LETTER: Eckert, Wilson & Gifford Will Ask Superintendent the Hard Questions & Demand Follow-Thru

by Melanie Hochberg Giger
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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)

I am enthusiastically supporting Regina Eckert, Nubia Wilson, and Bill Gifford (EWG) for the Board of Education. Their Students Come First platform resonates with me. They seek to refocus the District on student achievement and teacher’s voices and perspectives. 

EWG’s focus on academic performance is desperately needed. They have dug into the data, which continues to reflect a racial achievement gap at Columbia High School. Our community is aligned in working to narrow the gap. What EWG bring is a focus on elementary curriculum and a desire to address the achievement gap in the early years. Their approach to add elementary age data to this conversation will allow us to improve outcomes at the high school level and continue on the District’s path to achieve equity. 

EWG are supportive of the Intentional Integration Initiative and understand that it will only be successful if we provide adequate transportation for elementary school children. Eckert, Wilson, and Gifford have consistently stated that if they are elected, they will advocate for the District to provide transportation to more students as soon as possible. They understand the urgency of the situation and empathize with families who are struggling due to the lack of District-provided transportation. 

EWG’s Students Comes First slate seeks to center teachers’ voices and perspectives. They wish to reinstate teacher retention, recruitment, and development as a District goal. Given how teachers have been excluded over the past year from conversations that directly impact their classrooms, EWG’s position that teachers’ need to be supported and heard is refreshing. EWG has shown that they care deeply about teachers’ perspective by conducting a teacher survey during their campaign. 

Eckert, Wilson, and Gifford have convinced me that they will ask the Superintendent the hard questions and demand that he follow through on District policies. This is what we need. The District is in the process of implementing two projects that will define education in our community for many years to come — the Intentional Integration Initiative and the Long-Range  Facilities Plan. We need to get this right. I trust EWG to bring balance to the Board, insist on transparency, and bring the change we need so that the Board again can be a well-functioning body. Please join me in casting a vote for Regina Eckert, Nubia Wilson, and Bill Gifford, voting positions 1, 2 and 5, on November 8th. 

Melanie Hochberg Giger
Maplewood, NJ

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