Trustees Matthew Cheng and Lorena Portillo are seeking re-election in the November 3 West New York Board of Education race, where six other candidates are looking to win one of the three seats up for grabs.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Cheng, who was one of winners of the January 28, 2014 West New York BOE election (the other being trustee Joan Palermo) – the first of its kind in decades – and has routinely opposed Board Presidents Vilma Reyes (who has since resigned from the board) and Steven Rodas.
Cheng filed a state Department of Education complaint against Rodas in January alleging that he improperly served Rice notices to recently retired Superintendent of Schools John Fauta and ex-school business administrator Kevin Franchetta. The two parties had a hearing on the matter in Trenton yesterday.
“The best hope for the Town of West New York is an independent Board of Education — a Board that is not politically controlled and makes decisions in the best interest of the children,” Cheng said about his candidacy in an email.
Anchored by Rodas, the four-person “Children First” slate – which was backed by Mayor Felix Roque – pulled off a clean sweep in the November 4 board of education election.
Meanwhile, Portillo was appointed by the board on October 8, 2014 and has generally kept a low profile since then, though faced some scrutiny when her daycare – El Jardin Infantil Learning Center on 6029 Hudson Ave. – was shut down for a multitude of unresolved fire violations.
As a result, Portillo filed a tort claim questioning why the business was shut down back in February, according to documents obtained by Hudson County View via an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request.
Speaking over the phone, Portillo said she’s a good fit on the board since she has children in the district and operated the daycare in town for seven years.
“I have children in the district, and am a firm believer of education, so I feel I could be a help to the children and their families. I have experience helping families in the town through my business,” Portillo said.
Portillo added that she stands by the allegations made in the tort claim, which was filed with the town on February 23, alleging $1.5 million in losses and an inconsistent issuance of fire violations.
“Seven years [I’ve owned the daycare], why are the building certificates not good from one day to the next one? Even if the law has changed, you still have to give time to the people to remediate – which was not given.”
She also stated that she is scheduled to meet with her Newark attorney, Noemio Vellozi, this week to finalize a lawsuit against the town over the situation.
Among the six seeking a board of education seat for the first time are Ron Scheurle, a local funeral director who is a constant critic of Roque and his administration, and Wendell Oms a police officer whose partner on the force is Michael Acosta – the son of deputy mayor Silvio Acosta.
Additionally, Oms was appointed to the West New York Housing Authority board in January of this year.
Other residents who successfully filed petitions for nomination include Jonathan Castaneda, a North Hudson Community Action Corporation employee, Almer Martins Casadiego, a case worker for Hudson County Adult Protective Services, Boris Gresely and Benita Perets.
Trustee Dr. Christine Piscitelli, who was appointed to the board by Roque in July 2011, will not be seeking re-election.
The West New York BOE election is scheduled for November 3 and all eight candidates are seeking a three-year term.