Letter: Demographic Report Shows Need to Re-Balance Elementary Schools

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To the editors:

Thank you for publishing the results of the South Orange-Maplewood Community Coalition on Race’s demographic report.

Some of your readers may not be aware that the South Orange-Maplewood School District, with the help of a consultant, is examining whether our current districting structure continues to yield the racially and socio-economically diverse and balanced schools that it was intended to produce. The district is also looking at ways to resolve overcrowding at some schools, and inadequate facilities at many.

The CCR report shows that, as a result of changing demographics throughout South Orange and Maplewood, one of our elementary schools has a strikingly different racial balance than the others: Seth Boyden’s student body is approximately 66% African American, 22% White and 12% other. Removing Seth Boyden’s numbers from the overall number, we see that the other elementary schools have an average of 62.5% White students, 19.25% African American students and 18.25% other students. The ratios are essentially opposite. (See charts below.)

Our current districting structure was designed to promote racial and socio-economic balance, and this goal was achieved for a time. But demographics have changed, and our current structure is no longer achieving that goal – a goal that our community agreed on a long time ago. Integration is, after all, the optimal social and educational outcome.* The numbers in the CCR report make it clear that, without vigilance and deliberate intention, even we can slip into segregation.

It will be critical for our Board of Education, District administration and the consultant hired by the District to keep re-balancing of our elementary schools top of mind in the planning process, while also addressing other critical issues such as overcrowding. We must be committed to once again creating racial and socio-economic balance in our schools, and then we must remain intentional and vigilant about maintaining that balance.


Rachel Fisher

*See https://tcf.org/content/facts/the-benefits-of-socioeconomically-and-racially-integrated-schools-and-classrooms/ for a summary of the educational benefits of integrated schools for all students.

Click on charts to enlarge:

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