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Voter Guide: April 17 New Brunswick School Board Election

Record-High Seven Candidates Appearing on Ballots in This Year's BOE Race
Board of Ed Building
The Board of Education building at 268 Baldwin Street is one of fourteen polling stations throughout New Brunswick Charlie Kratovil

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Voters will be able to cast votes for up to three candidates in the April 17 school board election, as well as decide whether or not to approve the school district's proposed budget.

In a seven-way race for three open seats, incumbents Edward Spencer, Diana Solis, and Ronald Hush have been conspicuously quiet throughout the campaign.

All three incumbent board members did not respond to an invitation to participate in a candidate's forum held by Unity Square on April 12, and one—Ronald Hush—has not attended a Board of Education meeting since February.

Meanwhile, challengers Jad Kaado and Nancy Love teamed up to build support for their upstart campaigns, hosting several "meet the candidates" events in recent weeks—including one with fellow insurgent candidate Jerry Mercado.

Mercado is making his second run at a school board seat since the city started holding school elections in 2013.

That year, Mercado lost to Hush and Solis, who was then known as Diana Fajardo, in an election that was later investigated by the Attorney General's Office after this newspaper revealed that Hush and Solis had submitted their candidate petitions after the advertised deadline, giving them an unfair advantage.

Their running mate, New Brunswick Recreation Director Edward Spencer, shielded Hush and Solis from our pointed questions about the irregularities during his time as Board of Education President.

Spencer is one of several current Board of Education members whose tenure dates back to the era when the city's Mayor was allowed to appoint the entire board.  He has been on the board since 1994.

Also on the ballot is Yesenia Medina-Hernandez, running for the third straight time.  She almost won last year's election in what would have proved to be a historic upset, but the election was ruled a tie after the losing incumbent filed for a recount and an additional vote was discovered.

NEW BRUNSWICK BOARD OF EDUCATION CANDIDATES

#1A - Edward Spencer

Colony House resident
works as City Recreation Director

Spencer has a long track record of involvement within the New Brunswick community, though many point to his employment with the city government as a conflict of interest.  He has worked for the city for many years and serves as an elected member of the Democratic Party organization, representing Ward 6, District 6.  He helped shield his running mates from questions about the irregularities that helped them get elected in 2013.

#2A - Diana Solis

Wilcox Road resident
works at Middlesex County Board of Social Services

Solis is a parent of two children in the school system.  She recently re-located from Remsen Avenue to Wilcox Road, where she lives in a home owned by the family of another board member.  She attended Rutgers University and has not been responsive to questions about the irregularities that helped her win her first election.

#3A - Jad Kaado

Renaissance Lane resident
works at the ARC of New Jersey

Kaado is a former writer for New Brunswick Today who is running for public office for the first time.  He was born and raised in New Brunswick, graduating from Rutgers University and earning a Master's Degree from the University of Toronto.  He has been attending board meetings and spoke out against a tax exemption that would have let a developer avoid paying school taxes.

#4A - Nancy Love

Comstock Street resident
works at IQ Research

Love is a senior at Rutgers University who co-founded the RU Progressive student organization.  She mentors New Brunswick youth as part of the Pilot Me mentorship program.  She has been attending board meetings and spoke out against a tax exemption that would have let a developer avoid paying school taxes.

#5A - Yesenia Medina-Hernandez

Jersey Avenue resident
works at RWJ Hospital

Medina-Hernandez previously worked for the district's Health Sciences Technology High School and is running for school board for the third consecutive year.  She has children who attend the public schools in New Brunswick, and is involved in many community organizations including the Friends of the New Brunswick Free Public Library.

#6A - Jerry Mercado

Pennington Road resident
works at United Healthcare

Mercado graduated from Rutgers University and has lived in New Brunswick since 1996.  He owns two properties in the city and has previously served on the Housing Authority Board and Zoning Board.  He is a parent of children who attended the city's public schools, including a daughter still in school.  His wife also works for the Board of Education.  He has run for City Council previously and this is his second campaign for school board.

#7A - Ronald Hush

New Street resident
Track coach at Bishop Ahr HS

A former US Marine who once competed on the New Brunswick High School track team, Hush has gone on to coach his own track team and now does the same for a private school in Edison.  He also serves as an elected member of the Democratic Party organization, representing Ward 4, District 1.  Hush's involvement on the Board of Education has been quite limited since he joined in 2013.  He rarely speaks during the board meetings and has not been responsive to questions about the irregularities that helped him win his first election.


Voters can vote for up to three candidates of their choosing.  They can also write-in the names of their own candidates, using the electronic voting machines or paper ballots.

The three candidates with the most votes will be sworn in to the Board of Education in May.

BALLOT QUESTION

Voters will also be asked one yes or no question: whether or not to endorse the school district's annual budget.  If a majority of voters who decide on the question vote against the budget, it will be subjected to cuts to be made by the city government.  If a majority of voters who vote on the question endorse the budget, it will remain unchanged.

It is not mandatory for voters to decide on the question, so there are three options: Yes, No, and not voting on the question.

VOTING RULES

You must be registered to vote in the City of New Brunswick to cast a ballot in this school board election.

Voters can confirm their registration or pin down their polling location at the Division of Elections website or by sending a text message to 877877.

Anyone who goes to a polling station who is denied the right to vote the normal way—with an electronic voting machine contained in a booth—is entitled to vote on a provisional paper ballot which will be counted if your registration is valid.

Polls are open from 7am-8pm, and no one eligible should be denied the right to vote if they are waiting in line at 8pm.

Polling locations are as follows:

  • First Reformed Church, 9 Bayard Street
  • Hungarian Heritage Center, 300 Somerset Street
  • Lincoln School, 66 Bartlett Street
  • Lord Stirling School, 100 Redmond Street
  • New Brunswick Board of Education Gymnasium, 268 Baldwin Street
  • New Brunswick Housing Authority Office, 7 Van Dyke Avenue
  • New Brunswick Middle School, 1125 Livingston Avenue
  • Providence Square Senior Housing Complex, 217 Somerset Street
  • Public Works Garage, 400 Jersey Avenue
  • Redshaw Elementary School, 216 Livingston Avenue *NEW VOTING LOCATION*
  • Roosevelt School, 83 Livingston Avenue
  • Rutgers Labor Education Center, 50 Labor Center Way
  • Senior Citizens Resource Center, 81 Huntington Street
  • Woodrow Wilson Elementary, 133 Tunison Road

Polls close at 8pm.  Please visit our Facebook page for up-to-date election results this evening.

Editor's Note: The author of this article is a volunteer with the campaign of Jad Kaado and Nancy Love.