Election Maplewood Opinion Schools / Kids South Orange

Letter: Maini, Cuttle & Farfan Are Best Suited to Shoulder Hard Decisions Facing BOE

To the Editors:

In these two towns — filled with involved and passionate community members — it should be no surprise to anyone that one question has come up increasingly often in my conversations over the past couple of months: “So,” my friends ask each other, “who are you voting for in the School Board election?” No doubt it’s come up a fair number of times for most of you as well.

I could just give you the short version of the answer I always give: I’m voting for Annemarie Maini, Javier Farfan and Shannon Cuttle, and I hope you will too. But with less than a week to go before we step into the voting booth, I feel it’s important to publicly share why.

I’ve supported Annemarie since she first ran three years ago, and in her time on the board, I’ve watched her take part in hard decisions, listened to her speak up for all the children in our district, and seen her push vital changes forward. In other words, I’ve watched her lead.

She has been a forceful ally in the cause of improving access and equity in our schools – and though we are far from done, she’s part of the reason we’re making strong progress. Just as important, Annemarie is not merely someone who supports socially just policies – her depth of experience means she has the skills to help craft new systems that will work in practice, and produce the results we all hope to see.

This is a woman who runs her own thriving preschool: She knows firsthand what it takes to ensure that schools are centered around children.

I only met Javier a few months ago, but I quickly understood why Annemarie wanted to run with him. Javier shared with me his childhood experience of having a great teacher take an interest in him, see his potential, and make a difference in his life. He has gone on to give back, both as the founder of a nonprofit mentoring program and of a new school, each of which is still operating successfully years later. He also brings to the table the perspective of an executive who knows how to manage budgets and organizations; the insights of an adjunct professor at Seton Hall University who is immersed daily in the world of education; and the patience of the dad of a 4-year-old boy. Javier is passionate about helping our schools succeed and evolve — and they must.

I supported Shannon when they ran last year, and I feel even more strongly about the value they would add to the board now. Shannon’s classroom and administration experience is coupled with policy expertise – and that’s a combination we could use more of on our board of education. Our children need an advocate with Shannon’s long commitment to the work of creating affirming and safe learning environments — in today’s world, that couldn’t be more important. I’ve also seen the way Shannon teaches kids how to advocate for themselves, how to organize, mobilize and speak up for their beliefs. Their incredible and dedicated leadership on these fronts is precisely what our school district needs from someone setting its course through the years ahead.

This community is at a pivotal moment. I know Annemarie, Javier and Shannon are the people best suited to shoulder the burdens of these critical volunteer positions. Please join me in supporting them on November 6.

Thank you,

Ronni Schwartz

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