2015 Feuds of the Year – Number 8: Matthew Cheng vs. West New York BOE

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In another longstanding West New York feud, renegade board of education trustee Matthew Cheng, against all odds, somehow found a way to win re-election on November 3 – to the dismay of a good portion of the local political establishment.

West New York Board of Education trustee Matthew Cheng, left, conversing with Board President Steven Rodas before the December 9, 2015 meeting.
West New York Board of Education trustee Matthew Cheng, left, conversing with Board President Steven Rodas before the December 9, 2015 meeting.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

Those with a razor sharp political mind will recall that this is exact same feud was on this list at the exact same spot last year.

While the turmoil on the board has definitely subsided in the past 12 months, being overshadowed by the May municipal elections and their inevitable aftermath, the deceptively slick Cheng still managed to put an exclamation point on 2015 by earning another three years on the board.

The victory was pretty remarkable given that Cheng didn’t bother to knock on doors until the the day of the election and spent so little money that he wasn’t even required to file a report with the New Jersey Election Enforcement Commission, better known as ELEC.

Of course, let’s not forget that two of the three candidates elected, Lorena Portillo and Jonathan Castaneda, were from the Mayor Felix Roque endorsed “Children First” slate and the board is still a 7-2 majority in the favor of the current administration.

Nevertheless, a tireless watchdog, or relentlessly annoying pain in the posterior – depending on who is being asked – will ensure that nothing is a gimme.

The West New York Board of Education, minus trustees Silvio Acosta and Joan Palermo.
The West New York Board of Education, minus trustees Silvio Acosta and Joan Palermo.

Furthermore, the pro-Roque types often associate Cheng with former Freeholder Jose Munoz, who is still a sworn enemy of the mayor more than two years after his infamous hacking trial.

Cheng’s modus operandi includes filing ethics complaints with the State Department of Education whenever he believes someone’s bending/breaking the rules.

After a handful of these were filed, it seemed like the complaints were simply some sort of diversion for part of a larger plan.

However, as it turns out, Cheng scored a victory in October when the New Jersey Schools Ethics Commission ruled that Board President Steven Rodas improperly served Rice notices to then-Superintendent of Schools John Fauta and ex-School Business Administrator Kevin Franchetta before they departed from West New York.

Granted, the Department of Education basically told Rodas “just don’t do it again,” but a win is still a win, right?

That said, Cheng and the board have been on fairly cordial terms since the election and BOE business has been awfully sleepy as a whole this year.

Those holding out hope for some fireworks at West New York Middle School have been spreading rumors that controversy will once again swirl around the district’s contract with Alamo Insurance, whom the board improperly awarded a contract last year (though no sanctions came of it).

 

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3 COMMENTS

  1. The voters don’t want a rubber stamp board of education , that’s why there’re elected to try and keep town hall politics out of the school system. Cheng earned the respect of the parents and the voters . As far as Munoz , he is a 0 . Cheng won on his own merit and deserved another three years. The administration in the town hall still wants to control who gets the jobs and if you don’t buy tickets to their fundraisers your out of luck. As far as the Rice letters and the insurance contact , a disgrace that can only be corrected by electing more individuals like Cheng and less of the likes of Acosta and Rodas. John have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

  2. As long as the people allow Roque to continue to be in power. The current state if the boe will never change. He is poison and so are all of his cronies.

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