NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – For Linda “Lindy” Stork and her running mates seeking seats on the Board of Education, this has been an unusual campaign.
How unusual? There’s no photo of the members of the Students First ticket together.
Stork and Reginald “Reggie” Parker announced they were running back in February, but Jad Kaado joined the team after the original third member, Jerry Mercado, withdrew his candidacy. In fact, Kaado sought legal representation and had a letter drafted and sent to Secretary of State Tahesha Way and Attorney General Gurbir Grewal.
By the time Kaado’s petition was accepted last month, Gov. Phil Murphy had already issued his stay-at-home executive order and called for widespread social distancing as a way to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
So, Stork, Parker and Kaado find themselves trying to win votes in a world where traditional campaign practices such as rallies and door-to-door handshaking are banned and voters will be casting mail-in ballots rather than going to the polls on May 12.
“I don’t know,” said Stork, who served as a kindergarten teacher in New Brunswick for more than 30 years. “I guess we’ll know in a week how well it worked. We got flyers going out on social media. We’re making the calls, the text.”
Stork, Parker and Kaado have also used teleconferencing technology to host candidate discussions, and some of those videos are posted on the Students First Facebook page. Other information is available on their website.
They are running on a platform of improving the student experience by upgrading aging facilities, improving the graduation rate by collaborating with community partners such as Rutgers and more accessible Board of Education meetings in which they are broadcast in English and Spanish.
Lincoln Annex School has been the hot-button issue of the campaign and Stork said it’s still at the forefront, even though the Board voted to transfer the school to DEVCO, which would raze the school and build a cancer hospital in its place. A 4.5-acre site at 50 Jersey Ave. has been identified as the site of the replacement school.
“The hot issue right now is right now here is the Lincoln Annex School, but that's just indicative of how they do things,” Stork said, referring to the Board of Education. “We are vowing to be transparent. That’s why we picked the name Students First. Put the interests of the students first. If it's not good for the students, we don’t care how good it is for everybody else.”
In all, there are seven names on the ballot, including incumbents Dale Caldwell, Emra Seawood and Patricia Varela. Maria Concepcion Powell is the lone Republican on the ballot.
Kaado's petition was sent after the initial deadline, but his legal team argued that since the governor had move the date of the election back to May 12, the deadline to file had also moved. State statute calls for petitions to be filed more than 50 days before the election.