ORANGE, NJ — Thanks to the actions of the Orange Board of Education in May, its next election will be Tuesday, Nov. 6, the same day as the statewide general election.
“If a school board election is held in April, it is managed by the local school board. If the local school board decides to move its election to the November general election, then the election is run by the county election offices,” Essex County Clerk Chris Durkin, who is handling Orange’s Board of Education election, said Wednesday, Sept. 19. “Petitions were due on the last Monday of July and were submitted to the county Clerk’s Office. I held a ballot draw on Monday, Aug. 13.”
Frank Belluscio of the New Jersey School Boards Association concurred with Durkin.
“The 1995 statute placed the operation of all school elections — annual and special — under the auspices of the county clerks,” said Belluscio on Wednesday, Sept. 19. “School board nominating petitions for districts with November annual school elections are filed with the office of the county clerk.”
Oranges-Maplewood NAACP President Tom Puryear agreed with Belluscio and Durkin. He is a member of the statewide NAACP Education Committee, which has taken on issues of education, racial bias and discrimination in South Orange and Maplewood. His local chapter honored the Committee for an Elected Orange School Board with its 2018 Education Award at its 105th annual Freedom Fund Awards Banquet in West Orange on Sunday, April 29, in recognition of the grassroots organization’s work in changing Orange public schools from a Type 1 to a Type 2 district.
“Chris Durkin’s comments are aligned with state statutes,” said Puryear on Tuesday, Sept. 25. “The Orange Board of Education chose to move elections to November. By their actions, the OBOE denied citizens the opportunity to address the pending proposed school budgets, which is also consistent with statutes. To be clear: Citizens cannot vote to approve or reject a school budget, as long as the budget remains under 2 percent.”
“They did so vote,” said the Rev. Anthony Johnson of the Committee for an Elected Orange School Board, on Monday, Sept. 24. “By doing so, they took away the option of the citizens voting to approve or disapprove the budget. That can only happen in conjunction with a school board election in May.”
According to Durkin, the following candidates have submitted nominating petitions to run in the Orange Board of Education’s nonpartisan election for three-year terms of office on Tuesday, Nov. 6: Siaka Sherif; Derrick Henry, Brenda Daughtry, Hamza S. Agwedicham, Jarteau Israel and Rhoda O. Irodia.
Henry previously ran for and won a seat on the school board in March 2017, along with current board member Tyrone Tarver, before Superior Court Judge Tom Vena overturned that election and voided the results.
Vena’s decision led to the formation of the Committee for an Elected Orange School Board, which consulted with a private attorney and to come up with a referendum Vena approved, and which allowed a ballot question about changing from a Type 1 appointed school district to a Type 2 elected school district in the November 2017 general election. This resulted in 85.98 percent of voters choosing to change Orange from a Type 1 district to a Type 2 district.
A Board of Education election was then held Tuesday, March 13, to elect two new board members to increase the district policy-making body’s number from seven to nine members. Tarver received 270 votes and won the seat for a term of two years and eight months and Sherif received 247 votes and won a seat for a term of eight months.
Now Sherif will run against the other candidates for the three board seats available in the upcoming election Tuesday, Nov. 6. Henry said he’s running for the board to right the wrong that the judge committed when he voided the BOE election results that gave Henry a seat in March 2017.
“When the former (Committee for an Elected Orange School Board) filed for a board structure change, we had in our petition, as well for an April board election. The OBOE fought that,” said Henry on Monday, Sept. 24. “The thinking for grounds of contention is the district’s budget transparency. If we would have won the ruling for April, the budget would be open for public voting, too. If the election is in November, voters get to vote for the new members, but not the budget.”
“The OBOE did unanimously pass the resolution for a November Board of Education election. … The board needs to be fully given to parents and children of the district. Currently, there are still several of Warren’s appointments on the board, who voted to use our own tax dollars against us. We’re finishing what was supposed to be impossible: A citizen-led board that answers to its parents and voters.”
Attempts to contact current Orange Board of Education President Lydell Carter were unsuccessful by press time this week.