Schools / Kids

Ramos: South Orange-Maplewood Schools Committed to Conquering Institutional Racism and Building Excellence & Equity

The South Orange-Maplewood School District is working to “conquer” institutional racism and bringing social justice, equity and the opportunity for excellence to all students, according to Superintendent of Schools Dr. John Ramos.

In a statement to Village Green, Ramos briefly outlined steps that the district is undertaking to close the achievement gap between black and white students as well as address disparities in disciplinary actions.

“As a community, we are collectively engaged in doing the difficult and emotionally charged work of conquering institutional racism and building a school system based on social justice, equity and excellence for every member of our learning community,” wrote Ramos. “We have considerable work taking place in our schools on school climate, anti-bias education, culturally responsive teaching and restorative practices. We are aggressively recruiting minority candidates for both administrative and teaching positions. We are also implementing the Board of Education’s landmark Access and Equity policy, which opens doors to higher level coursework for students who have previously been shut out, and charges SOMSD to prepare each of our students with the skills and knowledge they need to be successful in rigorous coursework, and in college and career. The District is committed to this work and is planning to expand all these efforts in the coming year – despite the constraints on our resources. This is a top priority.”

The statement came after the South Orange-Maplewood Black Parents Workshop, led by Walter Fields, announced in April that week it is forming a pro-bono legal team “in anticipation of litigation we might be forced to pursue in light of the South Orange-Maplewood district’s failure to appropriate resources to close the achievement gap, despite its promises.”

Although a district spokesperson said the district could not comment on litigation or the threat of litigation, the district could comment about “what we are doing to address culture and climate, access and equity in the district.”

In the Black Parents Workshop announcement, Fields cited recent racial incidents in the schools — including the display of slave auction posters and a mock slave auction led by a substitute teacher.

Read more about the Black Parents Workshop’s announcement here.

In public comments at the Board of Education meeting on April 24, Fields called for the appointment of a affirmative action officer and also asked for a timetable for closing the achievement gap, as well as language about the diversity of teachers and staff. (See video of the meeting here.)

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