ORANGE, NJ — Orange voters went to the polls for a special election on Tuesday, March 13, electing Siaka Sherif and Tyrone Tarver to the two additional seats on the Orange Board of Education, now that the city has changed from a Type 1 District, in which the mayor appoints seven board members, to a Type 2 District, in which voters elect nine members.
According to the unofficial results of the Orange City Clerk’s Office, Sherif defeated Al-Nesha Jones-Holiday, 244 votes to 178 votes, to win the board seat with an eight-month term in office remaining. Sherif received almost 58 percent of the 426 votes cast, with four write-in votes.
Tarver defeated Antoine Hall and Stephen Folsom, 268 votes to 161 votes and 40 votes, respectively, to win the board seat with two years and eight months remaining, with one write-in vote; 470 total votes were cast.
According to the Orange City Clerk’s Office and Adekunle James, the OBOE business administrator and board secretary, of the 17,273 registered voters in Orange, 545 cast votes, including 42 absentee voters. Of the 891 unofficial ballots cast, 80 were absentee ballots.
The eight-month seat is necessary to bridge the gap in current OBOE members, until the next board election in November, when Sherif can run for a full term.
Neither Sherif nor Tarver could be reached for comment about their victories by press time this week.
Tarver was a member of the Committee for an Orange Elected School Board, which funded and championed the fight to change from a Type 1 to a Type 2 district, until he reportedly resigned to run for the longer term seat without any appearance of a conflict of interest.
On Monday, March 19, the Rev. Anthony Johnson, chairman of the Committee for an Orange Elected School Board, said, “The special election on March 13 put two independent citizens on the Orange Board of Education: Siaka Sherif for eight months and Tyrone Tarver for two years and eight months. This is a good start. I want to thank all five candidates for running. I also want to thank the Record-Transcript for its fair and comprehensive coverage of the referendum campaign and the special election.”
Johnson said that, although the special election has taken place, the struggle to reform the Orange School District continues.
“In November, Mr. Sherif will have to run for re-election and voters will elect two additional members,” Johnson said. “The work to shift the control of the board of education from the mayor to the citizens must continue. It is important that passionate, informed and energetic candidates step forward during the next three elections and that the voters educate themselves and go to the polls. It is important that parents and voters attend board meetings and give the board their input.”
Johnson said the Committee for an Elected Orange School Board will be active for at least three more election cycles, but urged Orange residents to take the baton of choice to ensure high quality, thorough and efficient education in the district.
“It is also important to determine if there is any recourse to reverse the mayor-appointed board’s high-handed action in moving the school board elections from May to November, thus denying citizens to vote on the budget each year,” he added. “Today, Monday, a city council member said to me that the citizens get to vote on the budget, if it exceeds the 2-percent cap. This may be true, but it’s beside the point. The size of the budget is not the central issue; the effectiveness of budget planning and the transparency of the budgeting process are the real issues.”
“On March 13, voters in Orange elected two independent candidates to the board of education,” Janice Morrell, a founding member of the Committee for an Elected Orange School Board, said Tuesday, March 20. “Their election reflects a good beginning of having board members responsible and responsive to Orange residents. We voters must persist in electing persons with various skill sets. With so many talented residents representing various occupations and skills in all of our wards, I look forward to the transition to a fully of a fully elected school board.”
“I encourage all residents to become involved in determining how quickly we move our district forward,” said Morrell. “For example, if we residents had been more involved, we could have assisted our board of education in establishing the S.T.E.M. Innovation Academy within the borders of our city before 2018. The only downside will be determined by our levels of vigilance and voting.”