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New legal challenge to school balloting

Photo courtesy Dan Esteves
Dan Esteves

 

A candidate who finished fourth in the Kearny school election race to fill three seats is challenging the election results.

In a press release issued Monday, Daniel Esteves said he has filed a petition with the Hudson County Superior Court contesting the Nov. 6 election.

In a separate action, a majority bloc of the Kearny Board of Education has asked the state Commissioner of Education to invalidate the election of Deborah Lowry, who garnered the second highest vote total, on the grounds that she has a “contractual interest” with the district.

Lowry, a former Kearny school administrator, is receiving an accumulated unused sick time benefit over a five-year period.

In his press release, Esteves, a Public Service Electric & Gas employee who is the nephew of Kearny Mayor Alberto Santos, said his petition is also based on the same eligibility argument being made by the school board but added that he objects to the board attorney’s conclusion that it would fall to the board to appoint a replacement for Lowry.

“I filed my Court petition because the current majority on the Kearny Board of Education is seeking to have Trenton declare the seat vacant so that they can pick the replacement,” Esteves said.

“That’s a challenge to the election result and should be decided by a court of law, not by an administrative agency.”

Esteves is asking Hudson County Assignment Judge Peter Bariso to stop the county from delivering election certification papers and to prevent the board from apppointing anyone until the court can hold a hearing on the matter.

Meanwhile, the Kearny school board was due to hold a special session Monday night with the likelihood that it would hire Frank Ferraro, a onetime Kearny high school home economics teacher, as the district’s new permanent superintendent of schools.

It had originally scheduled the meeting for Nov. 28 but had to delay it because of insufficient notice, having advertised it only one newspaper instead of the two required by board policy.

Board President George King said that the Hudson County Superintendent of Schools Office had signed off on the contract for Ferraro, “as of Nov. 26.”

King said he had every expectation that Ferraro would be appointed. He declined to say at what salary until after the board voted.

“We’ve been working on this – vetting Mr. Ferraro and negotiating a contract – since August,” King said. “He’s had two interviews with board members. I like what he brings to the table and I think he’s a strong candidate for the position. He has vast experience with school construction projects and he has a strong business background as well.”

Although other board members have questioned whether Ferraro fits the board criteria for prior academic experience, King said: “He has curriculum and teaching experience in New York State which, I feel, does match up with board policy. It’s an interpretive thing. Actually, if you add it up, it comes to 13 years and the board policy calls for at least 10.”

Cecilia Lindenfelser, an attorney who won one of the three seats in the school election, has contended that the current board hasn’t the right to vote on a new superintendent due to its lame-duck status, with the new board due to reorganize next month, based on legal precedent established by a case originating in Elizabeth.

Asked about that, board attorney David Rubin said he was “very familiar with that case” but questioned whether anything in that decision applied specifically to the Kearny situation.

– Ron Leir

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