February 24, 2022 Public Meeting Recap | Vol.1 Issue 10

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Highlights from the February 24, 2022 - Regular Session Board of Education Meeting

The District will share a monthly newsletter with the SOMSD community to keep you informed and to provide a recap of key action items discussed and approved by the Board of Education during their monthly regular Public Session meetings. The BOE meeting recap newsletter will be shared monthly after each regular session public BOE meeting (and will only be provided for regular-session Board meetings).

Board President's Monthly Statement

The school board meeting is a business meeting in public and not a meeting with the public. Oftentimes it may appear to members of our audience that the Board of Education takes action with very little comment and in many cases a unanimous vote. Before a matter is placed on the agenda at a public meeting, the Administration has thoroughly reviewed the matter with the Superintendent of Schools/Chief School Administrator (CSA). If the Superintendent of Schools/Chief School Administrator is satisfied that the matter is ready to be presented to the Board of Education, it is then referred to the appropriate Board Committee. The Members of the Board Committee work with Administration and the Superintendent to assure that the members fully understand the matter. After the committee discusses the matter, it is presented to the full Board for discussion before any action is taken. Only then, is it placed on the agenda for action at a public meeting.

Superintendent's Monthly Report

  1. Underhill Filed Reopening: We are very happy to share that Underhill Field will reopen to the public this Saturday February 26. The security upgrades are complete and we have also updated the protocols for community use. These protocols are as follows-
      1. Only when SOMSD Students are not present and participating in activities (i.e., PE Class, Practices, Games, etc.);

      2. When a group has procured an exclusive facility usage agreement, public usage may be impacted;

      3. The general public can use Underhill from dawn till dusk (9pm will be the latest allowed time for the conclusion of practices or events for outside groups with facilities usage agreement); and,

      4. Underhill will be closed after dark.

      5. Underhill will be closed beginning at the conclusion of the Spring CHS Athletic seasons (on or about May 15th) for the much needed summer construction project that includes replacing the seating(bleachers), press box, turf etc. We expect this work to be completed in time for our Fall Sports seasons.

  • As we move towards the end of Black History Month I’d like to recognize our Teachers, School Leaders for their important work in ensuring that our students not only learn of the contribution of notable African Americans throughout history during the month of February, but that our students receive an education where our core beliefs of access, equity, and inclusion are woven throughout our curriculum, teaching and learning. To watch the Superintendent's update view here:

BOE President's February Report: SOMEA Negotiation Update

  • Wished a Happy Birthday to Board Member Bergin, who will be celebrating later this month.
  • Acknowledged revision for the 2021-2022 school year calendar to close all district schools and offices on Friday June 17th in honor of the Juneteenth holiday and thanked Dr. Taylor and the team for providing an opportunity to observe this holiday.

SOMSD Board President, Thair Joshua: SOMEA Negotiations Update

Many of you have inquired as to the status of our ongoing negotiations with the South Orange-Maplewood Education Association (SOMEA). As previously reported by the Board at our December 2021 public meeting, SOMEA proposed a three-year contract with salary increases of 6.14% (year 1), 3.3% (year 2), and 3.3% (year 3).

As also shared at this meeting, we reached an impasse and subsequently moved to a mediation hearing. Since our December update, the District and SOMEA have held three separate mediation hearings. Our first mediation hearing held on January 6, the Board offered and submitted a written proposal with a salary increase at our maximum level of 12% over a three-year span. This offer also included modest requests for concessions that would bring SOMEA’s contract more in line with statewide norms, while still overall, maintaining better than average terms and conditions

On February 8, in response to the Board’s January 6 offer, SOMEA agreed to less than 25% of the Board’s proposals with respect to the rest of the contract and maintained their salary demands of 6.14%, 3.3%, and 3.3% over a three-span (which equates to 12.74%). For comparison’s sake, the average raise for Essex County public school districts is 3.17% as of this month.

On February 15, the Board again offered a written counter proposal to SOMEA, making clear its salary offers of 4.5%, 4.25%, and 3.25% over three years, which averages out to 4% per year. The Board’s 12% salary increase offer to SOMEA (with a 4.5% increase in the first-year) would be among the largest salary increases for any New Jersey teachers union in the last 10 years. In response to the Board’s offer, SOMEA reiterated its salary demands and subsequently withdrew one of their offers with respect to the Board’s proposals.

The Board, having not perceived any good faith negotiation from SOMEA, notified the mediator that it did not believe that continued mediation would be worthwhile and asked that a factfinder be assigned. The next step in the process will be with a factfinder who will hear evidence on the remaining issues and recommend a resolution based upon that evidence. As the burden of proof rests with both parties, it will be up to SOMEA to convince a factfinder that the Board’s offer - the highest in the State - is unreasonable and that their salary demands, with no concessions, should be met. As fact finding will not conclude for potentially 12 months or longer, the Board remains willing to engage in good faith negotiation with SOMEA should they wish to return to the bargaining table and do the same.

We will continue to keep the SOMSD community updated on our negotiations and for the sake of our teachers/staff and most importantly, our students, we hope that SOMEA will act in good faith and reconsider acceptance of the Board’s reasonable offer.

View/Search SOMSD Board of Education Policies

The District has partnered with Strauss Esmay to provide a more user-friendly and easier way for community members to view/search for District-approved BOE policies/regulations. Polices can be found by # or by inputting a search request by subject.

Key Action Items

Approved Resolutions:

There were second readings of 8 policies:
  1. Policy 2421: Career & Technical Education

  2. Policy 3142: Non-Renewal of Non-Tenured Teaching Staff Member

  3. Policy 3221: Evaluation of Teaching Staff Members Excluding Teachers and Administrators

  4. Policy 3222: Evaluation of Teaching Staff Members, Excluding Teachers and Administrators

  5. Policy 3223: Evaluation of Administrators, Excluding Principals, Vice Principals, and Assistant Principals

  6. Policy 3224: Evaluation of Principals, Vice Principals, and Assistant Principals

  7. Policy 4146: Non-Renewal of Non-Tenured Support Staff Member

  8. Policy 4219: Commercial Driver’s License Controlled Substance and Alcohol Abuse

There were first readings of 5 policies:

  1. Policy 0156.1: Board Representatives

  2. Policy 2415.04: Title I - District-Wide Parental Involvement

  3. Policy 7436: Drug Free Workplace

  4. Policy 8330: Student Records

  5. Policy 9130: Public Complaints and Grievances - Not Related to Instruction Resources & Materials

Board of Education Meeting - February 24, 2022

Current BOE Members

Note: to email all board members, please email

Thair Joshua
Board President
Term: 2020 - 2022

Susan Bergin (1st Vice-President)
Term: 2021 - 2023

Kaitlin Wittleder (2nd Vice-President)

Term: 2022 - 2024


Elissa Malespina
Term: 2021 - 2023

Erin Siders
Term: 2020 - 2022

Qawi Telesford

Term: 2022 - 2024


Arun Vadlamani

Term: 2022 - 2024


Courtney Winkfield
Term: 2021 - 2023

Johanna Wright
Term: 2020 - 2022

Student Representatives to the Board of Education

Noah Morros
Term: 2021 - 2022

Vanessa Previlon
Term: 2021 - 2022

South Orange & Maplewood School District

The mission of the South Orange Maplewood School District is to empower and inspire each student to explore and imagine, to pursue personal passions, and to collectively create a better future by creating a learner-centered environment through multiple pathways; reimagined structures, systems and supports; innovative teaching; partnering with families; and maximizing community expertise and resources.