It’s a crowded field for the Hoboken school board election

Two incumbents have not filed to run for reelection in the wake of the failed high school referendum

Pavel Sokolov is part of an opposition slate running against another that includes Trustee Alex De La Torre. Photo illustration by Terri Bish via photos by Mark Koosau.

A crowded field of eight candidates have filed to run for the Hoboken Board of Education this year, with two incumbents declining to run for reelection following the aftermath of the failed high school referendum in January.

Trustee Alex De La Torre is the only board member running for reelection this year, while the other two incumbents, Trustees Sheillah Dallara and Joyce Simons, have not filed to run, according to the Hudson County Clerk’s office.

Their decision leaves two seats open, with De La Torre running on a three person slate, while an opposition slate and two independents also seek a seat on the school board.

De La Torre is seeking another term after having been elected in 2019. He is running on a yet-to-be named slate alongside Leslie Norwood, a member of the Hoboken Public Education Foundation, and Antonio Graña, a member of the city’s Zoning Board.

Running against them is an opposition slated titled “Kids First” that includes Pavel Sokolov, the chairman of the Hudson County Young Republicans, Cindy Wiegand, a market research worker and a former City Council candidate who ran last year, and Donna Magen.

Two other candidates running as independents are Patricia Waiters, a local activist and perennial candidate, and John Madigan, a former school board trustee who served a single term from 2016 to 2018.

Dallara was first elected in 2016 and won a second term in 2019, while Simons won her first and what now appears to be her only term in 2019 as well. De La Torre, Dallara and Simons also had the backing of Mayor Ravi Bhalla when they ran under a slate that year.

Dallara and Simons did not respond for comment on why they did not file for reelection.

Lingering over the most crowded school board election in the Mile Square City since 2014 is the memory of the failed high school referendum, in which the current board had attempted to create a $241 million high school facility via a bond referendum.

The board at the time had pitched the project as a way of fitting the school district’s growing population and put up a referendum in January for it, but faced criticism over a lack of transparency in the process and the potential cost to taxpayers.

A number of residents, including Sokolov, had organized efforts to oppose the referendum, and ultimately succeeded in voting it down at the polls two-to-one.

Sokolov and Magen told the Jersey Journal, who had first reported their candidacy, that they are mainly running for more openness and transparency on the board, with Sokolov also saying their slate would focus on financial accountability and academic excellence.

“It’s to guarantee there’s a clear line of communication and transparency between the board and residents of Hoboken,” Sokolov said to the Jersey Journal. “We don’t know what we don’t know.”

Graña, who’s running with De La Torre, had also chaired a group called the Friends of the New Hoboken High School that had raised money in support of the referendum.

The school board elections will take place on Nov. 8, with the ballot drawing being held on Aug. 15.

For updates on this and other stories, check hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Mark Koosau can be reached at mkoosau@hudsonreporter.com or his Twitter @snivyTsutarja.