The school board selected Vincent Arrington, a tech wiz with close ties to assemblyman Benjie Wimberly, to fill the seat vacated by Christopher Irving on Wednesday night.
Arrington was selected in a 7-1 vote over three other candidates — Corey Teague, Stacey Coleman, and Mosleh Uddin – following a public interview process. School board member Jonathan Hodges was the sole vote against him.
“This has been a lifelong dream,” said Arrington, 50, after being sworn-in by superintendent Eileen Shafer. “I wanted to expand my footprint in the community.”
School board members cited his experience in project management and technology to argue he was the right person for the position.
“We want to move all of our schools to the 21st century,” said school board president Oshin Castillo.
Kenneth Simmons and Flavio Rivera argued the district could have avoided problems with complicated educational software packages if there was more oversight from a tech savvy school board.
“He’s the best candidate at the moment. He’s what I feel we need in the district right now,” said Rivera of Arrington.
Not everyone agreed.
Hodges nominated Teague for the position arguing the former board member will be an “independent” voice. “He’s a strong advocate. He can hit the ground running,” he said of Teague.
Some of the parents and community activists present at the special meeting backed Teague for the position. Hodges was the sole vote in favor of Teague.
“I think it’s obvious the Paterson Board of Education is packed with political operatives and fraternity members. They already picked Arrington long before the process. This was rigged,” said Teague. “Their interest is not to advocate for Paterson’s children.”
Some members of the public taunted and jeered board members while the vote was taking place.
In all, seven people submitted applications for the vacant position. Two of them – former school board member Alonzo “Al” Moody and Allan Gamarra – withdrew their applications prior to the meeting.
Rodney DeVore was a no-show for the screening process. He is an aide to assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter. Competing candidates from Sumter and Wimberly exposed a political fissure between the close allies.
Arrington appeared at the meeting with a PowerPoint presentation that highlighted his skills. He will be on the board for the next 11 months. In the November school board election, Arrington will have to run to finish the remainder of Irving’s term.
Irving made a brief appearance towards the end of the meeting. He said he has been hired as the executive Passaic County superintendent of schools. He replaces Robert Davis, who died earlier in the month.
Irving said he is the first African-American to told that title in Passaic County.