The “Our Children First” school board slate of three incumbent Board of Education members – backed by Mayor Nicholas Sacco — swept the school board elections Tuesday evening. Ruth Shaw, Haissam Jaafar, and Claudia Rodriguez will return to their three-year terms on the nine-member board.
Their closest competitors were three candidates on the “Save Our Schools” (SOS) slate backed by Sacco’s political opponent, attorney Larry Wainstein. Sacco’s candidates beat them by about 10-1.
The town clerk’s office confirmed these final results: Rodriguez earned 3,452 votes, Shaw earned 3,394 votes, and Jaafar earned 3,365.
SOS candidate Viviana Salcedo earned just 230 votes. Her colleague Zeneida Larios drew 277 and Adelaida Rivera earned 314.
Independent candidate Jose Santos, who had run on the SOS ticket last year, earned 412 votes.
Though the SOS slate issued an informational flyer for their candidates at Wainstein’s JFK Blvd. headquarters—the North Bergen Concerned Citizens Group—their promotion efforts were not extensive. Neither Wainstein’s Facebook page nor the one for his group mentioned the slate.
Wainstein also did not respond to a voicemail for comment on his slate’s loss, and had not responded to requests for interviews before the election.
In total, 23 candidates filed to run, including from the two slates.
“The voters have spoken,” Jaafar said of his win. “They saw what we have done as a team and as a board. We unofficially had 92 percent of the votes.”
Jaafar went out for a celebratory dinner after the victory, having visited polling locations throughout the day. He said he wants to continue helping the board implement new technology.
Rodriguez said, “I’m very happy for the school board that I was able to get out the vote for our team. We’re going to continue doing the best for our children.”
Like Jaafar, Rodriguez also wants to focus on bringing new technology to North Bergen schools.
Candidate Shaw did not respond to a message seeking comment, by press time.
“The voters have spoken.” – Haissam Jaafar
Voters also voted down the $51 million tax levy for this year’s proposed $138 million school budget, as they tend to do each year. The levy is the amount of school spending to be raised by taxes. (Other money comes from state and federal grants, out-of-town tuition, and other revenue sources.)
Residents generally vote the budget down in hopes that officials will cut it further, lowering taxes.
District officials are meeting with town officials to discuss where the budget can be cut. The commissioners will pass a resolution for the revised budget at the May 9 commissioners’ meeting. If that passes, it will go back to the Board of Education, and it will be submitted to the state by the third week of May at the latest. After state approval, the budget is essentially a done deal.
Residents will be able to come and speak about it before the vote.
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