SOUTH ORANGE / MAPLEWOOD, NJ — The people have spoken and they have elected incumbents Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad and Johanna Wright, and challenger Susie Adamson to the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education. Lawson-Muhammad and Wright, each coming to the end of their first terms on the board, will serve another three years. Adamson will be beginning her first three-year term.
Results remain unofficial until verified by the Essex County clerk, Christopher J. Durkin.
According to the unofficial results, with 100 percent of the votes tallied, Lawson-Muhammad led the pack with 8,660 votes, or 24.25 percent; Wright came in second with 8,366 votes, or 23.43 percent; and Adamson scooped the third open seat with 7,485 votes, or 20.96 percent. Challenger Anthony Mazzocchi lost with 6,451 votes, or 18.06 percent, and Lawson-Muhammad’s running mate, James Davis III, received only 4,687 votes, or 13.13 percent.
The county clerk recorded 22,741 undervotes, which shows the number of votes left over when voters either voted for one or two candidates, but not three, or voted in an election on the ballot other than Board of Education.
There were 61 write-in votes.
“I’m very excited about the opportunity to serve another term,” Lawson-Muhammad told the News-Record in a Tuesday night phone interview. “I really care deeply about this community and our schools and there is so much work left to do. I am so happy to be a part of it.”
Saying that she was “humbled” by the show of support she received in the polls and “prepared” to do the work necessary to get the district back in the right direction, Lawson-Muhammad expressed excitement at the upcoming strategic action plan that will be unveiled in the next month.
“We’ve got to be focused,” she said. “If our foundation isn’t solid, then we can’t build on it.”
She said she “can’t wait” to begin identifying and understanding the issues in our district and making plans to fix them.
She also added that running with Davis was a wonderful experience. “His commitment to the community and the children is amazing,” she said. “He’s a wonderful leader and I look forward to seeing the contributions he’ll make to our community.”
Wright told the News-Record that she is thrilled to be re-elected as it will allow her to continue the work she has already begun on the board.
“It really feels good to know that I can continue to work for the children,” Wright told the News-Record in a Tuesday night phone interview. “I am going to continue to make sure the children and the staff’s voices are heard and that they feel heard.”
She added that she intends to continue examining the budget with “a fine-tooth comb,” to encourage better decisions, especially when it comes to staffing. Wright said she is committed to ensuring that the right employees are found — employees with the credentials they should have.
“I’m going to make sure we do what we’re supposed to be doing,” Wright said. “I’m just happy to see that so many turned out to vote and that they believe in me.”
Adamson pledged her commitment to continuing to represent each person in SOMA.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed every conversation I’ve had with teachers, parents and community members during this election season. These perspectives and stories were invaluable and I intend to continue to represent the myriad interests of our diverse community,” Adamson told the News-Record in a Tuesday night statement. “I am so incredibly grateful for the manifold support of all of those who worked so hard to help give me this opportunity to serve our district in this new role. I approach this responsibility with great humility and gravity and am prepared to do the hard work needed to move our schools forward.
“Sincere thanks to Tony and James for their demonstrated commitment to the conversation. Their perspectives enriched mine,” she continued. “Congratulations to Stephanie and Johanna. I look forward to working side by side with them and the rest of the board members and administration to better serve our students.”