Newark councilwoman endorses pro-charter school board candidate

By Dan Ivers | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on April 13, 2016

Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins

 

NEWARK – A candidate for the city's upcoming School Advisory Board election has picked up a key endorsement from a veteran member of the City Council.

Central Ward Councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins is backing Kim Gaddy, a member of the "Newark Unity" slate backed by pro-charter school groups. With less than a week before voters head to the polls, mailers and other campaign literature publicizing the endorsement have begun circulating around the city.

In a statement, Chaneyfield said she was compelled to back Gaddy due to her previous experience on the board, grasp of both students' and parents' needs and expertise on environmental issues, given the district's recent discovery of elevated levels of lead in dozens of schools. Gaddy works as an environmental justice organizer for Clean Water Action New Jersey.

"She has the experience and knowledge required to hit the ground running," Chaneyfield said. "We are fortunate that she wants to serve again."

The endorsement, however, notably leaves out candidates Leah Owens and Octavio "Tave" Padilla, Gaddy's colleagues on the "Unity" slate. Mayor Ras Baraka is backing Owens, while Padilla has the support of North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos Jr.

Chaneyfield, however, insisted her recent announcement should not be interpreted as a slight against Gaddy's running mates. She said she has provided financial support to both Owens' and Padilla's campaigns, but felt strongly enough about Gaddy to lend her a public endorsement.

"I support candidates who are looking for ways to bridge the educational gap that exists in Newark and who are looking to bring about sustainable, positive and effective change in education in the city," she said.

Formed in January, the "Unity" slate has forged a truce between former rivals in the heated debate surrounding the expansion of charter schools around the city, which vie for funds with their struggling publicly run counterparts.

Gaddy has received the bulk of support from organizations such as the Parent Coalition for Excellent Education, which represent a newly energized bloc of pro-chater voters, created in the wake of fierce rhetoric against the schools by Baraka and other candidates during the city's 2014 elections.

She will likely vie for many votes with Jody Pittman, another candidate and outspoken charter supporter running without the support of any slate or political organization.

Anthony Salters, a local political operative who is coordinating the "Unity" slate's campaign, said he had no issue with Chaneyfield's selective endorsement.

"Each candidate has a core constituency which all respect," he said. "The core members and their supporters, we never tried to control them nor tell them what to do. It's all about quality education for Newark students."

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