The following comments were made by Kaitlin Wittleder upon her election as South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education President at the annual Reorganization Meeting on January 5, 2023.
First and foremost, I wanted to personally thank Board Member [Johanna] Wright for her nine years of Board service and her 40+ years of dedication and commitment to the students of South Orange & Maplewood, with your level of service you are absolutely deserving of a lifetime achievement award, thank you Coach.
I’d also like to congratulate my fellow Board Colleagues, Elissa Malespina and Nubia DuVall Wilson who were elected as First VP and Second VP this evening. I’m really excited about this leadership team and what I believe we can accomplish on behalf of our students.
Now just a few words from me, as I reflect on my short time on the Board, I have never been more hopeful than I am right now about the capacity, capability and potential of the Board I was just chosen to lead. To my fellow Board colleagues, I am grateful to all of you, whether you voted for me this evening or not. We are a team of nine and I value the unique experiences and perspectives of each and every one of you. I believe that in working together, we can build a board that focuses on, and drives, positive student outcomes and experiences, fosters two-way dialogue with the community, holds one another accountable to improving Board performance, leads with integrity, transparency and openness and lastly, we can be a Board that prioritizes evolution and innovation as we strive to make our processes, policies, governance practices, communications and programs better year after year.
As elected officials, the community has entrusted us with a tremendous responsibility – to support and advocate for our more than 6,900 students in South Orange & Maplewood. I do not take this responsibility lightly. As the new Board President, I will work to ensure that we are committed to making sure that each and every student at South Orange – Maplewood is given every opportunity to thrive in this District. We are going to work hard to fulfill that promise. Likewise, for our 700+ staff members, especially our teachers who represent this district to students and families daily. We want to ensure the district is listening to you and partnering with you to present our students with the best experience and outcomes.
I want to thank the members of the community who send emails, join us at Board meetings for public speaks or share their stories online. This Board represents all of you and whether you raise points of consideration, points of concern or points of recognition. You help us shape our committee meeting agendas, our conversation topics at this Board table and ultimately the policies we pass Districtwide. We need your voices to be an effective Board and I encourage you to continue to engage with us. Please know that we are always open to constructive feedback and new ideas. In fact, we welcome it.
To my beautiful family, I love you! And with that, I’ll get on to the next order of business, chairing my first Board Meeting with excitement, humility, a degree of trepidation, and the deepest of commitment! Thank you.