NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – Three members of the Board of Education will be seeking re-election against three challengers when residents go to the polls on April 21.
Incumbents Dale Caldwell, Emra Seawood and Patricia Varela, who are running under the banner “New Beginnings For New Brunswick Schools,” have released an election statement on their website, www.newbeginnings4nbps.com.
The statement reads, in part, “Under their leadership, the New Brunswick Public Schools have become one of the best and most community focused public school systems in the State of New Jersey. Student academic performance, athletic achievement and community involvement has increased significantly over the last three years. In addition, the New Beginnings team has played a critical role in the development of student-centered collaborations with every major community based organization in New Brunswick. They have also been a leader in developing comprehensive educational, social-emotional, music and drama programs to ensure that all students can excel.”
The site also refers to the fact that all three have children in the New Brunswick school system or have children that have graduated from the city’s schools.
Board Vice President Caldwell’s daughter attends New Brunswick High school and Varela’s child attends Lincoln Annex School. Seawood, according to the site, is the mother of a New Brunswick High School and college graduate.
Caldwell is the board’s representative to the Educational Services Commission of New Jersey. He also represents the board on the NJ School Boards Association and the Middlesex County School Boards and serves as the chairman of the finance committee.
Seawood is the chairperson on the curriculum/policy committee and serves on the personnel committee. She is the past president of the PTO at Redshaw and Lincoln schools and the past vice president of the PTO at New Brunswick High School.
Varela is the board’s Bilingual Parent Advisory Council representative and serves on the curriculum/policy committee and the facilities committee. She is a graduate of Lincoln School and the New Brunswick High School of Health Science & Technology.
The three seats up for election this year come with a three-year term.
Caldwell, Seawood and Varela will be facing a challenge from three candidates running under a “Students First” platform.
Jerry B. Mercado, Reginald “Reggie” Parker and Linda “Lindy” Stork announced their candidacy Tuesday night on the steps of the Lincoln Annex School on Somerset Street.
Mercado is no stranger to school board elections, having run for a seat as recently as last spring.
He said he opposes the plan that was unveiled by Mayor Jim Cahill, DEVCO President Chris Paladino and Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey Director Dr. Steven Libutti on Feb. 4 in which Lincoln Annex School would be razed and a 14-story Cancer Pavilion would be built on the space. A $55 million replacement school would be built on Jersey Avenue.
During the estimated three years it would take to get the school built, the students at Lincoln Annex would be transferred to the district’s space on Van Dyke Avenue.
“One of the things that has motivated me even more to do it (run for the Board of Education) is because of what they’re doing to that school, which is unbelievable,” Mercado said.
Mercado said he would rather see a new school built before moving the students to the Van Dyke Avenue facility. Or, he suggests that the Cancer Pavilion be built on top of the existing hospital.
“Our children are not pawns that can be moved back and forth and we don’t support the sale of our community schools,” he said. “That’s why we believe students are first.”
Mercado, Stork and Parker have attended recent meetings of the Fifth and Sixth Ward Neighborhood Association, whose members have focused their concerns on the fate of Lincoln Annex.
Lincoln Annex School is just yards from Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital’s front door in the Fifth Ward.
Mercado said the candidates picked that time and location to declare their candidacy because it would have coincided with a Board of Education meeting.
A spokesman for the school district told TAPinto New Brunswick that the board's Feb. 11 meeting was moved to Feb. 25 as part of a broader need to align the district's meeting calendar with the required timing for March's budget hearing session (which is scheduled for March 24) and April’s reorganization meeting (which will be on April 28).