While Mayor Cory Booker advocates for education reforms, he is largely absent from the mechanical politics of school board elections this year, which means that tickets backed by Steve Adubato in the North ward and Councilman Ras Baraka in the South Ward are heading straight for each other in a classic civil war scenario come April.
With that showdown brewing over Newark’s educational future, the powerful Adubato, his protege, state Senate Education Chair M. Teresa Ruiz (D-Newark) and an entourage of other North Ward allies last night surprised some of Baraka’s South Ward friends when Adubato attended Baraka’s state of the ward speech as if nothing were amiss.
A win by Adubato’s For Our Kids ticket would lock up the school advisory board in his favor and give the power player supremacy over schools.
A Democratic Party ally of Gov. Chris Christie’s who favors more charter schools and urgent school reforms, Adubato backs a ticket formed of Eliana Pinto Marin, Tave Padilla and Dr. Chris T. Pernell. The North Ward Democratic leader founded the Robert Treat Academy, a charter school and Blue Ribbon recipient for educational excellence.
The principal of Central High School in addition to serving as South Ward Councilman, Baraka backs a trio of candidates called the Children’s First Team running on a mantra of local control.
Last night in his State of the South Ward address, Baraka denounced the Booker administration for helping to furnish a foundation-financed $500,000 contract for a private company to outlay a future for Charter School education.
As Booker continues to mostly float above the connecting points in school board politics, satisfied to drum up foundation funding for school projects and eat the ground-level political fallout, Advisory Board Chairman Shavar Jeffries appears to be the politician most obviously caught between the undercurrents of both Baraka and Adubato.
Running on a slate backed by Adubato, the Seton Hall Law University professor from the South Ward – and, according to most Newark insiders, a future candidate for mayor – was the top vote getter in last year’s school board elections. Sources say that now, against the backdrop of the Adubato versus Baraka civil war, Jeffries must join one side or the other, or carve out his own independent strength to survive as the starkl;y defined forces clash.