2016 Feuds of the Year – Number 1: Jersey City United vs. Education Matters

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While not everyone was initially convinced this year’s Jersey City Board of Education was going to be a bloody, brutal affair, the only two dueling slates in the 10-person race made sure it was a main event attraction.JC BOE Candidates

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

The mayor and local teacher’s union getting involved early and backing a slate? Check.

The mayor’s tainted former chief of staff helping the opposition slate behind the scenes? Check.

Two super PAC spending over $300,000 each on their respective horse in the race? Check.

That’s the bullet point analysis of this year’s Royal Rumble of a BOE race, where Education Matters (the Jersey City Education Association-backed team) said this was about Wall Street billionaires trying to buy the race, while Jersey City United argued it’s time to focus on education and nothing else.

The JCEA had helped navigate their candidates to victory in 2014 and 2015 and looked to make it a three-peat on November 8, quickly securing a number of endorsements from police and firefighter unions, as well several community leaders.

Despite those facts, Jersey City United remained chippy throughout, garnering a few unexpected endorsements of their own and willing to stand and trade until the very end.

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While it was undeniably a volatile affair, there were plenty of issues discussed at the robust number of debates held by several active community groups, who deserve at least a tip of the cap for going the extra mile in trying to keep voters informed – an example other municipalities should try to emulate in the future.

Career readiness, local control, the school district’s budget were just one example of key issued being discussed in a professional, fair setting in late October.

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After a long, hard-fought campaign, the JCEA once again proved to be a formidable foe, but the JCU candidates were right in the thick of things, with Luis Felipe Fernandez spoiling another sweep.

2017 promises to be yet another tumultuous one for the Jersey City BOE, as Superintendent of Schools Marcia Lyles will have to deal with more opposition on the board than last year as the district continues to wait and see if they ever regain full local control from the state.

Further muddying the waters right off the bat was Board Vice President John Reichart resigning after the November 8 election, prompting the board to interview candidates for an appointment later this month.

Education Matters odd woman out Gina Verdibello, who has lost four straight elections, as well as upstart Fix it Now team member Mussab Ali, have already lobbied for the vacant seat.

Natalia Ioffe, who ran independently, and Jersey City United campaign manager RJ Harper also threw their names into the mix, making it another coin toss – at best – in trying to figure out who will join the board next.

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