SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — Elissa Malespina wants to take her professional experience as a teacher and education advocate and put it to use on the South Orange Maplewood Board of Education. 

She said her 20-plus years in education — including nine with the South Orange Maplewood School District — would be useful on the BOE. She is currently a school librarian and technology integrator for the Verona Public Schools, working at Verona High School. She said she also speaks nationally on issues relating to librarians and technology integration. 

Malespina said in SOMSD she appreciates the teachers and students that “are doing incredible things on almost a daily basis. The students have the ability to really have their voice heard.” She said that it is important “to have their voice as part of the conversation.” The diversity of the district is also a draw, she noted. “It really looks like the outside world.”

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If elected, she said district communication would be a top focus area for improvement. And, not communicating in educational jargon. “We need to work on bridging that gap and making it so that parents truly understand what’s happening in our schools.” Other areas, she said, are ensuring equity in our schools, improving remote learning, and looking at hiring practices and the evaluation process. Ensuring curricula are up to date and robust are also important points of focus, she said. “Everything builds from the curriculum up.”

Voters should choose her, she said, because of her “extensive knowledge of the district” as a former employee, as a parent, and as an advocate. "I also have an understanding of what’s happening outside the district and what’s not happening here.” 

In addition, she said, “I’m very much independent in my thinking,” and wants to hear from all sides before she makes decisions. She said she loves to hear different voices and opinions and is known among her friends for her “ability to listen and learn from other people.”

Malespina has lived in South Orange for 25 years, and has a child who will graduate from Columbia High School next spring. She has not held public office but ran for school board previously in 2015.


Read about the other candidates as their profiles become live:

Susan Bergin

Deborah Engel

Melanie Finnern

Elissa Malespina

Courtney Winkfield

Kamal Zubieta