LETTER: Eckert, Wilson & Gifford Will Listen to All Voices

by Karina Banta
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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,

I am grateful to the Village Green for providing me this opportunity to talk about why Students Come First.
I think we can all agree the past few years have been frustrating, challenging and utterly exhausting.  My family has resided in South Orange for nearly a decade. We were lured to SOMA by the proximity to NYC and the promise of an excellent public school system.  As the daughter of an immigrant and an educator, I have a deep appreciation for teachers and the value of an education. I want to see that appreciation reflected in our Board of Education and its members.

My family is rooted in the arts and like so many others, we have felt the emotional and economic ramifications of the pandemic. Getting back to work to provide and thrive consumes most hours of the day. But, as a concerned parent, I’ve seen a dangerous trend developing. It feels as though a strange metric has been implemented to determine who is allowed to ask questions or challenge the status quo. As though simply being a parent isn’t enough to legitimately ask, “Can we do better?”

I’ve known Nubia Wilson for quite some time. Our children attend the same school and extra curricular activities. I’ve admired her tenacity and resilience and was elated to see her boldly take on this endeavor. She is a survivor in every sense of the word and her experience as a teacher is invaluable.

I’ve come to know Regina and Bill through Nubia and I am so grateful for their devotion and dedication. As someone who grew up here, Bill is as invested as anyone could possibly be in this community. His enthusiasm and passion are palpable. He has first hand experience with an IEP and his advocacy is rooted here in the relationships he forged as a student in SOMA.

Regina brings yet a third powerful, pragmatic perspective to the table through her work with Sawyer and her experience in employee retention initiatives and talent acquisition.

Regina, Nubia and Bill are open, kind, authentic and honest as they come. They will be guided by ALL voices – not just the loudest or most intimidating. Simply put, they would be a breath of fresh air – receptive to input, not resentful.

I support Regina Eckert, Nubia Wilson and Bill Gifford because I value their thoughtful and independent approach to prioritize ALL our children over agendas.

I support Regina Eckert, Nubia Wilson and Bill Gifford because of their commitment to listen to ALL voices. They began their campaign with a survey emphasizing this commitment. Their desire to bring everyone to the table is refreshing and their willingness to embrace feedback is the mindset we all desperately crave.

We have so much in common that connects our diverse community.

Parents shouldn’t feel like outsiders in the decisions that will impact our children’s future. Every single voice matters. So many of us are still recovering mentally and financially from the effects of this pandemic. We’re fighting to keep our head above water. Don’t let your voice get drowned out. Elect members who will guide our families and children back to shore.

We can achieve so much more, IF the students come first AND they will with Eckert, Wilson and Gifford!

Karina Banta
South Orange, NJ

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