IRVINGTON, NJ — The Irvington NAACP hosted a Candidates Night Forum for the five men and women running to fill the three seats on the Irvington Board of Education in the upcoming Tuesday, April 17 election, but only two candidates attended.
According to Kathy Steele, assistant to Irvington board secretary and business administrator Reginald Lamptey, the five candidates vying for the three board seats are incumbents Melody Scott, Jamilah Beasley-McCloud and Ron Brown; and challengers Dave Pinckney and Tacuma Gora. Scott, Beasley-McCloud and Brown are running together on the Team Irvington Strong ticket, and Pinckney and Gora are running together on the Change is Coming ticket.
However, only Pinckney and Gora showed up the NAACP forum, although Brown is a member of the civil rights group. But Scott had an answer for their absences.
“We had another engagement,” said Scott on Friday, April 6. “We informed them very early on.”
Irvington NAACP President Merrick Harris did acknowledge that Scott, McCloud and Brown had informed him they would not be able to attend the forum due to a prior engagement, and confirmed that Brown is a NAACP member.
“We’re not going to kick them out of the NAACP for missing the forum,” said Harris on Thursday, April 5. “They did inform us they would not be able to attend, but we really would have liked to have them here. But we have written letters to all of the candidates that are running for council in the May 8 township election, inviting them to come out and speak with us at our next meeting on May 4, right before the election. We might even invite the mayor, too, even though he is running for re-election unopposed.”
But the meeting held Thursday, April 5, was all about the BOE candidates’ forum and, although their three opponents were absent, Pinckney and Gora made the most of their time in the voter spotlight that night. They said Irvington’s public schools have been “very bad for a long time” because “not enough money is getting to the classroom,” which begs the question: “Where’s the money going?”
Pinckney and Gora said the Irvington School District has long been mismanaged and, if elected, promised to get more technology into the classrooms, more after-school activities, more money for books and supplies, more teachers and smaller classrooms. They said Irvington students have finished in the bottom 1 percent in state tests for the last 10 years, “Yet the leadership who run the school system hired by the current board members are given raises for not educating our children.”
“Running for the Board of Education is definitely interesting and I’m learning new things,” said Gora on Thursday, April 5. “It’s definitely something that has changed the way that I look at things. I’d say this new place that I’m walking toward was previously unseen to me.”
Pinckney said he’s running for the board to start a movement for positive change in the schools and in Irvington in general.
“I’m not only just running for the Board of Education; I’m running to start a movement here in Irvington to actually start changing the entire town,” said Pinckney on Thursday, April 5. “I also teach constitutional law. The Founding Fathers set up a system where a few people can affect the system. It does not take a whole lot. A few people who know what they’re doing can affect the system and this is the first step going forward.”
Pinckney also reassured the NAACP membership that he’s dedicated to changing Irvington for the better, whether or not he wins a BOE seat.
“I’m going to let you know I’m going to be here the day after the election and I’m going to be here the month after the election and the year after the election,” Pinckney said.