S. Orange-Maplewood BOE Candidates Statement: Lawson-Muhammad and Davis

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The Village Green has invited all five candidates for the South Orange – Maplewood Board of Education to submit statements for publication, which we will run as we receive them. Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad and James Davis III are running on the same ticket. 


Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad and James Davis III, both of South Orange, today announced their joint candidacy for two of the three seats on the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education, to be filled in this fall’s November 8 general election.

Stephanie was originally elected in 2013 and has sought to bring a thoughtful voice to the table during some challenging times.  She is seeking reelection to continue her commitment to support the district in realizing substantive change for the good of all students.

James has been active in a variety of volunteer roles, from youth sports coach to music parent to recent participation as an Achieve Foundation volunteer.

James and Stephanie issued the following statement to explain their reasons for running:

Joint Statement from James Davis III and Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad, Declaring Their Candidacy for the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education:

We are joining together to run for the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education in the upcoming November election because we share a passion and commitment to successful outcomes for children, a sincere concern about the current state of our schools and a strong belief that our district can do better.

Our candidacy is motivated by our desire to strengthen the Board of Education in its support for the educational initiatives of Superintendent John Ramos, as our district strives to redefine itself through his recently-launched strategic planning process, and our belief that the district needs a stronger focus on ensuring the operational effectiveness of our schools.

Our two towns are made up of a unique mix of people. Like most people we know, we moved here because we wanted a vibrant, diverse community in which to raise our own children. Central to that belief was the promise of a strong public school system that delivers for all students.

We have much to be proud of in our school district, with extensive opportunities in the arts, strong athletics programs and rich, challenging coursework at the high school level.

We are, however, all painfully aware that the promise and potential of our school district remains unrealized for too many of our students.  A disproportionate number of students of color are never able to take full advantage of our district’s many opportunities for excellence — even those who arrive at Kindergarten on an equal footing.  And these issues affect many others as well, including students with disabilities, LGBT students and children from disadvantaged families, to name but a few.

In fact, we think it is safe to say that every child is at risk in some way.  No matter who you are, how much money you have or how good a parent you are, your child can be thriving one day and experiencing challenges the next.  When that happens, unfortunately, there are too many cases where our school system seems unable to respond effectively.

We want a school district that is responsive to the needs of every individual child and is able to help them achieve their full potential. We need a school system that is able to partner with parents and provide all children the academic challenges and social/emotional support they need, whether they are high fliers, struggling students, or both at the same time.

We believe that making progress on all of the issues that face us demands a unified effort by the many different constituencies who make up our diverse community. We want to help forge a School Board that is able to lead in that endeavor. We are certain that our entire community, in support of our many committed educators, will help in these efforts to move our district forward.

In the weeks ahead, as part of our campaign, we intend to share our thoughts on what needs to happen to make good on that vision. We look forward to reaching into all neighborhoods and constituencies, enabling us to listen and respond to the wide range of concerns and aspirations from everyone who has a stake in the future of our schools and larger community.  For the sake of all our children, we must work together to ensure that every student has the opportunity to take full advantage of the educational excellence for which our district is known.

Stephanie and James


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