ORANGE, NJ — The Orange Citizens Action Group will host the second of its Candidates Night forums on Sunday, Oct. 28, at the Valley Arts building on South Jefferson Street in the Valley section of the city, for the six candidates running for the three seats available in the Orange Board of Education election on Tuesday, Nov. 6.
According to Essex County Clerk Chris Durkin, the six candidates who submitted nominating petitions to run in Orange Board of Education election are: Siaka Sherif, Derrick Henry, Brenda Daughtry, Hamza S. Agwedicham, Jarteau Israel and Rhoda O. Irodia.
The Rev. Anthony Johnson of the Orange Citizens Action Group said all six candidates were invited to participate in both Orange Citizens Action Group forums. The other members of the group are: former Zoning Board member and 2016 mayoral candidate Janice Morrell, attorney Jody Leight and Lynn Bollow.
“The Orange Citizens Action Group is committed to voter education and outreach. It does not endorse candidates for election,” said Johnson on Monday, Oct. 8. “All six candidates for election have been invited to participate. We have given the candidates the same three questions to answer briefly in writing, for a brochure that will allow voters who do not attend the forums to know what the candidates think about the key issues. If a candidate does not answer before the brochure goes to press, the failure to answer will be noted in print.”
Despite Johnson’s warning, only five of the six candidates showed up at Epiphany and Christ Episcopal Church on Main Street on Saturday, Oct. 13, to participate in the first Orange Citizens Action Group forum. However, incumbent board member Sherif and newcomers Agwedicham, Daughtry, Henry and Irodia attended and answered questions from the Orange Citizens Action Group Candidates Forum brochure, including: What motivates you to become a board member; what qualities, behaviors should board members exhibit; and what kind of relationship should a school district and board members have with the community, parents and families?
They also answered other questions from Leight, who served as the moderator, and from Morrell and Bollow and other members of the small audience attending, such as: Have you ever served on any other boards in Orange or outside of Orange; are you familiar with our state testing; how would you best serve or advocate for immigrants or undocumented students and parents that attend Orange schools; do you have children attending Orange school system and, if so, do you participate in PTA or are you a member of the PTA; what are the current challenges facing Orange education and the school board; do you understand the role of the superintendent and, if so, describe the superintendent’s role; what is your vision of Orange Township’s education in this community; how can the board see to it that Orange students with special needs get what they need; and what would you most like to accomplish if elected?
Bollow asked: “Outside of the curriculum, what do you think about getting more arts and culture into the schools for the kids, like African dancing?” Morrell, on the other hand, asked if it would be possible to have more interaction between Orange public school students and “childless, high-tax-paying residents.”
“There is a lot of talent in Orange,” said Morrell on Saturday, Oct. 13. “As prospective board members, can you offer some suggestions as to how to engage some of the residents who are retirees or some of the residents who are childless?”
Leight, Morrell, and Bollow said there was a method to their questions to and for the candidates on Saturday, Oct. 13, and that will also apply to the forum on Sunday, Oct. 28.
“I thought there was great audience engagement,” said Leight on Saturday, Oct. 13. “I was impressed with the level of involvement with the candidates. I want to do more for the next forum, to get the word out about the next forum, because more citizens need to know what’s going on.”
Bollow echoed Leight’s sentiments.
“I thought today was very informative,” said Bollow on Saturday, Oct. 13. “I think we’ve got some strong candidates. I thought they answered some great questions and came with fresh ideas. I was impressed.”
Leight said the forums are part of the Orange Citizens Action Group mission.
“The Orange Citizens Action Group is a citizens group in Orange that is trying to promote voter registration and education and participation,” said Leight. “And not just the Board of Education, but for the benefit of all Orange citizens, so we have transparency in government and the citizens are informed and able to exert the kind of influence needed to bring Orange up to where it ought to be.”
Morrell said the group is looking for concerned Orange citizens to join them and help make the city better in perpetuity, not just the upcoming election.
“We’re expanding. We’re looking for more members,” said Morrell. “We have a lot to do in this town. The Y is a hot button right now, because now you’re talking about an additional $5 million to $7 million, on top of the $2.5 million that was spent. You’re also talking about the Lincoln Avenue development or redevelopment idea that has been poorly explained to date and it’s still in flux and the city looks like it’s being asked to float some money there. And we’re also talking about the relocation of Rossi Paints store.”
“I’m a taxpayer. I’m a homeowner in the city for 11 years and I’m unhappy with some of the things that are going on in the city and it’s just a matter of being proactive and making some changes,” said Bollow. “I’m here to stay and I want to see the city change for the better, because I know we can. I’m here and I want to see Orange move forward and I think we can, because we’ve got some bright minds and we’ve got people here who want to see things improve and we can.”