MAPLEWOOD, NJ — Data driven choices, more effective communication with the community, and implementing intentional integration are among the South Orange Maplewood School District’s priorities, said Dr. Ronald Taylor, the district’s new superintendent.
He gave this briefing to the Maplewood Chamber of Commerce breakfast yesterday, Dec. 18. The breakfast, held at St. James’s Gate Publick House, brought together business owners from many fields, all based in Maplewood.
Taylor, who came to the role in July, said he is a “servant leader. If there’s a problem and there’s something stopping our kids, our teachers, or principals from being successful, I want to know about it so I can remove it, or I can address it.” He said he views himself as “being in the people business.”
He also explained that he wants the district to make decisions that are backed by data and research. For instance, he said, with voting day on the first Tuesday of November and the Thursday and Friday of that week off so that teachers may attend the state convention, he looked at the attendance data for Monday and Wednesday of that week. Seeing that it was 15 to 25 percent lower than usual, he recommended — and the board of education agreed Monday night when they approved the calendar for 2020-21— that there be a full week of fall break that week. He said the feedback from parents and teachers has been positive.
He offered the business leaders conversation and opportunities to partner with the district. He said he would like to see high school students have “real life experiences” in the form of internships in community businesses. This will give the teens experience in “getting up on time, building relationships, and [seeing] how complex organizations work.” Going through the interview process and developing a resume will also help them prepare for the future, he said. It worked well in the Willingboro School District, where he was previously superintendent, and he would like to speak with business owners and leaders about such prospects in the future. He said he will “work with our HR department to begin this model” and looks forward to progress on the idea for the students’ benefit.
During the meeting Diana Galer, chamber president, presented Mayor Victor DeLuca with a plaque acknowledging “his contributions to the growth of the Maplewood Chamber of Commerce and the business community in Maplewood” during his 14 years in the position. DeLuca will step down as mayor on January 1, and will remain on the board as Frank McGehee becomes mayor.
Clarification: Dr. Taylor's office wrote to TAPinto SOMA to offer the following to clarify his remarks:
- In Willingboro over the last several years, I started a student internship program, exclusive to Willingboro High School. It was entitled Future Professionals. Students would interview and apply for positions that were clerical in natural. These positions ran through the summers and serviced our Central Administration. These internships were paid and taught students lessons beyond the money they were paid (i.e. professionalism, timeliness, business acumen, etc).
- Our HR department will be working to create a similar Future Leadership Program in SOMSD. We would love to expand it in years to come to our local business partners. Some have already expressed interest, including HVAC, Media Reporters, computer assistants, etc.
- I also spoke about how returning our Vocational programs were very beneficial. I said this in response to one of the attendees who believed that HVAC Vocational opportunities could be very lucrative for our students. I then referenced that we had particular success with our Cosmetology Program, where several students went on to gain professional licenses and win contests and gain state-wide recognition.