It’s that time of year, when the Village Green editors get stopped in the grocery stores, coffee shops, parking lots and on the sidewalks of South Orange and Maplewood and get asked:
“Who should I vote for?”
Sorry, we’re not going to tell who should get your vote, but we do want to provide you with the information to figure it out.
There are five candidates vying for three spots on nine-member South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education this year (last year there were NINE, so hey, the choice should be a little easier). The candidates (in alphabetic order) are: Susie Adamson, James Davis III, Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad, Anthony J. Mazzocchi and Johanna Wright.
Susie Adamson is running for the first time for the Board of Education. She is known for her ability to “find ways to reach consensus and move forward” as well as “build community” at Seth Boyden Demonstration School where she served as President of the PTA. Later, Adamson served on the Presidents’ Council, which represents PTAs across the district. As former Seth Boyden PTA Vice President Tia Swanson wrote in a letter of support for Adamson, “Without fail, [Susie] has been a force for progress and a voice of reason and compassion.” In her candidate statement, Adamson wrote, “I strongly believe that our challenges are not as simple as a couple of hot button issues like leveling and taxes, and the solutions to those challenges are not simple ‘either/or’ solutions.”
You can read Susie Adamson’s Candidate Statement here.
Find letters of support for Susie Adamson here: Swanson, Smilow, Bugg-Levine, Latz, Lindstrom, The Glynns, Tuohy, Shaffron, Clyburn, Maini, Baker, Donoghue, Cancellaro, and 15 Seth Boyden teachers and staff members.
James Davis III
James Davis III is running for the first time for Board of Ed. He is running with Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad. A regulatory attorney by day, Board member Chris Sabin wrote in a letter of support that Davis “brings a unique set of skills around negotiation, collaboration, and leadership that will benefit our district immensely.” Davis wrote that he is running with Lawson-Muhammad “because we share a passion and commitment to successful outcomes for children, a sincere concern about the current state of our schools and a strong belief that our district can do better.”
See Davis’ full Candidate Statement here.
Lawson-Muhammad is running for her second term on the Board (with running mate James Davis). In her candidate statement she wrote, “Our candidacy is motivated by our desire to strengthen the Board in its support for the educational initiatives of Superintendent John Ramos, as our district strives to redefine itself through his recently-launched strategic planning process, and our belief that the district needs a stronger focus on ensuring the operational effectiveness of our schools.” In her endorsement of Lawson-Muhammad, former Board of Education President Beth Daugherty wrote, “I have served on the Board for over nine years, the last three with Stephanie and I know firsthand the insight she brings to serving the needs of all students.” Lawson-Muhammad is currently serving as the First Vice President of the Board.
See Lawson-Muhammad’s full candidate statement here.
Anthony (Tony) Mazzocchi is a product of the South Orange-Maplewood School District as well as a former administrator in the district (supervisor of Fine Arts, K-12). Currently, Mazzocchi runs the School of Music at Montclair State University and a summer music school in Vermont. Former Board of Ed member Jeff Bennet wrote the following about Mazzocchi in his endorsement letter: “Anthony’s experience as an administrator is particularly valuable because he understands better than anyone else what causes the gap success between the vision we have for something and its actual implementation.” In his candidate statement, Mazzocchi wrote, “It is my core belief that a curriculum rich in creative subjects and experiences pre-K through 12th grade for all students, when integrated in the core curriculum and taught as separate subject areas, lead to increased academic, social and functional skill development and knowledge.”
Read Mazzocchi’s full candidate statement here.
Johanna Wright is an incumbent, looking for her second three-year term on the Board of Education. As Wright supporter Malaney Hill pointed out in a recent letter of support, Wright is often on the lonely end of 8-1 votes by the nine-person board. Although Hill said some might view Wright as a contrarian, he cited her as a “welcome and necessary voice.” Wright, a former teacher and coach in the district, is known for speaking up for teachers and students. In fact, she has the endorsement of several current and former students. In her candidate statement, Wright wrote that she is “running for a second term because I want to continue advocating on behalf of concerned parents, our community and most importantly, our students.”
You can read Johanna Wright’s Candidate Statement here.
Read all five candidates’ responses to questions from the Special Education Parents Advisory Committee here.
See video of the Candidates Forum moderated by Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca and South Orange Village President Sheena Collum here (or view below).
See video of the Candidates Forum moderated by the Hilton Neighborhood Associations here (or view below).
(Note: There is no video of the Coalition on Race Candidates Forum.)
Read coverage of the Candidates Forum moderated by the South Orange-Maplewood Community Coalition on Race here.
Read coverage of the Hilton Neighborhood Association forum here.
Read coverage of the DeLuca/Collum-moderated forum here.
Video of the South Orange-Maplewood Cares About Schools forum with DeLuca & Collum:
HNA forum video: