They didn’t have any official name for their slate and didn’t campaign much as a team. But the loose alliance of Sean Connors, William DeRosa, and Patricia Sebron prevailed in the Jersey City school board election on Tuesday.
Voters also approved the $93 million to be raised from local taxes to fund the $629.8 million school budget. The rest of the funding comes state and federal aid.
Twelve candidates ran for three open seats on the board. Connors, a Jersey City police officer, finished with the most votes with 3,022. DeRosa, a retired Jersey City school teacher and current chairman of the Jersey City Board of Education, was second with 2,305 and Sebron, a storeowner, was third with 1,888.
Jersey City’s school system has been under state control since 1989 due to poor test scores, but residents can still elect the board members. The district is slowly coming back under local control.
So how did they attract the most attention from the voters?
Connors, who lost a race in 2007 for the state Senate seat, admitted that a combination of name recognition and endorsements helped attract voters. He also said he was thankful for the support he got from Mayor Jerramiah Healy and from the voters.
Sebron said that the team was put together by “happenstance” but was helped by an endorsement from the Jersey City Education Association, the teachers’ union. However, she was adamant that she would be “her own voice.”
DeRosa could not be reached for comment by press time.
This week, the board is scheduled to hold its reorganization meeting to swear in new members and elect a chairman.
Budget approved, but will taxes rise?
For the first time since the state takeover, the public had the opportunity to vote on the the local tax portion of the school budget for 2009-2010.
The state Department of Education had ordered the tax levy increased from $86 million to $93 million because the district lost state aid as the result of Gov. Jon Corzine’s proposed school funding formula. The formula now awards aid based on school enrollment demographics, rather than just the demographics of the city. As a result, some districts gained aid this year, while Jersey City lost out.
The vote was 1,647 in favor of the levy versus 1,113 against.
The rest of the results
The odd man out was veteran board member Anthony Cucci, a former Jersey City Mayor, who finished fourth with 1,716 votes. Cucci, 86, had campaigned hard to be reelected while running as an independent.
Cucci did not receive Healy’s backing or support from other officials, perhaps because he criticized the mayor for pursuing state legislation that would have transformed the nine-member elected school board into a hybrid board, with three mayor-appointed members, three members from local colleges and three who are elected.
The Connors-DeRosa-Sebron slate was not the only team of candidates who had a strong showing in the election.
The team of Tom Wilen did well. Wilen had 1,121 votes, Eric J. Goldsmith had 756 votes, and Moshe Rozenblit had 731 votes. The downtown Jersey City residents ran on a slate called Jersey City Excellence in Education Now and finished fifth, seventh, and eighth respectively.
In sixth place was independent candidate Mario Gonzalez, pastor of the Hope Center Ministry in the Jersey City Heights, with 923 votes.
Finishing ninth through 12th were: Abdul Malik with 675 votes, Charles W. Johnson with 621 votes, Khaled Dardir with 422 votes, and Azam A. Riaz, with 307 votes.
There was a low turnout for the school board election as 14,516 voters went to the polls, only 10 percent of the approximately 139,000 registered voters in Jersey City.
Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at email@example.com.