Five community members are vying for three seats on the 9-member South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education: Regina Eckert, Nubia Wilson, Bill Gifford, Will Meyer and Ritu Pancholy. Terms are for three years. Election day is November 8, 2022; read more here. Village Green invites all candidates to submit statements for posting.
The following candidate statement is from Eckert, who is running on a ticket with Wilson and Gifford, “Students Come First.”
WHY I AM RUNNING
I am running for the Board of Education because I believe that for the good of our students, teachers, and families, our district requires fundamental change in order to have the schools that our children deserve. The majority of our current Board has failed to focus on the key problems our District and schools face, and as a result our children’s education is suffering. Additionally, the recent decisions around transportation and transfers have made it clear that the Board continues to set forth policies without any thought to the impact on our community. I know we can do better than this and I am ready to do the work.
Starting my journey as a parent in this district during a global pandemic was a big wake-up call for me. My daughter started her Kindergarten year – her first experience in elementary school- behind a computer screen. I understood, at first. There was still so much unknown about the pandemic and the safety of our students, teachers and staff was top priority. I started to tune into BOE meetings to get a better sense of how all of this worked – the Board, the Superintendent, how policies were set and decisions were made. I became an active Board watcher and could see that something wasn’t right. The infighting, the silencing of other Board members, the lack of collaboration, the disorganization. I had (and still have) so many questions:
- Is this how Boards typically function?
- Does community input ever have any weight in decisions?
- Why were we told that air ventilation was fixed only to find out it wasn’t? ● How is it that providing transportation to those 1+ miles away wasn’t considered to be an important factor in the Intentional Integration Initiative’s success?
- Why has there been so much faculty turnover in the past few years, some that weren’t even employed with SOMSD for a year?
- Why are some District goals so vague, with little to no way to measure effectiveness?
- What are we actually doing to improve the curriculum?
- Why are we so focused on the achievement gap in high school, when it actually should be addressed so much earlier?
I am concerned about the current – and future – state of this District. I want to be a positive change for this Board. The SOMA schools were once known as among the best in the state, with educational achievements easily in the top ten school districts. Today, our BOE and District has become complacent in accepting middle-of-the-pack performance. We must demand more for our kids, teachers, and the overall SOMA community.
As a Board member, I will encourage open discussion and listen to all viewpoints. I commit to strengthening the trust of our community – the students, the teachers, our district families and other SOMA residents. I will ask questions and be open to discussions. I will openly express my ideas and perspectives to shape critical votes and policy decisions. I want to make our schools a place where students feel safe and inspired to learn, teachers feel respected and appreciated and the families of our community know that we are listening.
I am running for the Board of Education because we need to do more, our community deserves more. Students Come First.
My family and I have lived in Maplewood for just over 5 years. We have 2 beautiful children – a 7 year old daughter in 2nd grade at Tuscan and a 3 year old son.
I graduated from Pennsylvania State University with a marketing degree and spent the majority of my career in digital entertainment and sports. During my time at Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLB.com) and Univision, I worked closely with brands in sales and client success to bring their marketing campaigns to life. After ~11 years in the digital world, I transitioned to the ed-tech space to help to build a company, Sawyer, from the ground up. At the time, my oldest was 8 months old and it was exciting to be part of a company that was focused on building a platform to help parents discover enrichment activities for their young children. In my 4+ years at Sawyer, I helped to onboard the first 100+ partners, built out their sales processes from scratch, and launched the People & Culture function as the company doubled in size. I rolled out multiple company initiatives to grow and foster internal community and culture and partnered with the CEO and executive leadership team on developing people strategy, concentrating on talent acquisition and employee retention. I’ve been an active Tuscan PTA member for the past 3 years and was previously on the Board for my son’s preschool during the 2021-22 school year.
I believe my professional experience, combined with my passion and commitment to prioritizing our students’ education, would benefit our community if elected to the SOMSD Board of Education.