Robin Baker: Maini and Farfan Will Help SOMSD Turn Important Corner

Robin Baker serves on the Board of Education. However, the views expressed in this letter are her personal views and not those of the Board.

Dear Editor,

I am writing to endorse Annemarie Maini and Javier Farfan for the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education.

For the past 10 months, I have had the pleasure of serving on the Board with Annemarie Maini, and in the last few months have had the opportunity to get to know Javier Farfan. I wholeheartedly and without reservation support both for seats on the SOMSD Board of Education. We are yet again at a crucial crossroads in our district’s history and, this time, we need to resolutely and courageously embrace the FACTS about the needs of our district and how to satisfy them. The progress that has been made is fragile and cannot be taken for granted. We must continue forward on the current path that has begun to yield long-sought results in the areas of not only equity in access, but in the real support that is needed to bring success along with that access.

The expansion of early childhood education, the clear-eyed, tough decisions concerning facilities use and needs, the plans for getting ahead of the curve on integration, the deep dive and changes being made in special education, the work of setting a district-wide tone of inclusiveness and encouragement for all students—all are poised to turn the corner if we continue to forge ahead. We are in no way on the verge of perfection, but our district is uniquely positioned to enter into a strong phase of measurable progress in serving all students in a way that exemplifies a real belief that ALL children can learn. We are also finally abandoning the false barriers that have separated our children in ways that perpetuate underperformance where opportunities for success are too often missed.

The two candidates whom I know have and will help us turn this important corner are Annemarie Maini and Javier Farfan. Both have long records of excellence in the realm of education which include: Annemarie in her role as Director of the successful South Orange Country Day School, and Javier as the co-founder (while in college) of a mentoring program for inner-city youths that is still going strong today and co-founder of a New York City public high school for disadvantaged young women in 2005. These are only two of many areas of experience that each would bring to bear on the BOE role. Check out their biographies on the Maini and Farfan campaign website at https://boe2018.com to get a full appreciation of the depth of experience they have. We need, TODAY, their expertise and good judgement to contribute to selecting the next Superintendent.

A paragon of integrity who works tirelessly to find common ground among strongly held disparate opinions, Annemarie brings a civility and understanding steeped in compassion and knowledge that are a unifying force on the Board. She has the rare ability to genuinely see all sides of an issue, and has the humility to use her insights wisely.

Javier is new to my circle, but has impressed me with a truly thoughtful approach to the examination of every idea and issue with which he has familiarized himself about our district throughout this process. A hunger for facts and always seeking first to understand, Javier has an even keel and a bent toward collaboration. He does not “go along to get along” but raises the hard questions in discussion and challenges the status quo.

Change is hard. Many see the need and agree, with lip-service, but effective change ruffles some feathers and smoothes others—like a rising tide, it lifts ALL boats. Let’s fight the good fight for the future of our district. Let’s lift ALL boats by electing Annemarie Maini and Javier Farfan to the SOMSD Board of Education!

Robin Johnson Baker

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