A judge on the Essex County Superior Court ruled late yesterday that NJEA Secretary/Treasurer Sean Spiller is ineligible to serve on the Montclair Board of Estimates that approves the local district’s school budget. Judge Thomas Moore ruled that Spiller’s top role with New Jersey’s largest teacher union and his power to make fiscal decisions about members of that union were “incompatible.”
From the Wall St. Journal:
“The dual service to the NJEA and to the people of Montclair…creates an undeniable potential for conflict,” the judge said, adding that such conflicts undermine public confidence in governing bodies…The court battle exemplified tensions nationwide between teachers unions and critics who say unions use their political might to advance their own needs over children’s.The suit to oust Spiller was pressed by an organization called Montclair Kids First and litigated by Shavar Jeffries, who now serves as President of Democrats for Education Reform. A former president of the Montclair School Board said, “It’s time for Mr. Spiller to move on and stop putting the town through this.”
Here’s the statement released yesterday by Montclair Kids First:
The ruling by Judge Moore was clear - as the NJEA’s third ranking official and a highly paid executive of the teachers union and its affiliates, including the Montclair Education Association, Sean Spiller should have never been appointed to the Board of Estimates, let alone played a major role in determining how Montclair spends its school dollars. The ethical conflict is palpable and does a great disservice to all the public school students in Montclair.
After numerous complaints, questions and personal conversations with Montclair parents and members of the Town Council, Mr. Spiller had the opportunity to do the right thing months ago, but he chose not to.
Instead, Mr. Spiller used his union’s own high priced lawyers to challenge our community and put our town through yet another law suit all to support the single interests of the NJEA.
Montclair is not laughing, hugging or hi-fiving with this ruling. Mr. Spiller provided statements to the press that were factually incorrect. As the summary indicates, Mr. Spiller used his role to assist his own political motivations, raise campaign contributions, and undermine our town’s education priorities. This is not a day for celebration.
The one good thing that comes from today's ruling is awareness that our system can be fixed.
Today’s ruling showed that the voice of parents and the interests of kids must be always more important than the special interests or the political ambitions and ideology of any one person. While Mr. Spiller has lived in Montclair only a short period of time, he and his union should have known better. Hopefully this ruling will serve as a strong signal to the special interests that Montclair is not and never will be for sale. We thank Judge Moore for his fairness, listening to the actual facts and ultimately doing right by our kids and the values of our community.