In a recent meeting highlighted by both commendations and concerns, the Ramsey School Board meeting shone a light on the achievements of district students and staff while confronting allegations of hate speech by a local teacher.
Academic, athletic, and artistic triumphs were celebrated heartily. Valedictorian Riley Schwanaweed and Salutatorian Nitya took center stage, while Bridget Heffernan garnered special recognition for her admission to the esteemed Governor’s School of Engineering and Technology. The New Jersey Department of Education granted its coveted Seal of Biliteracy to a number of linguistically talented students, an honor bestowed to those mastering English plus an additional language.
The gathering also applauded various athletic victories, including the boys’ soccer team’s state sectional championship and the girls swim team’s “three-peat” in their division. Individual students received accolades for breaking records and receiving nominations in their sports, including lacrosse and track and field.
The meeting took a tuneful turn as the achievements of the district’s music program were spotlighted. The a cappella group, the Ram Jams, sang their way to back-to-back Mid-Atlantic Championships and National finals. The connection between music education and mathematical thinking was discussed, a nod to the wealth of research supporting this link.
The meeting’s focus on innovation shone through in the Board’s new teaching mathematics series. Aimed at developing student perseverance, logical thinking, and problem-solving skills, this program is just one example of Ramsey’s commitment to modern education.
Yet amidst the celebration, tension arose over allegations against Mr. Abma, a seventh-grade history teacher at Smith School, who was accused of posting disturbing, bigoted comments on social media. Parents voiced their distress, fearing potential discrimination against immigrant and LGBTQ+ students. Board members acknowledged these concerns, and noted an ongoing review of policies regarding educators’ social media usage.
Lauded for their efforts in addressing the issues raised, the Board was praised for its detailed response to an inquiry about the Auto and Tech program. The Board expressed commitment to maintaining this level of engagement, a move applauded by attendees.
Aside from these matters, the Board also honored retiring and long-serving staff, including those who had dedicated a remarkable 25 years of service to the district. Notable was John Scituwitz, Doug Gipple, Jennifer Harada, Terry Hewitt, Joe Lutz, James Manzo, and Shirley Flukefelder, all retiring after many years of dedication. Their departure leaves behind a significant legacy of service and commitment to the district’s educational mission.