Vote Montclair was the group that worked to get Montclair’s Board of Education to change from appointed to elected and saw two candidates it endorsed get elected to the BOE. But its founder, Montclair parent Erik D’Amato has inexplicably destroyed the organization with just a few keystrokes.
In an opinion piece entitled “This Is How Montclair Mayor/NJ State Teachers Union President Sean Spiller Was Humiliated at the Ballot Box,” D’Amato lashes out at Montclair teachers with seniority, saying that in Montclair “truly toxic senior teachers were seen as untouchable.”
D’Amato makes references to one of Montclair’s most beloved current teachers and cast aspersions on a former teacher and BOE candidate. The piece was published Monday, less than a week after the first-ever election for Board of Education members took place.
“I have no idea why, after winning an election, you would go after two well regarded educators who devoted their lives to Montclair school children,” says Cary Chevat. Chevat, who serves as secretary for Montclair Democrats as well as of the Montclair branch of the NAACP, added he was only voicing his personal opinion, not that of any these organizations.
“Any good will this group had developed has now evaporated with D’Amato’s comments. People associated with this group now have to reevaluate what the cost of this association will be,” Chevat added.
In August 2020, D’Amato told Baristanet he was not “connected to any education reform group, but rather is interested in this issue [an elected BOE], as well as a larger, related issue — increasing participation and voter engagement in town.”
In an October 2021 opinion piece on Baristanet, D’Amato spoke of how an elected Board of Education could “repair and lift up Montclair,” but his post Monday, on an education blog known for being critical of teachers’ unions, has only served to create division and destruction.
The two candidates endorsed by Vote Montclair call the organization “defunct” and denounced D’Amato’s comments in this statement:
Erik D’Amato does not speak for Phaedra Dunn, Melanie Deysher nor anyone else who was involved with the now defunct Vote Montclair. Nor do his opinions or views reflect that of anyone that was affiliated with Vote Montclair.
It is generally not our style to address people or matters that are loud and wrong, however this time we find it appropriate, because there is so much at stake. First and foremost no one speaks for either of us, we each solely speak for ourselves, unless like in this instance we speak together.
As people who are builders of consensus, who often represent disenfranchised voices, it is important that we state with conviction, that what was said was; tasteless and out of line and again, does not reflect any of our opinions, views or values. We stand by our teachers and believe that teachers should have a voice and a seat at the table.
We never imagined a time where we would ever have to make a statement of this nature, most especially when we thought we were coming together with, neighbors/people who wanted to impact change. We were being idealistic in nature, and we have learned a hurtful and valuable lesson.
As long as people sit behind cell phones and laptops and spew commentary with broad and sweeping generalizations, lacking factual information; we will never get anywhere as a society.
We as your neighbors and fellow community members apologize for the hostile and hurtful comments made by this individual.
Phaedra and Melanie