The following was sent via email to the South Orange Maplewood School District community

Dear South Orange Maplewood School District,

It is easy to lose sight of the goal.

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Sure, we attend meetings and trainings, we discuss ideas both big and small, we learn the culture and norms and, if we’ve been paying attention, we set out with direction and purpose.  But then life happens.  Or, in our case, the daily life of school happens.  It is easy to get caught up in the individual instances, to be beset by the latest crisis…to lose sight of the goal.

The goal of SOMSD is captured in the recently approved, Board of Education and community endorsed MISSION STATEMENT:

The mission of the South Orange Maplewood School District is to empower and inspire each student to explore and imagine, to pursue personal passions, and to collectively create a better future by creating a learner-centered environment through multiple pathways; reimagined structures, systems and supports; innovative teaching; partnering with families; and maximizing community expertise and resources.

With this bold proclamation, the District has claimed its purpose and direction – true north!  Board of Education policies wrap around and guide our daily pursuits, with the Access and Equity policy at the heart of everything we do.

The work that is required to obtain this mission is where our focus must be centered.  That work’s component parts are detailed in the Strategic Plan. This collaborative effort represents the values of our community and the needs of our students.   It addresses every aspect of the work that we must do to create the school district we want for our children – from curriculum and professional development, to student support and engagement, to cultural competency, to partnering with families and the community, to clear, transparent communications.

The Action Plans which are part of the Strategic Plan are an incredible gift to us from the community.  Volunteer teams of educators, parents, students, and other community members shared their time, their passion for innovative education, and their commitment to the very best for SOMSD and developed 46 different initiatives that have the potential to help us begin the transformation of our district. 

We plan to begin to implement some of these initiatives in 2017-2018 – starting first with the “low hanging fruit” and most urgent.  We intend to work with faculty to identify which initiatives to pursue next, and create an implementation schedule for the next three years.

I firmly believe that sustained, systematic attention to the new mission, and to implementing initiatives to help us move ever closer to that mission, will help us build an educational system which truly engages every student, and which prepares students for a future that we have yet to imagine.

All of this is not to say that we don’t do crises anymore.  Of course, we need to embrace the real issues and concerns that emerge in our schools and community.  Recent incidents have highlighted areas in which we need to do further work, and much of that work is already embedded in the action plans.  These incidents have also strengthened our partnerships with the larger community, and forged a renewed commitment to work together to address the underlying issues which hold us back from being the community and school district that we all hope to be.

Yet and still, we must keep our eye on the goal if we expect to achieve the organizational transformation required to minimize such crises going forward.

Let’s guard our focus carefully.  Our students need us to be ever mindful of the goal.


John J. Ramos, Sr., Ed.D.