ELIZABETH – A large and fast-growing New Jersey labor union with many members in Elizabeth has thrown its support behind school board candidates Charlene Bathelus, Jorge Casalins and José Rodriguez in next week’s board election. City residents who belong to the union were out over the weekend canvassing for the three candidates, whom they say will help improve security in the schools and restore the tarnished reputation of the school board.
“We have more than 700 members in Elizabeth, many with children or grandchildren in the public schools,” said Kevin Brown, New Jersey State Director of 32BJ SEIU. “They are anxious to elect board members who respond to students’ needs, and who can restore the board’s reputation in the wake of reports of federal and state investigations.”
The Elizabeth School Board has been rocked since last year by newspaper reports of investigations by federal and state authorities and the Union County Prosecutor’s Office. Earlier this year, the board’s president was indicted for allegedly stealing from the district’s free and reduced-lunch program, according to reports. She remains on the board but no longer serves as its president. In addition, last month, another board member resigned from the board after questions were raised about whether she met the board’s residency requirement.
Francis Cuadrado, a 32BJ member with two children at Elizabeth High School and who was on the union committee that screened board candidates for endorsement, said Bathelus, Casalins and Rodriguez “are coming in with fresh ideas.”
“I like their idea of fighting corruption,” said Cuadrado, who works as a lab technician at a large pharmaceutical company. She added that she is also concerned about student safety at the high school.
“I want more security in the schools,” she said. “These three candidates want to work. They have the vision.”
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