HACKENSACK, NJ -- Just when the dust begins to settle from one Hackensack election, another has appeared on the horizon and it has caused a significant political realignment in the city.
Board of Education President Lara Rodriguez announced yesterday that she is joining new candidates Michael Scott James-Vickery and Ira G. Goodman on the Smart Schools Team in the upcoming Board of Education election.
In January, Hackensack Smart Schools Inc. led the fight against a proposed $170 million school bonding referendum, which was overwhelmingly rejected by residents, but not before causing infighting among members of the Board of Education, and the Mayor and City Council.
Now the April 16 election for three three-year terms to the BOE will pit Board President Rodriguez against its Vice President Timothy Hoffman, who is running with a new slate of candidates.
Rodriguez had planned on running for re-election alone, but says she is very pleased to join the Smart Schools Team which is also expected to be supported by City Council members. In 2017 she led a ticket running against those same Council members aligned with Mayor John Labrosse, falling short in a heated election.
“We don’t agree on everything but we do agree on the most important issues,” says Rodriguez. “We know that our schools are in need of major physical and technology upgrades. We know that our children deserve better and we are committed to working together to meet their needs in a manner that has the least impact on taxpayers.”
Rodriguez is a 24 year local resident, a Rutgers graduate, a school parent and middle school PTA member and the Clerk to the Bergen County Board of Freeholders.
James-Vickery holds a Master’s Degree in Education with a focus on Special Education. He was a teacher for ten years in Mississippi before bringing his family to Hackensack seven years ago. He has three children in city schools and has been a strong advocate for children with special needs for his entire career.
Goodman is a 17 year local resident with a strong technology background that will be a great asset to the school district. He earned a Master’s in Business Administration in computer technology and is a former software company Vice-President who led a team of technical support engineers for many years.
James-Vickery and Goodman had originally teamed with Hackensack Soheila Spaeth, but earlier this month a judge determined that Hackensack had not been her primary residence for a year before the April election. Spaeth is challenging this ruling in court, claiming that despite her voting address being out of the city, that is a vacation home that she spends a minority of her time in, and is extremely involved in the Hackensack community.
Hoffman is running on Column 2 with running mates Yvette Washington Irving and Basim Ahmad as the “For Hackensack’s Future” Team. Like James-Vickery and Goodman, Washington Irving and Ahmad have never held office before.
Rodriguez will appear on Column 1, while her running mates will appear on Column 3.
Deputy Mayor Kathleen Canestrino said she believes the Smart Schools Team is the clear choice to bring new and effective leadership to the schools for both students and taxpayers. “Councilwoman Stephanie Von Rudenborg and I have met with Lara numerous times over the past year and have formed a very good working relationship,” says Canestrino. “We share a lot of the same goals and ideas and we are all pragmatic people who understand that city and school officials must work together to get things done without unnecessary expenditures and within budget guidelines.”
Voters will elect three members of the nine-member Board of Education on April 16.