NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — Five people are vying for four seats in today’s elections for the city Board of Education.
Residents also get the chance to vote on the 2017-18 budget for New Brunswick Public Schools. The $201 million spending plan would raise taxes by about $45 for owners of homes assessed at the city average, according to the district. For more information on the budget, click here.
In the school board election, four individuals—including three incumbents—are chasing three three-year terms. Another incumbent, Diana Solis, is running uncontested for a one-year seat to complete the remainder of an unexpired term that she filled last year, after the resignation of a prior board member.
Incumbents Emra Seawood, Dale Caldwell and Patricia Varela are attempting to maintain their positions today. Challenger Yesenia Medina-Hernandez, meanwhile, will try to edge her way onto the board.
Polls are open at various locations throughout the city until 8 p.m. tonight.
TAPinto New Brunswick sent questionnaires yesterday via email and/or social media to the candidates for the three seats in play. Only Caldwell responded. His answers, which have been lightly edited for grammar and style, follow.
Seawood, whose nominating petition states she lives on Edgeworth Place, has served as school board president since May 2016. She’s employed as a social worker at the New Brunswick Senior Center, according to her LinkedIn profile.
Varela, who lives on Brookside Avenue, was first elected to the board in 2014, in an uncontested race. She named no job or holdings on her financial disclosure statement, according to New Brunswick Today.
Medina-Hernandez, whose nominating petition states she lives on Jersey Avenue, ran unsuccessfully last year for a spot on the school board. She works as a program coordinator at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, according to her LinkedIn profile. Prior to that, she worked for New Brunswick Health Sciences Technology High School.
Caldwell, who lives on Goodale Circle, has worked in education for years. Here are his answers to TAPinto New Brunswick’s questions.
Describe your experience and background.
I have had the great honor of being the president of the New Brunswick Board of Education when we agreed to build the fantastic new high school. This has become one of the nicest high schools in the state. In addition, I have been the New Brunswick board representative and president of the Educational Services Commission of New Jersey (which educates students with special needs, autism and emotional challenges) since 2001. I had the privilege of being named the New Jersey School Board Member of the Year in 2009. This honor is given every year to the one person who is considered the best school board member in New Jersey.
I received a doctorate in educational leadership from Seton Hall University, a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University and a masters in business administration from the Wharton School. I believe that my unique education and experience will help me excel as a New Brunswick Board of Education member in this upcoming term. I also have experience running an urban school. I therefore have a detailed understanding of effective urban education.
In what ways would you help improve New Brunswick Public Schools?
Literacy is the foundation of academic success. In this next term, I will be a strong advocate for enhancing the literacy education offered to our students. The school district must take the lead on literacy initiatives. However, I believe that improving student literacy is something that the entire community should work on together.
I have therefore recently started a program called “New Brunswick Reads” to get the entire community to work together collaboratively to improve literacy for children and adults throughout the City. In addition, I will support enhanced teacher professional development to ensure that students are receiving the highest quality instruction possible.
What do you most hope to accomplish if re-elected to the Board of Education?
As the father of a student in the New Brunswick schools, I have an in-depth understanding of the challenges facing parents. I would like to ensure that the communication between the school district and parents is as effective as possible. The education of New Brunswick students is one of the most important jobs in the City. Public education is most effective when the day education students receive in school is reinforced with an after-school education in their homes.
My hope is to support Superintendent Johnson and the other school leaders in their efforts to enhance school-parent communication and the academic success of our students. In addition, I believe that athletic, musical and club activities are important so I will support the enhancement of these programs for our students.