Former school board member Manny Martinez won a big victory on Election Day defeating incumbent Errol Kerr for an unexpired two-year term on the Board of Education. He hasn’t been sworn in yet leading some insiders to wonder why, for he won in a special election.
Some cited the victory Chris Gadsden, who ran for a city council seat in Jersey City last month, and was sworn in at once at the next council meeting. Others cited Michael Jackson, who won a special election last year for a city council seat, and was immediately sworn in at the council meeting following the election.
When asked when he will be sworn in, Martinez said: “I don’t know. I haven’t heard anything.”
School board president Christopher Irving gave a similar response. When asked whether those who win special elections should be sworn in immediately he said: “It’s a good question. We have asked. No one knows.”
Irving said he was told it should happen at the reorganization meeting, but was a little skeptical of that answer.
“New members to the board of education shall be sworn in at the organization meeting,” said Robert Murray, counsel for the Paterson Public Schools, citing state law. He cited a New Jersey statute that read: “Each board of education shall organize annually at a regular meeting held not later than at 8 p.m. at which time new members shall take office.”
Murray said the law does not distinguish between new members who won in special or regular elections.
The swearing-in process appears different for school board members who win in special elections compared to city council members. “I’ve heard different things about municipalities. We have many different types of government. School districts, it’s really the state. They are all the same,” said Murray.
Martinez will be sworn in with other board members in the January reorganization meeting. He was the highest vote-getter in the November election. He received 10,759 votes while Kerr secured 3,560, according to unofficial election results provided by city clerk Sonia Gordon.
Kerr received a farewell from his supporters and detractors after 10 years of service on the school board.
“We may not have always agreed on education policies, but you’re a man’s man, you are a true gentleman in every sense of the word,” said Irving on Wednesday night.
The longest serving board member Jonathan Hodges lost an ally on the board with Kerr’s departure. Kerr and Hodges often pushed the same policies. He said Kerr approached his duties on the board in a principled manner with great integrity.
Hodges said he will miss the back and forth debate with his longtime friend. He said both often engaged in contentious debates without jeopardizing their friendship.
“You will be greatly missed,” said board member Lilisa Mimms. “Sometimes voters get it wrong and they really did this time.”