Second Ward Councilwoman Robin Schlager was hired as a secretary for Montclair Public Schools in August. (FILE PHOTO)

By TALIA WIENER
wiener@montclairlocal.news

Montclair Councilwoman Robin Schlager has been hired as a secretary by the township’s public school system.

As a councilwoman, she voted on three matters regarding the school system during the time between June 14, when she first applied for the job, and Aug. 16, when the Board of Education hired her with an effective date of Aug. 23. That included the council’s final vote authorizing the school budget on July 20, after it was previously approved by the township’s Board of School Estimate in April.

But Schlager told Montclair Local she did so only after consulting with the township attorney, “who advised that there was no conflict of interest or ethical reasons why I could not vote.”

Schlager had also been a member of the BoSE until recently, but stepped down in August a few days after being hired by the district. The BoSE didn’t meet during the time she was an applicant.

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“It was important to me to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest, which is why I sought legal guidance and also made the decision to resign from the Board of School Estimate,” she said.

Also on July 20, Schlager voted for a shared services agreement between the township and Montclair Board of Education for a school resource officer. On Sept. 21, she voted in favor of a refunding ordinance for several township bonds, including a school improvement bond first issued in 2014.

Voters this Election Day opted in a referendum to change Montclair’s style of school district from a Type I system with a mayor-appointed school board to a Type II system with an elected board. Under the Type I system, Montclair also had the separate BoSE, which approved school budgets, and which fixed costs for capital improvements before sending them to the Township Council to take out bonds. Under the Type II system, the Board of Education will generally approve its own budgets, or send them to voters if they exceed a state cap on year-to-year property tax growth. Voters will also decide in referendums whether to approve bonds for capital improvements, and the BoSE will be dissolved. 

Three council members serve on the BoSE. Schlager’s first meeting with the BoSE was Oct. 26, 2020, according to meeting minutes posted on the school district website. 

Schlager’s new position has an annual salary of $64,836, according to board meeting documents. 

Township Communications Director Katya Wowk said Schlager submitted a letter of resignation from the BoSE Aug. 19 (Schlager put the date at Aug. 20 in her message to Montclair Local). She was replaced by Fourth Ward Councilman David Cummings at the Sept. 28 Township Council meeting.

The BoSE met only once since reviewing the school budget this spring — on Sept. 30, to consider a proposed capital improvement project.