As a matter of Fact!

SOMSD-Departmental Updates


Hello and thank you for taking a few moments to review our monthly newsletter. We are very excited to share timely highlights with our school community! Each of our Department Leaders has contributed to this effort. This tool will expand as we move throughout the school year. We welcome your feedback and hope that this platform provides clarity, insight and transparency.

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Dr. Taylor giving the keynote address to our Columbia High School Summer Graduates....
Dr. Taylor's 20 Day report out from the August 19, 2019 Board of Education Meeting

Curriculum and Instruction/Professional Development Update

I hope you all had a wonderful vacation and are gearing up for the 2019-2020 school year! The Curriculum and Instruction Department has been working all summer preparing for our students’ return in September. This Summer we successfully held 14 course advancement and support programs in Kindergarten -12th grades. Our teachers worked diligently to prepare students to be successful in the upcoming year. We also had 98 teachers writing over 80 curricula using an equity lens to ensure that our teachers are meeting the needs of all of our students!

Equity continues to be a focus for our 2019-2020 school year. Last year our pre-school and elementary principals began working side by side with Dr. Edward Fergus, Professor at Temple University and author of Solving Disproportionality and Achieving Equity: A Leader′s Guide to Using Data to Change Hearts and Minds. Dr. Fergus is supporting our principals in leading their staff in becoming equity-driven schools through staff activities in his book. He will continue working with our pre-school and elementary principals this year and they will continue to turnkey and lead their schools in this very important equity work.

Our district has committed to at least two years of professional development in Restorative Practices. The focus of Restorative Practices is to both build classroom/school 'communities' and to manage conflict by repairing harm and building relationships. This year our secondary schools will be fully trained by professional developer, Tanya Lewis, of TSL Non Profit Consulting, and her team. Restorative Practices is closely connected to the new District Code of Conduct that will be introduced early this school year.

I hope everyone has a peaceful last few days of summer and that our elementary school families will keep an eye out for information on our new 5th grade collaborative event, One Book One Grade!

Ms. Ann Bodnar-Director of Curriculum and Instruction

Special Services Update

With the support of the Board of Education, the Department of Special Services has established a leadership structure to achieve compliance with required referral timelines. This was accomplished through a shared-accountability system. This system included, standard operating procedures (SOP), ongoing internal articulation/monitoring and evaluation of the referral to the 'de-classification process'. The Department has welcomed two additional supervisors, with a focus on K-8 instruction and preschool education.

The shared responsibility and collaborative approach to the redesign of the 2019 Extended School Year (ESY) Program brought together stakeholders to create a framework for the implementation of a program that was data-driven and focused on the academic and social/emotional needs of students through an integrated approach with engaging theme-based activities. The success of working together to create a framework that can be replicated with minimal effort is an example of the Department’s goal to build capacity for consistent improvement.

In our effort to establish a more efficient and effective approach to developing and evaluating the implementation of required Individual Education Programs (IEP), the Department is launching a new IEP system. We look forward to introducing the new system to our families.

The new school year will bring about a new experience for all students and families eligible for the District’s Preschool Education Program. The implementation of PEEA – Pre- School Education Expansion Aid, designed to, is allowing the district to offer high quality early learning to many more families.

Our commitment to preschool education is fostering an authentic partnership with other local childcare providers. We believe this approach will provide additional classroom space for South Orange Maplewood students to have access to a high-quality preschool experience. While we had an unprecedented interest in the program, a random selection of students led to the assignment of students to three sites thus far, Montrose Early Childhood Center, Marshall Elementary and AppleCore Learning. Students were selected based on a random selection (or lottery system) drawn in accordance with the District’s Registration Policy and Regulations.

In light of the expansive program options that the District makes available to students (based on their academic and social needs), the professional development of classroom teachers is paramount. To this end, the Department has built capacity that will transcend any changes in leadership; therefore, the talent and expertise of our teachers is being recognized through the establishment of the Special Education Teacher Leader stipend position at each level. Their active engagement will foster a job-embedded and collaborative professional learning environment that is responsive to the varied needs of Grades K-12 special education teachers.

Dr. Laura Morana, Interim Assistant Superintendent Special Services

Human Resources Update

Welcome to the 2019-2020 school year! The South Orange & Maplewood Personnel

Department welcomes students, staff, parents and new employees to an exciting new educational journey. Over the summer months we carefully screened, interviewed and hired 61 new staff members. These new staff members will serve our students and district in the positions of: teachers at all grade levels and subject matters, special education teachers, school nurse, school social worker, guidance counselor, library media specialist, secretary, bus driver, technology and maintenance support.

We are pleased to announce that we have appointed:

  • Supervisor of Pre School Education and Related Services - Leroy Johnson III;

  • English Language Arts Supervisor-Jane Beane-Folkes;

  • Former Special Education Teacher, Susan Ellis, who has been promoted to Special Education Supervisor for Grades K-8;

  • A new Principal for Clinton Elementary School Jennifer Connors; and,

  • Former Columbia High School Assistant Principal, Kevin Mason, who has been promoted to the new South Mountain (and Annex) Principal.

People are our business. It is important that we hire qualified candidates and people of character and compassion as we prepare our 7,106 students to become life-long learners and valuable contributors to our global society.

Dr. Gayle Carrick-Interim Assistant Superintendent of Administration

Technology Departmental Update

This past summer, the Technology department implemented a variety of initiatives throughout the district. Many of these initiatives have an impact on parents, teachers, and students. Below is a summary of some of the work completed.

Chromebook Replacements - The district currently maintains a fleet of over 7,000 chromebooks. Being an early adopter of chromebooks, the district fleet included over 1,000 Samsung series 3 devices (also known as the 'silver chromebooks' by teachers and students). The Samsung chromebooks are over 7 years old and no longer supported by Google. This summer, the technology department replaced the Samsung chromebooks with newer devices. We will continue to assess the existing chromebook fleet and make updates throughout the year.

Wireless Access Points - The Technology department has begun a multi-year upgrade on the existing wireless infrastructure. This summer, over 200 wireless access points were replaced in various schools! The newer access points allow for greater wireless coverage and can accommodate more devices. These access points also take advantage of newer wireless protocols, which will allow some of the district’s chromebooks and laptops to utilize the wireless network at much faster speeds.

Printer Support - The district has moved to a managed print service for all of the printers in the district. This change allows for quicker repairs on broken printers and fast delivery for replacement toner. Teachers and staff should continue to submit technology work orders for toner and repairs. Instructions for submitting technology work orders can be found here.

Parent Portal - The district is happy to announce the launch of two new enhancements to the SOMSD parent portal:

  1. Back To School / Welcome Forms - Each school year, families must fill out a variety of forms and permission slips for their children. Some of these forms include: emergency contact information, parent contact information, acceptable use policy acknowledgements & consent for publicity. This year, the forms will be made available through the PowerSchool parent portal. Parents have the ability to complete and submit the forms online; and,

  2. Elementary School Parent Portal - During the upcoming school year, elementary school parents will have the ability to view attendance, demographic information, schedule information, and complete back to school / welcome forms through the PowerSchool Parent Portal.

Security Enhancements For Chromebooks - Throughout the summer, the district has made numerous security enhancements to our existing Chromebook fleet. These enhancements allow the district to continue to protect our students and staff from harmful content online. Throughout the year, students may notice specific websites or services that were previously accessible are now blocked. If there are specific websites that should be unblocked for educational reasons, teachers can submit a technology work order to request the website be unblocked. Instructions for submitting technology work orders can be found here.

Mr. Keith Bonds, Director of Technology

Facilities Update

Maintenance and Long Range Facility Plan (LRFP) Project Updates

We are so pleased to be able to improve our schools facilities this Summer. During the summer, the old carpets in the main hallways of Maplewood Middle School, Seth Boyden, Clinton, Tuscan, Jefferson, and South Mountain Elementary Schools were removed and replaced with tile. In addition, the hallways were also freshly painted. This offered a drastic improvement of the aesthetics of these buildings! We are very proud to also have been able to successfully address unexpected circumstances including: repairing damaged floors in three Tuscan classrooms, replacing numerous damaged ceiling tiles across the district and addressing the sink hole near the project adventure course located behind Columbia High School.

On July 10, 2019, the Board of School Estimate approved the $160 million capital plan! As a follow up to this approval, on July 15, 2019, the Board of Education authorized our Administration to sell bonds. On July 31, 2019, the district participated in a ratings review to establish a bond rating. We are very excited to announce that the district maintained its AA2 bond rating...this was not certain at the beginning of this process. The bond sale was held on August 13, 2019. The district secured a 2.6% interest rate, significantly lower than originally projected.

Architects and engineers continue to work on building specifications. Meetings will be scheduled with schools and the Board of Education to complete the final designs before placing projects out to bid.

Mr. Paul Roth, School Business Administrator/Board Secretary

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Registration Update

Welcome New Residents!!

The Office of Registration is all a buzz this time of the year. Located on the main floor of the Administrative Building, the Office of Registration (The Office) is the District’s centralized department charged with enrolling all children entering the South Orange Maplewood School District. But, while many may view this location as a one-stop shop for enrollment, there are many other tasks performed here. The Office is also where parents would go when they need to:

  • Change their address after a move within the District;

  • Make changes to their name or to their child’s name;

  • Correct typo’s found on their child’s demographic information; and,

  • Provide the District with new or updated custody documents.

The Office meets with and enrolls over 800 new and returning students to the District every year! The bulk of these children are enrolled during the February/March enrollment period and also over the summer. The two weeks before the start of school and the first several days of school are the busiest times of the year for our Office. The staff may see upwards of 175-200 new and returning parents during this time-frame. Some seeking to enroll a child for school, many with questions, and others with with enrollment issues or concerns, that need to be resolved. They all have a common goal... wanting to get their children settled into school s quickly as possible.

This year, with the implementation of the District’s new website, the Office has provided as much information as possible for parents... right at their fingertips. The Registration Documents section of the website provides: a PowerPoint presentation on how to use the new on-line registration system, a detailed list of what is needed to register, all the health forms, transfer forms, transportation forms and instructions on what to provide to change/amend your address. Listed on the site is also a FAQ, which seeks to answer general questions asked over the years.

While the registration process may seem daunting and overwhelming, the Office has worked hard to provide as much information on the website as possible. The Office of Registration is here to help provide a smooth a transition into District schools.

We look forward to meeting you and welcoming you to our schools!

For additional information please access the website at:

Also review the FAQ section for answers to questions you may have

The School District of South Orange and Maplewood

A district that celebrates diversity!