South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education Candidate Profile: Deborah Engel

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Six candidates will run for election to the 9-member South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education on November 3, 2020. Five people are vying for three full-term (3-year) open seats, while one incumbent is running to complete the remainder of a term. Village Green is posting candidate profiles for each candidate who submits. Below is Deborah Engel’s candidate statement. Read Village Green’s Election Guidelines here.

Deborah Engel (credit Live Love Lens Photography)

This month I celebrate ten years of motherhood.

As I reflect back on this past decade, I remember one particular car ride when my now-ten-year-old was an infant. I don’t remember where we were going, but I was a little nervous; we were going somewhere new and I didn’t know what to expect. And I remember looking back in the rear view mirror, seeing her and thinking:

“I must be brave for her. She cannot know that I am scared.” And in that moment, my mindset shifted and I created a new self mantra: “I must be brave.”

Ten years ago, this newfound bravery led me to start one business, Work and Play, and then another, General Store Cooperative. This newfound bravery led me to join the preschool board, and then the South Orange Village Center Alliance board. This newfound bravery taught me to use my voice to fight for what I believe in, and to create change in our community that I am proud of. And earlier this year, this same bravery led me to close the business I’ve spent the past decade building and announce my candidacy for Board of Education.

It is difficult to be brave for our children during a pandemic. It is difficult to comfort them through the transitions while some of us are facing devastating transitions of our own. It is difficult for the parents of special needs students who are watching their children regress, and it is difficult for working parents who must manage not only their own work schedules, but also their children’s remote learning education. It is difficult for our teenagers who are missing the ACTs, SATs, college visits and other high school milestones, and it is difficult for our most vulnerable students who are still trying to achieve access and equity in our schools. It is difficult to be brave when the world around us is so uncertain.

But, uncertainty can also be exciting, because uncertainty can bring about change. The road before us has not yet been traveled, the rules have not yet been written. We are at an exciting transitional time when we can start looking at the opportunities before us – the opportunities to take a closer look at the policies and structures around how we educate our children, and create innovative new changes and solutions.

I am running for Board of Education because I want to be part of that change. As a local business owner, mother and volunteer, I have built community, I have helped draft policy and I have not been afraid to use my voice to work collaboratively and creatively. Through my work, I have proven myself as a consensus builder, someone who can understand both sides of an issue and who can work diplomatically to solve problems.

I am running for the Board of Education because I believe I can help. I believe my 15 years of experience marketing to parents will be an asset to our Board of Education and Superintendent as they strategize communications around these pandemic transitions and when implementing the intentional integration plan in 2021. I am running for Board of Education because after rising to a community leadership position while advocating for our business community, I am eager to focus, strategize and innovate around how we educate our children. I am running for Board of Education because as the world around us changes, so must our vision for our schools. Finally, I am running for the Board of Education because I love our community; and if elected, I promise to advocate for all our families and to ensure that our children receive the high-quality education that they all deserve.

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