Newark 'Unity' slate sweeps city school board elections

By Dan Ivers | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on April 19, 2016

Members of the newly formed "Newark Unity" slate, who on Tuesday won seats on the Newark School Advisory Board. From left: Leah Owens, Octavio "Tave" Padilla and Kim Gaddy.

 

NEWARK - The votes are in, and Newarkers jumped upon the peace train Tuesday.

The so-called "Newark Unity" slate of candidates backed by Mayor Ras Baraka, North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos Jr. and local pro-charter school organizations swept the annual School Advisory Board vote, claiming more than half of all votes.

Kim Gaddy, a former school board member backed by charter school groups, was the leading vote-getter with 5,804 votes. Octavio "Tave" Padilla came in just behind with 5,800, and Baraka-backed candidate Leah Owens took the last of the three available seats with 4,945.

Of the nine remaining candidates, Sheila Montague was closest with 2,546 votes, good for 9.58 percent of the citywide tally.

Introduced in January, the "Unity" trio of candidates was branded as an attempt at diffusing the often hostile rhetoric that accompanied debates on city education, and merged candidates with differing views and backing from all corners of the city's political arena.

Anthony Salters, who managed the slate's campaign, called the victory "a tremendous attempt by Mayor Baraka to focus future discussions on how to improve and ensure a quality education for all Newark students."

"The collaborative effort was not perfect but so many things were done right that based on the election results it's clearly a success," he said.

Muhammad Akil, Executive Director of the Parent Coalition for Excellent Education (PC2E), called the results a "turning point" that showcased the electoral power of charter school backers and others in favor of improving opportunities for students across Newark.

"Rather than focusing on differences, a community chose to rise together to address issues that unite us all - demanding quality public schools; promoting parent empowerment and the expansion of public school options; rejecting the school or prison pipeline, and electing school board leaders that are responsible, knowledgeable, and accountable," he said.

This year's race came after a transformational year for the city's schools, highlighted by the exit of oft-maligned superintendent Cami Anderson.

Her departure came after years of controversial reforms in the city, and was accompanied by a promise from Gov. Chris Christie to return control of its schools to local officials after more than 20 years.

Do you like this post?

Be the first to comment