NEWARK, NJ - The three school board members voters elect in April will be tasked with ensuring the district wraps up the last requirements still remaining from the state’s nearly 25-year takeover.
Ten of the 11 school board candidates made their case to potential voters last night at the Bethany Baptist Church for the pivotal election on April 16. The importance of this year’s election was not lost among candidates or voters either.
“I can't even begin to tell you how delicate and how important this election really is,” said Tave Padilla, who is running for re-election, to a packed room. “We have a Newark [born] superintendent. The next three that are on there, when the walls come down [January] 2020 -- we will be the ones that will control.”
While local control was given back to the school board on Feb. 1, 2018, a state monitor will still remain until Jan. 31, 2020 to ensure the district fully complies with budgeting practices, policy-making, and communication.
Voters will also approve the district's budget after the school board determines it. That responsibility was given to voters in November when they overwhelmingly chose to have a Type II district. The language of the ballot question is still forthcoming, school board officials told TAPinto Newark.
Two main teams consisting of three candidates are vying for three-year terms on the board. The five other candidates did not publicly align themselves with any slate and appear to be running independently of each other.
The Children Over Politics team consists of newcomers Saafir Jenkins, Denise Cole, and school board incumbent Leah Owens.
Jenkins works in human resources and financing for the healthcare industry; he also works for the Newark Special Education Parent Advisory Council. Cole is an Army Reserve veteran and has worked as a substitute teacher for NPS. Owens is a professor at Essex County College and is working towards her doctorate.
Owens told TAPinto Newark she isn’t opposed to charter schools or Newark Enrolls, a controversial online portal that allows parents to apply to both charter and traditional public schools. She called for an impact study to see how charters have affected the district.
"We will not, in my opinion, have full local control unless we have power over our destiny and that means us being able to approve or disapprove the continued growth of charters in this district,” Owens said during the debate.
Her running mate, Cole, showed interest in beefing up the curriculum at Newark Public Schools by partnering with charters too.
The Moving Newark Schools Forward team consists of newcomers Shayvonne Anderson, A'Dorian Murray-Thomas and incumbent Padilla. Their slate is endorsed by the mayor and several city council members, including North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos.
Anderson is the founder of Healing Her, a woman's abuse support organization, while Murray-Thomas is the 23-year-old founder of a leadership organization that works with teens known as SHE Wins Inc. Padilla works for the North Ward Center and is the former chief of staff to state Assembly members Wilfredo Caraballo and Nellie Pou.
Padilla said after the debate that he was for keeping Newark Enrolls since he didn’t receive much parent feedback complaining about the system.
“My stance with charters: They're here to stay,” Padilla told TAPinto Newark. “NPS is growing, okay? And it's a choice. Charters are a choice. If a parent chooses to send their daughter or their son to a charter school then so be it.”
He later added: "As far as doing anything to try to hurt or eliminate any charters, I'm not for any of that.”
The other candidates who are running include Maggie Freeman, Priscilla Garces, Yolanda Johnson and Arlene J. Ramsey. Denise Crawford is also running but did not attend the debate.
Kim Gaddy’s seat is up for election this year, but she did not run.
Other candidate's forums will be held at Rutgers University - Newark from 6 to 8 p.m. on March 28. The Newark Trust for Education will host another debate at Rutgers-Newark from 6 to 8 p.m. on April 2.
Watch the full debate that was hosted by the Newark NAACP: