The first South Orange – Maplewood School District Education Summit on Tuesday was an enormous success. More than 1,500 parents, students, teachers, and community members attended nearly 30 breakout sessions covering such topics as the future of Columbia High School, the Equity & Access Policy, the Achievement Gap, Gifted & Talented Education, and more. (The Village Green will have more reports from other sessions coming up.)
The district now plans to take the information, suggestion and feedback gleaned from the summit and incorporate it into a Strategic Plan that will guide SOMSD for the next three to five years. (Plus, the conversation is not over — people will be able to contribute virtually over the next month; further details are coming from the district).
Here is a letter sent by Superintendent Dr. John Ramos, Sr., detailing the next steps:
Dear SOMSD Community,
I am incredibly impressed at the amazing turn-out for last night’s Education Summit. I had imagined what it would be like to have our whole community come together to envision what we want to see in our schools, and the reality of the Summit far surpassed my hopes.
We estimate that approximately 1500 people attended – students, staff, parents, guardians, and even concerned community members who don’t have children in our schools. What this told us is that there is unlimited interest and ability to participate in shaping the future of our district.
As I walked from room to room, the intensity and purposefulness of the discussions were very evident. Each group worked productively and collaboratively on a wide array of topics, and shared their vision of what they hope will happen in the future, and ideas on how to make that possible.
The conversations we started at the Education Summit will continue for another month. We will send instructions on how to participate in group dialogues on these topics in the next few days. We will also share the data we collected at the Summit next week so that you can read the essence of the conversations that took place in each room. In the meantime, you are welcome to share any thoughts or suggestions here.
The work done at the Summit and over the next few weeks is only the beginning.
The next step will be to synthesize all of the data and ideas collected and use them as the foundation for the development of our new Strategic Plan – a plan that I trust will honor creativity – passion, purpose and play. This will be a collaborative effort, and there will be many opportunities to participate. We will keep the community informed of our progress as we develop a Strategic Direction stating our mission for the next 3-5 years, the values which will guide our work, the objectives for students’ performance, and the strategies that adults are committing to in order to support students in reaching these objectives. Once this Strategic Direction is reviewed by the community and adopted by the Board of Education, we will start the action planning phase, where working committees will create specific, concrete plans for each strategy. Then we will move into the implementation phase, with regular reporting to the Board and the community on our progress.
I look forward to working together as we develop this Strategic Plan to chart the future of SOMSD’s schools.
Dr. John J. Ramos, Sr.