December 20, 2021 Public Meeting Recap | Vol.1 Issue 8

Big picture

Highlights from the December 20, 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.

Meeting Overview

Superintendent's Monthly Report

Superintendent's End of the Year Message:

I’d like to offer my congratulations to the outgoing Board Members. Thank you for your partnership. We have accomplished so much together for our students and community. Next I’d like to reiterate my previous Board Meeting comments regarding where we are in the pandemic. We as a community must remain vigilant. The Delta and the Omicron variants are causing our confirmed positive cases to grow exponentially. Our Health and Wellness Subcommittee, which includes our District Lead Nurse and our Departments of Health meet and review cases and applicable contact tracing daily. We also discuss the latest guidance from the NJDOH, NJDOE, CDC etc. which is also very dynamic. While we have been pleased that our mitigation strategies are preventing in-school spread, the community spread of COVID 19 has been rampant. As many of you may know, families and staff members of South Orange Middle School were informed today that they will be shifting to virtual learning through winter break. We have been in contact with our County Superintendent of Schools as well as our Mayor and Village President regarding this important topic. We are continuing to monitor and analyze the confirmed infection numbers daily to ensure we are doing all we can to keep our students and staff safe and healthy.

BOE President's Report

  • Board President Joshua shared a brief statement regarding the Board's negotiations with SOMEA:

"Good evening. I’d like to provide an update on the SOMEA-SOMSD negotiations. First, I want to acknowledge the contributions of our teachers this past year through unimaginable circumstances. And I also want to acknowledge the letters from the community advocating for pay increases for our teachers.

At our last negotiations meeting the BOE made a counter to the union opening offer of a 6.1% raise. The SOMEA negotiator stated our offer deserved a counter proposal, however, no counter was made. Instead, the union returned with the same offer of 6.1%. The large gap between both parties as well as unwillingness to counter our offer is why we both agreed to go to mediation. Once the mediator was assigned, all three parties worked to find mutually agreeable dates to meet. We have a date set for early January, and we look forward to our mediation session.

We know SOMEA salary guides are floating around on social media. It is worth noting that the BOE does not determine salary guides. They are reviewed and approved by the BOE after they are created by the union, which works in conjunction with NJEA.

I want to reiterate that the board is ready to negotiate in good faith and looks forward to a resolution to this matter."

  • In addition, he shared a list of key accomplishments the Board has achieved over the 2021 school year. Among them; the Board introduced a resolution to adopt additional language for inclusion in NSBA's manual of policies and positions on education. which was, approved unanimously by all the NJSBA delegate assembly; created revised or abolished almost 50 policies; passed a groundbreaking transgender and non-binary student policy; passed a residential checks policy along with the pilot program with CLEAR to remove some of the bias uncovered in family residency checks; taken steps to improve the climate and culture in our district by directing the administration to pause most school suspensions while digging into root causes; passed a resolution to rename Jefferson Elementary school; approved five major major construction projects and began building additional classroom space at four elementary schools; approved new or revised curricula for over 40 courses and adopted 10 new books to the curricula; we are wrapping up work on a portrait of a graduate initiative and have successfully launched the Intentional Integration Initiative for the 2021-2022 school year for kindergarten classes which has resulted in a more socio-economically diverse kindergarten class and has greatly reduced the disparity in free reduced lunch students from school to school and is squarely in line with our districts and board's goal of making every school look like a broader reflection of the district.

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.

Approved Resolutions:

There were second readings of 10 policies:

  1. Policy 1540.1 Supervisory Employee Relationship
  2. Policy 2417 Student Intervention & Referral Service
  3. Policy 2467 Surrogate Parents and Resource Family Parents
  4. Policy 3283 Electronic Communications School Staff (Teaching)
  5. Policy 4283 Electronic Communications Between support Staff Members and Students
  6. Policy 5111 Eligibility of Resident/Non-Resident Students
  7. Policy 5460.2 Bridge Year Pilot Program
  8. Policy 7450 Property Inventory
  9. Policy 8467 Weapons

There were first readings of 12 policies:

  1. Policy 2415.04 Title I- District Wide Parental Involvement
  2. Policy 2415.20 Every Student Succeeds Act Complaints
  3. Policy 2480 Alternative Education Programs
  4. Policy 3221 Evaluation of Teachers
  5. Policy 3222 Evaluation of Teaching Staff Members, Excluding Teachers and Administrators
  6. Policy 3224 Evaluation of Principals, Vice Principals & Assistant Principals
  7. Policy 3142 Nonrenewal of Nontenured Teaching Staff Member
  8. Policy 4146 Nonrenewal of Nontenured Support Staff Member
  9. Policy 5116 Education of Homeless Students
  10. Policy 6115.01 Federal Awards/Funds Internal Controls - Allowability of Costs
  11. Policy 6115.02 Federal Awards/Funds Internal Controls - Mandatory Disclosures
  12. Policy 6115.03 Federal Awards/Funds Internal Controls - Conflict of Interest
Board of Education Meeting - Public Session, December 20, 2021

Upcoming Meetings

Current BOE Members (as of January 4, 2022)

Note: to email all board members, please email

Thair Joshua
Board President
Term: 2020 - 2022

Erin Siders
2nd Vice President

Term: 2020 - 2022

Susan Bergin
Term: 2021 - 2023

Elissa Malespina
Term: 2021 - 2023

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.