KIYC: Passaic City School Board sued over accusations it violated the state’s nepotism policy

A New Jersey attorney filed the suit on her client’s behalf after he failed to get a job in the district.

Walt Kane

Feb 14, 2024, 3:37 AM

Updated 156 days ago

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Is one of New Jersey’s largest school districts breaking state rules when it comes to hiring? A lawsuit alleges school officials in Passaic have a history of passing over qualified candidates in favor of relatives of school board members and administrators, in violation of the state-mandated nepotism policy.
Marvin Chambers is a security guard for the Passaic School District. He was hoping to move up the ranks, so he was excited to interview for the position of facilities coordinator, a position he’d held previously with Continental Airlines.
“When I left the interview, I said, ‘I got it’,” Chambers recalls.
He didn’t. And he was upset when he found out who did - the father of Passaic Board of Education member Christina Schratz.
“When you start working, you want a level playing field,” Chambers says. “That's all I've been asking for, a level playing field.”
Under New Jersey law, public school districts are required to have a nepotism policy that states districts are forbidden to “appoint a relative of a board member or administrator.” There’s only one exception - if the relative is the “only qualified and available person,” and the district obtains written permission from the County executive superintendent.
Attorney Nancy Lucianna says neither one of those criteria was met when it came to the position for which Chambers applied. She contends Passaic schools have a history of handing jobs to relatives of board members and administrators at the expense of other applicants. She is now suing the Passaic School District on Chambers’ behalf.
In a written statement, Passaic Schools Superintendent Sandra M. Diodonet stated that the district cannot comment on personnel matters, particularly when there is litigation involved, but added, “the Passaic Board of Education follows its policies in all personnel decisions, including its nepotism policy. The allegations made by Mr. Chambers are without any merit.”
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