The BOE Candidates for 2020

For those who need info on the candidates - here's their websites:

Elissa Malespina

https://www.elissaforboe.com/

Deborah Engel

https://www.votedeborahengel.com/

Susan Bergin & Courtney Winkfield

https://www.berginwinkfield2020.com/

Melanie Finnern

https://www.melaniepfp.com/

Kamal Zubieta

https://www.zubieta2020boe.com/


Some people may not realize how the BOE election is structured this year:

Engel, Bergin, Winkfield, Finnern, and Malespina are running for three open seats on the BOE which have three year terms.

Zubieta is running (unopposed) for an unexpired term of one year.  She was appointed by the BOE to fill the seat until the next election (now) when Farfan resigned in January. 


Community Coalition Debate:

BOE Candidates Forum 2020

To register for the Virtual Candidates' Night, go to https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZUqdOysrDgqG9w5eqwY8k7fsf9-3Ct-zWaH

You will receive an email to join the meeting after registration.


 Hubster and I turned in our ballots today and based our BOE votes on what I viewed as limited available information.

Fwiw, I think all of the candidates and various sponsors of public forums missed the needs of our voters to get timely perspectives and platforms of all of the candidates in an election where voters have been encouraged to vote early to assure their votes are recorded and counted.


Agree.  With voters urged to return their completed  ballots as soon as they received them in the mail, there was very limited information on the BOE election available to the general voter by late September wen ballots were received.  Under these circumstances, the debates should have been held earlier in the year.


I have a very hard time getting behind any of the SB candidates.  I appreciate that they are all willing to serve, but they seem all the same to me.  


SEPAC (Special Education Parent Advisory Cmte) Releases 2020 BOE Candidate Responses

https://villagegreennj.com/opinion/sepac-boe-questionairre-responses-2020sepac-special-education-parent-advisory-cmte-releases-2020-boe-candidate-responses/?source=newsletter

In my quick perusal, here are some differences I noted across responses. I focused on their approaches/suggestions to challenges at this virtual time: (Listed alphabetically by last name)

  • Susan Bergin: Seemed to have done her homework and provided a resource that indicates how districts can provide accommodations in the virtual environment (https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/for-educators/learning-and-thinking-differences-basics/iep-accommodations-during-distance-learning
  • Deborah Engel: "Regular communication from the district via tip sheets, guidance and suggestions – from lessons learned in our virtual classrooms – would be helpful to parents who are struggling with their children in our current experience."
  • Melanie Finnern: (Seemed to focus on what hasn't been done, but not much offered in way of solutions).
  • Elissa Malespina: (With the level of experience and expertise in this area mentioned, especially with other schools/districts, and also her mention of having been part of a lawsuit against district, the lack of concrete suggestions for the virtual environment stuck out at me with this sentence): "I believe we can look at how other districts have managed to provide in person services to Special Educations students and look for ways to replicate it." 
  •  Courtney Winkfield: (many suggestions): "As our schools develop their master schedule and programs each summer, they should begin by programming students with IEPs first, and appropriately, to ensure that students receive programs tailored to their individual needs. The needs of our students with IEPs should be our District’s priority as we monitor the effectiveness of our remote instructional program, just as it should be during in-person learning. provide small group learning reinforcement, one-on-one or small group extended support, options for flexible asynchronous learning and strategic use of paraprofessional support in the virtual space. At the same time, the District should plan to provide students with IEPs and 504s with opt-in in-person support as necessary, and where most appropriate, in particular with OT/PT and mandated individual and group counseling. Finally, the District should move swiftly to process the backlog of child study team evaluations to ensure that students who may need additional support, but have not yet received the IEP, do not slip through the cracks."
  • Kamal Zubieta: (mentions little prior knowledge, but what she has been learning): "Ultimately, the district found a solution to continue special services, but now is the time to revert to directly employing providers of special services."

A neighbor is hosting a virtual coffee for two of the candidates.  Information is as follows:

A virtual meet and greet for BOE candidates Bergin and Winkfield this Saturday, October 10, at 11am.If you haven't voted yet and are still unsure of where to place your votes, this is a great chance to see what they're all about. Join Zoom Meeting

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86960205155...

Meeting ID: 869 6020 5155
Passcode: 877150
One tap mobile
+13126266799,,86960205155#,,,,,,0#,,877150# US (Chicago)
+16465588656,,86960205155#,,,,,,0#,,877150# US (New York)

Dial by your location
+1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)
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Meeting ID: 869 6020 5155
Passcode: 877150
Find your local number:

https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kcsBnQkIk9


Was there any video posted from the Coalition's debate?  I was hoping to view it afterwards.

Next one is tomorrow:

The League of Women Voters and the Presidents’ Council are hosting a virtual South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education candidates forum on Monday, October 12, at 7:30 p.m., via the South Orange & Maplewood School District’s Webex platform. The 5 candidates who are not running unopposed will be in attendance; according to LWV rules, Kamal Zubieta is not permitted to attend due to her running unopposed. The five candidates vying for three open three-year terms are Susan Bergin, Deborah Engel, Melanie Finnern, Elissa Malespina and Courtney Winkfield.

To Watch the Debate:
WebEx Url: https://somsd.webex.com/somsd/onstage/g.php?MTID=e6e1b9918310b7f9dc867a197b1b097c1
Vanity Url: www.somsd.k12.nj.us/boedebate
Meeting Number: 173 825 8489
Meeting Password: Knowledge 2020

To Connect by Phone:
Telephone: 408-418-9388
Meeting Number: 173 825 8489
Meeting Password: 56695334

Here's some coverage of the last one:

https://www.tapinto.net/towns/soma/sections/education/articles/boe-candidates-address-integration-and-equity-in-first-candidates-forum


jamie said:

Was there any video posted from the Coalition's debate? I was hoping to view it afterwards.

I didn’t see anything on the CCR website, but then in my tech ignorance wondered how easy or difficult it was to post for public access a recorded virtual meeting.


Perhaps some zoom glitches.  If anyone needs assistance editing out segments of a zoom video - feel free to reach out to me.


krnl said:

 Hubster and I turned in our ballots today and based our BOE votes on what I viewed as limited available information.

Fwiw, I think all of the candidates and various sponsors of public forums missed the needs of our voters to get timely perspectives and platforms of all of the candidates in an election where voters have been encouraged to vote early to assure their votes are recorded and counted.

 I think we are still in the "vote early" period and I believe that the forums are wrapping up this week, aren't they?  I'm not at all uncomfortable with waiting another week or so, especially with the drop box option, but even with the mail.


My biggest frustration with the current BOE and SOMSD is poor communication that creates unnecessary stress for students and families.  The current BOE majority has not, and is not, interested in improving the situation and almost wears it as a badge of honor.  My votes are therefore for Deborah Engel (the candidate with a marketing background who has not been afraid to publicly ask the Superintendent questions related to the distance learning and will have office hours), Elissa Malespina (who live-streamed BOE meetings and did far more communication about what happened at BOE meetings and how parents could access Canvas than SOMSD did) and Melanie Finnern (who also emphasized the importance of the need for better communication, said she will respond to emails from the public, and is not beholden to any particular advocacy group in town). I think we need a diversity of thought and opinion on the BOE, rather than some of the other candidates, i.e. Susan Bergin at the League of Women Voters debate, “the BOE speaks with one voice.”  All candidates support the intentional integration plan and hiring more teachers of color.  Ultimately, the Board’s role is as overseers, not as advocates.




Mom270 said:

(who also emphasized the importance of the need for better communication and is not beholden to any particular advocacy group in town).

Is anybody beholden? Elissa Malespina was involved with the SOMA Black Parents Workshop lawsuit, but I wouldn’t call her beholden, and apparently neither would you, since you’re voting for her.


DaveSchmidt said:

Is anybody beholden? Elissa Malespina was involved with the SOMA Black Parents Workshop lawsuit, but I wouldn’t call her beholden, and apparently neither would you, since you’re voting for her.

 Am all too familiar with school politics here to know how it works. No, I think Elissa is an independent who is not beholden to any group, and I think the lawsuit shows she is committed to equity for students.  I appreciate her advocacy with respect to how public speaks at the BOE meetings was severely curtailed to 11 pm or later and her willingness to talk to or meet with anyone as a BOE member to discuss issues.  I am thinking of BOE members like Shannon Cuttle, who abstained from the Superintendent vote (which we the public are constantly told is the MOST important thing the BOE will do) and then refused to give a reason, or the ones whose campaigns were enthusiastically supported by local advocacy groups and then had terrible attendance at BOE meetings, and who do not (or did not) respond to emails from the public.  I would like BOE members who realize the need to communicate with the whole public and not just their friends or the advocacy groups who supported their campaigns.  I know the candidates these groups are supporting in this election and will not be voting for them.  Would like the BOE members who I think have the greatest likelihood of clear and direct communication with the public and without a lot of eduspeak. Your mileage may vary.


How are the other candidates "beholden"?  I'm genuinely curious.


sac said:

How are the other candidates "beholden"? I'm genuinely curious.

I don’t know, but abstaining from votes and missing meetings sound like ineffectual ways of being it.


Beholden - Talking about the BOE members who don’t view it as their role to communicate with the whole public but do communicate with those particular groups.  Also made the second point that the candidates who those groups have supported the past few years have not done a good job on the BOE, IMO, showing that these groups are not the best judges of who will be an effective BOE member.  Our district has had a lot of administrative churn and paid a lot for legal fees in suits brought to compel the district to do things it should have done without the need for litigation. Think it’s time for new and independent voices on the BOE.


Mom270 said:

DaveSchmidt said:

Is anybody beholden? Elissa Malespina was involved with the SOMA Black Parents Workshop lawsuit, but I wouldn’t call her beholden, and apparently neither would you, since you’re voting for her.

 Am all too familiar with school politics here to know how it works. No, I think Elissa is an independent who is not beholden to any group, and I think the lawsuit shows she is committed to equity for students.  I appreciate her advocacy with respect to how public speaks at the BOE meetings was severely curtailed to 11 pm or later and her willingness to talk to or meet with anyone as a BOE member to discuss issues.  I am thinking of BOE members like Shannon Cuttle, who abstained from the Superintendent vote (which we the public are constantly told is the MOST important thing the BOE will do) and then refused to give a reason, or the ones whose campaigns were enthusiastically supported by local advocacy groups and then had terrible attendance at BOE meetings, and who do not (or did not) respond to emails from the public.  I would like BOE members who realize the need to communicate with the whole public and not just their friends or the advocacy groups who supported their campaigns.  I know the candidates these groups are supporting in this election and will not be voting for them.  Would like the BOE members who I think have the greatest likelihood of clear and direct communication with the public and without a lot of eduspeak. Your mileage may vary.

I think Elissa Malespina's involvement as a plaintiff in the lawsuit against the district is a conflict of interest and makes her anything but independent.  She is not interested in transparency. If she was she would have been transparent about her involvement in the lawsuit from the beginning.  She was the moderator of an education group on Facebook and discussed the lawsuit with other members of the group but never disclosed her involvement until there was a publicly announced settlement.


yahooyahoo said:

I think Elissa Malespina's involvement as a plaintiff in the lawsuit against the district is a conflict of interest and makes her anything but independent.  She is not interested in transparency. If she was she would have been transparent about her involvement in the lawsuit from the beginning.  She was the moderator of an education group on Facebook and discussed the lawsuit with other members of the group but never disclosed her involvement until there was a publicly announced settlement.

 And she removed people from the group who called her out on it and then made her husband an administrator of the group because her continuing in that role would be a conflict (but in her mind her husband's involvement wouldn't).  Twisted.


I’ve never signed up for Facebook, so these are noob’s questions: Did Malespina establish the group herself? If she did, are there typical standards of disclosure that Facebook participants expect?

For a comparison, I’m thinking of all the MOL discussion threads that are started by people whose motivations are unknown. If I wasn’t willing to take possible conflicts of interest for granted, I could choose not to take part.


Yes, she started the group and discussed the litigation but refused to acknowledge her role in it.  I think basic honesty is expected.


Steve said:

Yes, she started the group and discussed the litigation but refused to acknowledge her role in it.  I think basic honesty is expected.

Yes, basic honesty would be a good starting point for any group founder/moderator.




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