Eastman and Pai Team with Newcomer in BOE Race

by The Village Green
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Two incumbents are teaming with a longtime educator to run for the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education.

BOE President Wayne Eastman and First Vice President Madhu Pai will run for re-election in November on a slate with first-time candidate Margaret (Peggy) Freedson, a professor of education at Montclair State University.

Eastman has served on the BOE since 2006; Pai was elected in 2012 on a ticket with Eastman and Jeff Bennett, who decided not to run again.

A total of nine candidates has filed. Read more about the two other tickets here and here. One candidate, Dorcas Lind, appears to running on her own.

Pai said in a press release she has enjoyed working with her colleagues “on behalf of all the children of our district, as well as on behalf of our tax-stressed residents.” She continued, “Freedson…brings a depth of knowledge and a commitment to teaching and curriculum that make her a worthy replacement for Jeff. I look forward to the opportunity to lead going forward with Wayne, Peggy, our newly hired Superintendent John Ramos, and everyone on the Board and in the community over the next three years. I believe we have a great chance in Maplewood and South Orange to combine the values of access and accountability in practical ways that will make our district a nationally recognized beacon.”

“As a former elementary school teacher in Los Angeles whose career has been devoted to preparing pre-school and elementary school teachers, I believe strongly in the power of great teaching to inspire a lifelong love of learning and to transform children’s lives,” said Freedson. “Like many parents throughout the community, I see the South Orange-Maplewood schools as storehouses of enormous teaching and student talent, but also as places of inconsistency and unfulfilled promise for many students. A successful Board of Education is a collaborative team that takes advantage of diverse skills. I have much to learn from Wayne, Madhu, and all the other Board veterans—at the same time, I am confident that my skills and my passion for learning and teaching will allow me to make a constructive contribution to the governance of the district right away.”

Eastman concluded: “In my first two terms on the Board from 2006 to 2012, I worked with my colleagues and with the Superintendent we hired to lift student academic achievement—when I first ran, two of our elementary schools had lower scores than the school in Newark my children would have gone to if we’d stayed there–and to support statewide reform to hold administrators and all educators accountable. Since 2012, and since 2015 as Board President, I’ve worked with Madhu, Jeff, and others to foster the next wave of progress for our schools, which I believe will combine themes of choice, faculty governance, business and career education, global awareness, and innovation to respond to serious fiscal constraints. I’m happy to be on a slate with Madhu and Peggy, and I’m grateful to have an opportunity to continue to serve our children and our community.”

Full bios of the three candidates can be found below:

Madhu Pai

Madhu Pai is a professional communicator with expertise in advertising, concept development, and customer relations. As a strategic marketing specialist who serves as Senior Vice President, Group Director for Publicis (one of the largest Advertising holding companies globally), she has nearly 20 years of experience building brands and communications programs to support customer loyalty and revenue growth. She holds a bachelors in Economics from the State University of New York at Plattsburgh. Madhu has lived in both Maplewood and in South Orange with her husband Nikhil and their two children, a daughter who is a rising 6th grader at South Orange Middle School, and a son who will enter Jefferson this fall as a 3rd grader.

Madhu’s passion for excellence in education began before she had children. In high school, she was a peer tutor, and in her twenties, she worked with at-risk kids in New York City public high schools via the Minds Matter program.  Over her three-year involvement with Minds Matter, she helped bright but under-served students work up to their full potential, graduate and receive college scholarships despite limited in-class or family support.  Madhu and her husband have also worked with and been inspired by KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) charter schools, a charter school program with a track record of improving academic achievement among low-income students. Madhu was particularly inspired by KIPP’s model of fostering relationships among students, parents and teachers to foster shared accountability for success.

Once she moved to Maplewood, Madhu immersed herself in her children’s schools, leading the Parent Advisory Group at the South Mountain YMCA and becoming an active member of the Marshall-Jefferson PTA/Executive Board. In New York and in our community, Madhu has been driven by concern for achievement by all students, as well as by a desire to be a contributing part of a strong traditional public school system.

Before her current job, Madhu honed her skills at Education Dynamics, EURO RSCG, Saatchi & Saatchi, and BBDO. As a Board member since May 2012, she has drawn on her communications expertise to lead the Community Engagement and Outreach Committee and championed initiatives like Board Office Hours. With her extensive experience in team leadership, she has also taken a particular role on issues related to developing and motivating teachers and other staff, as well as on issues related to teaching and learning. Since January 2015, she has served as the Board’s First Vice President.

Margaret (Peggy) Freedson

Margaret (Peggy) Freedson is a professional educator who began her career as an elementary teacher with the Los Angeles Public Schools and since 2003 has been a full-time faculty member at Montclair State University where she prepares preschool and elementary teaching candidates in language arts literacy education. A 1987 graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, she holds an M.Ed in International Education and an Ed.D. in Language and Literacy from Harvard University. She lives in South Orange with her husband and their two children, a rising 10th grader at Columbia High School and a rising 3rd grader at South Mountain Elementary.

Dr. Freedson’s career focus on literacy and on educational equity stem from her early work as a first, second and third grade bilingual teacher in Los Angeles where she served primarily Spanish-speaking children from low-income families. From 1993-95, she worked in Mexico as principal investigator on a research project for the Mexican Ministry of Education on Mayan speaking students, which resulted in a book, Evaluacion de la educacion bilingual bicultural en los Altos de Chiapas.

As a member of the Department of Early Childhood, Elementary and Literacy Education at Montclair State University, Peggy has worked extensively with program administrators and in-service teachers throughout New Jersey, providing training on effective teaching for young English language learners and on language arts literacy topics ranging from reading comprehension and Common Core implementation, to interactive approaches to English grammar and foreign language instruction. She has mentored student teachers in elementary classrooms in the Newark, Belleville, Montclair, West Orange and South Orange-Maplewood schools, and she currently teaches in the Newark Urban Teacher Residence Program. Peggy has been an avid supporter of South Orange-Maplewood’s many talented and committed teachers, serving as a frequent class parent, in-class volunteer, 3-year co-chair of the South Orange Middle School Book Fair, and provider of professional development on language arts literacy topics.

Wayne Eastman

Before becoming a professor at Rutgers Business School-Newark and New Brunswick, where he teaches business ethics and business law, Wayne Eastman worked as a community organizer in St. Louis, a prosecutor of white collar crime in Manhattan, a Wall Street litigator, and a National Labor Relations Board attorney in Newark. Eastman, a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, has two children, Jonathan and Caroline, who graduated from Seth Boyden Elementary School in 2002 and 2004, and Columbia High School in 2009 and 2011, and a wife, Darcy Hall, who is a high school English teacher in a Passaic County district.

After moving to South Orange from Newark in 1992, Wayne became active in Friends and Neighbors and the Community Coalition on Race, and ran real estate tests as President of MUSE, a non-profit corporation affiliated with the Coalition. He was the founding President, and is now the Secretary, of GlobalSOMA, a non-profit corporation established in 2011 to promote and celebrate Maplewood and South Orange as global communities.

Wayne has served on the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education since 2006, and has been the President of the Board since January 2015. At Rutgers, Wayne serves as Vice Chair of the Supply Chain Management Department, and is a leader in the department’s and the school’s initiatives to bring contemporary approaches to business education in general, and supply chain management in particular, to the K-12 sector. He has published widely in business ethics, law, and management journals, and his first book, Why Business Ethics Matters, will be published by Palgrave Macmillan this fall.


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