SOUTH ORANGE AND MAPLEWOOD, NJ - The following letter was sent via email to the South Orange Maplewood School District (SOMSD) community from Superintendent John J. Ramos, who announced his resignation in May.

To the SOMSD Learning Community:

After sharing the following information with the school district’s Presidents’ Council, I was asked by parent leaders to capture it in a letter to the community. So, I respectfully submit the following:

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As I approach retirement, I look back at all of the work that we have done together, and consider the work still in front of SOMSD.

During my tenure, we made progress in the areas of policy revisions and the improvement of internal processes and procedures, and there is certainly more to do.  Yet and still, the architecture is in place to move the system forward on behalf of all children.

Specifically, there is a strong foundation upon which to build. The foundation is represented in the pillars of the Access and Equity Policy (A&E) and the Strategic Plan (SP). The A&E policy adopted in fall 2015 provides Board of Education authority to practically address the values to which this community aspires – especially giving all students the opportunity to access rigorous and meaningful work. The question is no longer, “Will we?”  Rather, the question is, “How will we?”  A&E provides the political construct to finally do what we’ve always intuitively known was right.

The Strategic Plan , authored by the community, provides the blueprint to further enable SOMSD to best prepare its children and young adults for a world we have yet to imagine. Think about it. Ten years ago many of us did not know what a smart phone was; now, most of us can’t live without one. What will it be like ten years from now?  The SP answers the challenge to best prepare our students by outlining an ambitious range of standards and action steps. In effect, the SP changes educational delivery from the current model built for the agrarian age to a design built for the age of information and technology.  This plan, the product of a synergy, created by hundreds of local contributors, is among the most progressive in the country. The Convergence Center for Policy Resolution, a thought convening organization in Washington, D.C. which has produced its own “Education Reimagined” document, has expressed interest in the SOMSD strategic plan and process.

The architecture is in place.

Going forward, advancing the important work of preparing students for a world we have yet to imagine includes addressing long-standing obstacles that, until addressed, will cause the community to continue to stumble. I have shared these priorities with parent, community and district leadership. As SOMSD moves from the old agrarian model into a new model through the disruptive innovations outlined in the Strategic Plan, it is critical that such obstacles be directly, intentionally and immediately addressed. True equity of opportunity is not optional; it is an inherent part of the beloved community.

I am confident that SOMSD has the architecture, the passion, and the people who can create transformative change for all students. This work must be done with a sense of urgency. I thank you for the opportunity to serve and look forward to watching your progress.

The candle may be consumed,

but fire will be passed on,

and it will never be extinguished.  Chuang Tzu

John J. Ramos, Sr.

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