Letter: Finnern Has the Passion and Commitment Needed for the SOMSD BOE

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Six candidates have filed to run for election to the 9-member South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education on November 3, 2020. Five people are vying for three full-term (3-year) open seats, while one incumbent, Kamal Zubieta, is running to complete the remainder of a term. Village Green is posting letters in support of local candidates campaigning for election. If you wish to submit a letter, read Village Green’s Election Guidelines here.

Melanie Finnern

Dear Editor:

It’s my pleasure to support the candidacy of Melanie Finnern for the BOE seat this coming November.

I first met Melanie when I moved in next door to her in 2014. We both are parents of children in the district but at opposite ends of the experience, hers just beginning, mine close to an end. In the nearly seven years with nothing more than an old chain link fence between us, I have enjoyed getting to know Melanie and have delighted in watching her children grow— they are candid, inquisitive and funny. Much like Melanie.

Pleased with her daughter’s experience at Clinton and grateful for its diverse, multilingual student body, when remote learning highlighted inconsistencies in our district, Melanie didn’t sit around and complain, but instead made the choice to roll up her sleeves and run for the BOE.

We have spent a lot of time talking about education and the many challenging issues in this district. I have been a teacher in and out of the classroom for over 25 years and an active volunteer in our district’s schools, so Melanie was eager to know about my children’s experiences at Seth Boyden, Marshall/Jefferson, MMS and CHS. We have had many interesting conversations about learning and equity, curriculum and teaching. Beyond talking with me, Melanie has spent countless hours meeting with students, parents, teachers, and past and present members of the BOE. She wanted to gain an understanding of our district’s history and current performance from multiple perspectives. She asked me hard, thoughtful questions, and listened with an open mind. I was and continue to be impressed with her high level of engagement.

Melanie and I share many similar aspirations for our district:

  • Successful implementation of the well-researched and important integration plan.
  • Belief that the needs of ALL children in our district must be served and that every child must feel loved and appreciated for who they are and for what they contribute to our community
  • Diversification of our teaching staff to reflect the population of our district, as well as supporting changes to the curriculum to make it richer and more reflective of ALL of our students’ backgrounds.
  • Consistent, sustained mentoring of our teachers, new and tenured, to ensure they are supported and working to best support the growth and success of EVERY child in our district K-12.
  • Support for the superintendent to help make our administrative arm more transparent, communicative and responsive to the needs of our teachers and families.

As an art director and yoga teacher, Melanie is (of course) flexible and creative, something that is always necessary when solving problems. I admire Melanie’s passion and commitment. She has a good head on her shoulders and I know she will bring a deliberate and focused approach to goal setting for our district, respect the opinions of others, and have the stamina and wherewithal to see change through.

Judith Wolochow
Maplewood, NJ

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