South Orange-Maplewood Candidate Statement: Shannon Cuttle

The Village Green has invited the eight candidates for the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education to submit statements for publication, which we will run as we receive them. Election day is November 7, 2017. The following statement is from candidate Shannon Cuttle.

As an educator, I have always been deeply invested in public education at the local level. As a dedicated community member, thought leader and safe schools expert, I’ve seen the challenges and transitions our district has faced over the last several years and I know there is much room for improvement. I have the skills, experience and perspective to collaboratively guide us towards high quality education in a supportive environment for all our students.

I am an active voice sharing and developing best practices and providing support for students, parents and educators in building inclusive safer schools. I have a diverse background as an educator, school administrator and policy leader who started in the classrooms of Detroit and later went to Washington D.C. as an instrumental policy leader, and as a nationally recognized leader in the safe schools movement. I was later recruited by Steven Goldstein, Founder of Garden State Equality, and moved to New Jersey and settled into our Maplewood/South Orange community. Since my time with GSE, I have continued to serve as an active leader in social justice education, safer schools, and inequality as a policymaker and content area expert.

There are urgent challenges facing our district, among them is addressing overall climate and culture. I believe equity and inclusion provide the groundwork for development of a positive climate and culture for learning, in which both students and educators can thrive. I want to bring my 20 years of expertise in the classroom and the areas of policy and best practices to make equity and inclusion a reality within schools to our district.

Addressing climate and culture is a critical issue that includes the whole-school community and other stakeholders to find the most effective solutions. Connecting best practices, policy, research and implementation is what we must proactively due together to move our district forward.

But, polices and procedures alone will not change the climate and culture of a school community. What will make the most difference is the ability to communicate what’s needed for effective impactful change. Planning, implementing and sustaining best practices in training and policy adjustments while also finding the most effective solutions into the classrooms and hallways. We must work together and unite the hearts and minds of parents, students and bodies of influence from the board of education to the Superintendent and school leaders to make our schools welcoming and safe for all. I’m ready to jump into the challenge and hit the ground running as a board member to pave the way towards long term solutions, give a voice to and cultivate partnerships, good governance, and help move us forward with a shared vision and values that will positively impact all families. We all have a part to play to ensure that all of our students flourish inside and outside of the classroom. Healthy, safe and affirming welcoming schools are the anchor and mirror to our communities.

And yes, we need a proactive response to the disenfranchisement of marginalized youth in our district. We need to address what are our expectations, awareness and responses to the physical, cognitive and emotional support needs of our children. We need to ask ourselves if we are creating a sense of well-being for all our youth. We need to include strategies that provide opportunities, self awareness and support to empower students to be successful across curricula, and to ask ourselves this: how we are modeling what we envision for our students and our community.

This election matters. Those elected to the board of education this cycle will be key in helping address some of the most pressing issues facing our district. We need someone who has the proven experience, understanding and background from a diverse local, state and national policy background to help us move our district forward together. This is what I bring to the table. I look forward to meeting you and earning your vote.

Visit the Shannon Cuttle for Board of Education Facebook page here.

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