As a Matter of Fact!
SOMSD Newsletter: Vol. 4, Issue 7 | 3.31.23
South Orange & Maplewood School District Community,
Spring is here, and like many, I enjoy the longer days and love to hear the sound of the birds chirping again. The season is also a sign that our school year will be wrapping up in a few months, with moving-up and culminating activities for our students.
As the superintendent, I am mindful that there is great work happening across our schools and we have the responsibility to not only provide academic direction for our students, but we also have to provide an atmosphere that supports their socio-emotional well-being. To that end, I am resharing a message I shared with our community regarding the school shooting at Covenant School, in Nashville, Tennessee.
There are no words to express the sorrow I feel as another school shooting has taken place. Like many of you, I am filled with emotions of sorrow, anger, mournful, and so many more. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families, students, educators and community in Nashville as they mourn the loss of 3 children and 3 faculty members. We know that this is a difficult time for students, families and educators alike as they navigate the difficult conversations after a mass shooting. As a parent, there are conflicting feelings regarding how much to talk about the situation, whether to discuss it at all, or do I even let my child watch the news because it may be too harmful.
We acknowledge and respect that many families may or may not have chosen to discuss this at home, but please know that school staff are prepared to have developmentally appropriate conversations if needed. In addition to your child’s teacher, school social workers (Student Assistance Counselors at the high school level) are available at every school if your child needs support processing this information. Please feel free to reach out to your child’s teacher or case manager, should you want to request any support from the school social worker. Additionally, a child is able to ask to see this staff member during the school day.
Also, please be aware that each month we will continue to practice our school safety drills. Additionally, we have security guards in each building to identify any visitors in our school. We have provided a list of resources for families and community members as you navigate this conversation with your children at home - follow this link. Please know we are here should you need any additional support.
In addition, March is also National Social Workers Month and is a time to celebrate the great profession of social work. This year's theme is Social Work Breaks Barriers - as we wrap up the month, I want to acknowledge and thank our school social workers for the phenomenal work they do on a daily basis to support our students' social-emotional health.
As we end this school week and head into a well-deserved spring break (April 3 - 7) for teachers and students, my hope is that it will be a time reset/refresh and relaxation for our staff, students and our community as a whole.
Dr. Ronald G. Taylor, Superintendent of Schools
REMINDER: District Schools Will Be Closed For Spring Recess
Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month
At South Orange-Maplewood, students take part in learning experiences that reflect the diversity of our beautiful community. This month is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. Although Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month is celebrated in March, developmental disabilities awareness is weaved throughout our curriculum in a variety of ways.
Lives and stories of persons with developmental disabilities are shared through “read alouds” and classroom library books. Additionally, the historical contributions of persons with developmental disabilities are explored throughout the curriculum.
Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month was first recognized in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan as a way to increase “public awareness of the needs and the potential of Americans with developmental disabilities” and to provide the “encouragement and opportunities they need to lead productive lives and to achieve their full potential,” (Proclamation 5613, 1987).
According to the CDC, developmental disabilities are “a group of conditions due to an impairment in physical, learning, language, or behavior areas. About one in six children in the U.S. have one or more developmental disabilities or other developmental delays,” which include:
Autism Spectrum Disorder
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Fragile-X syndrome (FXS)
We would also like to take a moment to recognize Ms. Judy Heumann who passed away this month. Judy Heumann was a fierce disability advocate known internationally. She is known as “the mother” of the disability rights movement. In her lifetime, she led the disability rights’ movement, launched disability rights legislation, initiated and participated in demonstrations and worked closely with presidential administrations to advance disability rights both internationally and here in the US. To read more, please CLICK HERE.
District Moves to Mask Optional for Large Gatherings
As of March 10, the District is no longer requiring masking for large gatherings. Events will now be mask-optional where individuals can wear or request masks as a personal choice. The only circumstances that will continue to require mandatory masking are:
- A student/staff member is returning to school from a verified Covid case.
- A confirmed outbreak via the determination of our Department(s) of Health.
BOE Approves Revisions to 2023 - 24 Academic School Year Calendar
The Board of Education approved updates/revisions to the 2023-24 academic school year calendar during the March 30 public meeting.
The following (3) District closure dates revisions have been updated in the 2023-24 SY calendar :
- EID al-Fitr, April 10, 2024
- Election Day, June 4, 2024
- Last Day of School: June 20, 2024
Around the District!
CHS Seniors Honored for Academic Achievement
Congratulations to CHS seniors, Burton Alexander and Benjamin Hanselman CHS Class of '23. They will both be honored at the 35th Annual Essex County Academic Awards Banquet on Wednesday, May 3 for their outstanding academic achievement.
(Photo below: Benjamin Hanselman and Mr. Clyburn CHS Counselor; and Burton Alexander and Ms. Johnston CHS Counselor)
SOPAC and CHS Band Year-Long Collaboration Ends with Spectacular Annual Concert
The South Orange Performing Arts Center hosted the annual concert of the Columbia High School Jazz Ensemble. It was the culmination of a year-long collaboration between SOPAC and the CHS Band program, and it was the first time the CHS Jazz ensemble had played at SOPAC. Grammy-winning jazz greats John Lee, Freddie Hendrix, Mark Gross, Jason Jackson, Karl Latham, and Alex Collins visited the band during rehearsals to give master classes and coaching to the students as they got ready for the performance as part of the collaboration. The partnership was made possible in part by Linda Beard, Director of Community Engagement and Education at SOPAC.
Two CHS Students Artwork Recognized at Annual Pingry Photography Show
Congratulations to CHS sophomores, Riley Walsman and Lillian Leto who were recognized for their artwork at the 27th Annual Pingry Student Photography Show. Walsman and Letol were selected by independent juror Colleen Gutwein O'Neal to receive judges awards at The Pingry Hostetter Gallery on February 24th, 2023. Over one hundred photographs represented the best work of students from six private and public high schools in the region.
Congressman Payne Jr. Presents CHS Senior w/ US Air Force Academy Nomination
Congratulations to CHS Senior, Jack Barnett,who was accepted into the US Air Force Academy. Congressman Donald M. Payne Jr. presented Jack with his nomination to the Academy and said that "he knows that Jack will be an outstanding addition to the Academy."
CHS Senior, Holden Reeves Named 2023 National Merit Finalist
Congratulations to CHS Senior, Holden Reeves for being named a 2023 National Merit Finalist. All National Merit Scholarship Program finalists will be considered for National Merit Scholarship Awards to be offered in 2023.
(Photo: Holden Reeves with CHS Counselor, Ms. Mooney, Chavez)
CHS Senior Jalen Robinson Scores 1000th Career Point and Heads to NJIT to Continue his Academic and Basketball Career
Congratulations to CHS Senior, Jalen Robinson who scored his 1000th career point for the CHS Boys Basketball team on February 15th against Hillside High School and who was selected to the 2023 New Jersey Basketball Coaches Association Senior All-Star Game. Jalen Robinson will continue his career on a basketball scholarship at Division 1 New Jersey Institute of Technology.
(Photo by Joe Ragozzino)
CHS Junior, Madison Stewart, Places Second at NJSIAA Fencing Meet of Champions
Congratulations to CHS Junior, Madison Stevens who placed 6th in the Girl’s Championship Shot Put, making her an all American, followed by placing 2nd in the inaugural Shot Put Showcase, going toe-to-toe with legends, becoming one herself.
CHS Senior, Lindsey Minor Won Silver Medal at Epee at NJSIAA Tournament
Congratulations to Lindsey Minor, a senior member of the CHS fencing team, who came in second place in the Girls Epee at the NJSIAA Individual State Tournament which took place on February 26. Lindsey has wrapped up her fencing career at CHS with this fantastic achievement and will be taking her fencing talents to Temple University.
Congratulations to CHS Film Students Dylan Charles Meda and Stella Grace Williams for Film Festival Win
In the category of "New Jersey Homegrown Documentary Short - High School", Columbia High School film students Dylan Charles Meda and Stella Grace Williams took 1st Runner Up for their exploration of SOMA restaurants in their 3 minute film titled "The Culinary Arts of South Orange", at the 21st Annual Garden State Film Festival in Asbury Park, NJ.
2023-2024 SY New Student Registration Open
New student registration enrollment for the 2023 - 2024 school year (fall, September 2023) is currently underway. For more information visit: bit.ly/23-24SOMSDRegistration
Intentional Integration Grades (1st, 2nd, 6th & 7th): March 20 - March 31
General Open Enrollment for ALL grades (K-12): May 15
Please note, students CURRENTLY enrolled in and attending a District school/program (Prek-11) are not required to re-enroll for the 2023- 24 SY.
REMINDER: Sign-Up to Receive Text Message Updates & Reminder to Update Contact Information in School Messenger
Opt-In For Text Messages
In order to participate in the text messaging service, you must indicate your willingness to receive text messages to your phone, even if you received text messages this year. You must do this whether you have a child in the school system or belong to a community organization that wants to keep up-to-date with our alerts. To learn more about signing up for SMS text messaging visit: website: https://www.somsd.k12.nj.us/headlines/district-news/2019/12/16/sms-text-message-communications-from-the-district/
SOMSD Upcoming Dates / Reminders
- April 3 - 6: Schools Closed, Spring Break
- Friday, April 7: Good Friday - District Closed
- Friday, April 21: Eid al-Fitr, District Closed
- Thursday, April 27: Board of Education Public Meeting
Additional Information & Resources for the Community
- 2022-23 SY Return to School Guidelines, News, Resources & Updates
- District SMS/Text Messages
- Chromebook 1:1 District Initiative
- SOMSD Mental Health & Counseling Resources
- Student Discipline & Code of Conduct Policy
- SOMSD Intentional Integration Initiative (III) Microsite
- District Withdrawals/OOD Transfers