Maplewood Opinion Schools / Kids South Orange

Opinion: Community Coalition on Race Implores District Leaders to Explain Administrative Changes

The following is from the Community Coalition on Race:

The Board of Trustees of the Community Coalition on Race seeks racial equity, integration, and excellence in education for all students in our schools. While the pace of change has been frustratingly slow, we have seen some progress. Yet, candidly, there are too many students of color who are not well served in SOMA, who still experience segregated classrooms and who still suffer from racial stereotyping that precludes academic advancements that should be available to every student.

Throughout the spring, we have been listening to Dr. Ficarra at multiple presentations on the district-wide facilities plan to provide necessary and long-delayed repairs and upgrades to our buildings. Along with the structural changes, he has promised to resolve our current racial integration issues. That plan has yet to be presented. We have voiced our issues regarding the redrawing of attendance zones and the potential burdens on families, but we have remained open to the possibility of an integration plan that has long-term stability.

We are deeply concerned that the manner in which recent significant personnel changes were announced to the community may have a destabilizing affect on a community that is still coming to terms with the facilities plan, changes in grade structures, and changes in what buildings will serve whom.

We understand the limitations on publicly discussing personnel issues. But, in the absence of information, there are strong and strident voices in the community who will fill that void for short-term interests. And, we are intensely and painfully familiar with how those voices can break down along racial lines and consequently stymie efforts to build an equitable school system with a shared vision (as well as undermine the values that make South Orange and Maplewood a special and unique place to live). Thus, we implore district leadership to provide the community with context surrounding the recently announced personnel moves and to share their plans for strong building and administrative leadership in light of the reassignments of Principal Aaron, Principal Samuels, and Dr. Renee Joyce; and in light of the loss of a number of other school and central office administrators.

Trust in those responsible for ensuring the best interest of our children is crucial if we are to successfully tackle the complex and challenging issues confronting this school district. We want to understand how these administrative changes support children, support stable racial integration, support true inclusion, and finally, how they will serve to achieve excellence in education for all students.

We ask that the community engage in constructive not destructive dialogue about rebuilding our schools in ways that benefit all students. We have a responsibility to our children to demonstrate that we are a community that strives for racial equity rather than one that pits factions against one another. We have to put our best selves forward so that we can attract the strongest candidates possible for open positions—most especially the superintendent position. We will need leaders who can realize our vision of stably integrated schools and classrooms in which all children are learning to their full potential.

The Community Coalition on Race stands ready, as always, to assist the community in navigating through these challenging issues impacting many school districts in a manner that demonstrates that, by working together constructively, as all sides put forth their respective points of view, we can achieve excellent educational outcomes for ALL OUR children.

Robert A. Marchman, Chair
Nancy Gagnier, Executive Director

On behalf of the Community Coalition on Race Board of Trustees

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