Government Maplewood Schools / Kids South Orange

South Orange-Maplewood District on a Roll with Board Meeting Report Emails

Dr. Thomas Ficarra has brought in a new approach to communication in his short time on the job at Interim Superintendent of Schools for the South Orange-Maplewood School District.

In what could be considered Ficarra’s first “home-run,” the new super has instituted a followup email debrief of the monthly Board of Education meeting. Today, the district delivered the second such email update, this one following the Board meeting on Monday night, September 18.

While the update doesn’t provide the complete Board commentary and discussion on items (see our story on the social studies curriculum here) or a review of public speaks, it is a quick and handy guide to actions and discussion items and provides links to documents, policies and presentations.

Village Green will continue to do deeper dives on topics and will use these email reports to inform further reporting.

Read this month’s update below or at this link here (note that the link does not include all the information that is in the email as of 10:30 p.m. September 22).

Board of Education Meeting Update

September 18, 2017

The meeting began with a special acknowledgement of Clinton Elementary School and South Orange Middle School for successfully fulfilling the requirements of the NJDOE to exit from the Focus School List.  The list of all Board Recognitions is available here.

Interim Superintendent Dr. Thomas Ficarra then updated the Board and community on district progress, including preparations for QSAC monitoring, community mapping, changes to the field trip list, plans to upgrade internet capacity and the firewall. He highlighted specific items in the Board packet, including the revised organizational chart. Dr. Ficarra stated that the org chart is still a work in progress, and he will work collaboratively with supervisors and principals to ensure we are providing additional support to the high school, while still meeting the needs of the full district.  Dr. Ficarra also updated the Board on the progress with lead remediation. He then asked Business Administrator Paul Roth to provide an update on pest management, and Assistant Superintendent Susan Grierson to provide an update on math supports at the high school and changes to the middle school schedule, where the WIN period has now been replaced with a rotation of the core four academic classes.

Board President Elizabeth Baker commended Dr. Ficarra and the administrative team for a very collaborative and transparent opening of schools. Ms. Baker also recognized Dr. Ficarra and the Leadership team and ASCA and SOMEA leadership for a very positive and collaborative convocation on September 1st, and the real partnership exhibited for the serious work we have ahead of us.

Discussion Items

  • Social Studies Curriculum Presentation – Chris Preston, Supervisor of Social studies Grades K-12, provided an overview of the revised Social Studies Curriculum for Grades 6-8, including the process of developing the curriculum, alignment to Amistad, resources for teachers, and plans for professional development.
  • PARCC – Dr. Kalisha Morgan, Director of Planning and Assessment, presented PARCC, NJASK Biology, ACT, SAT and AP Results testing results and also shared plans to acquire data tools which will allow SOMSD to track cohorts more easily and use current data to inform instruction.
  • Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act (ABR) Self-Assessment – Dr. Kalisha Morgan, Director of Planning and Assessment, presented the results of the schools’ ABR Self-Assessments. She noted that, although the district’s overall Self-Assessment & Grade is lower, we met or exceeded the requirements for reporting, training, programs, etc. as required by the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act.

Policy Update

Policy 8468 Crisis Response had a first reading. The goal of this new policy is to address both preparedness for all types of potential situations, and to address the aftermath of events and contend with psychological trauma should it occur.  The policy calls for the formation of a crisis team with a breadth of experience from different disciplines.

Key Action Items

  • Board rescinded Field Trip Destinations approved in Spring 2017 and approved the new Class Field Trip Destinations for the 2017-2018 school year, including principals assurances that the proposed trips are safe and connected to the curriculum.
  • Board approved 14 revised curricula. Most of the revisions were small changes to align to the new New Jersey Student Learning Standards (NJSLS) which replace the Common Core State Standards.
  • Board approved an Adjustment to the Seth Boyden Elementary School Zone. Please note this resolution added the new Avalon complex on Boyden Avenue as part of the Seth Boyden attendance zone.  It did not change the attendance zone for any existing properties.
  • Full list of action items and associated resolutions available here.

Update on Half Days

Here is an updated list of school closings and half days (the only change is Seth Boyden’s Back to School Night moving to September. 27).

Several community members have submitted questions about the increased number of half days for 2017-2018.
Prior to this year, SOMSD has only had 2 staff development days per year – one before the opening of schools, and one in the fall, traditionally on election day. All other professional development has had to be fitted into 1-hour staff meetings, or has required removing teachers from classrooms and hiring subs to cover classes which interrupts continuity of instruction for students, or has had to be optional, so was unable to reach many teachers who would have benefitted from the training.
The four new half days will provide opportunities throughout the year for the district to work with teaching staff, and for collaboration across grade levels and schools, without closing school for additional days. The district will evaluate the effectiveness of this approach before finalizing the 2018-2019 calendar.
Key Topics in Upcoming Board of Education Meetings
October 16, 2017
  • Office of Civil Rights (OCR) Consent Agreement Update, Including Required Reporting

Watch the September 18, 2017 Board of Education meeting here on demand.

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