Community Government Maplewood Schools / Kids South Orange

Montclair, Like South Orange-Maplewood, Shows Trend Toward Fewer Black Students

A recent report to the Montclair Board of Education showed that enrollment of Black students decreased over the last decade — a trend also seen in recent reports on the South Orange-Maplewood School District.

According to Baristanet, on January 14, Felice A. Harrison-Crawford, Ed. D. director of Operations and School Support Services told the Montclair Board of Education that overall enrollment of Black students in the Montclair School District dropped from 32% in 2010 to 24% in 2018. Harrison-Crawford called the change an “alarming trend.”

In the comments of the Baristanet report, one person wrote, “This comes as no real surprise. Our town is becoming less & less diverse as home prices and property taxes rise and only expensive homes and apartments are built. We’re on the fast-track to becoming Chatham/Summit. The lack of diversity is not just along racial lines, but economic as well.”


Similarly, recent demographic reports by the South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race have shown that the South Orange-Maplewood School District is facing decreased enrollment rates for Black students. The Coalition has also tracked and reported that the towns are facing declining African-American population overall, as well as becoming more affluent.

At a presentation last fall, Coalition on Race Director Nancy Gagnier “highlighted changing racial demographics since 1997, pointing out that the schools are becoming whiter, have shown an increase in the Hispanic population and a smaller increase in the Asian population, and drop in the number of Black students.”

More specifically, according to Gagnier’s slide presentation, overall Black enrollment in SOMSD has decreased for 10 consecutive years; between 1998 and 2018, enrollment of Black students fell 19%, and Columbia High School became majority White for the first time in decades during the 2017/18 school year. All other schools in the district are majority white, with the exception of Seth Boyden Elementary School. The increased segregation of the elementary schools has become a centerpiece of the SOMSD 2020 Intentional Integration and Innovation Initiative.

The Coalition on Race is planning to present an update on its demographic report this February. Gagnier told Village Green, “We have updated the schools section and added a section on affordable housing.”

Asked to comment on the trends in SOMA and nearby suburbs, Gagnier wrote, “The Black student population in the SOMSD was highest between 2000-2004 at about 51.5% for each of those years. In 2017-18, that population was at 29.6%. Even the higher reporting of multi-racial students in 2017 at 5.3% does not account for the steep drop in that population.”

“Back in 2012, we looked at both Montclair and West Orange overall demographics to compare to SOMA. It was already clear then that West Orange was gaining in Black residents and that there was a decrease in the Black population in Montclair. SOMA was more stable for the decade 2000-2010, but we seem to be on a similar trajectory as Montclair this decade,” wrote Gagnier. “In fact, based on ACS 2017 data, Maplewood has virtually the same overall population share of Black people as Montclair, and South Orange has about 7% less than either. West Orange is comparable to South Orange in Black population. West Orange also has a much higher Hispanic population than SOMA or Montclair at almost 20%.”

Gagnier added, “We are also trying to pay attention to towns that people leave here to go to for lower taxes–like Springfield or Union. There has not been dramatic racial change in Millburn/Short Hills, Orange or East Orange. Livingston has an Asian population that grew from 14% in 2000 to about 22% now.”

Regarding the changes in Montclair’s demographics, SOMA resident Deidra Tyree McLaughlin recently commented on Village Green’s Facebook page, “As an Aftican American who goes back two generations in Montclair, its sad to see the diversity dwindling in a town that has strong roots as a pioneer in diversity – economically, and racially.”

Related stories:

After a Decade of Stability, Demographics Show South Orange-Maplewood Growing Whiter & Wealthier, November 18, 2016

Letter: Demographic Report Shows Need to Re-Balance Elementary Schools, November 24, 2016

South Orange-Maplewood Coalition on Race Lays Groundwork for Integrating Schools With Forum, Demographics Report, October 24, 2018

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