Dear Mr. Tepper and Mr. Fournier:

Please allow me to provide some context for this letter.

A few days ago I red NJ Politicker’s coverage of the Newark School Board race and just about halfway down the page I came to the following quote:

“We are thrilled with last night’s election results,” said Shelley Skinner, executive director of Better Education for Kids. “The slate of candidates who won will be champions for all of Newark’s school children. With a tremendous board member like Flo Johnson, we are confident we can move beyond divisive rhetoric and work towards providing a high-quality education for every child.”

Who is Shelley Skinner?

I was born and raised in Newark and this coming Tuesday I’ll be 54 years old. I’ve been exposed to or involved in Newark and Greater Newark politics nearly all of my life. This exposure has afforded me the opportunity to connect with just about every major Newark political figure, community leader and organization.

Considering that our recent school board election, and those who were running were of deep concern to me, I found it a bit disturbing that I’d never heard of Shelley Skinner. Further, I had absolutely no idea that Better Education For Kids was in any way involved.

I never saw any public activity by either in the days leading up to the election, and I found it strange that a person and organization – that I had never head of – was now representing the Charter parents of Newark publically.

So I decided to Google Better Education for Kids and it turns out that this organization isn’t even based in Newark… What’s going on?

It also seems that Shelley Skinner isn’t from Newark– actually, she’s a former political operative of Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, who just so happens to be deeply aligned with NJEA… again I ask, what’s going on here?

Looking even deeper on the web, it seems you fund Better Education For Kids and have in the past funded Shelley Skinner.

This quote in PolickerNJ by Shelley has put a face and publically uncovered an issue that has concerned me during the course of this entire school board election – outside money controlling our local elections.

Shelley Skinner has a paper trail and unbeknownst to me, a reputation of going into New Jersey communities and (unsuccessfully) trying to influence elections.

As reported last Fall in the Jersey City press, Shelley tried to influence their School Board election by supporting a Slate coincidently called “Jersey City United.”

Based on additional news reports, during that same Jersey City election Shelley collaborated with Muhammed Akil, the head of the Newark based non-profit PC2E. Just as we saw in Newark this week, the Jersey City attempt failed miserably, with a reported almost $600,000 spent on that race. Since Shelley works for you, I would assume that some of that money came out of your personal pockets.

In Newark, we have just finished another Skinner-influenced race and while the “pro-reform” candidate, Flo Johnson, won a seat, the results are just more of the same.

Now that I know who Shelley Skinner is – and her connection to another Newark outsider, Muhammed Akil – I would kindly and respectfully ask that you begin to look more closely at how exactly your money is being spent.

Skinner and Akil’s decision to run Flo Johnson, a person with very little experience, was a mistake. Having her on the school board might give ed reform one “vote,” her lack of experience will certainly not help Newark when we have a billion dollar budget to manage.

Supporting the two other candidates on the Unity Slate, who have not fought for or embraced needed reform efforts, is certainly not a good use of your money or Shelley Skinner either.

I understand you’re not from Newark and that you may not have a clear understanding of what’s happening so please allow me to offer some inside perspective.

Shelley and Muhammed have been ignoring and in some cases even attacking other pro-charter candidates. There are even rumors that Muhammed even paid off other Newark pro-charter advocates not to run for the School Board. And, as Laura Waters reported last week, they chose to follow Ras Baraka on which pro-charter candidate should run, rather than advocate for Newark’s best and strongest voices.

This slate you directly or indirectly supported speaks for itself. The pro-charter candidate received far fewer votes than the rest of the Unity Slate. The pro-charter candidate received almost half the number of votes of last year’s pro-charter candidate Kim Gaddy, who I personally supported and the organization Shelley works with, PC2E, could only muster 2,700 votes for Flo.

PC2E has now been around for over two years. There are over 10,000 public charter students in Newark, even more voting parents, guardians, and relatives, yet PC2E has still been unable to organize our parents. It’s been made clear to everyone in Newark that the only reason there ever was a Unity Slate, is that Akil, and now I would guess Shelley, have no idea how to get the vote out and organize.

What the two of them have mastered is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of other people’s money toward one candidate and then aligning that candidate with the real political power brokers in the North and South Ward and winning on their coattails.

Akil and Skinner don’t pull the strings, they just yank at them.

I am not in disagreement for your support for education reform – in fact I thank you. Newarkers want change. But I do not believe it is effective to continually support previously failed, and out of touch, so called political operatives from out side of Newark. If you’re interested in advocating for the needs of Newark parents and actually helping win elections, please visit Newark and see exactly where your money is going and who’s actually benefiting from it.

If you’re really interested, please give me a call. I can give you a list of people in Newark, who care about these children… care about these parents… and, who know how win elections.