City voters on Tuesday decided to keep incumbents Chrystal Cleaves and Jonathan Hodges on the school board. Voters also elected newcomer Lilisa Mimms, founder of New Beginnings Christian Outreach Ministries. Another incumbent who retained his seat was Flavio Rivera who filled the board seat vacated by now councilman Alex Mendez.
With 98-percent of the votes counted Cleaves garnered 4,048 votes while Hodges received 3,159 and Mimms tallied 3,154. Running unopposed Rivera secured 2,997 votes. Cleaves, Hodges, and Mimms won full three-year terms on the board while Rivera won an unexpired two-year term.
The losers in the race, Khader “Ken” Abuassab received 1,571; Emanuel Capers tallied 2,023; Nelly Celi managed 2,499; Koyes Ahmed received 1,840; and the lowest vote-getter Taj Uddin received 763 votes.
Cleaves was the highest vote-getter second time in a row. The incumbent received almost 1,000 more votes than her nearest rival. Cleaves ran on her perfect attendance in board meetings, better fiscal control, and increasing parental involvement in education by treating them with kindness during school visits.
Hodges also ran on increasing parental involvement in children’s education. The long-time board member who won his fifth term mounted a campaign talking about local control, higher graduation rates, and better school facilities.
Mimms also ran on increasing parental involvement in education by inviting parents into schools to observe teachers administering instruction. Mimms ran on cutting back the number of programs the district has running that are costing hundreds of thousands of dollars without producing results.
This year was the first-time the city’s school board election, normally contested in April, was held in November. School board members moved the election to November during a low-key meeting in September 2013. By moving the election to November board members argued it will save money and increase voter turnout.
Yesterday’s turnout was twice that of 2013. 19,091 votes were cast for the three-year term seekers yesterday; in 2013 10,076 votes were cast for the same number of candidates. The increase is attributed to more residents casting ballots during general elections especially when hometown favorite congressman Bill Pascrell is on the ballot.
Pascrell handily won a 10th term on Tuesday. Another city resident freeholder Theodore “TJ” Best won re-election to the Passaic County Board of Freeholders.
Out of the 19,000 votes cast 34 were write-ins. The unofficial count includes mail-in ballots, but excludes provisional ballots.
Jayed Rahman contributed to this article.