NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—The Board of Education rejected one of the five candidates that submitted petitions to run for seats on the board in the upcoming April 19 election.

“Joel Martinez handed in a defective petition because half of the persons who signed were not registered voters. So he only had six valid signatures,” said Richard Jannarone, Business Administrator for the district.

“I was upset about the outcome of the petition, but I plan to run next year,” Martinez told New Brunswick Today.  “It is important that our generation becomes more involved in our local government and we see a reflection of our population represented in elected office.”

That leaves the three incumbent candidates, and challenger Yesenia Hernandez-Medina, a program coordinator at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH).

At RWJUH she says she puts together programs to help community members “[learn] about their health and health services that are available in the community.”

Hernandez-Medina is one of two candidates who work for the hospital.  Board of Education President Patricia Sadowski is a nurse there.

The other two candiates in the race are retired county worker and longtime BOE member Benito Ortiz, and political newcomer Jennifer Shukaitis who joined the board last summer.

Shukaitis was chosen by her fellow board members to replace a member who resigned, beating out Hernandez-Medina and three others who submitted for the open spot.

Hernandez-Medina says now it will be the community’s chance to decide who holds that seat, though she is not specifically after any one specific seat on the nine-member board.

A former district employee who worked with the first graduating class of the city’s Health Sciences and Technology High School, Hernandez-Medina said she is “excited about running” for school board and “very eager to give back and to be an essential part of the Board of Ed.”

The city’s voters narrowly decided to switch to an elected school board in 2012, implementing annual April school elections for the first time in city history.

Since the switch there have been two contested elections and two elections where no one challenged the political machine.

This will be the first election since 2013 where incumbents will face off with at least one challenger.

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, a community organizer, and a former independent candidate for mayor of New Brunswick.