District Makes Changes, Additions to Superintendent Search Forums

by The Village Green
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The South Orange – Maplewood Board of Education has issued a revised and expanded schedule of forums for various stakeholders and members of the community to provide their input to the district as it searches for a new superintendent.

The Board is seeking input from a wide range of community members through three methods: an online survey, open forums and focus group sessions for particular stakeholder groups. The sessions will be held with the consulting firm the district has hired to guide the search.

The Board will use the input gleaned from these methods to approve a leadership profile and search criteria at its October 20 board meeting.

Two documents, an Outreach Schedule and an Outreach Plan, have been posted on the SOMSD website.

Both documents are also attached to this article as PDFs.

Members of the South Orange and Maplewood communities now have two opportunities to attend open forums and express their opinions: Tuesday, Sept. 9 at 7 p.m. and Thursday, Oct. 9 at 8:15 p.m., both at the Columbia High School Library.

Originally there was just one open forum scheduled.

Parents of elementary, middle and high school students each now have two opportunities to attend forums specifically for them: Saturday, Sept. 13 for all three, Monday, Oct. 6. for elementary and middle parents and Thursday, Sept. 9 for CHS parents and students.

The Saturday, Sept. 13 forum has opportunities throughout the day for various stakeholders to attend in the District Meeting Room at 525 Academy Street in Maplewood:

  • Elementary School Parents 9:00 a.m.-10 a.m.
  • Secondary School Parents 10:15 a.m.-11:15 a.m.
  • High School Parents 11:30 a.m.-12:30 a.m.
  • Community Coalition on Race/SOMA Parents of Students of African Descent 12:45 p.m.-1:45 p.m.
  • Special Education community 2 p.m.-3 p.m.
  • Achieve 3:15 p.m.-4 p.m.

The original schedule, released to the public just over a week ago, came in for criticism because of its inclusion of a forum for faith leaders scheduled on a Saturday morning. Some objected to including them as a group at all; others said the timing was insensitive to Jewish faith leaders.

In the Outreach Plan, the board apologizes for scheduling the faith leader group for Saturday morning, “which would have excluded Jewish leaders due to the Sabbath. We are very sorry for this oversight.”

The faith leader focus group will now be held on Tuesday, Sept. 9 at 6 p.m., right after a session for SOMEA leadership and before the open community forum from 7 – 8 p.m.

The board said it is not “seeking input of a religious nature” but is including faith leaders because of their “trusting relationships and insight into the needs and concerns of their members – families with students in our school district.”

As for inclusion of the CCR, an organization that has come in for some criticism in the past because of its involvement in school board races, the board notes the CCR’s “active Schools Committee that has provided input to District leaders and supported parent advocacy for many years.”

Other focus groups who will be invited to attend special forums include CHS students and teachers and support staff.

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