Roselle Democratic leaders say that Governor Phil Murphy, Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver have received near unanimous endorsement of the borough’s progressive leadership but it is important that voters also support the Column 1 school board candidates in Tuesday’s balloting.
Two former Mayors—Assemblyman Jamel Holley and Garrett Smith—have been joined by current or past Council members Richard Villeda, Cynthia Johnson, Hazel Walker, Sylvia Turnage, Samuel Bishop and Carla Walker, as well as former schools Commissioner Donna Eleazer, a member of the Union County Democratic Committee, in announcing their endorsement of Roselle’s Column 1 school board candidates Gisselle Bond, Yessica Chavez and France Cortez.
Bond, Chavez and Cortez are being opposed by a slate, which includes incumbent Board of Education member Delia Ware-Tibbs, the subject of a federal housing subsidy investigation, Stephanie Falana, who was fired from Essex County College, and Leaster Neal, who finished dead last in the 2020 election when he ran on the ballot that included Republican former President Donald Trump.
“Roselle’s Democratic leadership is proud to endorse the Column 1 school board candidates Gisselle Bond, Yessica Chavez and France Cortez,” said Holley. “In spite of such challenges as the coronavirus pandemic, the related economic calamity and the bitter division cultivated by disgraced former President Donald Trump and his racist supporters, I am confident that Gisselle Bond, Yessica Chavez and France Cortez will be responsible and effective leaders working on the Roselle Board of Education.”
Smith, who was mayor from 2006 until 2011, said that in addition to re-electing Murphy and Oliver, “Democrats have no greater priority than putting Gisselle Bond, Yessica Chavez and France Cortez on the Roselle Board of Education.”
Gisselle Bond is a college graduate and single mother who has led the charge for social justice in education here in Roselle. A graduate of both Abraham Clark High School and Montclair State University, Bond believes Roselle students deserve leadership that will bring them to their fullest potential.
As the President of the Parent-Teacher Group of the Roselle school district for the past two years, Yessica Chavez earned a reputation as a seasoned advocate for resource-filled, quality learning environments that gain effective results for students. She has a strong track record of using her solution-oriented approach to design school systems that foster fluidity for students, parents, and teachers.
France Cortez began her nursing career in 1999, after graduating from Roselle Catholic High School, Essex County College, and Kean University. She has demonstrated a commitment to our community as a track and field coach working with children, as a champion for progressive issues and as an educator preparing students for the high-demand nursing field.
School board meetings in some New Jersey communities have become political battlegrounds, as Republicans exploit the concern over Covid mitigation strategies to wage war about cultural divisions, curriculum decisions and ideological beliefs.
Many board members, education advocates, community leaders, and parents say that outrage is misplaced as they argue that partisanship does not belong in the public schools.
School boards, they say, are supposed to be nonpartisan bodies comprised of unpaid volunteers concerned with procedure, sorting out budget efficiency or policy documents, and working to infuse bureaucratic systems with common sense. School board duties include budgeting, planning, setting internal policies and managing superintendents.
“Schools are vital to our children. They contribute to keeping property values high. This is something that should bring us together and it is why I endorse Gisselle Bond, Yessica Chavez and France Cortez,” said former Councilwoman Sylvia Turnage. “Right now, the whole world is at a fever pitch, so Republicans are exploiting school boards to divide Americans with their Trump agenda but we must keep that out of the Board of Education.”
Republicans see a rich opportunity to build a pipeline of new political candidates by pushing the culture war issue.
Many conservative candidates stand against teaching kids in K-12 schools about slavery and other aspects of systemic racism so they are turning school boards into GOP proving grounds and making once-sleepy school board elections into hyperlocal skirmishes with the power to polarize how a new generation learns about U.S. history.
Democrats counter that students deserve to know the truth about the Civil War, the Jim Crow era and the struggle to end racial segregation that is going on even to this day.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli turned a Toms River school board meeting into a campaign event, with a speech against students wearing masks and opposing Covid-19 restrictions intended to prevent the spread of disease.
Some New Jersey Senate Republicans have been urging parents with far-right views to run for seats on their local school boards “to get into power.”
The Morris County Republican Committee even launched an effort to recruit and support candidates for local school board campaigns.
According to the GOP website, “aside from your position as a candidate on education-related items, most voters will want to know your political ideology as well. … From a tactical perspective, it may be beneficial to align yourself with local partisan groups, elected officials or candidates.”
It’s not just happening in New Jersey. Nationally, the Republican Party is uniting angry parents over culture war issues, such as mask mandates and teaching kids about systemic racism, and seizing on an opportunity to build a pipeline of new political candidates.