Five candidates are vying for three seats on the 9-member South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education on November 2, 2021: Shannon Cuttle (incumbent), William Rodriguez, Qawi Telesford, Arun Vadlamani and Kaitlin Wittleder. Terms are for three years. 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.
Editor’s note: Maini is Treasurer of Shannon Cuttle’s election campaign.
I write in support of the re-election of Shannon Cuttle to the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education. Shannon has been my friend for many years and my colleague on the Board for the last two and a half. I speak from experience in describing Shannon as committed, compassionate, courageous and competent.
Shannon’s deep commitment to children is evidenced by an entire career spent in service, for many years as a teacher and principal, then as an effective policy advocate at the Federal level in support of LGBTQ rights. But Shannon is not a single-issue candidate, repeatedly pressing her colleagues and district administration to work harder on behalf of all marginalized students and families. Immediately prior to Shannon’s work on the Board, their local advocacy work focused on direct help and advice to a wide range of students and their families on how to navigate the school district and advocate more effectively for themselves. Shannon knows very directly the many barriers that marginalized students face and is determined to eliminate them systemically.
I have been honored to learn from and serve with Shannon. Shannon has gently and consistently reminded us all of the power of our words and actions as our children are always listening and watching. Shannon has also guided the board to examine all policies, procedures, and practices through the lens of equity and inclusion, and not simply settle for the easy fixes or as some board members say “pretty words.” Shannon has also moved beyond policy language toward implementation measures and monitoring. As an example, Shannon successfully advocated for LGBTQ+ cultural competency training, suicide prevention training. and more comprehensive anti-bias training, all of which are part of this year’s staff development, not only for teachers and other staff, but for contractors as well.
With Shannon’s leadership our school district is able to deliver tangible actions that start to make good on our commitment to each and every student to provide a welcoming, inclusive environment in every class, every day. That is why Shannon’s re-election is critical, so we can see that work through, driven in part by Shannon’s unwillingness to take “good enough” for an answer.
When Shannon ran for the Board of Education three years ago, they said we needed to move the district forward — that we needed a foundation to build upon to address access and equity, including better systems and data collection, renovation of our crumbling outdated facilities and most importantly a stronger district leadership team from central office to the administrative teams in each school. That is a work in progress and effective Board oversight is critical. Shannon is a key part of the Board’s efforts to make that happen.
The board needs to stay focused on its role and purpose. We need board members like Shannon: committed, compassionate, courageous and competent, to move us towards a caring community that builds welcoming, inclusive schools for all students.
Please join me in voting for Shannon Cuttle for another term on the Board of Education this November.
Treasurer Cuttle for SOMA Board of Education
The views expressed in this letter are those of the author and do not represent the views of the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education.
Note: Elections this year feature early in-person voting in the period October 23rd – October 31st at designated polling places around Essex County. If you want to vote by mail, you must explicitly request a mail-in ballot; unlike some prior years they are not automatically being sent to all voters. Mail-in ballots must be postmarked by November 2nd.
The election is Tuesday, November 2nd with polls open from 6:00 AM to 8:00 PM. Vote at your regular polling place.