concerns he details in his statement. It is crucial that we all listen to our students, parents and other stakeholders about how we can improve our schools, including Mr. Gonzalez, but as a Board Member he had the opportunity for three years to take action.

I am not aware of any instance where Mr. Gonzalez raised his concerns at a Board of Education meeting or was prevented from providing leadership on these issues. If Mr. Gonzalez feels that the Board of Education–to which I had made only one previous appointment–during his tenure was ineffective, then it should be self-evident why it is ultimately a good thing to bring in new perspectives. That said, I am confident that the Board of Education would welcome continued input from Mr. Gonzalez and all members of the Montclair Community.

Strong public schools are a big part of what makes Montclair special. We are fortunate to have so many passionate community members who are willing to make their voices heard. I do worry, however, that some of the narratives on social media and elsewhere are taking the discourse around how to support our public schools down an unproductive path–a path where rumors, innuendo and falsehoods drive the conversation. Our students are not well-served when education becomes a zero-sum game. Collaboration is key.

The past year has been unimaginably trying for everyone. I will continue to work to promote a good faith, open, and constructive dialogue on our public schools and look forward to seeing Dr. Ponds, the Board of Education, our parents and educators work together to put our students first.”

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  1. One of the better deflection statements you mean Frank Rubacky?

    Our union muscle flexing is consistent here, but our snowflake School Board members don’t ever wish to really confront it. That’s until the Covid debacle when we were one of only a few school systems that couldn’t bring back our students into schools because of MEA pushback.

    There is labor and there is management. That doesn’t mean war…it can mean mutual respect and operational congeniality. But when the labor union thinks they can bulldoze management here to represent the interests of resident township users, “Huston we have a problem”.

    Mr. Gonzalez’s only issue is that he didn’t speak out and publicly confront this reality early on, instead only now, when the institutional forces of ‘don’t rock the boat’ — aced him out. And sadly, Eve Robinson, also kicked to the curb by Spiller for being too outspoken herself, not really leaving of her own accord as reported — didn’t directly back Sergio Gonzalez up.

    It’s the fear of directly confronting these policy and political issues — that really do require public outing from the start – which largely causes our political discombobulation in the end.

  2. Not anything to do with deflection. Mr Spiller replied directly to a personal attack with serious allegations. My compliment was on his laser focus & tone. Mr Spiller verbally & unequivocally slapped Mr Gonzalez twice over. I thought Mr Spiller actually showed restraint.

    Montclair residents opted into the NJEA/Mayor conflict! They OK’d this conflict. Why don’t you hold your neighbor accountable? Why do we limit our criticisms to our elected officials when we elected them? This is what happens when one accepts “the lesser of two evils” as a high standard in voting. Why isn’t it un-American to degrade this fundamental right? 🙂

    Ms Robinson needed to go. She liked her intramural roughhousing & she came out on top quite a lot. She had her time. Alas, it doesn’t matter. It’s the BoE.

  3. Why should Robinson support Gonzalez? She has never been anything but an MEA company woman. Yes, perhaps Gonzalez should have pointed this out right at the start and then subjected himself to personal attacks from the MEA machine for his full tenure. That would really be effective. There is a reason there is fear. The historical record in Montclair is clear. If you don’t get it, ask Penny MacCormack.

  4. Saying that the Mayor’s serving of two masters here, his union employer and the people of this town, is OK because the voters knew about the conflict when they elected him, is indistinguishable from saying that citizens of the country had no reason to complain about Trump’s lies and grifts while he was President because it was clear who he was when he was elected. The Mayor’s statement, referring to rumors and innuendos and falsehoods are simply throwaway words. The issue is simple- the Union’s interest and the interest of the Town’s kids are different and often in conflict and you can’t represent both interests at the same time. Period!

  5. Silly comparison, but since you raised it…let’s talk about those voters!

    They voted for Trump to get a SCOTUS majority. The parents voted for an NJEA executive to get more for their progeny. The most obvious explanation is the most likely. We can be both superficial & smart.

  6. Frank, I don’t get it re:. ,”The parents voted for an NJEA executive to get more for their progeny.”.
    Parents don’t get more out of the schools for their kids due to the union’s influence. In fact I’d argue the opposite is true.

  7. Think spending a lá 1950’s military-industrial complex. Class size, testing, Pre-K, magnets, etc. etc.etc. The only reasons we don’t spend more on the schools is 1) the State’s 2% cap and, 2) we can only manage a limited number of capital projects in any given year. For fun, before last Fall’s little clean-up fest, look at the capital funds authorized, but unspent.

  8. pelberg,

    I agree about the absurdity of the Two Masters thing. The Mayor, no different from most – and if we are honest – all of us, is serving himself. It really is as simple as that. Why try to over-complicate things? Simplify. Simplify. Remember, he was x-months into this Mayoral job before he self-floated his name for Biden’s Sec of Ed. I actually was secretly impressed. The man is always looking for a bigger sandbox to run. A real A-type, go-getter, climb every mountain, sing every song. I admit he rubs introverts the wrong way, but, seriously, you could fit all of Montclair’s declared introverts in Graz Park with space left over.

  9. Thanks Frank for reminding me about those things that having a mayor who is also president of the state teachers union influence can provide that would be a positive thing for the “progeny”. The ‘bigger picture”, as opposed to the smaller day to day issues that occur which sometimes obstructs the administrators and/or principals goals that would be of benefit to the students because of “contractual limits”/ contract negotiations.
    And LOL to: “but, seriously, you could fit all of Montclair’s declared introverts in Graz Park with space left over.” True!!

  10. Everyone must find embrace the humor in these situations.
    Last Week At Night the Council went into closed door session to make decisions on volunteer-staffed board, commission and advisory committees positions – and shutting down a few of the last. They reemerged and, always legally proper, they approve a resolution stating they approved other resolutions regarding staffing. That was it. Specifics were on a need to know basis. Then they published these mystery resolutions in a remote corner of the Township website. I may congratulate several of the appointees on the Sly (& The Family Stone) to keep the Council’s choices in confidence.

    FYI, I’m very happy to share the Council’s appointment, R-21-xxx (redacted), of yours truly as Montclair’s only real Curmudgeon-At-Large.

  11. Frubacky,
    I appreciate your position as town gadfly. It is an honorable job and you do it well. It makes the town a better place and keeps leaders on their toes. BUT, some things are really simple and in this case, complicating the obvious distracts from the important points you often make. “Serving two masters” is a slogan but this is even simpler. The teachers’ union in our town and in urban areas generally has shamelessly and publicly conflated the interest of the union and the interests of public school students. That has hurt our schools and that means hurting kids. Now we have a Mayor that is the President of the Union and appoints the School Board members. As a practical matter it elevates the conflict to an almost obscene level. And it becomes obscene when the Mayor accuses those who point out what is plain to see as “enemies of the people.” It is Trump like in its lack of respect for the truth. Period.

  12. pelberg,

    Yes, the MEA 100% acts as you describe. Yes, the Mayor can’t be objective. This this is an obvious conflict of interests, but also very legal. It is so legal in fact, that the only legal remedy is to throw out the baby with he bath water. In fact. I argue it is an informed, desired conflict by the townspeople.

    I am over-the-top amazed you and like minded others do nothing to hold your neighbors accountable for creating this situation with voting him into office. The Mayor is no more than the designated tool of your neighbors. He gets to, and is expected to behave this way in order to serve their agenda. You and others think your neighbors are passive (labeled apathetic, unaware, etc.) members. OK. Why? Did you stop and think they are passive for other reasons? Maybe self-interested reasons. Maybe some reasons may have nothing to do with the public schools? I’m trying to catch you up.

    My observations above on the Mayor still stand. He is the perfect Mayor for the majority of residents of Montclair. And I have already addressed the commingled interests of the parents and the MEA.

    Today I would vote to keep our Type I School District…unless these concerned parents step up and demonstrate a change in their behavior and practices.
    I don’t see any distinct advantage to the Town to change to an Elected Board.

    Montclair is experiencing a rapidly increasing number of smaller dwelling units (both new & conversions) with a disproportionate number of these voting households that will not use the public schools. I don’t know how they would vote, even they would vote this year, or in subsequent years. All I know if our little town is growing up.