A native of Plainfield, I have always wondered what my life would have been like had my mother and I not moved away in 1981. Once my husband and I conceived our Ella in 2015, I knew I wanted to come home. I also knew that the Plainfield Public School System was struggling and failing its students. We made the move despite our realtor’s attempt to market Maplewood and Berkley Heights as a more suitable community for our family.
I began attending Plainfield Public School Board meetings and debates in 2016 when Ella was only 2 months old. I remember bringing her to the PEA sponsored debate at Plainfield High School, sitting in the front row and placing her baby carrier on the floor in front of the panel of board candidates. I wanted these people to see the lives their actions would be affecting. I wanted them to look at my husband, myself and this new soul as they expounded upon their vision and disappointments with the current trajectory of the educational infrastructure. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine being a 2017 BOE candidate. I just knew that the situation was less than desirable and something had to change.
As I continued attending Board of Education meetings, my frustration mounted until I found myself at the mic one evening, speaking my disappointment with the culture of the Board of Education and its community relations. Week after week, the same teachers and stakeholders invested hours in these meetings, stepping up to the mic to ask tough questions. The Board’s response was always the same; a zombie-like stare and no response to our questions. Sometimes, the situation would escalate to the point that board members would become indignant with their community partners. I could not take that one moment longer, and I decided to become a part of the change that is so desperately needed in our public school system.
As Ella’s mommy (she is now 22 months old), I would love to see the attention of the Board of Education shift from being contract-focused to policy-focused. The children should be our number one priority, not contracts for buildings and grounds. We need to support our dedicated teachers and support staff with stable leadership that is focused on governance rather than micromanaging the Superintendent. We must hire a Superintendent that has a proven track record of turning around failing school systems and contract them for a minimum of 5 years to provide stability and continuity to our staff and students. Rather than playing musical chairs with our principals, we should equip them to lead their prospective staffs for a minimum of 5 years so our teachers and our support staff have stability in leadership and vision. We must focus on policy that will nurture the potential of the many gifted and talented students as well as the needs of our many English Language Learners that we currently serve in the Plainfield Public School System. We need to reach out to our immigrant community by hiring office staff that speaks their languages, ensuring that our district communication always contains a Spanish translation, establishing a culture of inclusivity in the climate of our school system. We must engage our community by establishing committees of teachers, parents, and community partners, who will help to manage our schools, improving community relations and allowing for positive interaction between the school system and the people it serves. We have the opportunity to be part of an amazing shift that truly can provide a foundation for a “Plainfield Renaissance”.The current educational climate here in Plainfield does not promote confidence for new families to invest in this community. We can build all the fancy buildings we want, they will be meaningless without a viable educational system.
The success or failure of our school system affects us all! It affects your property value, it affects the resale of your home, it affects the culture of the community, the ability of future generations to make good decisions for our community, it affects children who are attending our schools today, and it affects the trajectory of your child’s college acceptance. Our school system is the foundation of our community! I believe we can cultivate vast improvement in our schools over the next decade with the right leadership at the helm. Please join me in this fight to create the change that is so desperately needed in the Plainfield Public School System. Our children and our community are worth this collected effort!