The opinions expressed in this editorial are individual, and do not represent a position of the Board of Education.
Wayne Eastman teaches business ethics and business law classes at Rutgers Business School-Newark and New Brunswick, and serves as Vice Chair of the Supply Chain Management Department. His first book, Why Business Ethics Matters, was published in October 2015 by Palgrave. He and his wife Darcy have lived in South Orange since 1992; their son Jonathan and their daughter Caroline graduated from Columbia High School in 2009 and 2011. Prior to his election to the school board in 2006, he was an officer in the South Orange-Maplewood Community Coalition on Race and ran the Coalition’s real estate testing program.
Choice and Empowerment for Students, Parents and Teachers: Why Madhu, Peggy, and I are the Right Team
When I was elected to the Board of Education (BOE) in 2006, we had our work cut out for us. Tax increases were running at an unsustainable 4-7% annual rate, and the elementary school in Maplewood that my children were attending had lower test scores than the one they would have attended had we stayed in Newark.
I’m proud of what the BOE and the district as whole has achieved from 2006 to 2014 in advancing accountability. We brought down tax increases to the 2% range. With my leadership, and excellent new members like Madhu Pai, we centered our district goals on lifting our student performance relative to peer districts. We’ve closed the gap in elementary school, and significantly narrowed it in our middle schools and Columbia High School.
Now, it’s 2015. As proud as I am of my record on the BOE, I’m running this year because of the future.
When I became BOE President in January of 2015, I did so with a central aim. I wanted to move us toward a culture of enhanced options and empowerment for students, parents, and teachers.
In pursuit of the central aim of positive culture change, I’ve had three major goals for our district.
First, I wanted to work cooperatively with all my colleagues, even those who did not vote for me as President, to hire a new Superintendent who could help us move forward together toward a more collaborative, more empowering culture.
Second, I wanted to take personal leadership in drafting ambitious policy language on access, equity, choice, and accountability, with the hope of creating a final version of that policy that would unite our BOE and community.
Finally, I wanted to find two running mates with the right blend of experience and expertise. I wanted to run with two people who could see the big picture and provide leadership that respected our past moves toward fiscal and achievement accountability, and that at the same time could help move us forward in a choice and empowerment direction.
I believe I’ve delivered on all three of these goals for our school district.
First, the BOE voted unanimously (8-0 with one abstention) in strong support for John Ramos as our new Superintendent. I’m happy about my role as President in helping that to happen, and I’m excited about Dr. Ramos as a leader who can help move us toward enhanced collaboration and empowerment.
Second, shortly after I became President, I drafted an access and equity policy infused with the principles of choice and empowerment. All nine of us on the BOE, and all the active candidates in the race, have come together in support of this policy.
The policy embodies a commitment to the key principle that all parents and children in the South Orange-Maplewood schools shall have a choice of educational programs, including where applicable AP classes and classes at different academic levels. While there is a great deal of work to do to make this policy effective, I am proud of advancing it, and deeply grateful for the support it has received.
Finally, I feel extremely lucky to be running with Madhu Pai and Margaret (Peggy) Freedson. Madhu and I as the President and First Vice President of the BOE have extensive experience leading our school district. And Peggy is an expert in engaging and empowering teachers.
Together, I believe, we are the best team to work with Dr. Ramos, with other BOE members, and with teachers, parents, administrators, students, and our entire community in advancing a new district culture and in building on our past accomplishments. The three of us are the ones who have the experience and the skills to move us forward. With all due respect to our opponents, it is Madhu, Peggy, and I who have the backgrounds, positive vision, and the breadth to lead in the years to come.
Even more strongly than I believe in the three of us as the best choice, I believe in the democratic system of which we are all a part. For all its tensions and contentions, it’s the best way to govern our schools. It’s the special sauce in the American approach to education, and I’m very glad to be part of it. I look forward to the remainder of the campaign, and to the judgment of the voters.
Please vote on November 3 for three BOE members!
President, South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education