Maplewood Schools / Kids South Orange Towns

SOMSD: District Is Considering New Admin Structures, But ‘Nothing Decided Yet’

SOMSD Superintendent of Schools Dr. John Ramos
SOMSD Superintendent of Schools Dr. John Ramos

The South Orange-Maplewood School District is looking at possibly restructuring administrative positions, including eliminating or combining supervisory positions, according to sources within the district who oppose the changes; however, district leadership states that it is not proposing “reducing the number of supervisory positions” and that nothing has been decided yet nor will be decided without further staff and community input.

SOMSD sent Village Green a statement about possible administrative restructuring (see below) after sources within the district — who wish to remain anonymous — reached out to Village Green with concerns that new administrative structures would be discussed and possibly approved at a closed session of the Board of Education on Monday, June 13.

However, district spokeswoman Suzanne Turner said that the closed session on Monday contained only one item: the evaluation of Superintendent of Schools Dr. John Ramos.

Sources said that possible restructuring included eliminating some supervisor positions and putting all subjects under two supervisors: one for ELA, Social Studies, and Fine and Performing Arts; and another for STEM — or “Science Technology Engineering Math.” Other possible proposals included having a lead teacher for each content area, a new Director of Curriculum position, a fourth assistant principal for Columbia High School, and the elimination of both CHS deans.

A source wrote to Village Green, “This superintendent is putting student learning at risk. With one supervisor for 3 departments, how are teachers supported? How will one individual even complete the state mandated observations? That’s just the start. This is TRULY a disaster for kids and the community.”

Turner said that any discussion about structural changes could not happen before the regular meeting of the Board of Education on June 20. The statement from the district stressed, “Nothing is decided at this point, and we may hold off on recommending any changes and maintain the current structure for another year.”

The district also stated that no decision would be made without first publishing proposed changes and having the changes presented to and discussed at an open session of the Board of Education: “Recommendations would be shared with the community in advance, so that community members would have the opportunity to share feedback and concerns prior to the Board of Education being asked to take action.”

In response to sources’ statement that “ELA, Science, and Fine and Performing Arts positions, as exclusive positions, have been eliminated,” the district wrote, “Recent retirements and resignations among the supervisors have prompted us to begin this conversation earlier than expected. It is important to note that we are not proposing reducing the number of supervisory positions. We are considering different configurations which might create more synergy between content areas.”

Turner further explained, “If we reconfigure, specific titles may change. But the number of positions is anticipated to remain the same.”

The district also stated that it is considering the creation of a “Humanities position” that “would facilitate interdisciplinary collaborations between subject areas.”

The following is the full statement from the South Orange-Maplewood School District:

The Strategic Direction includes a strategy: “We will reimagine and redesign all aspects of student scheduling, use of facilities and administrative structures to guarantee alignment with mission.” We anticipated considering possible alternative administrative structures next year, when our action planning teams present their recommendations. 

Recent retirements and resignations among the supervisors have prompted us to begin this conversation earlier than expected. It is important to note that we are not proposing reducing the number of supervisory positions. We are considering different configurations which might create more synergy between content areas. Nothing is decided at this point, and we may hold off on recommending any changes and maintain the current structure for another year.

One possibility under consideration is creating a Humanities position, similar to the STEM position we are already creating for science, technology and math. This would facilitate interdisciplinary collaborations between subject areas. We have received questions about the place the arts will have, if the administrative structure is reconfigured to have a Humanities position.  SOMSD has a long-standing commitment to rich and vibrant fine and performing arts programming.  Support of the arts is an important value for our community, and these programs will continue to be a primary focus in our schools under any possible scenario.

In the process of considering various options, we are consulting with both ASCA (the administrators’ union) and SOMEA (the teachers’ union). Their input and ideas will be considered as the Superintendent evaluates how best to move forward organizationally to best meet the needs of our students. 

Changes to the organization chart are only made with approval by the Board of Education. If, after consultation, the Superintendent decides to recommend changes, his recommendations would be presented to the Board of Education at a public board meeting. Recommendations would be shared with the community in advance, so that community members would have the opportunity to share feedback and concerns prior to the Board of Education being asked to take action.

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