Susan Bergin, Courtney Winkfield, Elissa Malespina and Kamal Zubieta have won seats on the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education, per an updated tally of votes provided today by Essex County Clerk Christopher Durkin. The election is due to be certified by November 23.
While Bergin and Winkfield have had a clear advantage since November 3, the outcome for the third three-year-term seat was not known until today. As of November 11, Malespina led Deborah Engel by 123 votes — but hundreds of ballots were still to be counted. Now, a final tally shows that Malespina has finished with 276 more votes than Engel. Zubieta ran unopposed to finish a term.
“We are grateful for the trust our neighbors have shown in us with their votes and are humbled to have the opportunity to serve our community on the Board of Education next year,” said Bergin and Winkfield in a statement. “We look forward to working with our fellow Board members to support the work of our District and our incredible students.” Bergin and Winkfield also sent a longer statement recognizing the challenges the district is currently facing and pledging to “build a critical and shared accountability so that each child, and each family, ultimately receives the kind of support they need – both now and when we eventually return to our school buildings.” Read the full statement here.
“I want to thank every resident that cast a vote for me and assure those that did not, that I will represent the school district in an ethical, truthful, transparent and forthright manner,” wrote Malespina, who pledged to close “our unacceptable achievement gap between White and Black students,” as well as improve library services, “be a Board member that demands fiscal responsibility and supports our teachers and culturally respectful pedagogy” and “end the cliquish nature of local School Board politics.” (Read Malespina’s full statement here.)
“I am so honored to serve the children of South Orange Maplewood,” said Zubieta. “Next year will be unique in its challenges, but the goal of providing an excellent education remains static. I want to thank the voters of South Orange Maplewood for their good wishes, faith, and support. I will continue to fight for all our children.”
Engel sent the following concession statement: “I’d like to congratulate Susan Bergin, Courtney Winkfield, Elissa Malespina and Kamal Zubieta on winning seats on the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education and thank them for their passion and commitment to serve our children and our community. I decided to run for the position as I thought my background and experience could help with some of the challenges I see affecting our district. I truly love serving the South Orange and Maplewood community, and I look forward to continuing to work toward the betterment of our townships in other ways.”
Melania Finnern, who finished in fifth, wrote, “I wish everybody the best and hope to see some significant change within our school district.”