South Orange-Maplewood BOE Candidate Statement: Elizabeth Baker

The Village Green has invited the ten candidates for the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education to submit statements for publication, which we will run as we receive them.

South Orange-Maplewood BOE President and Candidate Elizabeth Baker

Three years ago I ran for the Board because I was determined to ensure that every child in our district feels welcomed, valued, and academically challenged. I believed then, as I do today, that to effect the change we want to see for our children, we need effective leadership on the Board and in the Administration that is grounded in partnership with teachers, parents and the broader South Orange-Maplewood community.

The stories that we all have heard about how some students and families are treated in our schools are unacceptable and inconsistent with our mission. While we’ve made progress, we clearly have significant work to do in order to confront the systemic issues that impact academic placement, student achievement, and school climate, as well as the specific incidents that cause children and their families to feel marginalized, disrespected and devalued.

I am running for a second term because we need to accelerate the trajectory of the work underway. I believe in the coming years we can – and we must – markedly improve the culture and climate in our schools and ensure opportunity for every student, especially students of color and students with disabilities.

The Board can and must use both its policy-making and oversight powers to ensure that the Superintendent and the administration follow policy and the law, as well as implement the agreed-upon district vision and mission. In my time on the Board, we have laid critical foundations for the work still ahead. Our progress includes:

  • Adoption of policies affirming the rights of every student and the initiation of efforts to dismantle the procedural and curricular barriers that have held too many students back for too many years.
  • Creation of a budget process that is more transparent and aligned with student safety and educational needs.
  • Initiation of the facilities planning work needed to ensure that our schools have sufficient capacity to support our increased enrollment and educational programs.
  • Development of a more cohesive Board that has worked in greater partnership with community and parent organizations to harness the considerable expertise that resides here in our two towns.

To address the significant challenges our district still faces, we need to bring a sense of urgency to the work ahead, combined with purpose, expertise, a spirit of partnership, and the courage to do what is right for our children. It’s long been said that we have “pockets of excellence” throughout our district. Our children and their families are demanding and deserve consistent excellence – throughout the district and their entire educational experience, from the first day they enter our school doors through high school graduation. We must ensure that we are always focused on the needs and passions of our students and that every aspect of our district’s operations reflects a commitment to excellence for all of them whatever their endeavors.

I am grateful to have served on the Board these last two and a half years and hope to have the opportunity to continue on for another three-year term to accelerate the efforts we’ve begun. Serving as Board President for the last year and a half has only strengthened my belief that we can and will succeed in making our district a place that serves all children well.

I look forward to the coming campaign and hope that we can leverage the insights of all candidates in a productive dialogue on the central issues facing our district and our community.

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