I am writing to urge your support of Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad and James Davis III for the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education in this November’s election. We need voices, insight and experience on our Board. I have served on the Board for over 9 years, the last three with Stephanie, and I know first-hand the insight she brings to serving the needs of all students. This stems in part from her 12 years of experience as a volunteer tutor and manager of enrichment programs in Atlanta, Chicago and Essex County.

In her professional life, Stephanie faces the daily challenges of making large organizations more effective, with a combination of improved operational practices and leadership that works to change the organizational culture.  In her three years on the Board, she’s demonstrated to me and others that she understands what our Board should be doing to make that happen in our school district. It is a challenging balance and requires the right temperament to be able to hold someone accountable while at the same time having truthful conversations about priorities, problems and trade-offs.

James has four children in the district and spends a lot of time helping out with their soccer teams. More recently, he also began helping raise funds for the music initiatives of Achieve. He will bring a wealth of governance experience to the Board, having served to advise both corporate and non-profit Boards.  A lawyer by trade, he has a critical eye for process and compliance. He will know how to ask for the right evidence from administration to show that the District is living up to its promise to all students.  

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But his strongest suit is his quiet demeanor, even when asking tough questions or discussing contentious issues. James’s professional manner will help foster a healthy relationship of mutual respect with administration, which in turn will lead to an improved sense of being valued and respected for all district staff.

I cannot stress enough the importance of a Board member’s personal approach to leadership, governance and collaboration and its impact on the ability of our administrators and staff to do their jobs. That is why I am so enthusiastic about the candidacy of James Davis and Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad.

I urge you to cast two of your votes for them on November 8th.  We need them on the Board of Education to move our District forward.

Beth Daugherty

Maplewood, NJ