Three Rutgers alumni are running for the New Brunswick Board of Education, which is holding an election on April 20, on a “Students First” platform in the wake of the sale and demolition of the Lincoln Annex School.
The three candidates are Linda “Lindy” Stork, Jenifer Garcia and Matthew Rivera. Stork ran for a Board of Education position on the “Students First” platform last year, The Daily Targum previously reported.
Garcia, a 23-year-old lifelong resident of New Brunswick, serves as a community organizer for a local worker center to support Black and Brown communities and advocates for workers’ rights, according to the campaign website.
Rivera said he has experience in leadership and education through his time as a site facilitator at Civic League of Greater New Brunswick and his current work as a case manager at a homeless shelter. In addition, he is a serving member of the 108th Air National Guard Civil Engineering Squadron.
Stork was a bilingual kindergarten teacher in New Brunswick for approximately 30 years, and her children attended the city’s public schools, the Targum reported.
“I am very invested in this community and especially its children and education system,” she said. “I am now retired, and would like to have the opportunity to apply my accumulated knowledge, experience and willingness to listen and learn, to meeting the challenges facing our education system, as a member of the Board of Education.”
The candidates said a major motivation for their candidacy is the current Board’s sale of the Lincoln Annex School against many New Brunswick community members’ wishes, according to a press release. Demolition began on the school Monday, according to an article from TAPinto New Brunswick.
“If (the Board’s) combined experiences (have) led them to the conclusion that selling the Lincoln Annex School despite the widespread outrage, despite the fact that it’ll displace the students, despite the fact that it'll put them in a not-so-great part of town at a location that's currently contaminated, that might not be the experience that the people here in New Brunswick need,” Rivera said. “And we're definitely to do all in our power to make sure that no acts such as this ever happen again.”
The candidates said they want to focus on transparency and open communication with the public as part of their platform, which they saw to be lacking in the current Board. Stork said this includes allowing people to speak at meetings without prior registration, answering the public’s questions directly and broadcasting meetings in both Spanish and English.
Rivera said he wants to make meeting information available to the public well in advance so that they can prepare questions for the Board based on the meeting agenda. He also said the present time limit on how long members of the public can speak is unfair and prevents them from speaking and asking questions freely.
Garcia said the current Board has not done enough outreach to parents in New Brunswick in the way of calling them about their needs or opinions, with the Lincoln Annex School situation being a major example.
“Many of these people who run these types of projects — or anything — they never get the say of the community,” she said. “It also depends on the community to push back. And I just want that divide to stop.”
The “Students First” platform also includes improving the quality of education in New Brunswick, increasing accountability and updating the district’s facilities, according to the release.
The candidates have called upon the New Brunswick City Clerk and Board of Elections to reconsider a proposal to close six of the city’s 14 voting locations normally in use for the April 20 election, according to the press release. If approved, some residents may have to walk upwards of 1.5 miles to cast their votes.
The six voting locations are the New Brunswick Senior Citizen Resource Center, which is the fourth most popular polling location in the city, the New Brunswick Housing Authority office, the Labor Education Center, the Roosevelt Elementary School, the Hungarian Heritage Center and Providence Square, according to the release.
Other New Brunswick residents spoke against the proposal at the March 17 New Brunswick City Council meeting, according to the release. The proposal requires formal approval from the Board of Elections, which has a meeting scheduled for April 1, according to the release. Stork said the “Students First” candidates are working on creating a line of communication to the Board of Elections for residents to speak with the Board in advance.
“I think it's very important for candidates who are bilingual to be able to speak to the community and offer them help if they need it,” Garcia said. “I want them to know that we're here for them.”