Candidates prepare for Orange BOE special election

ORANGE, NJ — The Radical Orange youth social and political advocacy group has organized an Orange Board of Education Special Election Forum at First Unitarian Church of Essex County on Sunday, March 12, from 4 to 6:30 p.m., for the 19 candidates vying for the two available board seats on the Orange Board of Education. Radical Orange organized a Mayoral Candidates Forum at the same site last year ahead of the 2016 non-partisan municipal election.

When Orange voters go to the polls on Tuesday, March 14, from 1 to 8 p.m., they will be selecting two new members of the BOE, increasing the number from the current seven to nine, as the state requires in a Type 2 district.

Up for vote are two terms — an eight-month term and a term of one year and eight months.

The candidates for the shorter term are: Derrick Henry; Pat Arthur; John Lasell; Fred Vandermeer Jr.; Mia Garrett; Francenria E. Moore; Courtney J. Thomas, and Tisa Singleton. The candidates for the longer term are: Rev. Anthony P. Johnson; Thomas M. Wright; Tyrone Tarver; Celeste Newell; Hashim Garrett; Marie Y. Celestin; Terri A. Jackson; David Wright; Elroy A. Corbitt; Rachel G. Archelus and, Melissa Kollar.

On Wednesday, March 1, Orange West Ward Councilman Harold J. Johnson hosted an informal candidates’ event at his home, and invited everyone on the ballot to introduce themselves to him and other members of the Orange Democratic Committee.

“I would like to thank the organizers of this event for providing a platform for all of the candidates,” said Johnson on Tuesday, March 7. “Now we need parents and the community to come out and be a part of democracy in action. Power to the people.”

Unfortunately, some of the candidates, such as Singleton, were unable to attend the impromptu Orange Democratic Committee event because they were otherwise occupied actually working with students at district events, but others such as Rev. Johnson did participate.

“Where I grew up, we always had an elected school board and I think we can do a better job in Orange in serving all of the children,” said Rev. Johnson, 67, on Monday, March 6. “What we have an opportunity to do is elevate the discourse in Orange by bringing new people in and getting them involved in our children’s education. I want the city to thrive and I’m saying the schools can be better than they are and as good as our parents and students need and want them to be.”

But Rev. Johnson also said, “I know that these schools are not as bad as people from outside of Orange think they are, but they’re still not as good as they need to be.” He said he believes he is the right choice for the longer term because, “For me, this is not a stepping stone to a political career.”

If Rev. Johnson does get elected, he would be the first member of the clergy on the Orange Board of Education since Bishop Reginald Jackson of St. Matthew AME Church’s term, who was an appointed member years ago.

Corbitt, a former at large city councilman and council vice president, also said he doesn’t view serving on the Orange Board of Education as another notch on the belt of his political career, since he’s already been a member of the city’s governing body, which most aspiring politicians traditionally see as the goal, after serving on the board.

“I’m a former member of the Orange Board of Education; it’s where I got my start in politics,” said Corbitt on Monday, March 6. “I learned so much and met many people. I adore the city of Orange and its citizens. I would like to continue to serve in any capacity I can.”

Corbitt said he’s running for longer term because he, “saw a real opportunity to work with an individual or individuals with a keen sense of management, getting the most out of people and getting things done with minimal resources.”

On the other hand, Henry is making his first-ever run for elected public office by seeking the eight-month seat.

“I find the entire process bittersweet,” Henry said Tuesday, Feb. 7. “I’m happy to be No. 1 on the March 14 ballot, but I’m frustrated, because of the political imbroglio regarding our right to vote being jeopardized by the same BOE that will claim to represent the best interests of the children and their parents.”

Watts said she’s running for the shorter term because she is “a concerned parent” and “parents have a lot more interest in education than some of the people on the current board that don’t have (anyone) going to the schools.”

And Singleton said Saturday, Feb. 4, “This is the first time I’ve ever run for public office because I feel I am not a politician. I heard that the election was canceled one minute, then yesterday, we had the (ballot) drawing. … There are two open positions right now. We really want people on the board that care about the students. We really want people on the board that have a vested interest in our children for education.”