Elissa Malespina knows what is needed in the school district because she taught here for nine years at Columbia HS and South Orange Middle School, where I was her colleague. She is a nationally recognized Librarian, Technology trainer and winner of the prestigious BAMMY Award, which is given to raise the profile and voices of many undervalued and unrecognized people who are making a difference in education and to elevate educators, education and the value of life-learning in the public eye. As a result, she is a nationally sought-after speaker regarding Technology Integration.
Persistence, integrity and courage come to mind when I think of Elissa. Having been an educator in our district and being a parent and resident of SOMSD, allows Elissa to know the truth about what is actually taking place in our district, so she will not accept lies or excuses. She has the experience, training and knowledge to not just know the difference between lies and the truth, she also knows how to fight to ensure the right things are done for all children in our school district
Elissa advocates for children by standing up for them, instead of standing by. She has fought to get equitable education for all who have been compromised in our school district: Special Education, students of color, students who don’t have the parents who fight for their children, and those who don’t have someone to speak for them. In fact, when Elissa ran for the Board of Education before and lost, she did not disappear like most. She continued her advocacy for our children by setting up a Facebook Group called “South Orange Maplewood Cares About Schools”, which helped get the truth out to the community about what was and is happening in our school district. What’s more, in July 2020, she helped win a settlement to help even more children in our district, which will be monitored by a retired Supreme Court Judge for the next three years.
As a parent, Elissa knows the importance of knowing how to use different tools to help your children. This past September, she conducted a remote training course on Canvas for parents who now have to teach their children during this pandemic. Originally, 50 parents asked her to help them because they were not getting the support they needed. By the time her online training took place, that number grew to over 500+.
Elissa instills persistence, courage and integrity into the children she has had as students and in her son, who as an eighth grader at SOMS four years ago, helped lead a group of students who refused to have their picture taken with House Speaker Paul Ryan in Washington, D.C. Why? Because Speaker Paul Ryan was against funding the schools the way they needed to be funded and against the health care funding children need. The world noticed the courage of our children to speak up vs. the silence of our adults not speaking out. Newspapers and media around the world carried this story. The children’s courage made many people proud. It reminded many early on what our country should stand for.
Elissa crosses color, ethnic, and religious lines. She knows what White Fragility is and how it systematically operates in our school district and community to lower our school’s ratings and integrity, creating many different achievement gaps. More importantly, she knows who does it.
Elissa is now running again. Running against those who have been backed for years by those who represent the special “1%” in our district. She fought to heighten our school standards for our children. She is running to continue what she has proven she does so well: fight for our children and ensure the right things are done.
I STRONGLY and heartily endorse Elissa Malespina.
Johanna Wright - speaking on behalf of herself and not as a member of the South Orange Maplewood BOE