MAPLEWOOD, NJ — Kamal Zubieta has been appointed to a one-year term on the South Orange Maplewood Board of Education. She was interviewed, voted upon, and sworn in at the special meeting of the BOE today, Feb. 10. 

Board seats are three-year terms. During her one-year appointment, Zubieta will have the opportunity to file a petition to run for election to complete the remaining year of this seat in the election to be held on Nov. 3, 2020; Javier Farfan served the first year of the term and resigned from the board at the beginning of January.

While four people initially submitted letters of interest and resumes, the District said only three were qualified to move forward as candidates in the interview process. The other candidates for the vacancy were Susan Lewis Bergin and Sharon Tanenbaum Kraus.

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During the public interview, Zubieta said that she would bring her work experience in project management, financial planning, and process improvement “and my internal compass” to topics such as the budget and best practices for access and equity. She has been a coach for Girls On The Run and has spoken in classrooms about Indian and Sikh culture. “Volunteering is satisfying,” she added.

Zubieta said she and her husband, who have different ethnic and religious backgrounds, chose to move to Maplewood 16 years ago for its diversity.  “I’ve invested my time and expertise in the district,” she said. “I am the right person” for the board, she asserted. “I represent the values of the South Orange Maplewood community and I would like to serve.”

Also during the interview, Bergin expressed that her expertise as a lawyer and her volunteerism within the district have been a good preparation to serve on the board. As a volunteer, she helped to end the practice of giving children whose lunch accounts were in arrears a dry snack instead of lunch. The Maplewood resident also said having “the big picture experience” of having children ranging in age from Columbia High School students to entering elementary school gave her a broad perspective. 

Tanenbaum Kraus said that after running unsuccessfully for the board last fall, “I still believe my presence and my point of view…will be of value to the board.” She said she became a journalist because of her curiosity and love of learning, and would bring her research and critical understanding to the board. The South Orange resident said her goal in every professional and volunteer endeavor is to think “what can I do to make it better than when I first arrived?”

After one hour of interviews followed by one hour of deliberations in closed session, the board came back to open session and board member Anthony Mazzocchi nominated Zubieta to the board. The vote was 6-2, with board members Erin Siders and Johanna Wright voting no; Wright’s vote followed a particularly long pause after her name was said in the roll call. Zubieta was then sworn in by Paul Roth, Business Administrator/Board Secretary, and she took her new place at the horseshoe table as Superintendent Dr. Ronald Taylor continued the meeting with an update on the budget process.

The next regular meeting of the BOE will be Feb. 24.


Edited on 2/11: In the original post, we had spelled the new board member's first name incorrectly. It is Kamal, not Kamil.