In Forum, Morris School Board of Education Candidates Talk Mid-Pandemic Schooling, More Inclusive Curriculums and Potential District Mergers | #Education

MORRISTOWN, NJ – In typical 2020 fashion, four candidates vying for two three-year seats on the Morris School District board this November mulled topics of concern to local residents in a virtual forum on Wednesday evening moderated by the Morristown Area League of Women Voters.

Of the four candidates, the only incumbent is Meredith Davidson, who is seeking a second term. Each of the candidates, however, brings its own identity to the board and did their best to influence the opinions of the voters who watched the forum.

“Through my seven years in the district, I’ve supported my children, but always had a greater goal in mind – to help our schools do better,” Davidson, a former high school teacher said in her opening statement. “During my three years on the board, I’ve been committing to improving communication and collaboration with schools and families, supporting staff, but there’s certainly more work to be done.”

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Davidson underscored her passion to ‘do better’ as motivation to run again and outlined three areas of focus where she’d like to focus energy towards in the next term, should she be re-elected:

 

  • Push for academic achievement for all student groups
  • Advocate for improved communication and collaboration
  • Keep listening to and working with you

Oliver Starnes, an African American candidate credits being inspired to run for the board by a 10-week human rights campaign in Morris County over the summer. An ambitious Starnes, a Trinity College graduate and past president of the Morris County Young Democrats, believes that he can bring change to the district.

“Through that, it became very clear and obvious that the best way to effect systemic change is at your local school board,” explained Starnes. “I bring that experience of being the only black student in a classroom with a majority of white students. It’s a dynamic that I can speak to with extreme clarity.”

Vivian Rodriguez, a Cuban immigrant who has nearly four decades of experience working in New Jersey’s public schools, called for a vigilant approach to assure that ‘our students get the very best’ in her opening statement. She described her experience and passion for bilingual education and equality.

“We need to provide choices for all of our students because choices have power,” emphasized Rodriguez, a mother and grandmother. “We need to cultivate possibilities so that all children are provided with the very best to choose from so they can shine (and thrive) in this wonderful country we live in.”

Elisabeth Wall outlined her near two decades of involvement in the Morristown community at some level. From serving as president of the Washington’s Headquarters Association to treasurer of the Normandy Park Home and School Association and a member of the Morristown Zoning Board. A mother of a 1st grade student, Wall cited her well-rounded background and ambition as a catalyst to running for the board.

“Evolution is necessary and I would like nothing more than to join this dedicated (board) so that I can continue their admirable work and add value in the best way I can,” Wall suggested, crediting the work that the board has done while acknowledging current concerns in the pandemic. “My experience as an attorney, leader and volunteer in the community and my vested interest in the educational experience of every child in our community make me ideally suited to serve on the board.”

Candidates discussed prospective stances on topics from the board’s involvement of the M-Station Project PILOT Program and the openness to begin talks with the Morris Plains Board of Education for a potential merger

The also forum outlined current issues including the responsiveness to ensuring students are receiving necessary skill advancement in math and language throughout the pandemic as well as the need to advocate for more inclusive curriculums for African American students.

 

The one-hour forum, which was live streamed on YouTube, is available by clicking here.


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