[Editor’s note: The nine candidates for the South Orange – Maplewood Board of Education participated in a forum hosted by the League of Women Voters and the Presidents Council last Wednesday. While the forum was videotaped by SOMa TV, because of technical difficulties the candidates’ closing statements were not recorded. The Village Green has invited all candidates to submit their closing statements. This is Elissa Malespina’s statement; she is running on a ticket with Marian Raab and Shannel Roberts.]
My SOMA2015 teammates and I have spoken on the campaign trail about the need for better communication, more common sense and the courage to make tough choices. We believe in being transparent and listening to all stakeholders especially the students. Student voice is something we feel so strongly about that we held a student voice summit event during our campaign to hear from the students. We heard about what was working well and what needed to be changed. This is something that we hope to make a yearly event when we are on the board and something none of the other slates have done.
Over the past few years our Board and our administration have lost touch with reality. We’ve become so focused on metrics and data analysis that we’re not observing or addressing what’s actually happening in our schools. One glaring example of this was the implementation of the International Baccalaureate program at our middle schools.
The IB program was presented as a cure-all to solve the issues of leveling, the achievement gap, and a perception that the SOMSD curriculum lacked rigor. In reality, the program, which is implemented in less than 4% of public schools nationwide and less than .5% of New Jersey’s public schools, was exorbitantly expensive to implement and maintain.
For three years, teachers and parents including myself spoke out about the implementation of the program and rather than listen to these concerns, the board continued to push on and cheerlead for the program. By the time the board and the district finally realized the program was doing more harm than good, hundreds of thousands of dollars had been spent. I applaud the board’s eventual move to abandon and move past IB, but the fiscal and educational fallout it caused could have been completely avoided, if the majority of voices speaking out had been taken seriously.
Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am very passionate about education. I’m excited to have the opportunity to bring my passion and drive and expertise to the board. I have chosen to run with two equally passionate women who share my love for and my concerns about our district. If elected, Marian Raab, Shannel Roberts and I will work hard to build our schools back to their former glory and to provide a safe, challenging environment for ALL students.