Letter: Finnern Will Drive Progress, Positive Momentum for South Orange-Maplewood

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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 is with great pleasure that I endorse Melanie Finnern for a seat on the Board of Education of the South Orange Maplewood School District.  

This year presents us with a great opportunity to promote progress in our district. There are four BOE seats up for election – three “regular” (3 year) terms plus a 1 year term position.  As a community, we can make a fresh start toward the district of our dreams. We have a new Superintendent who is ready to roll up his sleeves and a burgeoning population of families with children who moved here for the community, and will stay here for the schools. What we need now is a BOE of independent and creative thinkers who will bring a diverse set of ideas, a more functional BOE operating model driven by clear goals and expectations, and better management skills to the horseshoe. Melanie has an impressive grasp on the Board’s governance role, and she can strongly fulfill on these necessary skills. 

Melanie’s passion for a great school district – one that acknowledges students as individual learners and is built on strong infrastructure including inspiring, educationally sound curriculum, data backed decision making and state of the art spaces for indoor and outdoor learning experiences – is something I share. Melanie understands the tremendous opportunities afforded to us by the Integration and The Long-Range Facilities plans. I appreciate her desire to push the district to think more broadly and creatively about how we use these as springboards toward equity and to re-imagine teaching, learning, accountability and outcomes in this district. I am impressed by her curiosity to learn and, most importantly, listen to all constituents so that the BOE can properly set a vision for the district. She has a broad agenda that includes equity and excellence, and she understands the two are not mutually exclusive.

As a communications professional, Melanie understands the importance of creative solutioning to age old challenges. She also understands the need for transparent and ongoing communication, especially during times of uncertainty, change and transformation.

Most importantly, I am impressed with Melanie’s work ethic. Aside from her lived experience as a Maplewood resident, she is spending time talking with community members, students and staff to really understand where the needs are. I believe she will show up to do the work, and work hard for our community. At the end of the day, there is no equity without engagement.

Please join me in voting for Melanie Finnern for SOMSD School Board this election year.  

Madhu Pai
South Orange, NJ

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