IRVINGTON, NJ — The Irvington NAACP hosted a Candidates Night Forum at Greater New Point Baptist Church on Paine Avenue on Thursday, April 7, for the three incumbent members of the Board of Education running unopposed for re-election on Tuesday, April 19.
“They are unchallenged,” said NAACP Vice President Kathleen Witcher, who moderated the forum. “We already know them, so they can take less time to talk about any plans, goals accomplishments that they want to share.”
Incumbent board members Richard Williams, Luis Antilus and Joe Sylvain had the opportunity to discuss their achievements as board members, as well as their future plans for when they are re-elected.
“I want to first thank the people that think we are doing such a good job that there was no reason for anyone to run against us in this election,” said Antilus on Thursday, April 7. “Our district will continue to do well. It’s no longer about coming to Irvington, spending a few hours, and not doing anything. We should have a new school soon. The good thing about it is it won’t cost us a dime.”
Antilus said the state is footing the bill for the scheduled new school. He also promised, “I will be here, if you have any questions.”
Antilus concluded his remarks by urging voters in the audience to “vote 1,2, 3” when they go to the polls. Sylvain spoke next and said his running mate had given voters good advice.
“Experience counts; I’ve been elected twice as a board member and I’m running for a third term,” said Sylvain. “We’re running, not just for our kids in Irvington, but in the (United States). I’m running to make sure the kids get the quality education that they deserve.”
Sylvain also said he’s running because he has a message for all Irvington public schoolchildren and their families: “God gives you a brain with the intelligence to do anything that you want to do.” He said once the students and their parents accept that message and buy into it, then the sky’s the limit.
“Listen to your teacher; follow their instructions; do what they tell you to do,” said Sylvain. “We are not inferior and we are not going to accept any teachers coming in here just for the paycheck and not for our kids. We are on our way to becoming fully successful.”
Williams said Sylvain was right to emphasize student achievement as the highest goal for a board member. As a former teacher and administrator in the Newark public school system, he said he has an intimate understanding of exactly what it takes to address and close the achievement gap that so many urban students are trying to bridge.
“We have been losing kids for some time to other districts,” said Williams on Thursday, April 7. “We need to get all our first-grade kids’ reading on level. I think our kids need to compete. The PARCC exam is supposed to teach kids the skills they will need to fit into the big, corporate world. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, because where else are they going to fit in?”