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Late yesterday Montclair Public Schools District announced a settlement with the Montclair Education Association over the lawsuit filed by the district to get teachers to come to school: Elementary students will return to in-school instruction April 22nd pending several conditions, including shared information on cleaning protocols, giving teachers extra time for class preparation, agreements on start and end times of the day, and consensus on how to manage isolation rooms. This resolution follows a protracted battle between the district and 64% of Montclair parents who want their kids back in school and union resistance. (For details, see here.)
Montclair Local reports that over the 2020-2021 school year district enrollment has dropped by 459 students, or 7%, and half of those disenrolled students are elementary students.
Montclair Superintendent Jonathan Ponds issued this statement last yesterday afternoon:
The Montclair Public School District is pleased that the Montclair Education Association (MEA) has committed to in-person instruction at the elementary schools commencing on April 12. We will work collaboratively with the MEA during walkthroughs scheduled for the week of March 22 and provide them with the remaining items they requested.
Montclair Local reports that the MEA issued its own statement yesterday:
[MEA] didn’t assume the district had ‘nefarious’ motivations, ‘after all, it is not now nor has it ever been our goal to vilify or to be vilified.’ And it rejected characterizations of its dispute with the district as a ‘battle’ — saying ‘in fact, that type of rhetoric poisons the public and brings us further from restoration.’
The district had been slated to resume on-site instruction in late January but teacher union leaders told teachers to stay home. The district then filed a lawsuit against MEA, calling teachers’ absence an “illegal strike which prevents the public school district from educating its students in person as required.” There is an additional complication: the mayor of Montclair, Sean Spiller, is also Vice President of the New Jersey Education Association. And in Montclair the mayor appoints the school board. For more information, see NJ Education Report contributor Mike Lilley’s discussion of whether Spiller’s “dual role” in Montclair is a “massive conflict of interest.”
In addition, eight parents filed another lawsuit against MEA, which is still active. Spokesman Steven Baffico said he’s “glad there’s a settlement, but that there don’t seem to be many details available just yet, and he wonders why it will take weeks before students return.”