MAPLEWOOD, NJ — The South Orange Maplewood Board of Education swore in four members at yesterday's reorganization meeting.

Newly elected members Susan Bergin, Elissa Malespina and Courtney Winkfield were sworn in to their three-year terms. Board member Kamal Zubieta was sworn in for one year to complete the term she was appointed to last year. 

Board member Thair Joshua was then elected to President of the Board of Education replacing board member Annemarie Maini. Shannon Cuttle and Erin Siders were then elected to first and second Vice President respectfully. They will serve in these roles until the next reorganization meeting in January 2022.

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Following the administrative portion of the meeting, Superintendent Ronald Taylor read out loud the only comment submitted for public speaks; it was a letter from SOMEA (South Orange Maplewood Education Association) asking that the district once again postpone the reopening of schools until the staff can be vaccinated. 

“The importance of postponing the return is paramount. The new variant from the UK is assumed to be here in New Jersey and reports have come in from New York City confirming cases of the strain,” the letter read. Teachers, which are included in the category of “frontline essential workers” as it is defined by the CDC, would begin receiving the vaccine in Phase 1B.

“It is only a matter of weeks before our group can begin to qualify.” The letter was signed by SOMEA officers Rocio Lopez, Shira Lincoln, Phil McCormick and Laurie Pham. Neither Taylor nor the members of the board chose to respond to the letter. All teachers will have to return to their classrooms by next Wednesday.

Finally, the district’s representative from the NJSBA (New Jersey School Boards Association) Charlene Peterson gave a complete overview of the ethics guidelines for all members of the board. New board members will have to complete the online training every year for the first three years they serve on the board and within one year after each re-election.

The full presentation by representative Peterson is available on the SOMSD YouTube page and it covers the ethical standards expected of board members as well as the precedents set by past decisions made by the NJSBA.




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