MAPLEWOOD, NJ — The South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education elected Thair Joshua president of the board after serving just the first year of his first three-year term.
“Though it’s only my second year on the board there are only three people who have been on the Board of Education longer than me,” said Joshua. “There’s been a lot of change in the last few years, so I think I am representative of the group that has joined the board in the last two to three years.”
Joshua said that after former BOE President Annemarie Maini made it clear that she would not be seeking a third term as president, some of his colleagues approached him about the position. Joshua said he was honored that his colleagues thought of him, and decided to step up.
“It’s been a big help to me to have a former board president to bounce ideas off of,” said Joshua. “Board member Maini has been incredibly gracious with her time,” he continued, “and I’m going to do the best that I can.”
While the board president does not have a lot of unilateral decision-making powers, Joshua hopes that he can make some improvements to the way meetings are run to make them more effective and shorter when possible. Outside of public speaks and presentations, the board president has some control over the flow of the meeting. Joshua said he hopes to start disseminating information ahead of time so that people can get some of their preliminary questions answered before the meetings.
Reintroducing in-person meetings is another component that Joshua believes could facilitate more effective meetings. Before the pandemic, Joshua mentioned that board members could get some of their questions answered just in the time walking from executive session to the public session.
“I actually asked about meeting in public in October but at that time boards of ed were not exempt from the state rules capping public gatherings at 25,” said Joshua.
Since then Gov. Phil Murphy signed Executive Order 196 which made exceptions for legislative proceedings including local boards of education. However, Joshua added, the district meeting room is not large enough to host the school board meetings with proper social distancing. The school board has been looking at other possible locations to host the meetings, such as the auditorium at Columbia High School.
“It doesn’t make sense for us to meet in public if the public can’t attend,” he added.
At the reorganization meeting, board member Elissa Malespina suggested that the school board return to in-person meetings since students and teachers would be returning to their buildings. The district has not made any official plans yet, however Joshua did state that the notice for January’s meeting would be sent out with the idea of meeting in-person.
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