South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education Approves Change in Levels at District Schools

The board of education approved the change at its meeting Monday night. Credits: Iman-Jazelle Bond

MAPLEWOOD, NJ - The proposals for the change in levels in South Orange - Maplewood schools, Columbia High School Academic Placement Recommendations and the IB (International Baccalaureate) Programme were passed last night at the South Orange and Maplewood school district public board.

The proposals were first mentioned at the Feb. 22 meeting, and not many were in favor.

District officials noticed the students who are hard workers and challenge themselves are the ones who are more likely to graduate from college and have a successful career. Therefore, they proposed a change in the levels in which students were learning.

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The changes include a program called the Middle Years Program, from IB which “encourages students to embrace and understand the connections between traditional subjects and the real world, and become critical and reflective thinkers. Also, there will be more courses for more children the will prepare them for college and their careers in both the middle and high schools.

“I believe we’re not doing justice to our students,” said second Vice President, Lynn Crawford.

“It is one change in the list of many,” said Board member Andrea Wren-Hardin. “If they are separated in that level, it gives them what they need.”

Board member Wayne Eastman believes that the proposal is “too ambitious” and doesn’t understand how level three and four classes can be combined and taught at Columbia. He doesn’t see the high school proposal as moving the forward.

Susan Turner, Director of Strategic Communications, said that the grouping provides support.

“[There is] too much focus on structure and not on content,” said Board member Mark Gleason. “Our most challenging curriculum are not challenging enough.” Gleason supports IB and the high school proposal; it raises the challenge level for students.

Bill Gaudelli, board member, read a letter he had written to the students saying that he fully endorsed the decision. He encourages students to “jump in, the water’s fine.”

Crawford says that this change is a more better and equal education than what they’ve provided in the past.

After the board shared their views on the proposal, parents of current and former students in the district were allowed to also share their thoughts.

“It [will] bore the kids at the top and frustrate the kids at the bottom.” said Michael Goldberg of South Orange.

Sabina Hack, South Orange, feels that it addresses the needs of some of the students, but not all. “You haven’t considered the choices,” she said.

Parents fear that students who have a harder time learning will have to try harder and speed up and those who are at the top will have to slow down.

Nancy Gould, South Orange, pointed out that one thing people look for when looking for a home is good schools and that this change may cause homes to lose property value.

When it came to the voting, Gleason made a motion to separate action 2863 (Middle School Transformation Proposal and CHS Academic Placement) into three parts. The motion was passed 5-4 to separate it. Part A, IB, was passed unanimously. Part B, Middle School Placement, was passed 7-2. Part C CHS Placement was passes 8-1.

Also discussed and reviewed was the budget of $114,915,890 and the tax levy of $105,449,078 for the 2012-2013 school year. Eastman thought it was a reasonable balance in budget.

Board member David Giles said it was “very smart.” However, he was concerned about the Middle School and High School budget portion that would make sure teachers have tools. The computers are old, there are no USB outlets, they are slow and the access is limited. “We need to give them tools,” he said.

Superintendent Brian Osborne said $188,000 would go towards 200 being replaced.

Giles said the budget doesn’t support it.

Osborne then mentioned the five year replacement plan in which the schools receive new computer equipment every five years.

When the motion passed, eight were in favor with one abstention by Gleason.

Iman-Jazelle Bond is a student at Kean University and wrote this article for a journalism class.


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