UPDATE (1/21): Due to inclement weather, tonight's meeting of the school board has been postponed to next Tuesday 1/28 @ 7pm in the NBHS auditorium.
NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Tonight, the city's board of education will have its first public meeting of the year at 7pm in the auditorium of New Brunswick High School, 1000 Somerset Street.
The nine-member board is in charge of the local public school system that serves children from Pre-K through the 12th Grade, and they also operate a school for adults to earn their graduation equivalency diploma (GED).
The board holds public meetings once a month in the NBHS auditorium, where they conduct business and adopt policies. Frequently, the meetings also include various artistic or musical performances by groups of schoolchildren and updates on programs and events.
Almost anyone is permitted to ask questions or make comments. On two occasions last year, Board President Edward Spencer denied individuals the right to speak at the meeting when they mentioned they reside in neighboring towns, even though state taxpayers pay for the vast majority of the district's expenses.
The board members are still getting used to a new system where three members are elected each year in a citywide vote. Previously, the city's mayor appointed all of the members.
Voters narrowly decided to change the system from appointed to elected in November 2012. Since then, five individuals have been elected to the board, including three who were already serving as appointed members.
But four appointed members including Spencer have not yet had to run for elections.
This year, Dale Caldwell, Emra Seawood, and Diana Fajardo will have to decide whether or not to run for election to the board.
Only Fajardo has run before, but her victory came under a cloud as New Brunswick Today exposed irregularities in the election that Fajardo could not explain.
The election will be held on April 23, and the deadline for candidates to get their names on the ballot is March 4. Each candidate must be a U.S. citizen, 18 or older, and have lived in the city for at least one year.
Candidates are required to submit at least ten valid signatures from registered New Brunswick voters to the Board of Education office at 268 Baldwin Street by 4pm on March 4.
More information about how to run for school board, including a candidate kit, is available at the NJ School Boards Association website.
The winners of the election will be sworn into office during the April 22 board re-organization meeting.
Unlike the City Council meetings, Board of Education meetings are not filmed or made available for viewing on the internet. Despite promises to look into it, no effort has been made to accomodate the large number of Spanish-speaking parents at the meetings.
The Board of Education's public meeting schedule for the remainder of the 2013-2014 school year is as follows:
- January 21 @ 7pm (postponed due to inclement weather)
- January 28 @ 7pm
- February 18 @ 7pm
- March 18 @ 7pm
- April 22 @ 6pm
- May 13 @ 7pm
- June 17 @ 7pm
- June 26 @ 5:30pm
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate and a community organizer, and an independent candidate for Mayor of New Brunswick.