South Orange-Maplewood School Board Discusses Strategic Plan Implementation and Addresses Community Concerns Over Schedule Change

In a recent South Orange-Maplewood School Board meeting, the board grappled with the future of their strategic plan, discussing the next steps towards implementing their equity-focused Fergus recommendations while also addressing community concerns over a schedule change that has negatively impacted students.

The Board held a discussion regarding the implementation of the Fergus recommendations. Dr. Kevin Gilbert, Assistant Superintendent for Access & Equity, emphasized the importance of building infrastructure for successful implementation, including data infrastructure and professional development infrastructure. He also highlighted the need for a tiered system for intervention, improving pedagogical capacity with an equity lens, and intentional integration recommendations. “I think as you dig into Year One, that will be one of the things that I would like to see, that those smart goals are honed in a little bit more, maybe with some specific deadlines,” Wilson stated. Dr. Gilbert echoed her sentiments, agreeing that refining these goals is crucial to success.

In addition to goal setting, the need for a user-friendly data infrastructure was a significant topic of conversation. Dr. Telesford raised questions about a software package previously discussed, prompting Dr. Gilbert to confirm they were considering multiple options to best meet the Board’s needs.

The Board also addressed the necessity for recaps of committee meetings. Board member Elissa Malespina suggested adding these recaps to the committee report outs during the main board meetings, an idea that was met with agreement from fellow board members.

Another issue at the meeting was a recent schedule change that moved the conference period from ninth period to first period, causing concerns among both students and parents. A sophomore student named Charlie, who has a language disorder, shared their worries about missing honors chemistry due to away games with the new schedule.

Echoing Charlie’s sentiments, parents Terry Adams and Jennifer Paganini voiced their concerns about the impact of the schedule change on student-athletes. They highlighted the contradiction between emphasizing attendance and penalizing student-athletes who miss classes due to games. Marian Rab, a parent of a junior student with special needs, argued that the rescheduling adversely affected students with IEPs and 504s who require extra time on exams.

Beth Constantino, a Maplewood resident and parent, addressed the board’s recommendation to develop a list of tiered interventions for academic and behavioral support. She questioned who would be involved in developing these interventions, how they would be conveyed to parents, and how they would be implemented at different grade levels.

Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.

Dr. Ronald G. Taylor
School Board Officials:
Kaitlin Wittleder, Elissa Malespina, Nubia DuVall Wilson, Arun Vadlamani, Bill Gifford, Courtney Winkfield, Johanna Wright, Regina Eckert, Qawi Telesford, Gwyneth Brown, Asa Glassman, Dr. Kevin Gilbert (Asst., Supt., Access & Equity District Title IX Coordinator and District HIB Coordinator), Robin Curry (Confidential Secretary to the Asst. Supt., Access & Equity)

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