The folks who run Soma Justice and PARES are all moms living in South Orange and Maplewood. We volunteer our time working to transform our towns into more equitable, integrated, and supportive communities. The BOE scorecard is just one thing we do in partnership with PARES. For example, in the last few years, SOMA Justice has paid off all lunch debt for local kids throughout the district, demanded police accountability in both towns, organized educational community events around social justice themes, delivered food weekly to neighbors, made education policy proposals focused on reducing trauma to kids at school, and helped form the first community police accountability board in the state of New Jersey.
We believe in social justice and we want elected leaders who are committed to advocating for racial, environmental, gender/sexual, immigrant civil rights, and all other marginalized communities.
For this reason, we create a scorecard to help other busy parents better understand candidates views on the issues that we know and observe firsthand in our community work. We lend our expertise and experience to sorting through the noise. And we are grateful that so many folks trust us based on our work, values, and goals for a better SOMA.
The scorecard requires months of work – we preview questions with our own groups, finalize questions, gather email addresses of candidates, send out a questionnaire, strip answers of key identifiers, and then coding with PhD students in California, format, upload to website, generate a scorecard graphic for accessibility, and post to relevant groups while monitoring posts to answer key questions. It is a lot of labor, but we see it as a service. Folks can see what we value in Board of Education leaders while also sorting through the answers themselves.
This is our 4th year doing the scorecard – each year we review our questions, timelines and seek input from the two groups. We are committed to this ongoing work.
In 2019 the score card received approximately 2000 online views as well as being a topic of discussion at other BOE election events. We are happy to continue this far reaching project in 2020