Daugherty: Maini and Farfan Understand the Challenges Ahead for SOMSD

To the Editor:

I am writing to endorse Annemarie Maini and Javier Farfan for the South Orange Maplewood Board of Education. I had the pleasure of working with Annemarie for a full year during my third term on the BOE and was impressed by the ease and confidence with which she quickly came up to speed. As a past co-president of South Orange Middle School HSA and a long time BOE watcher, Annemarie was already deeply familiar with the issues facing our district.

As a Board member, Annemarie has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to access and equity for all students – making sure these are not just buzz words, but actually mean something. During her tenure curriculum has been revised to meet state standards, and staffing levels and schedules better aligned to provide students with additional support as they challenge themselves with more demanding classes. Math courses at the high school have been revised to keep the impressive array of advanced courses intact while removing those that were mere placeholders.

Restorative practices are more widely used as an alternative to purely punitive responses. Special education services have better oversight and are more consistently provided. A long overdue facilities plan has been developed to restore our aging buildings and create enough space for our growing student population. This is not a comprehensive list, just a glimpse at the type of foundational work that has positioned the District on the cusp of providing an educational environment where every student can thrive and reach their potential.

Javier Farfan, while being relatively new to the community, shares Annemarie’s commitment to providing a school system where all students feel valued and are encouraged to believe in themselves and reach their potential. Having been the recipient of this type of support as a student in Harlem and Washington Heights, Javier is committed to giving back and improving student outcomes. While at SUNY Binghamton, Javier cofounded a non-profit that provided mentoring for middle school students. Later he partnered with a former classmate to author and win a challenge grant from the office of Mayor Bloomberg to establish the Urban Assembly School for Young Women in Business.

Javier’s personal experience K-12 gives him a clear understanding of the sort of teaching and engagement we need here to make our schools work for all children. Coupled with his successful education volunteer work, his own teaching experience at Seton Hall University, and his professional expertise as a senior marketing, change management, and strategic planning consultant, that understanding will give Javier a unique perspective on the work facing the BOE.

Our school district is great for some, but not all. Reversing the numerous harmful practices and attitudes that negatively impact many students throughout the district is a monumental task that takes time, and forward momentum is fragile. It’s critical to elect Board of Education members who can appreciate the work that has been done, understand the challenges ahead, and stay focused on making the decisions necessary for the South Orange Maplewood School District to become a model for others to emulate.

Please join me in voting for Annemarie Maini and Javier Farfan on November 6th.

Beth Daugherty

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