WEST ORANGE, NJ — We saw a heated West Orange Board of Education race this election season with six candidates running for just two open seats. But, at the end of Election Day, the incumbents had regained their seats. Incumbents Sandra Mordecai and Mark Robertson beat out challengers Steve Christiano, Sharon Sherman, Tanya Atterberry and Chris Diaz.
Results remain unofficial until verified by the Essex County clerk, Christopher J. Durkin.
According to the unofficial results, with 97.3 percent of the votes tallied, Sandra Mordecai led the pack with 5,535 votes, or 21.78 percent, and Robertson clinched the other open seat with 4,584 votes, or 18.04 percent. Losing the election, Christiano received 3,972 votes, or 15.63 percent; Sherman received 3,840 votes, or 15.11 percent; Atterberry received 3,746 votes, or 14.74 percent; and Diaz received 3,685 votes, or 14.5 percent.
The county clerk recorded 19.425 undervotes, which shows the number of votes left over when voters either voted for one candidate, but not two, or voted in an election on the ballot other than Board of Education. The clerk also recorded 124 overvotes, which shows the number of votes left over when voters voted for more than two candidates for the Board of Education.
There were 47 write-in votes.
In addition to feeling “blessed” at having won re-election, Robertson feels that the vote indicates that residents know he has tried to change things and is not responsible when things go wrong.
“I feel vindicated and validated because I know that, for the past three years, I have been an independent voice and advocate,” Robertson told the West Orange Chronicle in a Tuesday night phone interview. “I felt profoundly hurt that I was painted with the same brush as the rest of the board.”
Going into his second term, Robertson told the Chronicle that he intends to focus on taking care of teachers and managing the superintendent.
“We have to manage the one employee who in fact makes the day-to-day decisions in our district,” Robertson said. “And teachers need to feel valued, respected and heard.”
Robertson elaborated that he wants to work with teachers to incorporate their ideas into district policy; he also wants to ensure the teachers know their ideas are being used so they feel heard.
“Taking care of teachers and managing the superintendent are the two most crucial things,” he said.
Mordecai, who did not respond to requests for comment from the Chronicle by press time Tuesday night, has Certificated Board Member status and is a Master Board Member, a distinction she earned in 2015.
In an Oct. 20 sit-down interview with the Chronicle, prior to the election, Mordecai highlighted many of the things she had already done for the school district in her past two terms on the board, such as helping to get board meetings broadcasted, working to close the achievement gap through various initiatives and working to find efficiencies in the budget.
Going forward, Mordecai told the Chronicle that she would like to improve the school district’s sustainability and work with the township and other organizations to brand West Orange as “the township of innovation.” She also passionately described setting up a transitioning college and career fair for students with special needs and their parents or guardians.