LETTER: Eckert, Wilson and Gifford Will Bring Transformative Change to BOE

by Tony Mazzocchi
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Five community members are running for three seats on the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education this year: Regina EckertNubia WilsonBill GiffordRitu Pancholy and William Meyer. Eckert, Wilson and Gifford are running on the “Students Come First” ticket. Pancholy and Meyer are running on the “Doing Better, Together” ticket.

Read more about the candidates in Village Green’s “Ask the Candidates” series on busing/transportationaccess & equity, the Superintendent and BOE functionality.

Bill Gifford, Nubia Wilson, Regina Eckert
(credit: Lisa White Photo)

To the Editor:

It’s not often that three of our neighbors who have never met one another and are untethered to existing BOE members and matters step up to run for the Board of Education on their own accord.  It’s even rarer to see candidates meet one another and find so much common ground that they choose to create a slate together mid-campaign.  I’ve always strayed away from endorsing candidates for the BOE, but I’m so excited by the candidacies of Eckert, Wilson, and Gifford and their collective ability to bring transformative change to this governing body that I’m thrilled to do so this year.

I’ve watched Regina, Nubia, and Bill passionately embrace the learning curve in regards to district policies, procedures, finances, and curricula.  I’ve been thrilled by how much time they’ve spent in the community eager to hear the voices of parents, teachers, and students.  They have done a wonderful job displaying to our neighbors their authenticity and love for the district throughout the questionnaire/debate cycle.  I’m impressed not only by the attention they have paid to district issues thus far, but by the amount of foundational and historic knowledge they have absorbed throughout this campaign season.  Accompanied by their collaborative spirit and desire to communicate in a “no-nonsense” fashion as evidenced by their public answers to campaign questions, their presence on the BOE is sure to dramatically change it for the better.

Eckert, Wilson, and Gifford have differentiated themselves from the other candidates on issues of Board transparency, BOE and administrative accountability, III supports (specifically transportation and strategic planning), and strategies to address staffing shortages.

What’s notable to me is that these candidates openly expressed opinions about specific issues around Superintendent performance when asked. Perhaps most important, they have consistently discussed teaching and learning as part of their platform; this has been sorely lacking from BOE discussion for years, yet it is the core mission of any educational governing body.  They are ready, and we should be so lucky to have them serve.

Having worked very mindfully on this Board of Education myself on matters of integration, curricula, and finances/facilities that so desperately need attention here, I know the ins and outs of the job. I’ve continued to pay very close attention to the trajectory of the district and the board since leaving my post in December 2020, and I’ve been very concerned watching COVID lay bare our foundational shortcomings as a district.  Regina, Nubia, and Bill are different from what we are used to in all the best ways, and I can tell you with fullest certainty that I believe we need them on this Board right now.  Please join me in voting Eckert, Wilson, and Gifford on to the SOMSD Board of Education.

Tony Mazzocchi

Maplewood NJ

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