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.
As long time residents deeply engaged in our school district and community, we are excited to endorse Ritu Pancholy and Will Meyer for the Board of Education. We have seen our school board flourish and struggle and everything in between. Throughout it all, we have come to realize that an effective board member embodies respectful discourse, thoughtful and reasonable arguments and most importantly, centering all students in decision making. Ritu and Will, at their core, emphatically exemplify these qualities. As African American parents, we appreciate that Ritu and Will share similar goals: achieving equity and inclusion, nourishing the whole child, celebrating diverse and intersectional identities, and educating all our children, from every circumstance, to thrive in the 21st century.
What we see in Ritu and Will are thoughtful leaders who have the temperament and the training to do the work of the Board. Each brings a unique expertise with a commitment to representing all of the children in our district. Specifically, Ritu brings her experience as an education and employment attorney who started her career at the New York City Department of Education and now leads workplace training on DEI, culture transformations, and compliance. Will is a special education attorney in NYC who negotiates regularly with the New York City Department of Education so it provides special needs students with the education to which they are entitled by law. Professionally, Ritu and Will are both trained in exactly the processes and approaches and mindset that makes an effective Board member.
Ritu and Will embody the values of our community in their professional work, their life stories, and their volunteering. Ritu is the child of immigrants from India who was educated in New Jersey public schools from kindergarten to college graduation. She volunteers in our community as a soccer coach and as a leader of SOMA Action, a local group that organizes our community to defend democracy. Will is from a large New England family. He was a student with an IEP himself, who went on to graduate law school and become an advocate for children with special needs who were incarcerated or disadvantaged. He volunteers at his kids’ schools, supporting teachers and the PTA.
We are both deeply invested in this community. We have put in a lot of work to keep this community moving forward. This is an important time in the life of our community, when we have the opportunity to put our values into practice. It takes Board members with commitment and competence to do that work, and that’s what we see in Ritu and Will. We urge you to join us in casting your votes for Ritu Pancholy and Will Meyer.
Patricia Canning is a 16-year resident of SOMA who guided two children through the district. She is an active community volunteer who served many years on the PTAs and HSAs as well as the South Orange Environmental Commission and the Community Coalition on Race Schools Committee.
Chris Sabin’s parents moved to SOMA in 1972. He is a ‘83 graduate of CHS. He served on the SOMSD School Board from 2015 – 2017 and again in 2021. Sabin raised three children who all graduated from CHS and are currently attending HBCUs.