Why We Believe Payne-Parrish, Swanson and Higer Deserve Your Vote

Why we think these candidates are the best individuals to hold the district accountable to the goals of high achievement for all students.

We are writing to strongly endorse Jennifer Payne-Parrish, Karen (Tia) Swanson and Amy Higer for Board of Education.  We feel this is a critical election for the future of education in our district.  These three candidates have outstanding qualifications and share the vision of education we believe is right for our community.  They believe that excellence and equity go hand-in-hand, and that we cannot have excellent schools without offering this excellence to all of our students.  Jennifer, Tia and Amy are committed to a relentless focus on the richness and rigor of curriculum and improving the instructional practices in every classroom.  They believe every student in our district must be engaged and challenged.  This vision is the one that guided the Superintendent’s recent reforms for our middle schools and our high school.  And it also was the guiding principle for changes that have been implemented in our elementary schools: full-day kindergarten; a richer and more rigorous Language Arts curriculum; an inclusion model for children with special needs; and targeted interventions for children whose skills need to improve.

Professionally, these candidates will bring a breadth of experience and expertise to the Board.  Jennifer is a scientist and holds a Ph.D. in Pathology; Tia is a writer and journalist, who holds an M.A. in English Literature; and Amy is a college professor and holds a Ph.D. in Politics.  They are intelligent, thoroughly informed on the issues, as well as reasonable, thoughtful, and collaborative individuals.  

Finally, as parents ourselves, we also believe it is very important that our board members have children attending school in the district.  With Payne-Parrish, Swanson and Higer, every type of school in our district will be attended by one or more of their combined eight children - elementary, middle and high school.  Not only do these individuals have first-hand knowledge of what is happening in the schools; they have a vested interest in ensuring the district meets its goals and all our kids receive an outstanding education.

While we know they will not always agree on all things, we also know that these candidates will ask tough questions and hold the district accountable to the goals of high achievement for all students.  They are committed to making our district the best it can be, and they believe we are headed in the right direction. 

Please join us in supporting these three outstanding candidates. Thank you.


Jessie Wendt, South Orange; two children - Jefferson and South Orange Middle School

Maggie Tuohy, Maplewood; four children - preschool, Seth Boyden and Maplewood Middle School

Remember to VOTE this coming Tuesday from 2-9 p.m.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Devyani Guha April 17, 2012 at 06:36 PM
"Not only do these individuals have first-hand knowledge of what is happening in the schools; they have a vested interest in ensuring the district meets its goals and all our kids receive an outstanding education." Theresa, I think that all residents of our district have a vested interest in ensuring that the districts provides an excellent education to all our kids. I can see how someone values that candidates have kids in the school system, but I do not see it as a deal-breaker. Sometimes, people who are not seen as the traditional experts may bring a lot of value to a discussion. To me that is a more inclusive vision of who we are as a community.
Kalani Thielen April 17, 2012 at 07:12 PM
No it's not a personal attack to argue that having children in local schools makes you more qualified than another citizen to serve on the BOE, but in my opinion it is incorrect. Frankly, that seems completely irrelevant to me. Mary, I understand the need to keep our conversation civil, but surely it's within bounds to question the cogency of an argument put forward in an opinion piece?
Mary Mann April 17, 2012 at 07:33 PM
Kalani, I agree that that is a good conversation to have. When did I ever say otherwise?
Theresa Burns April 17, 2012 at 07:56 PM
Devyani, I believe your comment is directed to Jesse, not me, since you are quoting her, but I'll respond. Yes, I believe she is saying she values the fact that Payne-Parrish, Swanson, and Higer have multiple children currently in the system. Though all residents obviously benefit from an excellent school area, I agree with Jesse that school policies have a more direct and concrete impact when your children attend the schools every day. But nowhere does she say it is her only consideration in supporting these candidates. And where does she say it is a deal breaker?
Marina Budhos April 17, 2012 at 08:11 PM
Don't we have some Board members now who don't currently have children in the district, such as Sandra Karriem, who is an excellent Board member? Also, I honestly feel that being on the BOE requires one actually seeing above and beyond the individual schools, into the broader systems and policies, and what's going on the wider world of education. Indeed I'd even argue that people sometimes confuse excellent PTA -school level perspectives with what it means to have the big picture of a whole system. I'm not saying that school level doesn't matter--of course it does--but the kinds of decisions that are involved are rather different.


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