Profiles: Six Candidates Run for Three Seats on Board of Ed

Each candidate was given 500 words to explain his or her qualifications and platform.

Update: Joe Stupp, aka Maplewoodian, is now providing podcasts of interviews with five of the six canidates. Listen here.

On Tuesday, April 17, 2012, the residents of Maplewood and South Orange will go to the polls — between 2 p.m. and 9 p.m. — to select one-third of the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education.

Each year, three seats on the nine-person board are up for election. Terms are for three years. The board steers a district of more than 6,600 students and an annual .

This year, two incumbents — Wayne Eastman and Jennifer Payne Parrish — are running along with four newcomers: Jeffrey Bennett, Amy Higer, Madhu Pai and Karen (Tia) Swanson.

The candidates are running on two tickets: Eastman, Bennett and Pai are running together. Payne Parrish, Swanson and Higer are running together.

Readers can access 500-word profiles submitted by each candidate by following these links.


We also encourage you to read the candidates' blogs here on Patch by searching the candidates' names or scrolling through our Local Voices section.

If you wish to voice your support for a candidate or candidates, blog on Patch by clicking here or tell us here in the comments.

John Davenport April 14, 2012 at 11:26 PM
I'd like to endorse Bennett, Pai, and Eastman and clear up a few misimpressions people have. I'm endorsing these candidates because (1) it is clear to me that they have a lot more creative ideas for improving our curricula, from science and reading/writing in elementary grades where the gaps open (both racial and gender achievement gaps) to foreign language and social studies in middle school and high school grades. They are the ones who came up with innovative enrichment proposals to challenge under-challenged students. -- the other side is all Johnny-come-lately on these vital topics, trying to claim 'we had these ideas too...' Pai has proposed more creative ideas in one debate that Payne-Parish has in six years on the Board. Nobody is fooled by her claims. (2) I trust Bennett, Pai, and Eastman much more to hold the superintendent accountable for excellent results from the deleveling of 8th and 9th grade. Jeff Bennett is an expert on this data already, as his public editorials last fall showed. Wayne is an expert on the IB program to be implemented in our middle schools. And Madhu is an expert in communications with clear plans to improve Board-community relations. -- By contrast, the other side is sending around emails telling people that Jeff, Wayne, and Madhu "do not support Brian Osborne." What they mean is that Eastman, Bennett, and Pai will not be a rubber-stamp for whatever the administration demands, and will ask hard questions and not accept false data.
John Davenport April 14, 2012 at 11:36 PM
(3) I trust these Pai, Bennett, and Eastman on budget issues. Wayne Eastman and Mark Gleason are the main reason our school district budget has weathered the financial storms of the last three years so well, and still has money to address our big needs and new initiatives. Jeff is also an expert on special education issues and how to deliver the best for special education students within our budget constraints. -- By contrast, Amy Higer said (during the League of Women Voters debate) that she opposes the teacher tenure reform bill in Trenton, even with its current exception for teachers who already have tenure. (4) Finally, I am convinced that Bennett, Pai, and Eastman will represent all parts of the diverse communities in our towns with equal vigilance. Their commitment to global education, improving foreign language learning, and closing the achievement gaps (racial and gender gaps) where the open in elementary grades makes this abundantly clear. -- By contrast, (and worst of all) the campaign managers on the other side are sending out emails claiming that Bennett, Pai, and Eastman don't care about black students and want our towns to be more white. This stuff is incredibly offensive, really shocking (especially given Madhu's background!). From the start, the other side has been trying to smear Jeff, Wayne, and Mahu by knowingly misrepresenting their platform, and critiqued Wayne because his kids have finishing going through our district. But they've gone way too far.
Fred R. Profeta, Jr. April 15, 2012 at 04:43 PM
Wayne Eastman is one of the true stars in the Maplewood/South Orange Community. He is highly intelligent, very creative, and constantly striving to improve the viability of these two town. Wayne knows that the attractiveness of Maplewood and South Orange will never be greater than that of their schools. He understands, better than anyone on the Board of Education, the fundamental relationship between educational quality, taxes, market value of homes, and quality of life. Wayne and I worked hard together in the late 90's to create an integration culture in Maplewood and South Orange and many of the early strategies of the Community Coalition on Race are a product of his ingenuity. These would not be the towns they are today - open to all and thriving - were it not for the contributions of persons like Wayne. I enthusiastically support his re-election to the Board of Education. Fred Profeta
Janet Kazenel April 16, 2012 at 08:35 PM
I fully endorse the election of Payne-Parrish, Swanson, and Higer to the BOE for the following reasons: I have known Tia Swanson and Amy Higer as fellow parents over the years as our children attended Seth Boyden Elementary School, and have had ample opportunities to learn about their views on education and to appreciate their qualities as individuals. I have also followed the decisions Jennifer Payne- Parrish has supported on the BOE. All three individuals have consistently impressed me as people of integrity, compassion , and intelligence. Each of them has children in schools in this district, and they are each professionals with advanced degrees. They each have both the personal attributes and the professional qualifications to enable them to make meaningful, intelligent and reasonable decisions for this district. They are committed to the highest standard of education being accessible to all children. Excellence in education coupled with equity for all is of paramount importance to them. I have the highest confidence that if elected to the Board, they will listen carefully with empathy and intelligence to the struggles and concerns expressed by parents, children and administrators. They will interact with fellow board members with respect and dignity, and their decisions will be guided by sound judgement, thoughtful reflection, and keen dedication to achieving the highest standard of education for all children in this district. Janet Kazenel
John Davenport April 17, 2012 at 02:00 AM
Thanks Janet. That was a nice endorsement. It is worth making sure everyone knows that Wayne Eastman's children went through the schools in our district. That said, whatever their stage of life, all six candidates are good people who care about this community and everyone in it. I have vigorously supported Madhu Pai, Wayne Eastman, and Jeff Bennett, but I know that Jennifer Payne-Parrish, Amy Higer, and Tia Swanson are decent people who care about justice and follow their conscience too. This is a local school board election; we are all in this together.


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