School Elections Today: Life in Lakewood

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For seventy-three (lonely) New Jersey school districts, today is election day. In early February the State Legislature passed a bill allowing school boards to bypass budget elections as long as they were under the 2% cap. The trade-off? Moving school board member elections to November, when people actually turn out to vote. Boards had just about two weeks to make the decision for this year, and voting to move elections is a four-year commitment.

Given the generally conservative nature of school boards, just about everyone was surprised when more than 460 districts voted yes, lured by the advantages of eliminating budget votes (always a time-consuming and stressful process). Of the 73 districts going to the polls today, about 1/4 of those are in Bergen County, where budgets often pass anyway, and another 8 are in Morris County. (Here’s a breakdown from New Jersey School Boards Association, and here’s yesterday’s coverage from NJ Spotlight. Also, the Herald News today editorializes that it’s too confusing to have some elections in April and some in November and urges “uniformity.”)

One head-turner is Lakewood Public Schools, the only district in Ocean County to keep elections in April. Actually, the Board, dominated by Orthodox Jews who send their children to private yeshivas but rely on the district for transportation and top-of-the-line special education services, first voted on Wednesday, February 29th, to move elections to November. Five members, the necessary quorum, voted for the move and four voted against. Done. Elections are in November.

However, at the next public meeting meeting on Monday, March 5th, one of the “nay” voters called for a motion to overturn the previous decision and move elections back to April. Conveniently, all of the members who had voted five days earlier to move elections were absent from the meeting, except for an elderly woman named Irene Miccio.

Here’s a video of jack-of-all-trades Michael Inzelbuch, who serves as board attorney, out-of-district special education coordinator, board parliamentarian, Title 1 Coordinator, and de facto Superintendent. (Superintendent Lydia Silva resigned last month.) The clip shows Mr. Inzelbuch convincing Ms. Miccio to change her vote during the March 5th meeting. She complied. Lakewood will have elections today.

In other Lakewood election news, the primary newspaper in town, the Lakewood Scoop, is featuring a “paid advertisement” today from Rabbi Meir Hertz. It reads, in part,

“Vote for STABILIZING TAXES, and for INCREASING SPECIAL ED SERVICES.”
“Please go out and vote for Yoni Silver, Joel Schwartz and Lee Mund (#s 1-2-3). It’s really as simple as 1-2-3! Our children are counting on YOU.”

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