School safety, equity, special education and more were discussed by five candidates vying for three seats on the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education at the Presidents’ Council & League of Women Voters Candidates Forum on October 11.
Laura Engelhardt of the League of Women Voters of Berkeley Heights, New Providence and Summit was the moderator. She was introduced by Michelle Bobrow, President of the LWV of Maplewood-South Orange. Laura Wiss of the LWV of Maplewood-South Orange acted as timekeeper. Questions were submitted in advance. The questions were provided by the presidents of the PTAs and HSAs of the South Orange-Maplewood School District, and solicited from district parents.
OPENING STATEMENT: As candidates prepared their opening statements, the PC/LWV asked that they include information about the ways in which they have been involved in the SOMSD school district prior to this run for Board of Education.
QUESTIONS ASKED BY MODERATOR (each candidate was given 90 seconds to respond; there were no rebuttals):
- The NJ School Boards Association Code of Ethics states, “I will carry out my responsibility, not to administer the schools, but, together with my fellow board members, to see that they are well run.” What is your vision for a well-run school district? How will you know whether the district is achieving that vision?
- What do you consider to be the top three most urgent issues facing our district today and how do you see the role of the Board of Education addressing those issues?
- Our community and school district focuses on diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. Please discuss how this topic is important to you and how you will keep up to date on the needs of underrepresented groups that are important to our communities. How will you advocate for change to better serve these groups?
- Special Education students make up 15% of all students in our district and yet many families in our district know very little about the needs, accommodations or services offered. Please describe your experience with, or knowledge of, special education and what strategies you would support to bridge the gap — or eliminate the silos — that can develop between general education and special education.
- Many parents continue to express concerns about their children’s safety on school property. What are the current safety and security policies with which you agree? Which would you advocate to improve?
- In today’s world, communication is paramount to running a successful school district. How can you, as a BOE member, ensure the district provides clear, concise, and timely communication to all families?
- Now that we are in the first phase of the Intentional Integration Initiative, what successes and challenges have you seen/heard about thus far? What can the Board do to ensure continued success of this critical initiative for SOMSD?
CLOSING STATEMENT: As candidates prepared their closing statements, the PC/LWV asked that they include their opinions about what they view as some of the district’s biggest “wins” in the last 2-3 years.