SOUTH ORANGE / MAPLEWOOD, NJ — In a move that stunned the community, Kamaljit Kaur Zubieta resigned from her position on the South Orange–Maplewood Board of Education in a May 31 email, sent at 11:27 a.m., citing cliquish behavior and her conscience as reasons for her departure.
“Effective today at 11:27 a.m., I formally resigned from my position as a member of the South Orange–Maplewood School District Board of Education,” Zubieta wrote in the email. “The focus of my work is on the children of our district: their social, emotional and mental health; their learning gaps after more than a year of remote and hybrid learning; their access to supportive, effective and equal education; and their families’ livelihoods. The board majority is moving in a direction away from my focus and my conscience. Now more than ever, during a time of international crisis, our children need an inclusive board to be their advocates. However, with an exclusive inner circle and a marginalized minority of independents, the board fails our most precious treasure — the children of our district.”
In February 2020, Zubieta was selected from three candidates to fill the second year of Javier Farfan’s term on the board, after Farfan resigned after just one year. In November 2020, Zubieta ran unopposed to fill the vacant seat for the remaining year of Farfan’s term; she won the election. Yet, approximately seven months before her term would end at the beginning at 2022, Zubieta has resigned, meaning the board will need to find a third individual to fill that seat in just one three-year term.
According to BOE President Thair Joshua, the board will follow Board Policy 0143 to appoint someone to fill Zubieta’s seat.
“We will use a similar process as we did in early 2020, when we filled the vacancy caused by the resignation of Javier Farfan,” Joshua told the News-Record on May 31.
Under Board Policy 0143, those wishing to join the board should submit their resumes, and the board will interview qualified candidates before making a final decision. More information on this will be forthcoming.
It appears Zubieta’s resignation was a surprise to board members, as Joshua told the News-Record that he became aware of her resignation “shortly before noon on May 31,” after her resignation email had been sent.
“I thank Ms. Zubieta for her service to the community and wish her the best in her future endeavors,” Joshua said, not addressing Zubieta’s claims in her resignation.
According to Zubieta, the decision to resign was not made lightly.
“I made the decision to step down from the board with considerable thought and a heavy heart. As a board member, I have demonstrated that I am 100 percent behind the district’s integration and equity work, the imperative that we make every child and family feel welcomed and supported, and the need to recognize and effectively respond to the impacts of the pandemic on our children,” Zubieta told the News-Record on May 31. “To create an equitable, integrated and truly inclusive school community, our board needs to lead by example — recognizing that every board member has been elected by our community to represent them. As such, we are each entitled not only to be treated with professionalism and respect both in public meetings and behind the scenes, but also to have our concerns, questions and lived experiences considered and not policed or silenced, with the goal of achieving consensus where possible so that we can lead our community effectively through this difficult work.
“The classic tactic of divide-and-conquer-the-people-of-color is both colonial and repugnant,” she continued. “While I am not going to get into specifics, increasingly collegiality has not been my experience on the current board, and, given the current dynamics, it is not possible as an individual to work from within the board to change the current climate and culture.”