From South Orange-Maplewood School District Acting Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kevin F. Gilbert:
November 13, 2023
To the Families and Greater Community of the South Orange & Maplewood School District,
Today, I humbly begin my first day as the Acting Superintendent of the South Orange & Maplewood School District. Although I am mindful of the factors that led to my being chosen for this role, I am eager to begin this new journey with you.
I want to thank Dr. Ronald G. Taylor for his leadership and service. I am grateful to him for hiring me to serve this beautifully dynamic school district.
I also want to thank Board President Kaitlin Wittleder and the Board of Education for their confidence in me. I am honored they felt I was capable of fulfilling this role and I look forward to working with them in moving our District forward.
During the Fall Break, I reflected on how we have gotten to where we are as a District. I thought about what needs to happen to heal those who have been hurting among our teachers, staff, and the community. Most importantly, I have been reflecting upon our more than 7,000 students.
Let me unequivocally state that there is no greater purpose for me as Acting Superintendent than recentering this District’s efforts back on our students. It is our students who matter the most. They are the reason we are involved in education in the first place. I pledge that as I lead, I will keep the needs of our students at the center of my work. I will expect the same from all who work in our District.
Two more things I want to make absolutely clear on day one:
- The District’s Access and Equity work will continue. Details about how we will move forward with this important work will be released as soon as possible.
- Everyone’s voice matters. To that end, I will schedule listening sessions with different stakeholder groups in the upcoming weeks. These will be important steps in rebuilding any broken lines of communication, restoring any broken relationships, and reestablishing trust with the Board of Education members, and among District leaders, principals and assistant principals, teachers, and support staff.
We must work together to meet the Board-approved District Goals, the 23 recommendations presented by Dr. Edward Fergus, and the District’s Intentional Integration Initiative. You can count on me to work collaboratively with my colleagues and stakeholders to address the challenges we have faced in transportation, special education, and the concerns recently raised by the SOMEA leadership.
I will be in our school buildings as often as possible and work directly with school leaders to ensure all our students’ needs are being met. I will be visible and available to families and the community to listen, troubleshoot issues, and collaborate to move our District forward for the betterment of our students.
In recent weeks, emotions and tensions have been high. It’s time to turn the page. I ask that we all take a collective breath together so that the healing can begin. If we have disagreements, let us disagree without being disagreeable. Let us come together through what we all have in common and not let our differences divide us.
Our success as a District depends on all of us working together. I look forward to working with all of you in achieving our very best and helping our students achieve their very best.
Dr. Kevin F. Gilbert
Acting Superintendent of Schools
The School District of South Orange and Maplewood