UPDATED: Two More Enter Board of Ed Race, for Total of Five Candidates

by The Village Green
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7/26: This article has been updated with a statement from Maureen Jones.

With fewer than four days left before the filing deadline of July 28, two more candidates have announced their intention to run for the South Orange Maplewood Board of Education.

Maureen Jones filed a petition Wednesday with the Essex County Clerk’s Office, according to an employee there. Elizabeth Baker filed Thursday.

They join Donna Smith and Elissa Malespina, who are running on the same ticket, and Anthony Mazzocchi. Mazzocchi has not yet filed his petition but will do so Monday, he told The Village Green.

There are three seats open on the board.

Jones was president of the Clinton School PTA during the 2013-14 school year, according to the school website. Baker is an attorney and mother of two children in the South Orange – Maplewood school district.

BOE Candidate Elizabeth Baker

BOE Candidate Elizabeth Baker

“As an involved parent I see the challenges we have in making our visions a reality,” said Baker in a phone interview, “to reach our educational goals and to make our schools safe and secure, in the face of budget pressures.”

She emailed the following statement:

I am a 12 year Maplewood resident, the mother of two children in the District (a 7th grader at MMS and a 4th grader at Tuscan), a Tuscan PTA Board Member, and a lawyer with experience in financial oversight, negotiations, and public policy, as well as advocacy.

As a school community we face big challenges, finding a new Superintendent and a new principal at Maplewood Middle School, to name a few. To realize our District’s goals of excellence, we need great leadership and strong educational vision from whoever we hire. But we also need leaders with the experience to implement our educational vision with consistency across the District while at the same time making sure our schools are safe and secure. To succeed at all this, I believe we need to redouble our efforts at meaningful dialogue with parents and teachers, and model the listening skills we want to instill in our children.

This is the challenge facing the next Board, but also a great opportunity. I am running for the SOMa Board of Education because I want to put both my experience as a parent and my professional training to work for our District and ensure that we provide all children in South Orange and Maplewood with the educational opportunities they deserve.

Baker said she is currently not running on a ticket with any other candidate.

BOE Candidate Maureen Jones

BOE Candidate Maureen Jones

Jones emailed the following statement to The Village Green on Friday:

I am running for the Board of Education because we are at a crucial point in our district where we have the opportunity to hire a new superintendent. Our community must pull together to attract the best possible candidates and the Board must carefully consider what we need in a new leader for he or she will shape the future of our district for years to come.

In the four years that my husband Greg and I have lived in Maplewood, we have seen this is a community with a lot of promise that cares deeply about its children. We have seen the diligent progress that has been made in the school district, but fully realize there is more work that needs to be done. I want to help ensure that work gets done — not only for my own children but for all the children in our district.

I am the parent of two elementary age children and an educator working with special needs children. I have been involved in community outreach and have just completed a term as President of the Clinton PTA. In all these roles, I have been confronted with the many needs of children. It is how we as adults respond that determines the success of our children.

As we work with the new Superintendent to move the district forward, I think the Board must show leadership in unifying parents, staff and the larger community with the following messages:

– Real change doesn’t happen overnight; it takes persistence, patience, and the willingness to fail and then try again — exactly what we want our children to be able to do.

– All educational improvement efforts must be guided by solid consensus among all stakeholders; that takes a commitment to dialogue on everyone’s part.

– We need to think less about “their kid” and “your kid” and “my kid” and more about “our kids”. What we do to benefit “their kids” today and “your kids” tomorrow will certainly make for a stronger district and benefit all “our kids”. Time and again I have seen this happen in the districts where I’ve worked.

I am committed to ongoing dialogue with all stakeholders while keeping the focus on initiatives and ideas that benefit all children. I look forward to the election campaign as one way that we can demonstrate to prospective superintendents that we are the community where they want to be over the next several years.

The Village Green will have a full interview with Baker and Jones soon.

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