Letter to Editor: Vote Team SOMA 2015 to Bring Greater Transparency

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For the first time in a long time, I’m excited about three candidates running for Board of Education seats in South Orange/Maplewood. My support comes from their past and current involvement in our schools. They actually listen to parents.

I’m looking forward to voting for Elissa Malespina, Shannel Roberts, and Marian Raab on November 3. Their children attend school in our district and they are active in our schools. I’m especially glad to see Malespina running because she has worked in our district as an educator and librarian and her son attends school here. So she brings experience as an educator and as a parent to the Board.

All three candidates know what’s working and what needs to be fixed. They also believe in transparency at all Board of Education meetings. They want everyone in our community to learn about changes and new initiatives that affect our schools and our children.

I am the parent of a child with special needs and I have seen firsthand how services for children with special needs dramatically decrease once they reach middle school. All three candidates understand how services in our district are pretty much nonexistent for middle grade and high school students here.

I’ve attended Board of Education meetings and found most of the members not interested in addressing programs geared to the special needs population.

I mentioned that transparency is important to me. Two years ago, we had one program that was actually working. It was called Education School Solutions, a program for kids with special needs. It actually saved the district a lot of money because several students were brought back to schools in the district.

At a public school meeting, the director of special services promised that this program was here to stay. I got a call on the last day of May from someone who should not have called me stating that this program was going away. I had to scramble to find other arrangements for my child. If I did not get the call, I would have found out that the program was gone in September when school started. Thankfully, that call gave me some time for other arrangements. That is one reason why transparency is important.

I’m also not thrilled with the Board because a number of years ago, when the paraprofessionals lost their jobs and many of us came out to speak at a Board of Education meeting to support the paras, I could clearly see that we wasted our time because before we spoke, the members of the Board had made up their minds to get rid of the paraprofessionals. That was one really bad move.

This district is in need of fresh voices—ones who will listen to us and ones who believe in open transparent meetings. I will be voting for Malespina, Roberts, and Raab and I urge all of you to do the same.

Michele C. Hollow
South Orange

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