Monday’s Achievement Gap Committee Meeting: Disrespectful Disruption By Michelle Fine’s MCAS Crowd

We received an email yesterday afternoon from a community member detailing some events that took place at Monday night’s Achievement Gap Committee meeting. We think the committee is important, and we think the events our tipster recounted are important and worth sharing.

We’d heard a similar story from a friend about the event, but thank the tipster for providing such a good write up of it for us to share. While we find the behavior extraordinary, it’s unfortunately also the sort of thing that’s become all-too-common here in Montclair from the MEA and their allies in MCAS: working to disrupt any sort of progress in order to score political points, rather than helping make things work. They don’t want to make things work, because for them this is about taking control of the system, and so they’re rooting for (and facilitating) failure. It’s truly shameful and disappointing behavior by them.

The committee is an impressively diverse group from the lists of folks we’ve seen that are involved, and the meetings are open to the public (we didn’t go to this one ourselves). 

We encourage everyone to read the story below – we think it’s extremely telling about their priorities, and more folks should know about the way their tactics are disrupting our town.   

Last night, the new Chair of the committee, Jonathan Simon. provided an impassioned speech to the Committee, stressing transparency, the importance of listening to each other – and a specific emphasis on address racial and economic equality.

He then handed it off to the two subcommittees to report back to the whole group on conclusions and ideas that have been developed over the last few weeks.

Starting off was Marcus Walton, who provided a refreshing and respectful presentation filled with valuable historical references on racial inequality.

In the middle of his wonderful, thoughtful and kind presentation, two of Michelle Fine’s Lieutenants – Marcella Simadiris and Kelly Sweatt walked in the meetings. 

They arrived at least 25 mins late.

Instead of sitting with the others who were not part of the Committee, they decided they should sit with the Committee, so in the middle of Mr. Walton’s presentation  they started moving chairs and disrupting the presentation.   So they sat with Committee members instead of in the back with the other non-Committee members.

After a few minutes, Ms. Simadiris and Ms. Sweatt asked Mr. Walton to stop his presentation so their questions could be addressed.

Mr. Walton was very accommodating.  He stopped his presentation and let them talk.

After over 20 minutes of their talking, the whole Committee began getting restless.  People on both sides of the issue urged Ms. Simadiris and Ms. Sweatt to please allow Mr. Walton to continue his valuable presentation.  Some member of the Committee were so upset at their rudeness they walked out of the meeting area. 

At one point Ms. Sweatt decided to lecture the whole group, stating that the group was not addressing racial issues.  She also stated that the group was not open to everyone and that the people on the Committee were selected. 

After that the Committee finally had enough of the disruption, many people on the Committee – black and white; conservative and liberal; men and women; let Ms. Sweatt know that: 

a.) Had she actually arrived on time, she would have heard Jonathan Simon’s beautiful introductory remarks that certainly reflected her opinions. 

b.) Committee members proactively explained that while the creation of the group was led by the Superintendent, anyone could join the Committee just by asking.

What happened next was most telling. 

Instead of continuing to listen to the Committee reports or possibly offer to join the Committee so they could engage and be part of the conversation, Ms. Sweatt and Ms. Simadiris did the most dishonorable thing, they got up and left!

What it proved to everyone in the room was that instead of being interested in finding solutions, they goal was to simply disrupt and discredit.  Based on their actions they showed they had no interest in listening to others, only themselves.  This is very similar to how Ms. Simadiris often speaks more than her allotted time during Public Comment of Board meetings, taking time away from others.

After they walked out some were noticeably shaken by the two of them.  People were upset at how incorrect their assumptions were about the Committee.  People were upset that  Ms. Sweatt and Ms. Simadiris sabotaged a great community dialogue.  People were upset that the time they spent dealing with them could have been spent dealing with the issues.  People were upset that they had no interest in being part of the conversation.  One person was so nervous by the actions of the two of them he mentioned it in his remarks during a presentation. 

It was a sad night for their tactics because it shows that the majority of this town, regardless of their stance on the issue, would rather work together, rather than to throw around lies.

Thanks again for sharing this story. We want to encourage anyone who has other stories or information to share to email us at

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