The following statement was made by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Ronald Taylor during his Superintendent’s Report at the July 27, 2023 South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education meeting. The comments follow on a letter that Taylor sent to Montrose families on July 20 reporting that a contracted paraprofessional at Montrose Early Childhood Center has been placed on leave pending the outcome of an investigation into the alleged mishandling of a child. This is the second alleged incident of abuse at Montrose this year; a teacher accused in the first incident resigned from the district in May.
Before we begin, please allow me to comment on the recent allegation of abuse at the Montrose Extended School Year, or ESY, program.
Please know that we sent our Montrose ESY families and staff a detailed communication with as much information as we are able to share. We also provided additional mental health support to assist as needed this summer. I’ve also responded to a few parents personally who contacted me directly. We truly understand this concern and certainly share the sadness expressed regarding any allegations of abuse, but as I shared previously, legal-due-process is mandatory in these
circumstances. It would be inappropriate for us to speak publicly – specifically about this matter, as it would threaten the legal confidentiality of both the family and the contracted Education Solution Services (ESS) paraprofessional. The allegations that were made were immediately reported to the child’s parent, the South Orange Police Department, and the New Jersey Division of Child Protection (and Permanency’s Institutional Abuse Investigation Unit). The police and the state authorities are conducting their investigations, and we are fully cooperating with them.
As a leader, educator, and father, it can be frustrating for me sometimes not to be able to speak freely. However, until those investigations are complete, I simply do not have all of the facts that I need to comment on the particular situation at Montrose. What I can say publicly is that the contracted paraprofessional is on administrative leave, pending the outcome of the previously mentioned investigations. As I stated in our letter to parents that was sent last week, IF allegations are substantiated, we will not hesitate to do what is needed to protect our children.
To the current and future families of Montrose and all of our schools, let me say that our Board of Education categorically prohibits abuse. We again emphasize that we appreciate the concerns expressed for the safety of our students. All parents have a right to be concerned when that safety is in question. As a parent myself and also a former kindergarten teacher, let me assure you, any instance of a child being mistreated goes against my professional and personal beliefs. There is
nothing in policy, training, or procedure that would suggest that it is ever appropriate to harm children in our care. This is not only a fact, but also a warning to anyone that would do harm to our children. To bolster our protections for students at Montrose, we have, and will reinforce, professional development including Handle with Care, and continue to ensure the presence of multiple trained adults in the classroom. To be clear, our efforts should not be construed as passing judgment on any current situation (emphasis). Due process (again) will be afforded, and the outcome of the state and local investigations will guide our actions…rather, our efforts are geared toward reassuring our community that our schools remain safe and secure learning environments.
Lastly, we will continue to work with our District Leaders in our Special Services Department, Curriculum and Instruction, as well as ESS (our paraprofessional provider) to provide professional development that includes best practices around mindfulness and cultural competency… to do all we can to help those who work with our students to make the correct
decisions and take appropriate actions, especially when they may be experiencing frustration.