ORANGE, NJ — It was a tight race for Orange Board of Education this election season, with winners being split across slates. Incumbents Shawneque Johnson and Sueann Gravesande, along with challenger Tyrone Jon Tarver, won election to the board.
County Clerk Christopher Durkin certified the election on Nov. 17; all Essex County results listed came from the clerk’s website on Nov. 17.
As of press time, with all districts reporting ballot totals, Johnson received 2,464 votes, or 29.42 percent; Tarver received 2,035 votes, or 24.3 percent; and Gravesande received 1,407 votes, or 16.8 percent. Tarver, who has previously served on the BOE, ran a joint campaign with challenger Anthony S. Nimely, who came in a close fourth place with 1,306 votes, or 15.6 percent. Johnson and Gravesande’s running mate, incumbent Guadalupe Cabido, received 1,162 votes, or 13.88 percent.
“I would first like to express my gratitude to all of the wonderful residents whom my running mate, Anthony S. Nimely, and I had the great fortune of meeting and talking to while campaigning,” Tarver told the Record-Transcript. “Although it is of the utmost importance to be an active participant in our democratic process, for residents throughout all of Orange Township to take the time to converse with us and share thoughts, concerns and ideas was so humbling and inspiring.
“To the residents that cast their ballot for me to once again serve Orange as a school board member for our children’s educational system, I am so appreciative and do not take this appointment lightly,” Tarver continued. “I promise to continue where I left off when I last served and successfully contributed to the improvement of our district and children’s education.
“To the residents that did not vote for me, rest assured that my record as a previous board member shows that I am willing to put great effort into making sure that our children’s education improves and our district as a whole grows for the better. There is much work to do. But as I have done before, I will be focused, diligent, creative and successful in helping the district to become a better system when I begin my new tenure in January 2023,” he added.
When he takes office in the new year, Tarver said he is ready to address the improvement of instructional practices in the district.
“Raising our students’ level of academic achievement should always be at the forefront of our goals. Vetting and approving sound instructional plans has to be properly accomplished. Supporting teachers, staff, the administration and each other should be done in the most efficient and cooperative fashion,” Tarver said. “If our children are not guaranteed a minimum of a 12th-grade education and are not academically prepared for life after they become adults and contributors to society, then we as legislators, parents and Orange residents have fallen short.”
While Johnson did not respond to a request for comment by press time, Gravesande told the Record-Transcript that she hopes to see more community involvement in the district in the coming years.
“I would like to thank everyone who came out to vote, whether you voted for me or other candidates. I would have loved to see more than 29 percent of our registered voters exercise their democratic rights. We all need to be active participants in our community to enhance our student achievement,” Gravesande said. “I humbly ask you to please look at our school board meetings on Facebook Live every second Tuesday of the month, and on Channel 36 for Comcast customers from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Currently, we are a traveling school board, because we want to improve our relationship with our community.”
BOE meetings this school year will be held at Park Avenue Elementary School in December, Orange High School in January, Oakwood Avenue School in February, Forest Street Community School in March, Central Elementary School in April, STEM Innovation Academy of the Oranges in May, and Orange Preparatory Academy of Inquiry and Innovation in June.
“I look forward to continuing my focus on our students’ achievements by being data driven and research orientated with a collaborative spirit. I will continue to encourage our superintendent to conduct needs assessments to better serve our students, parents and staff. I have and will continue to research opportunities to fund initiatives that will enrich our students’ academic experience. And, I will continue to be your servant leader,” Gravesande said, adding that residents should feel free to email her at email@example.com to discuss district issues.