Notes on School Board Results
They did not say exactly what I had hoped to hear, nor what Jerry Green may have hoped to hear. The top vote-getter was incumbent Patricia Barksdale, from the so-called “New Democrat” slate. Incumbent Lisa Logan-Leach, Green’s former aide and a frequent challenger of Schools Superintendent Steve Gallon III’s recommendations, came in third.
While Brenda Gilbert of the Green-backed slate came in second, she most likely will not be biddable to Green’s influence once in office. Gilbert was among a group of Democratic City Committee members that Green once purged from the party for their refusal to bow to the leadership. She ran for office later with the backing of dissident Johnny Walcott, who once formed a group he called the “Real Democrats” in opposition to Green’s Regular Democratic Organization.
Barksdale, Gilbert and Logan-Leach won three-year terms and will be sworn in at the May 5 reorganization, along with Katherine Peterson, who won the unexpired two-year seat. Even though she ran on a slate, Peterson came across in public forums as an experienced, sensible educator who will address issues based on her own opinion.
Rasheed Abdul-Haqq will most likely continue adding his voice to the conversation on Plainfield schools long after he must step down. It’s possible that his support for the observance of the two most important Muslim holidays upset some people, but he is a man of conviction once he makes up his mind on an issue. Putting one holiday on the calendar was supported by the board in 2007-08 and when in coming years the holidays fall on school days, expect to hear from him. But meanwhile, expect to hear from him on many other issues.
Let us hope that the other candidates – Mahogany Hendricks, Joanne Hollis, Joseph Ruffin Sr. and Terrence Williams – stay involved and follow board action through 2009-10. Board President Bridget Rivers is running for the Fourth Ward City Council seat and if she wins, an appointee will be needed. And next April, three more seats will be up.
As for the budget, the voters said “no,” but to borrow a phrase from my daughter when she was a willful two-year-old, “That’s not the right answer,” according to the state. The increase, only the second since 1992 for the local school tax levy, has been mandated by the state. Unless the new state funding formula is overturned, Abbott districts will have to pay more each year in local taxes toward the cost of operating public schools, including charter schools. Suburban taxpayers pay most of the costs in their districts, with state aid covering the rest. In Plainfield, it is the reverse. The district will still receive many millions in state aid, but the proportions will gradually shift.
I am relying on figures from the Courier News for this blog post. After visiting the endocrinologist in Summit, I walked to the Muhlenberg Campus for blood work and walked home. Later, Maria and I visited many polling places and all the fresh air and exercise did me in. I did not stay up late for results. I will confirm the unofficial results with the clerk today. The official results will be announced Monday or later by the county clerk.
Congratulations to the winners and good luck to the others in future school board races or in other public service.