The Village Green has invited all five candidates for the South Orange – Maplewood Board of Education to submit statements for publication, which we will run as we receive them.
Why I’m Running
Mine is the quintessential immigrant story. In the 1970s, my parents joined throngs of Korean families and moved to the United States so that my sister and I could grow up in “the land of opportunity.” Illiterate in English, my mom took a factory job as a seamstress, while my father, despite having been an English teacher in Korea, went the popular route of owning a small business in the inner city in Baltimore. They toiled and sacrificed and earned a meager living. In return, my sister and I were expected to excel at school so that we could take advantage of all that this country could offer. We did not live a life of privilege by any means, and our parents taught us, by word and deed, that character and effort matter, and that education was a crucial key to success. And although our K-12 public school education was not remarkable or memorable, it was sufficient to open the doors to an exceptional undergraduate experience and career success.
My undergraduate years were among the most formative of my life and helped shape my future in public service. When one of my first year professors observed that she could tell by my writing that I was the product of a household in which English was not the first language, I understood for the first time what an impact that had had on my linguistic development. When I learned the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation in my Educational Psychology class, I understood for the first time that while I’d always received high marks, I had not yet developed a love of learning. When I found myself surrounded by the highest achieving students and faculty, I learned how to push myself far beyond what I’d ever been expected to do, raising the bar for myself forever. When I lived among the most diverse group of women I’d ever met (all highly motivated and intelligent, from around the world and across the country, from all levels of society), I learned the important distinction between prejudice and racism and how both persist in our culture far more than we often care to face. When I studied Statistics and Research, I learned the importance of planning programs with measurable results, looking at the right data, asking the right questions, and interpreting results.
After I married my husband, Scott, and we had two boys, our mixed-race family finally settled in Maplewood/South Orange ten years ago, attracted to the towns, as most are, by the vibrant and visible diversity and the reputation of the school system. We bought a home in the Hilton neighborhood and were careful to buy into the Tuscan zone, as we were advised. As our oldest son approached kindergarten seven years ago, we heard more and more positive things about Seth Boyden, and after touring both Tuscan and Seth Boyden, chose Seth Boyden for our family. The experience has not been perfect, but we found an incredible community of families and educators there and only on rare occasions did our boys not want to go to school.
As our children went through their elementary years, I became more engaged in serving the community, first as a PTA volunteer, then as PTA President and Presidents’ Council Co-President. Over these years, it has often seemed to me that the more I knew, the more discouraged I became. The problems facing public education in this country, this state, and this district are monumental and they sometimes seem insurmountable. Issues in all areas – curriculum, staff, administration, resources, facilities, technology – and on the levels of strategy and execution can seem overwhelming and divisive. Despite decades of effort, there is a persistent achievement gap and racial inequity. There is too much unproductive fighting, finger pointing, and blame shifting.
And yet… my friend shared with me a quote by Cornel West that perfectly sums up why I am seeking a position on the SOMA Board of Education: “I cannot be an optimist, but I am a prisoner of hope.”
We must not give in to the fear and anger that threatens to consume us individually and as a community. Most of us live here because we love this community. Most of us can’t afford private school, or if we can, we choose to send our children to public school because we are hoping that we can make a difference by staying in the system. There is so much beauty, culture, talent, creativity, and passion in these towns. There is so much more that unites us than divides us.
We all want a rigorous and engaging education for our children, a community that embraces and celebrates each of our families, and real estate that we can afford and doesn’t cripple us.
My priorities as a Board of Education member will reflect the lessons I have learned as a student, a professional, a parent, and an active volunteer in our district.
- Address the distinct challenges facing students in homes where English is not the primary language, where parents are not able (for a variety of reasons) to help shape the English language linguistic development of their children.
- Aggressively and continually rethink our curriculum and its delivery; our professional development; and our system of reward and discipline, so that we encourage a love of learning and intrinsic motivation.
- Give every child the opportunity to be challenged by peers and faculty who are high achievers – not just in one area and not just measured by tests or grades.
- Examine and confront our individual prejudices and systemic racism so we can address the myriad consequences and move toward a more cohesive and productive community.
- Create and evaluate programs by testing specific variables, looking at the relevant data, and measuring results.
I am an independent candidate and do not represent any one neighborhood, school, or interest group. I strongly believe that our challenges are not as simple as a couple of hot button issues like leveling and taxes, and the solutions to those challenges are not simple “either/or” solutions. I have the highest regard for teachers and know that we can elevate their profession and work more respectfully and collaboratively with them, improving the quality of our hires and their development, yielding far greater job satisfaction and results for our students.
During the campaign and after the elections, I will be available for conversations about your concerns and hopes for our District. I will make sure that you have many opportunities to get to know me and how I think about the issues facing our District. I can’t wait to participate in our democratic process with a message of hope and determination, and I will bring that same approach to the BOE if I am elected. I am so grateful for the opportunity to work alongside many of you to help our children learn and grow.
I am excited and eager to help drive positive change. Better. Together.