As a Matter of Fact!

SOMSD Departmental Updates - February 2020, VOL. 1, ISSUE 6

Superintendent's Corner

Dear SOMSD Family,

The topic of school safety and mental health is a high priority for the district. I want to share a report that was released on February 11 as a collaborative initiative between the Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, the American Federation of Teachers, and the National Education Association. The report releases evidence-based, trauma-informed recommendations on Active Shooter Drills and Proactive School Safety Solutions to protect the well-being of both students and teachers.

Back in December, before the report was issued, the District announced and implemented changes to our Policy 8420, Emergency and Crisis Situations. I am pleased to share that SOMSD was forward-thinking in these revisions, as they have been borne out by several of the recommendations suggested by the Everytown/AFT/NEA report. There is still work that needs to be done, and we will continue to monitor and consider research, safety/security requirements and legal mandates; coupled with the concerns of our administrators and parents, while seeking to balance the mental health/social-emotional concerns of our students to ensure that we make the best decisions for our District.

The report includes an analysis of the research available on active shooter drills and recommends six important stipulations for schools that conduct drills. We have already implemented the bolded bullet items marked with an “x”:

  • Drills should not include simulations that mimic an actual incident; (x)
  • Parents should have advance notice of drills;
  • Drills should be announced to students and educators prior to the start; (x)
  • Schools should create age and developmentally appropriate drill content with the involvement of school personnel, including school-based mental health professionals; (x)
  • Schools should couple drills with trauma-informed approaches to address students’ and educators’ well-being; (x) and
  • Schools should track information about the efficacy and effects of drills. (x)

The full report and release can be accessed here:

Yours in education,

Dr. Ronald G. Taylor

Maplewood Middle School (MMS) Presents: 13 | February 28 - March 1

“A hilarious, coming-of-age musical about discovering that “cool” is sometimes where we least expect it.”

“Geek. Poser. Jock. Beauty Queen. Wannabe. These are the labels that can last a lifetime. With an unforgettable rock score from Tony Award-winning composer, Jason Robert Brown, (Parade, The Last Five Years, Bridges of Madison County) 13 is a musical about fitting in – and standing out!

Evan Goldman is plucked from his fast-paced, preteen New York City life and plopped into a sleepy Indiana town following his parent's divorce. Surrounded by an array of simpleminded middle school students, he needs to establish his place in the popularity pecking order. Can he situate himself on a comfortable link of the food chain... or will he dangle at the end with the outcasts?!?”

Performance Dates:

  • Friday, February 28th → 7:30pm
  • Saturday, February 29th → 7:30pm
  • Sunday, March 1st → 2:00pm


MMS Auditorium

7 Burnet Street Maplewood, NJ

Purchase Tickets:


Big picture

Human Resources

2020 – 2021 Kindergarten, Pre-K, and New Students Registration

We are pleased to announce that the month of February officially marks the beginning of the District’s registration season, beginning with our youngest additions to the SOMSD community, our 2020-21 kindergarteners.

Each year the District registers over 1,000 new students in grades Pre-K through 12. The majority of those students are our five-year-olds (as of October 1, 2020) formally beginning their educational journey. Over the next month and a half, our registration staff will welcome and meet with more than a third of those parents/guardians who are seeking to finalize their children’s enrollment in South Orange and Maplewood schools.

We know that this is an exciting time for many students and their parents/guardians, and we have taken deliberate steps to make this process as seamless as possible. Parents or guardians wishing to register a kindergarten-aged student for the 2020-21 school year must pre-register online for an in-person appointment at the Registrar’s Office, 525 Academy Street, 1st floor, Maplewood.

The appointment must be during the student’s ZONED SCHOOL registration period listed below.

  • *Seth Boyden – Feb 18th - Feb 20th
  • South Mountain Annex – Feb. 24th - Feb 27th
  • Tuscan – March 2nd - March 5th
  • Clinton– March 9th - March 12th
  • Marshall – March 16th - March 19th

If you miss your zoned school window, please note there will be another Kindergarten registration opportunity for all schools on the dates below:

Kindergarten ALL School Registration:

  • May 11th – 14th, 9 am - 1 pm | Appointments available beginning April 24th

Seth Boyden Opt-In:

* Opting into or out of Seth Boyden: Only families who are zoned for Seth Boyden may register during Seth Boyden’s registration period. Families in other zones who wish to opt into Seth Boyden must book a registration appointment during their zoned school’s registration period and must submit a Seth Boyden opt-in form as soon as possible (spots limited, deadline April 10). Families zoned for Seth Boyden who wish to opt into Marshall must register during Seth Boyden’s period.

Signs informing parents/guardians of K registration dates for each district elementary school have also been placed throughout towns to make all residents aware of the scheduled dates. Thank you for granting us the privilege of educating your child!

Please go to the district website at for additional information in English, Spanish, and Creole.

2020-21 Universal Pre-K Registration

Parents/guardians registering children for pre-K or other grades must pre-register for appointments during their assigned periods on the dates below. Families can make these appointments using the 2020-21 scheduler application by clicking here. Dates for registration are listed below:

All Other Grades Registration (for 2020-21 School Year)

Columbia High School Registration: March 30th – April 2nd, 9 am - 1 pm

Online Appointments open beginning March 13

Open Registration All Grade/Schools: Begins Tuesday, May 26

Online Appointments open beginning May 15

Dr. Gayle Carrick, Interim Assistant Superintendent of Administration

Tiffani Barnes, District Registrar

SOMSD 2020-2021 School Year Calendar

The 2020 - 2021 school year calendar is now available. Please visit our District website to view or download.

CHS: Matilda the Musical - TICKETS NOW AVAILABLE!

Superintendent, Dr. Ronald G. Taylor had the opportunity to visit a rehearsal of Columbia High Schoo's upcoming stage play, "Matilda the Musical." Students performed a number from the show and later Dr. Taylor received a back-stage tour from the crew who are managing the event. Ticket sales are now open for the musical which will run from March 13 - 15 & March 20 - 22 at CHS Auditorium. For more information and to purchase tickets click here.

Curriculum and Instruction

Playing Games to Strengthen Math Skills

Everyone likes to play a game, no matter how old they are, but these days good old-fashioned game playing is often replaced by gaming on devices. Both of these avenues of game playing are fun and engaging, but when family members or teachers play hands-on math games with children, these types of games can help support student math engagement and reinforce math skills.

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) recommends game playing as part of the elementary school math curriculum. Teachers should provide “repeated opportunities for students to play games, then let the mathematical ideas emerge as students notice new patterns, relationships, and strategies.”

Games are an important tool for learning in elementary school mathematics classrooms. NCTM provides several key bullets on the importance and impact of playing math games to help children deepen their mathematical understanding and reasoning. More information can be found on their website article, “Why Play Math Games.”

Katie Costello, Lead Math Teacher at Clinton School, has also created Pinterest boards with a fantastic array of math games that you can play with your child at home. Often these games are played with dice, spinners, counters, dominoes or playing cards, so if you don’t have access to these materials, please reach out to your child’s teacher or your school’s administrators. I highly encourage you to follow Ms. Costello on Pinterest, as she frequently updates her pages.

Ms. Ann Bodnar, Director of Curriculum & Instruction

Access 2/19 SOMSD III Community Town Hall Presentation

2/19 SOMSD Intentional Integration Initiative (III) Community Town Hall presentation is now available for download.

Special Services

Tools of the Mind (TOM) Pre-K Curriculum

“You're off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So... get on your way!” – Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You'll Go!

The South Orange-Maplewood School District’s commitment to offering access to a high-quality preschool experience is demonstrated by its plan to expand its pre-K program with the support of the New Jersey State Department of Education (NJDOE) and in partnership with local preschool program providers. Once the expansion initiative is solidified, 2020-21 partners will be announced.

We appreciate the community’s interest in the program and we recognize our families eagerness to register our three- and four-year-old students (as of October 1, 2020). Information regarding registration is discussed above in the newsletter section “2020-21 Registration” and can be accessed via the district’s website click here. At this time, we are delighted to offer an insight into Tools of the Mind (TOM), the developmentally appropriate curriculum currently in place in our pre-kindergarten program.

Aligned with the New Jersey Preschool Teaching and Learning Standards, TOM is a comprehensive curriculum that presents content in an integrated manner. Its instructional strategies reflect a combination of student-initiated activities, explicit instruction, individualization through multiple levels of scaffolding (problem-solving through teacher modeling followed by increasingly independent student practice), and the ongoing use of multiple assessment data. These varied but cohesive approaches respond to the diverse needs of our students. Student growth is monitored as part of the daily routine of the classroom. The GOLD tool, an observation-based assessment system by early childhood education resource company Teaching Strategies, supports this aspect of the implementation of TOM. Progress reports are shared with parents/guardians three times per year, and parent-teacher conferences are scheduled throughout the year.

Read more.

Dr. Laura Morana, Interim Assistant Superintendent Special Services

In the Media

Larry Petraccaro, host of Education Roundtable, interviews Superintendent, Dr. Ronald Taylor. Learn more about Dr. Taylor and his mission and vision for SOMSD.
Education Roundtable

In the News

Our students and staff are doing great things and we want to highlight some stories that ran in February:

Please feel free to send feature and good news stories to for consideration.

Technology Update

PowerSchool Maintenance Notice

The district performed necessary database maintenance to PowerSchool from Friday, February 14th, at 11:00 AM through Tuesday, February 18th at 6:00 AM. The enhancements on PowerSchool now take advantage of a feature called Unlimited Contacts. This feature allows for a student to have an unlimited number of parents, guardians, and emergency contacts associated with a student. In addition, the previous limitation that prevented various family configurations from being accurately recorded in PowerSchool has been removed (same-sex relationships, affidavit custody, joint custody, etc. are no longer stored in the database as “other parent / guardian”). Click here for more information.

Phone System Upgrades - Update

The South Orange-Maplewood School District is upgrading its phone system! Our current phone system is 13 years old, and our district has outgrown its current capabilities. The district has made investments in a Cisco IP phone system and has begun the procurement process. Various phone system components are being delivered to the district, and the technology department has begun planning the rollout of the system. More information will be shared with the community in the coming months.

SMS / Text Message Notification Reminder

Our school district uses the SchoolMessenger system to deliver text messages to staff and parent mobile devices. In addition to robocalls and email notifications, text messages will now be used to send information about events, school closings, safety alerts, and more.

Have you not signed up yet for these useful text message notifications from the district? In order to begin receiving them, you must opt-in to messaging services. Throughout the remainder of the school year, the district will send opt-in text messages to the phone numbers that we have on file for parents and staff.

● Recipients can opt-in by responding “Y” (or “Yes”) to the opt-in message or by texting “Y” to 67587.

● Recipients can opt-out by responding “STOP” or by visiting

Keith Bonds, Director of Technology

Month in Review: District News

Facilities Update

High School Observatory

The December newsletter reported about ongoing work to repair Columbia High School’s observatory, located at the top of the school’s clock tower. This project included the restoration of the observatory’s large refracting telescope, originally built by prominent American astronomer and instrument designer John Brashear (died 1920). The whole project reached completion in January 2020.

Very few high schools have observatories, and it was wonderful to bring the one at Columbia High School back to life after years of disrepair. It is a treasure for the students and the community. Many members of the high school’s Astronomy Club have visited the observatory in its restored state and are very excited to start using the telescope.

Long-Range Facilities Plan (LRFP) Project

December’s newsletter relayed that meetings with administrators, environmental testing, and geothermal studies were ongoing. Core samples for geothermal testing were completed during the December break, and the analysis of these samples should be completed later this month. Asbestos bulk sample testing was completed in January and the results delivered to the architect. The reports from these studies are required to complete the design work.

Next, the district’s architect will incorporate changes based upon the information provided during the meetings and from the information provided in these reports. Another series of follow-up meetings will be scheduled to inform the district of changes and to reach a consensus on the final designs. Once the final designs are approved, updated schematics will be submitted to the New Jersey Department of Education, plans will be submitted to the Maplewood and South Orange municipal building departments, and the specifications will be submitted to the New Jersey Comptroller’s Office.

During the code review process, municipal code officials will review the plans to ensure that they conform to all code requirements (fire, electric, plumbing, etc.). The review process takes a minimum of 20 days, but given the size and scope of these projects, the LRFP’s review process will likely take longer.

Mr. Paul Roth, School Business Administrator/Board Secretary

This Month In Review: Seth Boyden Elementary School

Seth Boyden's third-grade class led by Mrs. West had the opportunity to interview Superintendent, Dr. Ronald G. Taylor as a part of their Black History Studies this month. Their focus is on interviewing citizens who are making a difference in their communities. Students interviewed Dr. Taylor as "Staff Reporters." Each child had a question and prepared them in groups, sorted by "his job as Superintendent', followed by information on his childhood, teenage and adult years, and asked additional questions about dealing with bullies and fear. Earlier in the month Mrs. West's class also interviewed Maplewood Mayor, Frank McGehee.

Click here to view a video photo collage.

Board of Education Meetings

Please see below to access minutes and recaps from BOE meetings for the month of January:

Minutes for all Board meetings can be accessed via the District website.

The School District of South Orange and Maplewood

A district that celebrates diversity!