The April 16th Newark school board race is turning out to be a snooze fest. Perhaps the absence of a ticket backed by North Ward Power broker Adubato can be the cause of the demure school board election, or maybe today’s armistice is tomorrow’s political conflagration.
With just five weeks left there are no tell-tell signs that an election is around the corner. Typically, by this time, mailboxes would be stuffed with campaign literature. Billboard adorned trucks with taped-on bullhorns would be trolling the streets reciting the august qualities of said candidates.
But this year-zip-nada!
Possibly, quiet enough for the Children’s First ticket to walk comfortably into their seats.
The Children’s First Team is a collaborative ticket, supported by Southward rivals, Shavar Jeffries, who has yet to announce his mayoral candidacy, and announced mayoral candidate Councilman Ras Baraka.
Given the rivalry and the inability of the two to agree, it’s a peculiar marriage of convenience.
Nevertheless, Jeffries said he is confident about the slate and “feels good about being part of a group effort in supporting a team that wants what is best for kids.”
Councilman Ras Baraka shared Jeffries’ sentiments, noting the team is a bonafide and strong slate.
During 2011, Baraka for the first time secured two seats on the Newark School Board with the election of possible 2014 Central Ward candidate Alturrick Kenney and School Board Chair Antoinette Baskerville-Richardson.
In 2012, Jeffries ran a Booker-backed ticket of seemingly qualified candidates, including attorney Miesel Valentine, who appears to be gearing up for a 2014 run; and grade school teacher Rashied McCreary, whose allegiance was qualified early in his tenure when he voted against Jeffries during a school board leadership vote.
These types of political arrangements, risky on their face, are in fact, not that uncommon. In Jersey City, Councilman and mayoral candidate Steve Fulop, allowed community members to vet and pick a slate of school board candidates. The Fulop collaborative-minded slate won three years consecutively.
Political bit bull Adubato has also supported collaborative slates. But what to make of his two-year absence from the school board election fight? Maybe he sees the writing on the wall: the state has no plans of relinquishing control, or perhaps he’s putting his chips on bigger fish.
Insiders say that both he and Councilman Anibal Ramos are focused on running Shanique Speight for November’s special election to fill the at-large seat vacated by U.S. Rep. Donald Payne, Jr. (D-10), pitting her directly against John James Jr., son of former Mayor Sharpe James.
One thing is for certain, the absence of an Adubato ticket has made this race overly unexciting, at least if you consider the dimensions of the “contest” in isolation from all the surrounding politics of past and future elections.
But there are other spots of light.
Independent candidate Sheila Montague says she is geared for this April’s school board race. Montague, a Speedway teacher and cancer survivor, says she is determined to give back what was given to her and do what is right for children.
She recognizes as an independent candidate that she has an uphill battle but says, “If she can battle cancer, she can too, battle the odds.”
Both Jeffries and Baraka, although not supporting Montague, note she is an amazing candidate, with whom they look forward to working in the future.
Currently there are six candidates on this year’s school board ballot.
1 Philip C. Seelinger Jr.
2 Khalil Sabu Rashidi
3 Ariagna Perello
4 Sheila Montague
5 Rashon K. Hasan
6 Gerrell Elliott
Nakia J. White is a Partner of Charter School Shared Services. She is a former Newark Advisory Board Member and Newark Planning Board Chairwoman. She holds an Executive MBA from Rutgers University, a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science from Montclair State University, professional accreditation in Digital Marketing from Rutgers University and professionally accredited in Real Estate and Construction from NYU.