The South Orange – Maplewood Board of Education unanimously voted Monday night to pass a new Access & Equity policy (5755.1), which will open access to all levels of classes to all students, from K-12, and will provide students with learning resources to succeed in those classes.
See the policy attached here as a PDF.
Superintendent Dr. John Ramos, Sr. said the policy shifts “the conversation from ‘will we?’ to ‘how will we?'” Maureen Jones called it “long overdue.”
While every board member has expressed strong enthusiasm for the policy’s content, some had questions and concerns about its implementation.
Student Representative Nina Kambili, said, “I’m a little impatient tonight… when are we going to be able to see the ‘how’?” Second Vice President Johanna Wright expressed a similar concern about implementation, noting the district has “had policies all along which haven’t been adhered to.”
Board member Stephanie Lawson-Muhammed said, “as happy as I am with this direction and as important as I think it is as we talk about higher level courses…. [it is important that] we are taking care of our students at every level.”
Ramos acknowledged these concerns, but didn’t offer more in the way of specifics: “There is a lot of work to be done to implement the policy. I won’t…overpromise and underdeliver.” Invoking the Brown v. Board decision, he said the district would “move with all deliberate speed” to do “the right thing by our children and young adults…”
Board member Jeffrey Bennett, who chairs the board’s Equity and Excellence committee, credited Ramos for making the policy — which the committee has been discussing since the winter of 2015 — as broad as possible.
Bennett said time would tell how many students would take advantage of the policy. “We don’t know if there’s going to be a flood or a trickle,” said Bennett, who noted that the policy’s implementation “may always be a work in progress” and the district was always “tinkering toward utopia.”
Board President Wayne Eastman stressed that teachers would be central to the policy’s planning and implementation.