As a Matter of Fact!

SOMSD Newsletter | Vol 3. Issue 5 | 10.22.21

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Superintendent's Message

Dear South Orange and Maplewood School District Community,

As we approach Fall Break, please know that it marks a significant milestone for us as we move to what we all hope will be a post-COVID 19 world. Fall Break marks seven (7) weeks since we have returned to full-time in-person learning for all students and staff. I would like to commend our Administrators, Teachers, Support Staff, Students, and our Families for your support in bringing the work of our Reopening Task Force to fruition.

Our vision of a safe, responsible and 'close' to normal return has been a success. As we have previously reported, the few positive cases that we have reported on our COVID 19 Dashboard ( ) have not resulted in (or from) in-school spread. This demonstrates that research and science are correct in asserting that the layering of mitigation strategies is effective in stopping the spread of the pandemic. While this work is far from complete, we remain confident that with more school-age vaccination approvals on the horizon that this trend of safe daily in-person instruction will continue for the remainder of our 180 days of school.

For those who may not be aware of the genesis of Fall Break. Tuesday during the first week of November is traditionally election day for our local and state public office races. During this same week, Thursday and Friday coincide with the New Jersey Education Association's (NJEA) annual convention. These three days are customarily days of school closure. To that end, we believe it was best to utilize this natural break as a time for pause, reflection and rejuvenation for all who are a part of the school community.

Thank you for all you have done to support our schools. We hope that staff, students and families alike enjoy the upcoming break.

Educationally yours,

Dr. Ronald G. Taylor

School Reopening News & Updates

All updates and resources regarding the District's Fall 2021 return to in-person instruction.

Fall Break Travel/Quarantine Guidelines & Travel Survey (Due by Tues., October 26)

The District’s Fall Break is coming up and is scheduled for November 1 – 5, 2021. All District schools, as well as Central Office, will be closed for this week. Schools and District offices will reopen on Monday, November 8, 2021.

Families with unvaccinated children who plan on traveling either domestically (outside of PA, NJ, NY, CT, DE) or outside of the United States, upon reentry to our school district, UNVACCINATED students will be asked to quarantine for a full seven to ten days depending on testing. Quarantine may be seven full days if students test negative on days 3, 4, or 5 after returning from travel. If you choose not to test, quarantine is ten full days. This guidance is per our local SOMA Departments of Health as informed by NJDOH and CDC.

During a student’s quarantine period, they will receive virtual instruction. Please note while we will strive to minimize the disruption to student learning during the quarantine period by having systems in place for students to receive virtual instructional support, these structures will vary depending on the circumstances. Therefore, families of UNVACCINATED students who plan to travel during the fall break, outside of the PA, NJ, NY, CT, and DE areas will need to fill out the Fall Break Travel Survey by Tuesday, October 26. [Link:].

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. The local DOH is notified and they conduct Contact Tracing.


SOMSD Community,

We want to once again share the process and procedures for notification that the school district follows for share communication on Covid-19 Positive Covid cases and for contact tracing.

When a SOMSD staff member or student tests positive for COVID-19, it is the responsibility of that staff member or the parent of the student to notify the principal who notifies the superintendent. The respective local Department of Health (DOH) – South Orange or Maplewood - will be notified immediately. The local DOH, who receives the actual lab report, conducts Contact Tracing. Based on the circumstances of each case, the local DOH provides the District with guidance as to the appropriate and timely notification of staff and families of a confirmed case while maintaining confidentiality.

Read more here.

Welcome, Assistant Superintendent, Special Services, Susie Budine

The District welcomes our new Assistant Superintendent, Special Services, Susie Budine, who will officially begin her role on November 1.

Ms. Budine has over 29 years in education with a significant portion of her educational background in out-of-district settings working with students in the behavioral continuum as well as students with learning disabilities and hearing impairments. She began her career as an elementary and middle school teacher and has spent the last 23 years in administration. She comes to us from Highland Park School District as the Director of Educational Services where she oversaw the Special Services department as well as ESL and nursing.

As a leader, she is a true believer in teamwork and collaboration. She feels that no individual has all the knowledge and believes that together with her staff, they can bring a wealth of ideas and initiatives to light in order to benefit the District's students.

SOMSD Week of Respect in Review

The "Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act (P.L.2010, c.122) requires that the week beginning with the first Monday in October of each year be designated as the Week of Respect and School Violence Awareness Week in New Jersey. To recognize the importance of social and emotional learning and character education, school districts, charter schools and renaissance school projects are required to observe the week by providing age-appropriate instruction focusing on preventing HIB.

Schools across our District celebrated the Week of Respect from October 4 - 8. Schools touched on themes and lessons that focused on kindness, community, respect for themselves and others, and how to prevent harassment, intimidation, and bullying. Students across our schools participated in Week of Respect with activities such as:

    • Newsletter messages and videos to school families

    • School spirit/school colors days

    • “Chalk” it up to Respect/Kindness messages on social media

    • Classroom activities -- “How do I see myself T-shirts”

    • Listening to “Respect” playlists on YouTube

    • Teacher lead discussions on showing respect;

    • Bucket filling activities; etc.

See photos below for activities that took place at some of our schools.

SOMSD 2021-22 Upcoming Events

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November 2 - Election Day: Important Information

Make Your Voice Count!

Elections are near. We encourage SOMSD residents who are of legal age to make their voices count. Vote for New Jersey’s next governor, state and local representatives, and your Board of Education representatives on or before Tuesday, Nov. 2. See below for ways to vote.

SOMSD School Board Elections & Candidates

Five candidates are running for three open seats on the Board of Education.

The candidates are:

  • Shannon Cuttle of Maplewood: "Forward Together"
  • Kaitlin M. Wittleder of Maplewood: "Student Voices Matter"
  • William Rodriguez of Maplewood
  • Arun Vadlamani of South Orange
  • Qawi Telesford of South Orange

The South Orange & Maplewood Board of Education has nine seats, and each term is three years. More information on the Board of Education and their tour of duty can be found here.
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