Five community members are running for three seats on the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education this year: Regina Eckert, Nubia Wilson, Bill Gifford, Ritu 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/transportation, access & equity, the Superintendent and BOE functionality.
To the Editor:
It is understandable that many people are voting for Regina Eckert, Nubia Wilson and Bill Gifford because of what they do not represent. They do not represent the dysfunction of the present Board of Education and its paucity of good policy. Having witnessed these deficiencies, the promise of change has become the most important issue for many parents and taxpayers. I interviewed 4 of the 5 candidates who are running with the same focus on assuring that the community would not be left, after the election, with a reinforced status quo.
But my interviews with Regina, Nubia, and Bill changed the direction of my thinking. I spoke to each of them separately, before they had thought about running as a team. I learned, early on, that they each had a diversity of strengths that matched their diversity of backgrounds and that they would be more than mere agents for change for change’s sake.
For example, Bill’s passion for racial integration, inclusion, and equal academic achievement for all is informed by his lived experience as a CHS student some 20 years ago. He was so upset by the disparity, by race, of the education delivered in this District that he actually ran for the Board while still a student. Now, having moved back to this community with his young family, Bill knew that he once again had an opportunity to make things right.
To know Regina is to know that she is an excellent communicator and collaborator, undoubtedly a product of her years in marketing and business building. Regina is a superb listener who will respect the views of all on the Board. But she will also seek respect for her view that the early education years require enhanced attention, particularly when so many of our children come from different backgrounds.
Nubia began her professional career as an English teacher in Taipei, Taiwan, later launching her own agency, Cielo Consulting, specializing in marketing and public relations. Having experienced trauma in her own childhood, she wants the District to be on the alert for such histories and their effect on the mental health of students. For those who have heard her in the debates, you know that Nubia’s great strength lies in the clear expression of facts and ideas – traits that will be put to good use on a reformed BOE.
The racial and ethnic diversity of the Eckert, Wilson, and Gifford slate mirrors what is so special about South Orange and Maplewood. These candidates know the people they want to serve – they are like those same people. And Students Come First is no mere slogan for them. It is the defining characteristic of their central purpose for running. Teaching and learning is what they are all about. It starts with staff recruiting and retention, addressing low teacher morale and high turnover. It includes policies and programs to minimize the reality of COVID-19 learning loss, not a priority in our District. It ends with a laser focus on data driven improvement of education for all of our children, and an elimination of all of the gaps that differentiate the experiences of these children. It will have nothing to do with rivalries, bickering, or Board member abuse.
But to achieve these results, we desperately need to elect all three of these candidates. Because Students Come First, let us commit to do so on November 8.