The city council plans to urge the commissioner of education to return the school board elections back to April, according to a resolution before the governing body. The resolution states the Board of Education supports the move, but school board president says the board is fully against it.
School board president Christopher Irving said the board does not support moving the elections from November to April.
“Is he the board of education?” remarked McKoy when told the board president says the board is opposed to the measure. “It has support.” He would not name the board members who he says support the measure.
“I called the majority of the board and uniformly six of them are firmly against this move,” said Irving. He said the council cannot change the election through a resolution because of a moratorium that renders any action taken to change elections from November to April between June 1st, 2016 and May 31st, 2018 as invalid. The resolution acknowledges the moratorium and urges New Jersey education commissioner Kimberley Harrington to intervene.
“The passing of a local school board resolution is required to move school elections,” said David Saenz, spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Education. He also pointed to a law passed last year that prohibits school districts from moving elections back to April for a two-year period.
The school board president described the measure as “flawed” and “deceptive” for having a clause that states the school board supports the move when majority of the members are opposed to it.
“If that statement is incorrect, we can change it,” said McKoy.
“It’s irresponsible. It’s shortsighted. And it’s clearly being done to serve the purpose of a specific board member,” said Irving referring to Jonathan Hodges, the longest serving member on the board. “It’s a unilateral resolution submitted by councilman McKoy to do the bidding of other board members who he may be supporting in a future election. I’m really disappointed at the council for entertaining this.”
Hodges said he supports the measure. He was opposed to moving the election to November in 2013 and has lobbied to return it to April ever since. “I want the political influence out of it,” he said. “Look at what happened in the last school board election.”
The last election saw historic spending and questionable political conduct by candidates.
The council president said the alignment of members on the board is a “danger” to education and taxpayers. “We see party affiliation is more important than educational knowledge. You need to remove the machinery from the board of education because it leads to problem,” he said. Irving is closely connected to the Passaic County Democratic Party.
A former school board member himself, McKoy said this is the sort of behavior that resulted in the state takeover 25 years ago. “The last thing we need is some folks worried about adult’s interest rather than student achievement and student growth,” he said. He alleged board members are using their seats to secure jobs for themselves in return for voting a certain way.
“I’m insulted he’d bring that up,” said Irving when told of the allegation. He said there’s an additional expense to holding elections in April. Returning the election to April will disenfranchise the thousands of people who vote for school board candidates in the November election, he said.
Hodges has argued small time, educationally minded candidates unconnected to a major political party have little chance of winning elections in November. Irving said those candidates need to get better at running campaigns.
Irving said he has been successful in both the April and November elections.
The council will take a vote the measure on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017.