October 18, 2021 Public Meeting Recap | Vol.1 Issue 6

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Highlights from the October 18, 2021 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

BOE President's Report

  • President Joshua shared that he was pleased to be invited to participate in the New Jersey School Board Association's (NJSBA) strategic planning sessions on October 2 & 16. The plan will cover 2022 - 2024 years, and President Joshua joined about forty Board members from districts across the state to develop the plan.
  • NJSBA will be holding its annual conference virtually this year from October 26- 28; SOMSD board members have registered to attend, and Boardmember Malespina will be presenting a workshop.
  • Thanked the District for its continued partnership with MediMobile to offer free Covid testing every Saturday to SOMA residents, students, and District staff. Medimobile is operating with extended hours, 9 am - 3 pm, and will offer services indefinitely.
  • Thanked Dr. Taylor and the SOMSD Sexual Taskforce members for providing the first draft report to the BOE on recommendations on how to combat sexual assault in the District. The Board received the report and will review and follow up with questions over the next several weeks.
  • President Joshua also addressed recent allegations of biased-based misconduct that occurred at Seth Boyden early this month. He shared that while he cannot comment directly on the specific allegations that are currently under investigation, he affirmed the District's and Board's collective responsibility and commitment to upholding the core principles that speak to creating inclusive and empowering school communities. The Board will continue to work with the Superintendent to ensure that necessary supports are in place and ensure that all staff are held accountable for creating nurturing and supportive environments where all our students can thrive. In addition, the Board will also work along with the local leadership community and faith-based partners to help us meet this moment with meaningful opportunities to engage in discussion and healing as we move forward. Islamophobia nor anti-semitism have any place in that discussion. Most importantly, let us not forget our responsibility to support the child at the center of this situation. A child who, regardless of the outcome of this investigation, will no doubt need time, support, and resources to heal and feel safe in a classroom. We will continue to urge the District to maintain focus on the wellbeing of the student, classmates and work to ensure the social-emotional wellbeing of every child is centered as an essential and foundational condition to academic success.
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

  • A full list of action items and associated resolutions is available here.
  • The Board approved a resolution that will allow the District to move forward in refinancing two bonds (from 2011 & 2012) and reissuing them at a lower rate that will save the District over $900k; the savings will be used towards supporting our students, teachers and schools in future school district budgets via our School Board's annual public budget process.
  • The BOE approved the District's "Emergency Virtual or Remote Instruction Plan for the 2021-2022 School Year." This plan would be implemented during a district closure lasting more than three consecutive school days due to a declared state of emergency, declared a public health emergency, or a directive by the appropriate health agency or officer to institute a public health-related closure.
  • The Board approved resolution 4215, a Moratorium on Suspensions for the 2021-2022 School Year
  • The Board approved the hiring of Thomas Giglio as the new Facilities Director for the District; Assistant Superintendent, Special Services, Susie Budine, new start date is now November 1.

Approved Resolutions:

There were second readings of 7 policies:

Action 4213:

  1. Policy 1648.11 The Road Forward COVID-19 - Health & Safety
  2. Policy 1648.13 School Employee Vaccination Requirements
  3. Policy 3160.01 Quarantine for Teaching Staff
  4. Policy 5751 Title IX Sexual Harassment & Non-Discrimination
  5. Policy 5770 Student Right of Privacy
  6. Policy 1648 Restart and Recovery Plan (Abolished no longer applicable)
  7. Policy 1648.02 Remote Learning Option for Families (Abolished no longer applicable)

There were first readings of 4 policies:

  1. Policy 0143.2 Student Representatives to the Board of Education
  2. Policy 2422 Comprehensive Health & Physical Education
  3. Policy 2425 Emergency Virtual or Remote Instruction Program
  4. Policy 2431 Athletic Competition
Board of Education Meeting - Public Session, October 18, 2021

Board Recogniton Highlight

Staff: CHS English Teacher, Stacey Lawerence, Publishes First Collection of Poems

Congratulations to Stacey Lawrence, English Teacher at CHS who recently published her first collection of poems entitled, “Fall Risk.” Renowned poets, Nikki Giovanni and BJ Ward shared reviews of the book.

“It’s so seldom a book of poems can contain both love poems and acceptance of grief. Take Stacey’s poems to a couch, curl under your great-grandmother’s quilt, and understand love and loss are one.” –Nikki Giovanni

“The poems of Fall Risk are beautiful and brutal at once. Lawrence is able to corral presence and absence the physicality of loss in poem after poem. Unsparing in its imagery, this collection tergiversates between nuance and grit, creating stunning music and a powerful experience a testament to what it’s like to continue to live. I am glad to have discovered Lawrence’s work through this book.” –BJ Ward

Upcoming Meetings

Current BOE Members

Note: to email all board members, please email

Thair Joshua
Board President
Term: 2020 - 2022

Shannon Cuttle
1st Vice President

Term: 2019 - 2021

Erin Siders
2nd Vice President

Term: 2020 - 2022

Susan Bergin
Term: 2021 - 2023

Annemarie Maini
Term: 2019 - 2021

Elissa Malespina
Term: 2021 - 2023

Chris Sabin
Term: 2021 - 2021

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.