To the editors:
It is with great enthusiasm that I endorse Team SOMA 2015–Marian Raab, Shannel Roberts and Elissa Malespina–for the South Orange Maplewood Board of Education. These candidates have already proven themselves to be tireless advocates for public education and for all children in our community.
Marian is a non-practicing attorney who has been working in financial and legal journalism for two decades. She is a Tuscan and Maplewood Middle School parent who has served on numerous school committees. Marian and I both serve as volunteer community organizers for Save our Schools NJ. She is extremely well respected in that organization as an effective, experienced and knowledgeable public school advocate. Marian was a key player in protecting our district’s dollars from being siphoned off by the proposed Hua Mei “boutique” charter school.
Shannel is the executive assistant to the CEO and executive vice president of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest New Jersey. She also is a decade-long resident of Maplewood’s Hilton neighborhood, an area that has not had a resident serve on the board of education for decades. Shannel, whose daughter is a junior at CHS, would bring representation to a group of parents who have been disenfranchised for decades.
Elissa is well-known to families whose children attended CHS and SOMS, where she served as a teacher-librarian. She is also the 2014 winner of the Bammy Award for School Librarian of the Year, given by the Academy of Arts and Education. Her son is a 7th grader at SOMS.
These candidates are highly aware of the growing need for community discussion and advocacy. They are already outspoken advocates for our children, demanding at Board of Education meetings that the board members and administrators be held accountable to the community.
These candidates have already demonstrated their commitment to improving our district. Their insistence on transparency by bringing up important and overlooked issues during the public comments sessions of board meetings has already forced the board and administration to pay attention and become more transparent.
Marian, Shannel and Elissa have unparalleled energy and the ability to engage and work with local parents, schools and district administrators. Failure to communicate with parents and the community can no longer be the acceptable norm in our district. The advocacy efforts of these candidates are about focus on doing what is right for our children as well our schools. They have the experience and the commitment to make it happen. Please join me in voting for Marian Raab, Shannel Roberts and Elissa Malespina on Nov. 3.
Lauren Freedman, Ph.D.