JERSEY CITY, NJ - Two slates of candidates will be battling for control of the Jersey City Board of Education in this November’s election. Voters will go to the polls, or cast ballots, on Tuesday, November 3.
In something of a rematch from last year, “Change for Children” – seen as a progressive slate – will take on a team of candidates under the banner “Education Matters” backed by the Jersey City Education Association (JCEA), the union that represents teaching professionals in Jersey City’s public schools.
Union-backed candidates took control of the board two years ago and successfully removed Dr. Marcia Lyles; an unpopular schools’ superintendent installed by opposing members in 2011. Last year, some candidates for “Education Matters” accused “Change for Children” candidates of wanting to bring Lyles back, a charge they have refuted.
Running with “Education Matters” are incumbent Board President Lorenzo Richardson, Vice President Gina Verdibello, and Trustee Lekendrick Shaw. Verdibello, who ran and lost during three previous attempts, won a one-year term, along with Shaw, in 2019. Both are seeking three-year terms in the 2020 contest.
Meanwhile, the “Change for Children” slate includes formerly unsuccessful candidates Asheenia Johnson and Sonia Cintron, and newcomer Karen Poliski. If successful, the trio will join current members Alexander Hamilton and Noemi Velasquez who won last year, shifting the balance of the Board’s power to the slate.
Seen as a battle between corporate Jersey City and the District’s public employee unions, last year’s battle saw LeFrak – one of the biggest developers in Jersey City, dump hundreds of thousands of dollars into a super PAC, Fairer NJ in support of their preferred candidates.
The conflict may once again become heated since the fiscal conditions of the school district are even more dire as a result of state shutdowns due to COVID and the possibility of even deeper cuts in state aid to a district already facing $175 million in cuts over five years. The district is also facing a huge budget shortfall that may well likely result in layoffs and larger class sizes, as well as cuts in programs.
The City of Jersey City has already put the district on notice not to expect help from the payroll tax the city implemented two years ago to help make up for loss of state aid.
How schools officials get student learning back on track after the close down and the gradual reopening as a result of COVID-19 will likely become a key issue as will social justice concerns with community advocates continuing to point to the unresolved disparities that exist between schools in poorer neighborhoods and those schools in more affluent areas.
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