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.
I am writing to you on behalf of BOE candidate Elissa Malespina. As an educator myself, and as a parent of two very academically driven children, I am quite passionate about the state of our district’s academics and accountability.
For years, my family and I have grappled with issues pertaining to our children’s encounters with SOMSD. For example, both of my boys have always been extremely advanced in mathematics. Throughout the years, we have had to advocate for our children, simply to be tested in this subject starting at an early age. We were ultimately successful in getting our older son, Ben, tested in second grade to be placed into Algebra I in third grade, without outside assistance. We were not so fortunate with our younger son.
I met Elissa when a parent recommended that I reach out to her, for advocacy for our younger son, Jacob. Even though I had never met Elissa, prior to our conversation regarding my younger son, she immediately wanted to help me get Jacob tested. She has always believed in helping all of our district’s children, if they are suffering. She and current BOE member Johanna Wright led me on the path to get Jacob placed out of Algebra I in fifth grade. Neither individual was directed to assist me. They both reached out right away from complete altruism, and concern for one of the students in their community. They are known for helping other children in need as well.
Pertaining to my older son, as soon as he was having difficulty senior year with a teacher’s capricious grading, Elissa came to the rescue again. Ben had consistent A’s and B+’s for an entire semester, up until a few days before mid-year grades were due. His teacher decided at the last minute to give Ben a D and an F on his last two grades, which could have cost him his college acceptances. Elissa connected us to the head of the department, who regraded the last two assignments, yielding much higher grades. This example shows a flagrant problem with the lack of teacher consistency in grading.
Regarding expectations of uniformity in education, Elissa is a strong proponent for consistency in each field of study pertaining to SOMSD’s curriculum. I have seen first hand, as a parent, and as tutor and mentor of thirty to forty mathematics students in district each year, that we have had an extreme lack of consistency and expectations from teacher to teacher. Every educator in district needs to be held to the same standard of competency, accountability, and excellence, while treating all students equitably. This is the crucial first step if we want real improvement at SOMSD.
Elissa is dedicated to start her work as a BOE member to ensure real change for the better. She has shown her true colors to me time and time again as I have seen her be an advocate for my children and our community’s children.