One incumbent and two newcomers have announced that they are running for the Board of Education of South Orange-Maplewood on a joint ticket that focuses on rigor and enrichment, and questions the implementation of de-leveling.
Wayne Eastman — who has served on the Board of Education for 6 years — is joined by Madhu Pai and Jeff Bennett.
The other two incumbents up for re-election are Mark Gleason and Jennifer Payne-Parrish. Both have told Patch that they are still considering whether or not they will run again.
Terms are for three years each. There are nine seats total on the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education. Information about filing for nomination can be found here. The deadline to file is Feb. 27. Elections currently are slated for April, but the Board will be discussing whether or not it is eligible to move them to November at a Feb. 8 meeting.
Eastman has served on the Board of Education since 2006. He lives in South Orange with his wife Darcy Hall. Their two children attended South Orange-Maplewood schools, graduating from Columbia High School in '09 and '11. Eastman is a graduate of Harvard Law School and teaches business law and ethics at Rutgers Business School-Newark and New Brunswick. He is Vice Chair of the Department of Supply Chain Management and Marketing Sciences, and his research focuses on value diversity and altruistic leadership. You can read more about him on the votesoma2012.com website. In June 2010, Eastman cast one of three votes against the measure to de-level 7th grade science, social studies and English Language Arts in the 2010-2011 school year.
Madhu Pai lives in Maplewood and currently works part-time as a marketing consultant in the secondary and higher education market. She has two children — one is a 2nd grader at Marshall School , the other a preschooler at the South Mountain YMCA. She is a member of the Marshall-Jefferson PTA Executive Board, as well as a Class Mother, and is currently co-head of the Parent Advisory Committee at the South Mountain Y. According to the votesome2012.com website, Pai and her husband Nick "have also worked with and been inspired by KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) charter schools, where student, parent and teacher relationships foster a shared accountability for success."
Jeff Bennett, a South Orange resident, is currently a librarian in Union County. He earned a bachelor's degree in history at the University of Chicago and later studied education at Montclair State, taught math for the Princeton Review, and was a high school Social Studies teacher in Union County, where he taught a Global Issues, Sociology, American History I, and World History. More information is available about him on the votesoma2012.com website. Bennett has written Op-Ed pieces related to de-leveling, differentiated instruction, the achievement gap and academic rigor that have been published on Patch here, here, and here.
Here is the trio's platform as stated on their webstie, www.votesoma2012.com:
We are in the midst of revolutionary change. New technologies, media and social trends are upending the way children learn. Economies around the world are integrating, and American workers increasingly find that they must compete against and connect with workers internationally. Our schools must respond to this change.
We – Madhu Pai, Wayne Eastman, and Jeffrey Bennett – are running for the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education because we want our school district to be among the top performing school districts in New Jersey and the nation. We believe that South Orange and Maplewood should commit to offering opportunities for our students that equal or surpass the opportunities in our neighbor Millburn, with its impressive roster of electives and AP classes, and our near neighbor Montclair, with its well-earned reputation for innovation and choice.
There are three pillars to our forward-looking platform.
EXCELLENCE. Every child deserves an education that is challenging, deep, engaging, and prepares them for success in a global economy. Excellence means rigor in the classroom, fewer “make a poster” assignments, more substantive research and writing, more project-based learning in the sciences, and high-quality curriculum reoriented toward a multi-disciplinary view of our interconnected world. Excellence starts with getting the most from our teachers with individualized professional development tied to district goals.
INNOVATION. We believe cost-effective innovation is attainable. Academically strong after-school programs for elementary school students are a promising area. We support extra enrichment for struggling students, reach-up work for a middle that is often neglected, and opportunities for young children to learn foreign languages. We support efforts to align learning by competency rather than age. Math acceleration in the middle school is one such proven approach in our District. We also believe in opportunities for inquiry-based learning. For high school upperclassmen who wish to chart their own way, we want to explore alternative educational pathways – including internships, self-directed study, and expanded virtual learning.
FAIRNESS. Every child must be treated with fairness in our school system. We must address the achievement gap between African-American and Caucasian students, and elementary school innovation can help us bridge the gap. Targeted interventions, such as newcomer and mentoring programs, will help. We are also concerned about the growing achievement gap between boys and girls, and about raising the visibility of the multi-ethnic, international future of New Jersey (and America). Fairness requires a more open and accountable School Board process. We will exercise strong independent oversight over the Superintendent’s proposed Level Up and International Baccalaureate initiatives. We will make our decisions based on data and evidence about what works and what does not.
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This is the core of what we stand for – Excellence, Innovation, and Fairness for our schools in a rapidly changing world. In the coming weeks, you will hear more detail about our platform and our ideas. You’ll also hear about who we are as individuals. More importantly, we’ll be listening to you – about your concerns, about your hopes, and about your dreams for our schools. Together, we will secure the future for the children of South Orange and Maplewood.
In an email message, Bennet added, "My running mates and I are running on a broad, positive agenda of budget-realistic initiatives that will benefit all students in the community. We believe that all students need enrichment, all need to be challenged, and that our curriculum must adapt to the 21st century."
He said that the three believed that South Orange-Maplewood needs "to be a community that appeals to the parents who would choose Montclair for its educational progressivism and choice and parents who would choose Millburn for its many AP classes and high-level electives."
Bennett said that the three were committed to closing the achievement gap, that they would like to see a greater focus on science and social studies in elementary schools through after-school enrichment programs, and that they see the International Baccalaureate Programme as having "tremendous potential to improve our middle schools — and the high school possibly — but a successful implementation is not guaranteed. As Board members we need to ensure that the curriculum is adapted to reflect the philosophy that gives IB its sterling reputation, that expectations are increased, that teachers have the support so that they can teach classes at a high level, and that we begin foreign language instruction in Grade 6."