MCAS’s “Local” Support: National Professional Activists and Union Organizers From Around the Country

The folks behind Montclair Cares About Schools have built their legitimacy on the veneer of grassroots credibility. The group frequently references the support it receives from “Montclair parents” on Facebook and its online petition. But we’ve never seen a list of who the members really were.

Of course, we know who the leaders are: professional activists like Michelle Fine and Maia Davis, who have used the group – as Michelle Fine admitted – to supplement and assist the efforts of the MEA in attacking the district. But the supposed grassroots membership? Opaque.

Don’t get us wrong, we’re sure there are folks beyond Fine and Davis. Like Ira Shor, who shows up to school board meetings and rants well beyond his allotted time, or Marcella Simadiris and Kelly Sweatt who disrupt Achievement Gap Committee Hearings. But who else? We decided to take a quick look at it and figure out what we could.

Now granted, we just used a bit of Googling, and our methods were definitely imprecise. But we think we’ve found enough to raise some serious questions about the grassroots credibility of MCAS. We’ve said before that the fight MCAS and its allies are engaged in wasn’t really about improving the Montclair schools. So it’s no surprise that many of the folks in MCAS…aren’t actually from Montclair at all.

Here are some of the members of MCAS. These folks? They all just happen to be professional union organizers and activists.

Daniel Esakoff, an organizer for AFT in New York


Daryn Martin, a controversial union organizer from Newark.


Deborah Cornavaca, Associate Director for Government Relations at the NJEA (not listed on her profile) from East Brunswick


And here’s a bunch more folks from the MCAS page who are from all around the country – California, Georgia, Washington D.C., etc. Without a doubt, the numbers of actual local supporters that MCAS has are significantly inflated. We just went through a small portion of the profiles to find these folks, but we’re pretty sure there’s plenty more like this. We googled some of these folks, and some like Mark Naison and Caroline Grannan seem to be national anti-education reform activists. As we’ve said before, it’s frustrating that Michelle Fine and her allies have brought that sort of national political fight to our town.

Andrea Spalla, Princeton, New Jersey

Caroline Grannan, San Francisco, CA

Diana Mtk Autin, Newark, NJ

Edwin Mayorga, NY, NY

Hilary Edwards, Santa Barbara, CA

Jacqueleen Gibbs, Newark, NJ

Jenni Chapman, Highland Park, NJ

Jennifer Proseus, Memphis, TN

Josephine Cooper, Fountainville, Pennsylvania

Kaleena Berryman, Newark, NJ

Kim Wei, Paterson, NJ

Leah Owens, Poughkeepsie, NY

Lisa Cody Winter, Basking Ridge, NJ

Mark Naison, Brooklyn, NY

Ricki Kaplan, Aventura, FL

Robert Valiant, Kennewick, WA

Sandra Mondecai, West Orange, NJ

Stuart Greenhouse, Highland Park, NJ

Sylvia Markarian, Moorpark, CA

TaRessa Stovall, Atlanta, GA

Theresa Runstedtler, Washington, DC

Veronica Branch, Newark, NJ


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