“We have momentum,” says Andrea Wren-Hardin.
With six years on the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education behind her, Wren-Hardin is running for a third three-year term. “There is still more work to do,” she explains, though she can point to a lengthy list of achievements during her tenure.
A 12-year-resident of Maplewood, Wren-Hardin and her husband have two children. The elder is a Columbia High School freshman; the younger is in sixth grade at Maplewood Middle School. Both attended Marshall and Jefferson Schools.
Wren-Hardin hails from Indiana, and is a graduate of Indiana University. Following graduation, she taught English in Cameroon, in West Africa for two years with the Peace Corps and then earned a Masters of Social Work, with a concentration in school social work, from the University of Illinois at Chicago, Jane Addams School of Social Work. She worked in the social work field for several years. Those experiences continue to inform Wren-Hardin’s work on the Board of Education today, she says, while she also serves as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for Essex County, advocating for children who have been neglected or abused.
Running with Sandra Karriem, the two point to a long list of accomplishments, including:
- A narrowing of the achievement gap reflected in recent test scores
- increased academic achievement across the grades, as reflected in the January 2011 State of the District Report
- the implementation of full day kindergarten
- the development of a rigorous, standards-based English Language Arts curriculum
- an increase in the number of special education students served in-district in an inclusion setting
- an increase in student access to more rigorous higher-level classes
- an expansion of intervention programs for struggling students
- improved professional development for teachers (with a focus on differentiated instruction) and principals (helping them to become better instructional leaders)
- incentive and support for teachers to obtain national board certification; and
the rollout of a teacher evaluation system with clear performance standards
First elected in 2005, Wren-Hardin campaigned on a platform of improving the English Language Arts Curriculum, as well as the need for transparency in district operations and stronger accountability. In her first term, she served as second vice-president (2005), member of the policy committee (2005, 2006 and 2007) and chair of the communications committee (2008). She was elected again in 2008 in an uncontested election.
In her second term, Wren-Hardin has served on numerous committees and is currently the chair of the Finance Committee, a member of the Facilities and Technology committee, and a member of the newly-formed Curriculum Committee.
As chair of the Finance Committee, Wren-Hardin has supported the district goal of staying with the 2-percent tax cap. She has been a strong advocate of consistent teacher evaluations, and she voted to “delevel” the current seventh grade.
Wren-Hardin explains, “We have moved the needle,” in terms of district progress towards greater classroom equity. But the work is far from done, she notes, and that is why she has chosen to run again for the Board of Education.
On her to-do list? She continues to seek ways to bring parents into the conversation. “We want our parents engaged early, as partners in their children’s education,” she explains, as one reason she focuses on greater communication. And she sees significant challenges ahead in balancing budget and the capital needs of this district. She hopes to continue working towards academic excellence for all students; the development of principals as leaders and teachers as trained professionals; and a greater focus on the math program.
It’s an ambitious program, but, as Wren-Hardin says, “We have momentum.”