The Jersey City Education Association waged a brutal political battle against the Jersey City Board of Education, and while the beef is far from over, there is no question who won in 2014.
In Hudson County, where political beefs often imitate rappers producing diss tracks rather than meaningful policy debate, the battle between the Jersey City Teachers Union (JCEA) and Jersey City Board of Education (JCBOE) was as dramatic and entertaining as it gets.
In a close decision for Hudson County View’s number 1 feud of 2014, the JCEA vs. JCBOE fell just short because it’s simply not over. If you enjoy tense public meetings, with two groups that never really had any love to be lost, get your popcorn ready for 2015 JCBOE meetings – which have returned to being televised with public comment (lesson learned?).
Working without a contract, showing opposition to most reform measures, and vilifying anything that could be considered friendly to the JCBOE and Superintendent Dr. Marcia Lyles, the JCEA unleashed a beating that would make any schoolyard bully proud.
Being in the right place at the right time – Gerald Lyons, Lorenzo Richardson, and Joel Torres might have had small campaign accounts, but that doesn’t matter when you have a million-dollar Super PAC funded by the teachers union (Garden State Forward) and an energized rank-and-file backing your candidacy on the street.
Though they won in record fashion, the fact that it was the 2nd JCBOE election held in November – with less candidates competing than 2013 – probably bolstered the numbers of what would’ve been a big win regardless.
While the losing slate in the past election – Carol Harrison-Arnold, Monica Kress, and Bertram Okpokwasili – certainly had (hedge) funds to work with, they were clearly outspent and out-hustled by the union.
It also didn’t help that Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, who campaigned for mayor based on his “commitment” to improving education in the city, and was previously aligned with the majority on the JCBOE, turned his back on former allies for his own political benefit when they needed him the most.
The JCBOE majority, and its closely aligned organization Parents 4 Progress, were either unprepared or unsuited for a fight this past election. Their biggest attack was that Richardson was too extreme to sit on the board, and it was weaker than seven days.
The only good thing for Parents 4 Progress this past election was that they learned who their real friends are, the only question is whether those friends are strong enough to engineer an election win in 2015 that will ultimately determine the fate of Dr. Marica Lyles in Jersey City Public Schools.
As for a new contract, and hope of harmony between teachers and administrators, freezing temperatures couldnâ€™t stop the union and like-minded parents from protesting an early start to report card night (post-election) in what could be described as an act of defiance:
With no end in sight, especially when one considers the idea that the JCEA may choose to refuse any contract offer from the board for political gain, expect bigger public demonstrations from the union than simply walking out on public meetings:
Who knows though? In a few days there could be a new majority on the Jersey City Board of Education, a majority much more friendly to the JCEA.