IRVINGTON, NJ — Although Feb. 29 was the filing deadline to turn in nominating petitions for the April 19 Irvington Board of Education election, the three candidates backed by the Team Irvington Strong social and political organization were the only ones to file for the three open seats.
“There were no new petitions submitted to our office,” said Cathy Steele, the administrative secretary to the associate school business administrator, on Monday, Feb. 29, after the board offices had closed for the day. “The candidates are Luis Antilus, Joseph Sylvain and Richard Williams,” meaning Team Irvington Strong is running unopposed, as last year.
“I always thought the purpose of groups like ours was to be organized in advance,” said Mayor Tony Vauss on Monday, Jan. 11. “If you have a great organization, then these sort of things become second nature. We’re just focusing on our April school board elections, where Joseph Sylvain, Richard Williams and Luis Antilus are up for re-election. And of course our ward elections. Paul Inman, Sandra Jones, David Lyons and Vern Cox are all up for re-election.”
Inman, who represents the East Ward, is seeking re-election for a second term; Jones, who represents the South Ward, is a council veteran who has served for many years; and Cox, who represents the West Ward, is seeking his first full term after he was appointed to fill out the remainder of current council President Charnette Frederic’s term in 2014, when she won an at large seat as part of Vauss’ Team Irvington Strong mayoral slate.
“I’m an incumbent; I was appointed in August 2014 and elected to serve the remainder of Alnisa Owens’ term in 2015,” said Antilus on Tuesday, March 1. “Now, I am running to get a full three-year term. I believe it’s a great thing that we are running unopposed. People in the community are seeing that we are moving in the right direction. We’re doing what we need to do to keep our students competitive in the 21st century.”
Antilus also said he thinks the reason he, Williams and Sylvain are running unopposed this year is because Vauss is doing such a great job as mayor.
“Our mayor is doing a fantastic job in the township — cleaning up the township, providing security and stability,” said Antilus. “I think people realize that and that’s why no one is trying to challenge that and that’s the reason why we are running unopposed. We have many projects that we on the board are working on. One of them is preparing our children for the next PARCC tests coming up. Another is to get out children hands-on experience in the classrooms with labs to further their studies.”
Antilus said the board is also interested in partnering with the Irvington business community, “to mentor our children, as well as give them the experience they need to compete in the workforce. We are focusing on working with our superintendent to make the schools and the district the best that they can be. We were expecting someone to file to run against us, but since they didn’t, that’s a good thing.”
Williams is a former teacher and administrator in the Newark Public School District who served multiple stints on the Irvington Board of Education as a member of Team Irvington with now deceased council President and Essex County Freeholder D. Bilal Beasley. He ran for the North Ward seat on the Irvington Municipal Council in 2012, but lost to Councilman David Lyons, who, like Williams, is now a member of Team Irvington Strong.
“This will be my fourth time running for the (school) board and I’m happy to know the people have enough confidence in us,” said Williams on Tuesday, March 1. “We’re going to try and do our best. One of our focus is to make sure every kid in kindergarten and the first grade is reading on level. I think that will have a big impact, not only on the schools but on the city, because we will have less and less kids falling behind.”
Contrary to public opinion, Williams said there was some opposition to the Team Irvington Strong board slate in 2015. He said they didn’t turn out to be any real competition, but he gives anyone credit who runs for elected public office.
“There were three people that ran against the Team Irvington Strong slate in the Board of Education election last year, but they lost,” said Williams. “This year, we are running against failure. We’re trying to make sure we continue doing extremely well in our jobs. We want to make sure everybody in Irvington comes out to vote because I want everybody to be a part of the success that we have.”
Williams said he agrees with Vauss that everyone in town has vital role to play in the revitalization and renaissance of Irvington.
“The city is trying to make sure that everything is clean and safe. We’re trying to make sure that we stimulate intellect and move the city forward.”
Sylvain, another school board incumbent running for re-election, agreed.
“I’ve been on the board twice and I’m seeking a third term,” said Sylvain on Tuesday, March 1. “This coming election will be my third term. I was first elected in 2010. I came back in 2013. I was overwhelmingly elected the first time and the second time.”
It appears he will be re-elected overwhelmingly a third time since the three board members are running unopposed in April. According to Sylvain, this means there is no competition for Team Irvington Strong.
“I think it’s good news that we are running unopposed and I thank God for that, but I love to be challenged and I would not mind if someone had turned in petitions to run against us,” Sylvain said. “I think it will make our job easier, but I’m still going to run hard and do all the work that I need to do to get as many people to come out and vote as possible. Making sure our kids are prepared for college is my top priority. I am an advocate for our kids and education, because I believe that, without education, our kids won’t have a future.”
Sylvain said that’s why he is proud the Irvington Public School District is offering Advanced Placement classes to high school students for a second year, allowing students to earn college credits while still in secondary school.
“We’ve had Advanced Placement for kids in the high school that began last year and we have (them) again this year,” said Sylvain. “When you fight for something, you may not get the result overnight but, when you keep fighting, you will definitely get the result that you are fighting for. We are fighting for all of our Irvington students and we have seen some positive results.”