NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ –Three incumbents on the Board of Education will be challenged by three candidates running under the banner “Students First” when the school board elections are held April 20.

Diana Solis, who has served as board president the past two years, along with Jennifer Sevilla and Edward Spencer submitted their nominating petitions to the Office of the Board Secretary prior to the March 1 deadline to run for re-election.

Running mates Linda Stork, Jenifer Garcia Pelaez and Matthew Aaron Rivera also declared their candidacy for the New Brunswick Board of Education.

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The specter of the lingering COVID-19 pandemic has loomed over much of the school board's efforts over the past year.

The district’s 10,000 or so students commenced remote instruction almost a year ago. The district’s 11 schools have been closed to in-person instruction. The district distributed thousands of Chromebooks and Wifi access to its students to allow them to study remotely.

For the second straight election, the challengers are making the sale of the Lincoln Annex School on Somerset Street part of the conversation.

According to a press release, Stork, Garcia Pelaez and Rivera were motivated to run after the Board of Education sold the school to DEVCO in a deal that was first reported by TAPinto New Brunswick on Jan. 9.

Stork, who ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the board last year, has more than 30 years of experience as a bilingual kindergarten teacher.

“Being a teacher in New Brunswick and seeing my own kids go through our public school system, I got to understand just how much we needed someone looking out for our student’s best interests on the Board of Ed,” said Stork in a press release.  “I’ve been advocating for New Brunswick students for years and I am willing and ready to fight for them, every step of the way.”

Garcia Pelaez, 23, a 2015 graduate of New Brunswick High School, is a community organizer at a local worker center. She graduated from Middlesex County College with a degree in Liberal Arts and graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in Labor Studies and Employment Relations.

“As a first-generation college student, I experienced first-hand the many systemic roadblocks people of my background face in this struggle to overcome our material condition,” she said.  “Having come out on the other side, l can now use this experience and knowledge to ensure that we prioritize closing that gap for kids that come after me.”

Rivera, a New Brunswick resident since 2014, has served as a staff sergeant in the 108th Air National Guard Civil Engineering Squadron and graduated from Rutgers with a degree in Information Technology and Informatics.

“When I came to New Brunswick in 2014, I was moved by the amount of culture and community in this city,” he said. “But I was also saddened to see the level of inequality and opportunity for the residents. As a member of the Board of Education, I will use my diverse skills set and experience to help shape a better future for the students of New Brunswick.”

The faded, beige-bricked Lincoln Annex will be razed and an 11-story cancer hospital will be built in its place as part of a $750 million project. Under the plan, a state-of-the-art replacement school will be built at 50 Jersey Avenue for $55 million. The new school, which will be paid for by RWJBarnabas Health, is scheduled to take about three years to construct. Students will attend the Pathway’s Campus on Van Dyke Avenue during construction.