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South Orange/Maplewood — News

First SOMA Board of Education Candidate Announced

TAP into SOMA Staff

Wednesday, June 25, 2014 • 11:16am

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – Donna Smith of South Orange has announced her candidacy for the South Orange-Maplewood School District Board of Education election, which will take place on November 4.  She is the first candidate to submit a petition to appear on the ballot.

None of the three incumbents whose terms are ending are seeking reelection.  Bill Gaudelli, Sandra Karriem and Andrea Wren-Hardin have each announced that that they will be leaving the Board. The last day for candidates to file School Board Election petitions is July 28.

TAP will be sitting down with Smith on Monday to learn more.  Here is her full announcement:

South Orange, N.J., June 23, 2014 – Donna Smith announced today her candidacy for the South Orange-Maplewood School District (SOMSD) Board of Education (BoE) to strengthen the leadership at the District level. Smith has been actively involved in the school community for more than 15 years ranging from PTA volunteer to leadership roles on BoE committees. Smith, who filed for office last week, is seeking one of three open seats on the BoE.

“I know how things work in our District—who the participants are, how the funding works, and how the support organizations and volunteers work cooperatively with the schools to maintain our academic excellence,” Smith said. “I will ensure we move forward as a District with an educational experience that is well rounded and beneficial to all our children.”

A South Orange resident for 24 years, Smith is a principled activist known for working hard on common sense approaches that provide the most robust educational program possible for every student. A passionate advocate for the students in our district, Smith spearheaded two parent groups, “Levels Can Work” and “Group for Objective for Academic Leveling,” which challenged the BoE and school administration to maintain high standards and rigorous curricula at the middle schools. As a representative of “Levels Can Work,” she was asked to participate in the District’s “Task Force on Excellence and Equity” charged with recommending strategies to increase student access to rigorous coursework.

“My primary priorities are successful implementation of the International Baccalaureate at the middle schools to meet established goals; ensuring strong fiscal oversight and prudent allocation of SOMSD resources to provide the most robust educational curriculum possible; holding a strategic, long-term perspective that keeps in mind the entire K-12 program; and implementing a strong Gifted & Talented program,” Smith added.

Given SOMSD’s severe fiscal constraints, she does not believe that the International Baccalaureate should be implemented at the high school level at this time. Rather, the District must concentrate on preserving high standards and a wide variety of course offerings at the high school, and expanding the curriculum to incorporate a more global element.  She also wants to hold the Administration to its promise to continue providing more access to honors and AP classes at the high school, by improving the methods by which students are assigned to such classes and making the system more transparent.

Smith has extensive volunteer experience in support of SOMSD schools. She has held numerous positions in the PTAs and HSAs of the district, from co-president of the South Mountain PTA and newsletter editor at South Orange Middle School, to head of the directory committee at Columbia High School.  She also was co-president of Presidents’ Council for two years.  She participated in the SOMSD’s Strategic Planning program, was a member of the SOMSD-appointed committee to hire two assistant principals for elementary schools as well as committee to hire the district’s physical education coordinator.

Her three children attended schools in the district from elementary school through Columbia High School and her youngest is graduating from the high school in June 2014.

The election will be held on November 4, 2014, during the general election. 

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