ORANGE, NJ — Essex County CThe Oranges-Maplewood branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People will host a Candidates Night Forum on Monday, Oct. 22, for the six candidates vying for the three available seats in the Orange Board of Education election in November.
“Our unit is planning on having a debate among the BOE candidates on the evening of October 22,” confirmed Orange-Maplewood NAACP President Tom Puryear on Monday, Aug. 27. “The location is St. Matthews AME Church. My notes do not have a specific time; however, I believe a 7 p.m. start will be listed.”
Puryear is also a member of the statewide NAACP’s Education Committee, which has taken on issues of education, racial bias and discrimination in South Orange and Maplewood, and his local chapter recently honored the Committee for an Elected Orange School Board with its 2018 Education Award at the 105th annual Freedom Fund Awards Banquet in April. The committee received the award in recognition of its work in leading the change in Orange from a Type 1 district to a Type 2 school district.
Janice Morrell, a member of both the Oranges-Maplewood NAACP and the CEOSB, agreed with Puryear that Orange’s current seven-member school board deliberately voted to have the upcoming election in November, in order to prevent people from voting on the annual Orange School District budget.
“The board voted to move the election to November, despite residents’ wishes,” said Morrell on Wednesday, Sept. 26. “The resolution included a clear statement affirming that residents wanted an April date to vote on the budget. … Appointed board members voted to prevent unfettered public scrutiny and vote on the budget. The struggle is now for control of the board. Change the majority of board members who then can vote for an April election in 2021 or 2022.”
According to Essex County Clerk Chris Durkin, the following candidates have submitted nominating petitions to run in the Orange Board of Education’s November election for three-year terms: Siaka Sherif; Derrick Henry, Brenda Daughtry, Hamza S. Agwedicham, Jarteau Israel and Rhoda O. Irodia.
“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,” said Durkin, who is handling the Orange BOE election, on 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. Voters will be asked to vote for three members for three-year terms in office.”
Puryear said Durkin’s plans “are aligned with state statutes.”
“The Orange Board of Education chose to move elections to November,” said Puryear on Tuesday, Sept. 25. “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.”
Rev. Anthony Johnson, another member of the CEOSB, agreed with Puryear.
“They did so vote,” said Johnson 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.”
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 CEOSB, which consulted with a private attorney to come up with a referendum Vena approved, allowing the ballot question about changing to an elected school district in the November 2017 general election, which passed.
In a school board election held Tuesday, March 13, to elect two new board members, Tarver won a seat for a term of two years and eight months, and Sherif won a seat for a term of eight months. Now Sherif will run against the other candidates for one of the three board seats available in the upcoming November election.
Henry is running for board transparency, he said 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.”
Attempts to contact current Orange Board of Education President Lydell Carter were unsuccessful by press time this week.