By Daniel Anderson
Incumbents nearly ran the table in Tuesday's three New Jersey school board elections in the state's largest school districts, winning seven of the nine seats up for election. Board members retained all three seats in Passaic, but retirements in Newark and Edison Township left a pair of seats vacant for the challengers.
All three elections also featured slates of candidates who filed joint candidate committees together. Slate members won eight of the nine seats available, with only one independent candidate winning a seat on Tuesday. Two competing slates in Edison Township included six of the eight candidates and claimed all three seats between them. An unnamed slate featuring incumbents Frank Heelan and Jerry Shi and newcomer Shivi Prasad won two of the seats, but Beth Moroney of the "Team E3" slate won the most votes of any candidate and prevented Prasad from joining the board. Moroney's fellow slate members, Kiel Thoms and Chang-Hui Shen, were unsuccessful and received the fifth and seventh-most votes, respectively.
Spotlight: Newark Public Schools
Beyond the two victorious incumbents, independent candidate Donald G. Jackson, Jr. won the third open seat over five other challengers in Newark. That included fellow newcomer Reginald Bledsoe, who lost by fewer than 100 votes. Bledsoe ran alongside incumbents Antoinette Baskerville-Richardson and Philip C. Seelinger, Jr. as part of the "Children First" slate endorsed by Newark City Councilman and mayoral candidate Ras Baraka. Since 2011, Baraka's "Children First" slates have won nine of the 12 seats that have come up for election. Fifth-place candidate and Democratic political operative Pablo Fonseca's daughter, Crystal Fonseca, ran a competitive campaign but failed to receive a spot on the "Children First" slate. When Baraka initially announced the slate, he acknowledged that she was under serious consideration for a spot in the 2014 slate and later suggested that she could appear on the "Children First" slate in 2015.
Baskerville-Richardson, Seelinger and Jackson all proclaimed support for local control of Newark Public Schools in a candidate forum held by the Newark Trust for Education on April 8, 2014. They also agreed that Superintendent Cami Anderson's "One Newark" reform plan should be opposed and that she should be removed as superintendent. However, they disagreed on how to replace her. Baskerville-Richardson and Seelinger's fellow slate member, Reginald Bledsoe, argued that the district should conduct a statewide search for her replacement with a focus on candidates experienced with urban education, while Jackson contended that the district would be best served by hiring an internal replacement with existing knowledge of the Newark school system.
- ↑ Junius W. Williams, The Star-Ledger, "The real lessons in Newark's school board election," April 24, 2012
- ↑ Alexandra Hill, WBGO 88.3, "Newark Schools "Children First" Ticket Victorious in Advisory Board Election," April 17, 2013
- ↑ Politicker NJ, "Baraka's School Board Slate Set," March 6, 2014
- ↑ Mark Bonamo, PolitickerNJ, "Baraka and Fonseca display unity at fundraiser in Newark's East Ward," March 12, 2014
- ↑ Newark Trust for Education, "At Forum, Newark School Advisory Board Candidates Show More Consensus than Contrast," April 16, 2014