As a Matter of Fact!

SOMSD Newsletter: Vol. 3, Issue 10 | 3.25.22

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Superintendent's Message

Hello South Orange & Maplewood School District Community,

I’d like to take a moment to recognize Women’s History Month. I have been fortunate in my life to be called a Girl Dad and also a Momma’s Boy (smile). While I would cringe a bit in my youth at the latter, I am now very proud as both of these monikers reflect that many of the most impactful people in my life have been women. They have done so much to help shape me into the person that I am today. My mother, grandmother, aunts, sister, wife and daughter have gifted me with strength, empathy, understanding, sensitivity, work ethic and thoughtfulness.

Our District has of course been fortunate enough to also be directly (positively) impacted by women in many leadership roles. Whether it be our Board Members, Members of our SLT (Superintendent’s Cabinet), Principals, Academic Supervisors, Assistant Principals, Teachers, Guidance Counselors, Social Workers, School Nurses and our amazing Support Staff…our students, families and the community at large are the beneficiaries of the community of care, thoughtfulness and support generated by the aforementioned dynamic leaders and I am more than fortunate to work with ‘You’ as well.

In recognition of Women’s History Month, I am honored to highlight all that you do everyday for our District and the students that we serve. Thank you

Educationally yours,

Dr. Ronald G. Taylor

The Board of Education & SOMEA Reach an Agreement in Principle

The District is pleased to announce that after months of negotiations, the Board of Education and SOMEA have reached an agreement in principle. The three-year contract will run retroactively from July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2024. We are grateful to the participants of both negotiation teams for their focused efforts to bring this settlement together. Read more here.
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Registration enrollment for the 2022-23 SY District Preschool program begins March 21 - April 8, 2022. There are no longer in-person appointments, after completing the online application, families will need to drop off their supportive documents (photocopies) listed on the Streamlined Registration Checklist (click on the preview tab at the top to view the checklist) in an enclosed envelope (with the student’s name, enrolling grade, enrolling year, and parental information on the front), in the Dropbox, located at the Board of Education bldg., 525 Academy Street, Maplewood, NJ by the deadline.

Preschool Program:

  1. Currently enrolled Preschool students who will be advancing to kindergarten DO NOT need to re-register.
  2. ONLY NEW preschool registrants will need to complete the online registration. Note that since preschool seating is extremely limited; only families who have completed the enrollment process by the preschool registration deadline will participate in the preschool lottery, which determines placement consideration.
  3. The Preschool department manages all lottery and placement decisions (not the Registration department); any additional questions and information should be directed to the Preschool Education department:

Additional Enrollment Dates:

  • General Enrollment for ALL grades (K-12) will begin on Monday, May 23.
  • Early Kindergarten and CHS enrollment is now complete. If you missed the 2022-23 early enrollment registration period, you may enroll during the general open enrollment period for all grade levels beginning on Monday May 23.
2022-23 & 2023-24 Academic School Year Calendars

Download the 2022-23 & 2023-24 Academic School Year Calendars

The District to Move Forward with Yr. 2 Intentional Integration Initiative Considerations for Kindergartners & Rising 5th Graders

The SOMSD III Yr. 1 Review & Yr. 2 Considerations was presented by Superintendent, Dr. Ronald G. Taylor at the March 21, 2022, Board of Education public meeting. The presentation reported on year 1 of the III and also brought forward consideration for its application to the District's middle school population, with a goal of continuing to foster school environments that reflect our communities diversity and demographics. During the March 21 School District of South Orange and Maplewood’s (SOMSD) Board of Education meeting, the Board approved the Superintendent of Schools’ recommendation and directed the Administration to move forward with the year 2 of the Intentional Integration Initiative inclusive of rising kindergarteners and 6th graders for the Fall of 2022 (6th grade families will be informed of their middle school placements by the first week of April 2022; Kindergarten families will learn of their school placements in June 2022).

Click here for more information.

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March is Social Work Month. The District and Board of Education in gratitude and recognition for all their hard work recognizes all of our school-based and CST social workers:

School-based Social Workers:

  • Marilu Gregory, Elementary School Social Worker and Field Supervisor

  • Arelis Tapia-Vargas, Clinton Elementary School/MMS

  • Julia Portnoff, Seth Boyden Elementary School

  • Christian Blackwell, Seth Boyden Elementary School

  • Shazaan Napoleon, South Mountain Elementary School & Marshall Elementary School

  • Maudjah Henriquez-Francis, Jefferson Elementary School

  • Eva Buggy, Tuscan Elementary School/MMS

  • Selina Scalise, Maplewood Middle School

  • Alison Steiner, South Orange Middle School (Social Work Intern Field Supervisor)

  • Fajr Salaam-Goodwin, South Orange Middle School

  • Jenny Easton, Columbia High School (Social Work Intern Field Supervisor)

  • Zakiyya Jordan, Columbia High School

  • Eric Stoudemire, Columbia High School

Child Study Team Social Workers

  • Inelda Bermudez

  • Janis Catalano

  • Valerie Forst

  • Renee Joyce

  • Amy Pitucco

  • Dana Robinson

We also would like to recognize all of the social work interns who serve across all of our schools under the supervision of District field supervisors.

School News & Updates

All updates and resources regarding the District's return to in-person instruction.

The District Hires New Assistant Superintendent, Access & Equity

At the March 21, Board of Education meeting the Board approved the hire of Dr. Kevin F. Gilbert as the incoming Assistant Superintendent, Access & Equity for the District. Dr. Gilbert will begin his role in May 2022.

Dr. Kevin F. Gilbert, has been in education for 24 years and currently serves as the director of diversity, equity, and inclusion for the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) in Howard County, Maryland. Prior to his arrival in HCPSS, he served as the coordinator for teacher leadership and special projects with the Clinton Public School District in Clinton, Mississippi.

As the Director of diversity, equity, and inclusion, Dr. Gilbert is tasked with coordinating HCPSS’s efforts to be more diverse, promote equity, and ensure inclusion throughout the district. As the first person to serve in this capacity for HCPSS, he also oversees the operation of the newly created Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (ODEI). After just three years, ODEI is one of the bedrocks of the HCPSS’s equity work. The Howard County Public School System is located in Ellicott City, MD and serves over 59,000 students and over 8,000 staff members.

Dr. Gilbert has worked as a social studies teacher, coach and an administrator with the Clinton Public School District, Rankin County School District (Flowood, MS), and the Hinds County School District (Raymond, MS). Other professional experience includes serving on the National Education Association’s (NEA) Executive Committee from 2013-2019, and president of the Mississippi Association of Educators (MAE) from 2007-2013. Other leadership positions include serving as vice president for governance for the National Council of State Education Associations, chair of the NEA Committee on Human and Civil Rights, and co-chair of the NEA task force on Discipline and the School-to-Prison Pipeline.

He earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of Southern Mississippi, and a doctorate in education leadership from Mississippi College.

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:

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Activities Around SOMSD!

South Mountain Elementary Groundbreaking Ceremony

On Tuesday, March 22, a groundbreaking ceremony was held at South Mountain Elementary (big school). The ceremony held in conjunction with EPIC Construction is providing hard hats, shovels, and a project banner for this exciting and monumental event to invited guests which include District senior leadership, building administrators/PTA representatives, BOE members, local officials, and EPIC Construction staff. Construction work will begin over the summer as part of the District’s Long Range Facilities Plan (LRFP).

Columbia High School: HERSTORY...IN 12 BARS Program Presented to CHS Students

On Tuesday, March 22, 2022, Columbia High School welcomed Dr. Stephanie James, Executive Director of New Jersey Amistad Commission NJDOE, and Ms. Sonia James, Esquire, Executive Director of That Which Connects Camden, for a presentation of their new mixed media historical film, HERSTORY...IN 12 BARS to a group of young women representing each grade level. Dedicated to the unifying of black women that spans generations, the film, which is illuminated by music, poetry, spoken word and dance was created to memorialize the stories of black women beginning with the painful separation from their homeland.

Ms. Tracie Morrison, CHS 9th Grade, Assistant Principal, commented, "The opportunity to connect the creators of the film, to collaborate with CHS teachers and to provide a learning experience where students could openly and authentically discuss and reflect on the film made our celebration of Women's Herstory a great success.

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Ten Columbia High Students Named National Merit Scholarship Finalists

The South Orange and Maplewood School District is pleased to announce that ten Columbia High School students have been selected as finalists in the annual National Merit Scholarship Program. The National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) honors students who show exceptional academic ability and potential for success in rigorous college studies. Finalists will compete for one of 2,500 National Merit $2,500 Scholarships, as well as other merit scholarship opportunities which will be announced in late spring. Among the academically talented high school seniors named as finalists were ten students from Columbia High School:

  1. Ella Rose J. Cervi

  2. Aidan P. Cunningham

  3. Dylan K. Gill

  4. Aaron K. Glassman

  5. Sydney C. Mannion

  6. Jadyn Park

  7. Courtney Bailie Plaza

  8. Calliope Maria Reeves

  9. Cole J. Strupp

  10. Imaan K. Zubieta

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CHS 20th Annual Shakespeare Festival Now Accepting Submissions

Columbia High School is hosting its 20th Annual Shakespeare Festival, and organizers are looking for alumni to help celebrate the milestone. Anyone who participated in a festival over the past twenty years is invited to create a video performance or reflection about their experience with the festival.

The deadline for submissions is Friday, April 15. Please send your videos to Steve MacPherson at Be sure to include your name and graduation year. Of course, reach out if you are still in the area and would like to do a live performance!

The festival continued through the pandemic with two virtual editions but will return to live performances on Friday, April 22, 2022.

Congratulations to CHS Cast & Production Crew of "Newsies" On a Sold Out Run

Congratulations to the CHS cast/crew of the production "Newsies." The originally scheduled and sold out performances of March 18-20, were rescheduled to this final weekend, March 25-27. A virtual streaming option will be announced at a later date as an encore following the live performances, details can be found here:

Covid-19 Testing & County Megasite Testing/Vaccination Sites in Livingston, Newark & West Orange

We encourage our SOMSD community to take advantage of testing opportunities available at local Megasite locations.

Covid-19 SOMSD Dashboard

It is the responsibility of the staff member who tests COVID-19 positive, or the parent of the student who tests COVID-19 positive to notify the principal who notifies the superintendent.

SOMA Celebrates Women's History Month

Each March, Americans celebrate National Women’s History Month: a chance to recognize women’s varied, and often under-recognized, accomplishments throughout history. It is celebrated with television specials, political speeches, classroom learning initiatives, social media posts, and community activities that are intended to honor and celebrate women. For resources and community events happening locally, click here.

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