September 29, 11:45 a.m.: This article has been updated with the statement made by BOE President Kaitlin Wittleder in her president’s report.
At its September 28 meeting, the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education voted 7-1 (with 1 abstention) to create The Fergus Implementation Special Committee which “will assist the Board in its oversight role to ensure the District’s compliance with the [Black Parents Workshop] Settlement during the three-year monitoring phase. The objective of the committee is to ensure that all of Dr. Fergus’ recommendations from the Equity Audit Report are implemented by August 2026.”
The vote followed on a special presentation by Dr. Edward Fergus of the Rutgers University Disproportionality and Equity Lab on September 18, 2023. After the presentation the BOE voted 8-0 (with 1 abstention) to extend its settlement with the Black Parents Workshop for three years.
In her update, BOE President Kaitlin Wittleder provided context for the committee:
This evening the Board, with the exception of Board Member Malespina due to her conflict, will vote on establishing a Fergus Implementation Committee. During our Special Board Meeting on September 18th, we received Dr. Fergus’ final recommendations from his Equity Audit Report, totaling 23 initiatives that the District must implement by August 2026. This represents a significant undertaking, and the Board is committed to taking the initial steps towards accountability for this important work.
The Fergus Implementation Committee, composed of the entire board, will play a crucial role in overseeing the District’s adherence to the BPW Settlement during the three-year monitoring phase. Dr. Fergus’ recommendations serve as the foundation for building systems, support structures, and behavioral changes that should improve the learning experiences and academic outcomes of our students of color and over time, help to narrow the achievement gap that has persisted within the District for far too long. This will be a collective effort that will take the full engagement of every stakeholder in the District and it starts at the top with the Board. I hope that the Board will vote unanimously to support the formation of this committee.
Arun Vadlamani was the sole BOE member to vote against the formation the Fergus Committee. Before voting, he objected to the frequency with which the committee meets and also to the name of the committee. BOE 1st Vice President Elissa Malespina abstained due to a conflict as she was a complainant in the BPW lawsuit.
Read the resolution here: