Five candidates are vying for three seats on the 9-member South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education on November 2, 2021: Shannon Cuttle (incumbent), William Rodriguez, Qawi Telesford, Arun Vadlamani and Kaitlin Wittleder. Terms are for three years. The following candidate statement is from Kaitlin Wittleder:
Why I’m Running
I’m running for the Board of Education because I believe we can do better. We live in two remarkable towns. Our unique community presents us with an opportunity to deliver a best-in-class education for a wide variety of learners. To achieve that, we need a BOE that commits itself to working harmoniously to fashion clear direction for the Superintendent, that insists upon accountability measures for educational improvements, and that ensures there is effective two-way communication with our constituents – the community and, especially our students.
I want to be a positive force for change on the Board of Education, and for our students. As an elected Board Member, I will commit to being an independent but collaborative voice within the BOE, ensuring various viewpoints are not only heard but considered. This district has been stalled on outcomes for far too long. I believe a different leadership style, different ideas to solve age-old challenges and different accountability expectations are what we need to shore up our operational infrastructure and move this district forward. All of that starts with redefining how the BOE governs.
Student voices matter and they are telling us something but we need to take the time to listen. I recently met a CHS graduate and asked her if she enjoyed her experience in our school district. Her response surprised me. She said, “I survived this school district.” I want every child in our district to feel energized, inspired, prepared and grateful. Grateful to have been part of a school district that believes in them, listens to their needs and affords them every opportunity to expand their knowledge and follow their dreams. If elected, I will strive to build a foundation of success so that when a CHS graduate is asked about their experience in SOMSD, their response wouldn’t be “I survived,” but instead, “I thrived.”
Just like all of you, I love South Orange and Maplewood and I believe in our schools but I know that the potential to do better is far greater than what we’re offering our students today. I recently interviewed for the five month Board of Education seat because I want to help at the highest level of this district and I’m ready to do the work that needs to be done for all of our children. I believe that I can bring TLC (Transparency, Leadership, Collaboration) to the BOE which is needed to reestablish lines of trust with our community and to deliver educational outcomes for students. I truly believe every child matters and that being a Board Member would provide the unique opportunity of playing a transformative role in the lives of our students. As a Mom to three beautiful children, I can’t imagine a better way to invest my time and commitment than to represent the needs of all of our SOMA families.
My family and I are currently celebrating our five year anniversary of being Maplewoodians. I am a proud mother to three children and enjoy spending time in town and connecting with members of our community. Early childhood development has always been a passion of mine, and much of my time has been spent in youth volunteer capacities within the communities I’ve resided in. This year is no exception as I am a proud coach of our MMS girls with the Girls On The Run program.
I have had the opportunity to work alongside national and local boards at two major nonprofit organizations: The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and The National MS Society. I partnered with these Boards in an effort to build new corporate partnerships and increase funding for the respective philanthropic missions of these nonprofits. While living in Colombia, I served as Board Member of the American Society of Bogotá which connects and celebrates Colombian and American cultures through social events and supports causes that benefit education in Bogotá.
I’m an accomplished professional with ~15 years of experience in business development, project management and relationship management. Throughout my career I’ve sought out opportunities to apply my skills in pursuit of my passion — advancing social impact initiatives and creating inclusive communities around the world. I’ve spent the majority of my career in the financial services industry and within the nonprofit sector. I believe my professional experience would benefit our district students if elected to the SOMSD Board of Education.
Youth Volunteer Engagements
- Girls On The Run Coach – MMS (Fall 2021), Jefferson School (2018)
- Fundación Proyecto Union – orphanage for disabled children – Bogotá, Colombia (2015-16)
- Middle School Girls’ Basketball Coach at the St. Stephen of Hungary School in New York (2014)
- Power Lunch Reading Program Mentor at PS111 in New York (2008- 2010)
For more information about my platform: