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 Thair Joshua’s biography and candidate statement; Joshua is running a joint campaign with Erin Siders. Read Village Green’s Election Guidelines here.
THAIR JOSHUA – WHY I’M RUNNING FOR THE SOMSD BOARD OF EDUCATION
I’m running to provide a high-quality educational experience for all students, help remedy the achievement gap, improve communication with parents, students and staff, and ensure oversight of the bond implementation.
My wife Joanne and I have lived in South Orange since 2014 with our two sons, one a second-grader at Marshall and one at a local preschool. Since moving here, I’ve paid close attention to the school district by attending board meetings (either in person, or watching at home), and volunteering for district-focused organizations, such as the Community Coalition on Race’s Schools Committee and the Parenting Center’s Intentional Integration committee. I’ve been doing this because public education played a critical part in making me who I am today.
I was born in Brooklyn where I attended private elementary and a public magnet middle school. I later moved to Newark where I attended and graduated from the old Science High School (Go Chargers!) at the age of 15. I was an academically driven child and I am grateful to my parents for seeking and finding educational opportunities for me in both Brooklyn and Newark that would enable my ambitions.
I think that every child in both communities — particularly Newark — deserved the same access that I had to an excellent education.
Here in SOMA, we have a chance to make our schools places where all children can pursue their unique ambitions. We don’t have to pick and choose who will succeed from amongst our children. I’m running for the SOMSD Board of Education because I want great educational experiences for all children in the district, not just my own. And as we embark on a true sea change in how our schools — particularly the elementary ones — look, feel and operate, I want to be on the ground floor to ensure those changes are implemented, monitored and communicated to the public with all children and families in mind.
For those unfamiliar with my high school, the old Science was in a converted beer factory, with minimal renovations done to make it a school. We had no gym, no bell, and plenty of exposed pipes (it now operates in a beautiful new, high-tech building). That said, it was a place full of warmth and love amongst students, teachers, and staff, which counteracted our physical surroundings. This experience made me keenly aware of how inadequate facilities can impact one’s educational experience and am glad we’ve proceeded with the facilities and integration bond. I believe if we have good facilities to go along with a supportive climate and culture, the sky is the limit for our kids.
My educational experience also informs how I think about the achievement gap. I spent my entire public school experience surrounded by high achieving black and Latinx children and I know they exist. That is why I struggle to understand how our high school, with many more AP offerings than my high school had, can have so few black and Latinx students enrolled in those classes. I think hiring more teachers of color, expanding the MAC scholars’ program, and improving the school climate and culture — from our elementary schools to our high schools — can reduce the achievement gap. It’s not the students who need to change; it’s our school system. I stand ready to support our new superintendent, Dr. Taylor, in leading the systemic change needed to make a difference.
My professional experience consists of almost 20 years in the financial services industry in a variety of roles across compliance, investing, consulting, and data and technology. My current job involves translating contractual legal language into actionable insights for product developers, sales representatives and senior leaders throughout the company. That skill set will serve me well in translating district policy heavily coded in educational jargon into layperson’s terms. I can be an integral part of improving our district’s communication with families, a critical goal for our district.
Along with my education (BS Finance, Drexel University; MBA Columbia Business School), I know how to review and analyze financial statements, ensure policy compliance and provide guidance on best practices to address operational shortcomings. If elected, I pledge to work with [Superintendent of Schools] Dr. Taylor to ensure the district is compliant with state mandates, while searching for ways to prudently implement best fiscal practices.
Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to meeting you at an event soon and I ask for your vote on November 5th.
Thair Joshua Biography
Thair Joshua was born in Brooklyn, NY and raised in Newark, NJ. He is a graduate of Science High School and has a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance from Drexel University and an MBA from Columbia Business School. He is currently an Associate Director of Financial Data Rights Management at a large financial services company, and has prior work experience in consulting and compliance roles in the financial services sector.
Thair has always been involved in his community, with a particular interest in children and education. In college, he worked with Junior Achievement to teach financial literacy to children. Later, he worked with Everybody Wins!, which encourages professionals to read with children during their lunch break to increase literacy rates. He also worked with iMentor as a volunteer and also joined theirYoung Executive Board to help the organization further its mission of using mentoring to increase high school graduation rates.
Since moving to SOMA, he has continued his involvement in building a strong community. He is currently the co-Vice President of the Tuxedo Park Neighborhood Association, a member of the Community Coalition on Race’s Schools Committee and the Parenting Center’s Intentional Integration & Innovation Committee.
Thair lives in South Orange with his wife Joanne (an Intellectual Property attorney in New York City) and two sons, one a second grader at Marshall and one at a local preschool. He looks forward to continuing his service to the community by serving on the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education.