Baker takes BOE presidency for 3rd year

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MAPLEWOOD / SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — The South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education met for the first time in 2018 on Jan. 3, swearing in new board members Robin Johnson Baker and Anthony Mazzocchi and swearing in Elizabeth Baker for her second term. The reorganization meeting also resulted in the election of the year’s officers and formation of committees and workgroups.

Elizabeth Baker was elected president of the BOE for the third year in a 7-2 vote, with Mazzocchi and BOE member Johanna Wright in the minority. Chris Sabin was re-elected the BOE’s first vice president with a vote of 8-0 with Wright abstaining. Annemarie Maini was voted second vice president with a vote of 7-0, with both Mazzocchi and Wright abstaining.

After being re-elected president, Elizabeth Baker addressed the rest of the BOE and the members of the public attending the meeting.

“Thank you for allowing me to serve on the board for another three years in what is an important year for the future,” she said, adding that goals for the upcoming year include a curriculum overhaul and searching for a superintendent to replace interim Superintendent Thomas Ficarra.

She added that focusing on serving the school district is the primary goal of the whole board.

“Sometimes we meet for the first time on the campaign trail as opponents, and we have to come together later,” she said. “When we focus on the work, it is much easier to find common ground.”

Elizabeth Baker also made recommendations as to which BOE members should serve on each of the board’s four committees and two workgroups this year. When voted on, the committees and workgroups passed 8-0, with Wright abstaining.

Maini will serve as chairwoman of the Excellence and Equity Committee, with Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad, Mazzocchi and Madhu Pai fulfilling the other roles. On the Policy and Monitoring Committee, Lawson-Muhammad will serve as chairwoman while Elizabeth Baker and Robin Baker will also take seats on the committee; plus, there will be a rotating open seat that members of the board will fill as needed.

The Finance, Facilities and Technology Committee will be chaired by Susie Adamson, and Elizabeth Baker, Sabin and Wright filling the other three seats. Pai will chair the Labor Relations & Personnel Committee, while Elizabeth Baker and Maini fill the two permanent seats. Sabin will also be on the committee with concern to labor relations and Wright will handle meetings devoted to personnel.

Adamson, Robin Baker, Maini and Pai will comprise the workgroup devoted to bylaws review, and the workgroup devoted to the superintendent search will be made up of Elizabeth Baker, Robin Baker, Mazzocchi and Sabin.

Photos by Amanda Valentovic and Courtesy of SOMSD