Newly sworn-in South Orange-Maplewood Board of Ed Student Representatives Gwyneth Brown and Asa Glassman have hit the ground running, with Brown giving a detailed report on both of their behalf at the September 28, 2023 Board of Education meeting that touched on topics ranging from school safety, school discipline, the new schedule, new Freshman Academy and more.
After Brown’s report, Board 1st Vice President Elissa Malespina asked Brown how the new Freshman Academy was functioning. The Freshman Academy was introduced this year, led by Asst. Principal Tracie Morrison, to ease the transition from middle school to high school. In a video introduction, Morrison said it was “without walls” and will include academic interventions and community building. Morrison said her hope was to have morning meetings during period 1, which is the new conference period.
Brown responded, “We actually included that within our survey, but we got mixed results. Some freshmen think it’s beneficial, some aren’t really sure. From what we’ve kind of been getting is that it hasn’t necessarily started up yet. So for next month, we’ll be able to get more of a gauge on, you know, what is actually happening within those classes and if it really is making a difference in the transition between middle school to high school, which is what is intended to do. So we’ll definitely update you on that.”
Brown took her oath of office in August. Glassman was sworn in September 28. Read more about the student reps here.
Read Brown’s full remarks here:
Hello everyone. I feel that before I begin my report I should first introduce myself. My name is Gwyneth Brown, and I am currently a junior at Columbia High School. I moved to the district in fourth grade from Illinois where I then attended South Mountain and following that, SOMS. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in the district, and I feel extremely grateful to have this opportunity alongside my peer and friend Asa Glassman.
This being said, Asa and I started our role this year welcoming teachers back into the building on the 6th of September. We know how important teacher-student relationships are and therefore we see immense value in ensuring our teachers feel welcome and appreciated.
This event [convocation], occurring for the first time in person since 2019, is an indication that finally our district has resumed “normalcy” in relation to the COVID pandemic.
Overall, CHS has seen a smooth transition into the new school year. The newly renovated Underhill Sports Complex has seen many spirited games and wins from our fall sports teams. Clubs have resumed meeting, following the annual club fair that took place in the beginning of the year, and the increase in transparency communicated regarding drills, construction, and other complications has given students improved confidence in the CHS administration.
Yet this year, Columbia High School has seen many changes made through the new disciplinary measures implemented and new schedule in place.
As you may or may not know, one thing that our predecessors Noah [Morros] and Vanessa [Previlon] worked hard on was the improvement of school safety. This year many new measures have been taken to improve this. Asa and I met with Vice Principal [Russell] King this past week and discussed these changes. Among them are new ID card regulations, which mandate the wearing of ID cards at all times, and a new swipe in policy, which will be fully running within the next week or so, and will sync students entering the building to Powerschool.
Another positive change is the push to have teachers in the hall between periods welcoming students into their classrooms. The goal is to minimize students in the halls during classes and to improve student relationships with security. This is being done by creating a more positive disciplinary environment, as now all administrative personnel are working to ensure students are where they need to be. These changes have been very successful, as already there is a noticeable decrease in students wandering the halls and leaving school during unauthorized class periods. Asa and I mentioned to Mr. King, that while these changes are extremely beneficial, the student body needs consistency. For these regulations to be taken seriously and for them to continue to show positive results they need to be enforced. Especially because in the past the school has been arguably lenient regarding students’ whereabouts, and the goal of increased community and positive interaction between students and authorities is extremely valuable to our education.
Some of this year’s changes have not come without challenges. Asa and I conducted a study to gauge student opinion on the new schedule, which made conference period period 1 as opposed to period 9 in previous years. While many students enjoy the additional sleep, student athletes, which make up the majority of the student body, are suffering the consequences. Many athletes leave early from their ninth period class to attend sports games. This has become a problem as now ninth period is an academic class instead of a free period or gym. Additionally, this schedule does not solve the problem of conference period, where students must choose between taking an additional class or having availability to meet with their teachers outside of their designated class time. We gathered that around 75% of students prefer last year’s schedule to this year for reasons such as athletics mentioned above, but also because it was more accommodating for students with extended time on assignments and tests, who can no longer go after class and finish their work. Asa and I will continue to update the board as the year progresses to see if the intended goals of reduced tardiness and traffic are living up to the expectations of administration when this new schedule was created.
This month, Asa and I also met with Principal Sanchez. We addressed the Option Two program, a program that allows students who exercise outside of school to have a study hall for one semester instead of gym, and worked to get the newly complex sign up changed to a more reasonable procedure. We also discussed our goals for this year, one of which is to improve knowledge on college visits and extracurricular opportunities. We began planning a college fair which will take place in the spring, and worked with administration to set up better emailing policies to inform students of college visits and opportunities, as well as setting up a board outside of the guidance office with a calendar and sign up information.
Finally, in our meeting with Dr. Taylor, Asa and I emphasized the importance of school counselors and began to discuss the ways we can improve the counseling process and support offered at CHS. School counselors make a huge impact on our high school experience and have the power to aid students, who may not receive support at home, so that they are taking full advantage of every opportunity CHS has to offer.
That is all for this month’s Board report, but I would now like to address the SOMSD student body in saying that Asa and I are here to serve and support you. We strongly encourage you to reach out to us and communicate your concerns so we can make SOMSD a better place for every student.