Seven candidates have filed to run for three seats on the 9-person South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education (election day is Tuesday, November 5, 2019). Village Green is posting candidate profiles for each candidate who submits. Below is Erin Siders’ biography and candidate statement; Siders is running a joint campaign with Thair Joshua. Read Village Green’s Election Guidelines here.
ERIN SIDERS – WHY I AM RUNNING FOR THE SOMSD BOARD OF EDUCATION
I’m running to foster excellence in our schools and to ensure the policies put in place have a positive impact on ALL students.
My son Isaiah and I moved to Maplewood in July 2003 and by September 2004, my son was diagnosed with Autism and enrolled in Marshall School’s Pre-K program for special needs children. Like most parents of young special needs children, my son’s diagnosis was a complete shock and a bit devastating.
But it forced me to mobilize; to learn the language of special needs/education, to read books on Autism, the various therapies and the impact of early intervention. The more I learned, the more I wanted to get involved with Isaiah’s classroom and the pre-k program, in general. I started out as a parent volunteer assisting during library and lunch time. I then became class parent to help support the families in my son’s class.
As my son progressed throughout the various district schools, I continued to volunteer. I wanted to share my experiences and knowledge with other families who were going through similar issues. Being the parent of a special needs child is VERY isolating – we are embarrassed that our kids are not “normal” and feel that no one understands our challenges. I wanted to take those feelings and emotions and use them to galvanize people – our kids aren’t defective…just different. Don’t let those feelings stymie you and prevent you from getting your child the services they need and deserve!
I spent six years as the School Liaison representing Jefferson and Maplewood Middle schools for our district’s special needs parent/guardian organizations, advocating in the building as a first line of defense for parents/guardians who run into issues. I directed families to the available resources and funneled issues to the special needs organizations leadership for advice and escalation with the district administration (when needed).
In 2016, I was elected President of SOMA’s Special Education Parents Advisory Committee (SEPAC), the state mandated organization representing families of special needs children educated in and out of our district. Our role is to identify systemic barriers to the delivery of special services within the district and bring these issues to district administration. Additionally, I served as parent representative on both the school district’s Affirmative Action and Code of Conduct committees. These teams work to ensure the district is compliant with state and federal laws providing equality and equity in educational programs and to update the Code of Conduct policy towards restorative justice.
Our district will face many challenges and opportunities over the next three years. We have a new district superintendent, Dr. Ronald Taylor, who will drive pivotal activities – developing his administrative team, managing the Long Range Facilities Plan, and guiding the Intentional Integration Plan. We need a BOE that will support his success in this work and ensure that we continue down this path towards equity and student achievement. My record of advocacy in our schools speaks for itself.
I’m running for the South Orange-Maplewood School District BOE to continue fostering excellence in our schools and to make sure the policies put in place have a positive impact on all students. My experience working with administration and the BOE to identify policy shortcomings and gaps, revise policies and develop policy regulations will be valuable to fulfilling the short and long-term goals of our district. We need to make sure that our district stays on track, that district policy and procedures remain compliant with state and federal regulations, and that the day-to-day administrative work is not neglected.
I’ve learned a great deal over these years of volunteer leadership. I am excited to bring that experience and knowledge to the Board of Education, so I can continue to support the families in our community. I hope to have your vote on November 5.
Erin Siders Biography
Erin Siders was born in Paterson, NJ and raised in Newark and Montclair, NJ. She is a graduate of Montclair High and has a Bachelor of Arts in History from The College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio.
Currently, Erin works as a Senior IT Project Manager with Express Scripts, where she has been employed for 22 years. She moved with her son Isaiah from Montclair to Maplewood in 2003 and has been an active volunteer within the South Orange-Maplewood School District (SOMSD) since 2005.
Erin has a demonstrated history of dedicating her time on behalf of the students and families of SOMSD. She has held leadership volunteer positions in all schools that her son attended: Marshall, Jefferson, Maplewood Middle and Columbia High School. She served two terms as President of SOMA’s Special Education Parents Advisory Committee (SEPAC), where under her leadership, SEPAC accomplished:
- Advocated for a vendor change for the district’s outsourced paraprofessionals
- Hosted a “How to Create an IEP Binder” program sponsored by Understood.org
- Created a program that highlighted specific transition points for students, with representatives from MECC, Marshall, Maplewood Middle, SOMS and CHS
- Conducted monthly parent/guardian meetings on specific topics related to special education: elementary, secondary schools, Out of District families
- Provided the district with a list of current needs in the delivery of special services that should be incorporated into the Capital Improvement Plan
- Recommended special education items for consideration into the annual SOMSD budget
Erin is a parent representative on both the school district’s Affirmative Action and Code of Conduct committees, to ensure the district is compliant with state and federal laws providing equality and equity in educational programs, and to update the Code of Conduct policy towards restorative justice. In 2019, she served as the Co-Chair of the SOMA Action Education committee. Additionally, she has served on the Maplewood Community Pool Advisory Committee since 2012.
In these roles, Erin has worked closely with the SOMSD Board of Education and administrators on issues that impact ALL students. She has been a notable figure during BOE Public Speaks, showing the board where the district has been remiss or non-compliant with its own policies and with state standards and best practices. Some examples are:
- 2019 – provided feedback on the draft version of the district policy for electronic surveillance of district buildings, including noted differences between the NJ DOE policy and the draft district policy
- 2018 – noted that implementation of the district’s revised code of conduct policy was overdue
- 2017 – brought parent concerns regarding the quality of paraprofessionals contracted with the district
- 2016 – noted that implementation of the revised 504 regulations was long overdue
Erin loves to read, exercise and travel with Isaiah. Together they have visited 12 states and 17 countries, including France, Japan and Mexico. Isaiah is completing his final year studying Game Design as part of the Columbia High School – Union County Vocational Technical School shared time program. She looks forward to continuing to contribute to our community by serving on the BOE.