The following remarks were made but Maggie Kritzberg, former South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education Student Representative, during the first public comment period of the July 16, 2018 South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education meeting regarding major administrative reassignments, including the removal of Elizabeth Aaron as Principal of Columbia High School. During the second public comment period, Kritzberg returned to the microphone to add, in part, “I hope you do find someone who is as wonderful and amazing as she is because this is a loss and we need to make sure that we repair from that loss.”
Dr. Ficarra, President Baker, members of the board of education:
My name is Maggie Kritzberg, I am a recent graduate of Columbia High School, former Student Rep. to the Board of Education, and resident of South Orange.
Since my service on this board, I have prided myself on my connection to these schools that helped shape my understanding of the world. I have stayed connected to this place because I care about it deeply. Our community has incredible people who are invested in strengthening our district. However, I have noticed a troubling problem in our inability to implement change while consistently honoring our commitment to our basic, shared values.
For many of us here, our commitment to South Orange/Maplewood, and public education is rooted in loyalty and trust. When those values fray, we begin to come apart at the seams. We forget how to patch, heal and nurture our community.
The news of district administrative changes shocked and troubled many of us. The mystery surrounding why it happened and how it was handled, unleashed painful conversations. These events made some of us ask, who we are, as a community. The communication on this topic jeopardized the TRUST between many of us and our leaders.
It also fanned the flames of division in our towns. Dismissiveness and negativity became pervasive. You, along with us, are responsible for setting the tone and direction of those conversations.
I am here tonight to tell you and all the leaders in our community:
Our district must REBUILD Loyalty and Trust that has felt lost over the past weeks.
When you make a decision, we implore you do so with RESPECT for the Trust we SHOULD have in all of you, to Make and CARRY OUT the RIGHT decisions.
This situation ALSO affected a member of our community in particular. She has dedicated her tireless work and passion to this district. It is for that reason that many of us feel hurt because of these events.
Loyalty is sewn with Trust, and Trust is sewn with Respect: We all have to work together in order to uphold that:
We have to lay out a clear, honest and coordinated effort to tackle complicated problems, that are TOO big for one person to solve. Instead of throwing people under the bus, our plan must have consistent supports in place for those who are in the trenches doing this work.
I would also add that many difficulties in this district reflect state-wide, nation-wide deficits and neglect of public education. We HAVE to demand greater advocacy from our elected officials — from funding our schools, to supporting our teachers, to closing the achievement gap. We have to lobby, and to do so, we have to look carefully at our overarching goals.
When we engage, it does NOT mean that we have to fight one another all the time. We do NOT have to shut each other out of having hard conversations, or making larger decisions.
I hope that from today forward, we are a community that embraces each other, and works TOGETHER. I hope that we sit down IN PERSON, and not only behind our screens. We CAN give everyone room to do better and to grow while making this district stronger for ALL students. We can ONLY do this if we trust one another and treat each other right.