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Art created by Suliman Onque for Project Ready to increase voter turnout in the 2021 Newark school board election. (Image: Project Ready).

A roundup of Tuesday’s school board election results

One incumbent loses, most municipalities approve school budgets

By David Wildstein, April 19 2022 11:58 pm

A slate of Newark school board candidates backed by Mayor Ras Baraka easily swept three seats in Tuesday’s Board of Education elections, where voters in thirteen municipalities held elections in a state that has largely moved on from April elections.

First-time candidate Crystal Williams, a Central Ward resident and Version Communications employee, was the top vote-getter with 2,600 votes, followed by incumbents A’Dorian Murray-Thomas (2,559) and Daniel Gonzalez (2,475).  They defeated Thomas Luna (1,087), Maggie Freeman (1,027), Philip Wilson (807) and Allison James-Frison (679).

The Newark school budget was approved with 87% of the vote.

Across the state, just one incumbent lost his seat, and school budgets were rejected in three municipalities.

Cliffside Park school board member Neville Raincourt lost his seat.  Voters re-elected Lisa Frato (450) and Letizia Pantoliano (374).  Newcomer Kleidon Ndreu finished second in the race for three seats with 389 votes, and Raincourt came in last with 302.  The budget was approved with 66% of the vote.

There is a close race in Montague, where Michael Zernhelt (242) and Tasha DeGeorge (226) lead Jamie Johnson (204) for two open seats.  It’s not clear how many provisional ballots were cast or cure letters outstanding, if any, or how many outstanding vote-by-mail ballots could still come in.  In a race for a one-year unexpired term, Andree Campbell (248) defeated Dawn Marion by a 57%-43% margin.  Montague’s school budget passed with 59.5%.

In the race for an open seat on the Fredon Board of Education, Heather Bischoff (267) defeated Anthony Corcella (209), a 56%-44% margin.  Incumbent John Niemasz did not seek re-election.

In New Brunswick where incumbent Yesenia Medina-Hernandez (339), Ivan Adorno (317) and Benito Ortiz (305) defeated one challenger, Lindy Stork (154).

In West New York, incumbents Douglas Velasquez (732),  Jonathan Castañeda (723) and Ana Sanchez (719) coasted to a landslide victory  They defeated Dorinne Auriemma (246), Vipul Parekh (225) and Jose Valdez (214).  The school budget passed with 77% of the vote.

With Francis Pizzuta retiring after 42 years on the Weehawken Board of Education, voters re-elected Julian Brian Mera (439) and elected newcomers Marissa Dennis (406) and Ildefonso Acosta (404) in unopposed contests.  Another incumbent, Susan Morales-Jennings, did not run again.  Weehawken approved their school budget with 83%.

In the City of Passaic, newcomer Patricia Abril Barreles-Garcia was the top vote-getter with 645 votes, followed by incumbents Craig Miller (643) and Maryann Capursi (642).  They defeated Diomedes Minaya, who received 183 votes.  Incumbent Kenia Flores did not run again.  Voters passed the Passaic school budget with 85% of the vote

North Bergen incumbents Luis Rabelo, Patricia Bartoli and Sai Raio ran unopposed.  As expected, voters rejected the school budget by a 2-1 margin in town that historically votes against it so the mayor and town commissioners may strategically reduce spending.

In Fairview, Diane Testa was the top vote-getter in an unopposed race for three seats with 222 votes, followed by Angelo D’Arminio (196) and Francisco Martinez (195).  Testa, who is also the borough administrator and municipal clerk, was one of the Democratic members of the New Jersey Apportionment Commission that redrew the state’s 40 legislative districts earlier this year.  The school budget passed with 70%.

Incumbents Janelle Lowery, Joseph Sylvain and Luis Antilus were unopposed for three-year terms and John Brown had no opponent in his bid for an unexpired term on the Irvington Board of Education.  The school budget passed with 82%

Totowa incumbents Gary Bierach and Rose Marie Carr were re-elected and Joseph Parlegrecco captured the open seat of Brian Tangora in a race featuring three candidates for three seats.  The school budget passed with 77%.

Oakland Board of Education President Carlita Shelkin was unopposed for re-election.  Voters rejected the budget by a 57%-43% margin.

Less than two percent of the public school districts in the state still have April school board elections.  These municipalities are the final holdouts ten years after New Jersey passed in new law allowing school board elections to be moved from April to November in contests held concurrent with the general election.

School districts with April elections must still obtain voter approval for the annual budgets.  The 2012 law allowed boards of education to skip voting on budgets.

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