Special Election Issue

Paige Fanneron, News Editor

The South Orange-Maplewood School District (SOMSD) is holding an election for the Board of Education (BOE). Like the presidential election, the voting will take place on Nov. 3. There are six candidates for the upcoming election: Elissa Malespina, Susan Lewis Bergin, Courtney Winkfield, Melanie Finnern, Deborah Engel and Kamal Zubieta. 

Malespina is an advocate for effective public education. If Malespina gets elected, she plans to do everything she can to have the board of education comply with the Black Parent Workshop lawsuit agreement. Malespina told the Village Green that she “will continue this advocacy if elected and will do everything in [her] power as a BOE member to make sure the district complies with the Black Parents Workshop (BPW) lawsuit agreement.” This agreement was made in order to make sure that black students are not being discriminated against within the school district. She is also a big advocate for students with special needs getting the support necessary to do well academically and socially.

Board of Education Administration Building Photo from: Google Earth

Finnern is a freelance art director and yoga instructor. Finnern believes that the SOMSD is wonderful, however, it does have some shortcomings that she would like to fix. Finnern believes that she would be a great addition to the board, and that she would bring a fresh perspective on topics within the district. As told to the Village Green, Finnern said, “I realize I have a different professional background than most BOE candidates, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from attending BOE meetings, it’s that what you do for a living doesn’t necessarily correlate to being a strong BOE member.” 

Engel wants to join the BOE because she believes that her 15 years of marketing experience will be able to help the BOE in creating a new plan around the pandemic for the 2021 school year. Engel would also like to put in an intentional integration plan in order to make sure all students within the district are being treated equally. Engel told the Village Green she is “running for the Board of Education because she love[s] [her] community; and if elected, promise[s] to advocate for all [the] families and to ensure that our children receive the high-quality education that they all deserve.”

Zubieta is a current member of the SOMSD BOE and would like to continue serving the school district. Zubieta believes in equality for all children, and she would like to integrate the schools within the district. Zubieta also thinks that she would be very helpful in making a plan for the school year during the pandemic so that students who need occupational and physical therapy can have access to the resources that they need. Zubieta told the Village Green, “I am running for the South Orange Maplewood Board of Education because I am for all children.”  

Bergin and Winkfield are running as a team for the BOE. Bergin has lived in the Maplewood and South Orange (MAPSO) community for ten years now and has first hand experience in areas where she feels that the district excels as well as falls short. Winkfield moved to South Orange in 2019 and is a parent and educator. Winkefield believes that her experience with being a parent and educator will be beneficial to the board of education. Winkefield stated on her website, “I am inspired by the community’s potential to create a more fair and just school system that lives out our values.” 

The BOE elections have impact on the community. The board makes decisions for the school district as a whole and are the ones who are going to be handling the issues within the district. The future of SOMSD is in the hands of these candidates.

Designed by: Sydney Mannion