MAPLEWOOD, NJ — Superintendent Ronald Taylor gave a presentation at Monday’s South Orange Maplewood Board of Education meeting on the status of SOMSD’s goals from the past year and how that will affect the goals for this year.
Dr. Taylor began with the district’s goal to take the necessary steps towards completing the elementary school construction projects. While acknowledging the setbacks caused by the pandemic, ultimately the aim is for the plans for the $160M dollar project to be submitted for code review by June 2021.
The second goal was for the superintendent to have a plan to fully integrate all schools by June, 30 2021.Though this goal was set last year the recent settlement with the Black Parents Workshop has codified the districts intent on getting this done in a timely fashion, specifically pertaining to the elementary schools where the district sees the most segregation.
The SOMSD Intentional Integration Initiative will impact the children beginning kindergarten in September 2021. This initiative will do away with the old system of elementary students automatically being enrolled in the school closest to their home. The district will now begin using census data to consider factors like parental/guardian education level, sibling preference, race, household income, and proximity when assigning students to an elementary school.
“This work represents the necessary next steps to ensure that the student populations in each of our schools are an equitable reflection of our district’s diversity,” said Dr. Taylor, “while of course providing data driven support and research-based innovation that supports the academic achievement of all students.”
The superintendent will also oversee the process of making sure the district is hiring and retaining highly qualified staff. Like the integration plan, this will also require the use of data to determine the effectiveness of the new approach. Data that tracks the diversity of new hires and current staff members will help the district to look at the retention rates of staff members of color. This also includes having opportunities for development and growth within SOMSD for employees.
The process of setting up the district’s goals is aided by the NJ School Board Association and the field service representatives that are assigned to the SOMSD. These reps are often former members of a board of education.
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