Letter: Donna Smith Is a Champion of Educational Equity

To the Editors:

I write in strong support of Donna Smith’s candidacy for re-election to the Board of Education.

There are many positive things to say about Donna’s experience, integrity, and work ethic, but I’ll leave it to others to comment on those attributes.  I focus here on one and only one topic: her commitment and leadership on the topic of Educational Equity.

Among all the candidates, Donna has by far the strongest track record in making sure that all students have fair and equal access to the broadest possible range of educational opportunities. Some people who oppose her candidacy have implied that she is the enemy of educational equity.

That is a totally false and counter-productive narrative.

Donna was an early supporter and one of the main authors of the Board’s Policy on Equity and Access. The cornerstone of that policy maintains course levels at Columbia High School but allows each student to freely choose the level for each course with the degree of difficulty that suits his or her individual needs. The syllabus and requirements for each course at each level are well articulated so that students can make intelligent and responsible choices, and there is opportunity for mid-year corrections if necessary.  The new policy replaced the prior practice of administrative tracking of students that many people felt discriminated against minority students.

The new policy is the essence of justice and equity because it gives all students and their parents a significant measure of control over their individual educational programs without administrative interference. At the same time it offers students flexibility and options that can meet them where they are and challenge them to the degree they desire. This policy embodies the ideals that we value in Maplewood and South Orange, and Donna fought hard both publicly and behind the scenes to get it adopted. She was instrumental in drafting its fine points and remains at the forefront of assuring that it is administered accordingly.

Donna Smith is a true Champion of Educational Equity.  If you care about giving our students the best chance to prepare for their adult lives in a difficult and competitive world, you should vote for Donna Smith on November 7.

James Nathenson

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