Roberts: Raising Expectations for the South Orange-Maplewood School District

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[Editor’s note: The nine candidates for the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education participated in a forum hosted by the League of Women Voters and the Presidents Council last Wednesday. While the forum was videotaped by SOMAtv, because of technical difficulties the candidates’ closing statements were not recorded. The Village Green has invited all candidates to submit their closing statements. This is Shannel Roberts‘ statement; she is running on a ticket with Elissa Malespina and Marian Raab.

I am asking for your vote because I have a problem with lowered expectations in education in our district. I am tired of seeing well-qualified teachers give up their tenure and leave our schools out of their frustration or retaliation for speaking out because they care about our children.

How did we go from being a blue ribbon district to having three of our schools failing going into the fourth year (Maplewood Middle School, South Orange Middle School and Clinton Elementary)? What are we doing to get off the Focus school list? I am worried about Columbia. Why have we invested in a top heavy administration and good teachers lack the necessary support systems to teach effectively? Why are our schools are crumbling? Why are classes still taught in moldy portables? Why is there push for blind acceptance in our district, and no clear willingness to support a parent’s fourteenth amendment right to direct his/her child’s education?

Current policies seem to support the business of education and not educating our children. We have policies that would work if we implemented them correctly so that we can bridge the achievement gap and “all” students will succeed. Having two schools within a school is giving all of our children the wrong message. It fosters their perception that only white students belong in the honors classes because that’s what they see — and that’s not what we want our children to be learning, nor does it reflect our true community.

We need to reallocate our resources and invest in our children so they can compete with the best of the best, and the policies in place have failed our children. If we don’t come together responsibly, our children’s reading and math scores will never rise, our high school graduation rates will remain low, and the pipeline to prison will widen for those left behind.

Let’s not be fooled by the distractions of a theorem over transparency, consultants over community input and support, and pedigree over integrity.

Marian, Elissa, and I have had some amazing conversations with many of you since our campaign hit the ground running, and the common thread that binds us all together is that we are a community rich in diversity and culture and the only thing that is not reflective of this—is our school system. So I’ll take a page from Mia Goldstein’s playbook, a 2015 graduate of CHS, “Question Everything and everyone.” Thank you!

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