Five community members are vying for three seats on the 9-member South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education: Regina Eckert, Nubia Wilson, Bill Gifford, Will Meyer and Ritu Pancholy. Terms are for three years. Election day is November 8, 2022; read more here. Village Green invites all candidates to submit statements for posting.
I am excited to announce my candidacy for the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education. I’m running to bring new blood to the BOE and be a strong voice for parents.
As someone who grew up in Maplewood, it’s an exciting, yet scary time to return home. Like so many, my family moved to SOMA for the schools, but it’s clear the district faces some very serious challenges. Our students are struggling with real socio-emotional problems, parents are overwhelmed and feel ignored by a dysfunctional board, while our teachers must fight for fair pay and safe working conditions. On top of it all, the current BOE recently outsourced transportation services, literally the heartbeat of the district’s integration plan. It’s clear that a new perspective is needed on the BOE, and I am stepping up to the plate to provide that.
As Director of Origination at a national renewable energy provider, I help organizations take advantage of Federal and State incentives to deploy a range of technologies such as onsite solar and EV charging. This work provides me with a lens as to how the district could better leverage State and local programs to cut costs and green our infrastructure. These initiatives not only save tax dollars, they bring innovative technology to our schools that can expand curriculum in the classroom. The funds are out there, it’s up to the BOE and the Administration to do the work and seek them out. Always an optimist, I see light on the horizon. We can turn this crisis into an opportunity.
In many ways this campaign is a watershed moment in my life. Almost two decades ago, I ran for the SOMA BOE as a Columbia High School Senior. My main issues were the BOE’s blatant disregard for the district’s racial achievement gap, a decision to outsource 21 janitorial positions and a complete lack of community engagement. While we have made some progress, in many ways our towns are still dealing with the same problems. What our community needs now is a BOE that is responsive and transparent. Most of all, our students must come first.
Bill Gifford is the Sr Director of Origination at Dynamic Energy, a renewable energy provider. Raised in Maplewood, he recently returned to town last year with his wife and two children. Bill received his BA in Political Science from Hunter College CUNY and his MPA from Rutgers University School of Public Affairs and Administration. He is a co-founder of the Maroon Project, an activist incubator based in Newark, NJ that creates spaces for students, organizers and residents to impact issues of social justice through political education and civic engagement.