Letter: Baker and Baker Will Bring Progressive Values to the BOE

Letter to the Editors:

I am writing to urge residents of our communities to vote for two outstanding candidates for the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education: Elizabeth Baker and Robin Baker.  Both Bakers have invaluable experience and skills and both are strongly committed to pursuing racial justice in our community.

I’ve known Elizabeth Baker for several years.  I cannot think of a person more qualified than Elizabeth to serve on our school board.  In her day job, Elizabeth is a labor lawyer.  She understands the world from the perspective of those who have to fight for justice and fairness every day.  She knows how those without financial or political power in a community must be given a voice.  She has the skills to bring people together with different viewpoints and come to consensus.  As President of the Board, she has had to navigate among members and constituents with very different political perspectives.  She also had to work with a superintendent who, by many accounts, was often unwilling to tackle head on the difficult issues our community faces over race and class divides.

I admire Elizabeth’s ability to stay focused, to listen to the viewpoints of people from all political points of view, and, at the same time, to keep her own social justice values in the forefront of her work.  In fact, of all the people that I have met in my 20 years in this community, I would say that Elizabeth Baker is one of the smartest, most progressive, and capable people I have met.  She deserves to be re-elected to a second term.

I do not know Robin Baker well, but what I do know about her career and her prior service on the board suggests she would be an excellent addition to the current board.  Robin served on the board when it created Seth Boyden as a Demonstration School.  Both my children attended Seth Boyden, and benefitted greatly from it, as have hundreds of other children in our community.  Robin supports policies that seek to address institutional racism.  She laid the groundwork for de-leveling the 4th grade back in the early 2000s.  I believe Robin will be a strong advocate on the board for racial justice, in part because of her invaluable institutional knowledge of the district.

The problems we have in our community, as we all know, do not have easy answers.  They are long-standing and deeply-rooted.  Very few communities around the country have “solved” the opportunity gap we face here.  We need highly skilled, dedicated, smart, talented people with strong progressive values to ensure that policy changes are effectively implemented.  Through their service on our school board, Elizabeth Baker and Robin Baker have demonstrated that they each have this combination of skills and values.  I hope you will give them your vote on Election Day, November 7.

Amy Higer

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