As a Matter of Fact!
SOMSD Newsletter: Vol. 4, Issue 1 | 9.30.22
Superintendent's Return to School Welcome Message
Hello South Orange & Maplewood School District Community,
I am extremely grateful and proud of all members of our school community who have contributed to a successful first 15 days of the 2022-2023 school year. I have visited every school in our District during these first few weeks and our staff has unanimously shared that their engagement with our students and parents has been a joy this year.
September 15th kicked off Hispanic Heritage Month and I want to recognize the countless contributions of the Latinx members of our community. In this month’s newsletter edition, you’ll find a special Hispanic Heritage Month message from Dr. Gilbert, Asst. Superintendent, Access & Equity as well as a special faculty highlight on Dr. Ramón Robles-Fernández, K-12 Supervisor of World Languages and ELL who has been with the District for over 20+ years. Dr. Robles works tirelessly to ensure that students have access to a high-quality World Language program and that our ELL population has access to all the support they need to be successful in our schools and we are happy to highlight his contributions not only to our District but the greater Latinx community.
At our last Board Meeting I offered a sincere thank you to Mr. Burnside, Mr. Giglio, Epic - our Construction Managers, as well as our Contractors who all spent this summer ensuring that we would indeed open school on time completing substantial work at seven (7) District construction projects. I’d also like to recognize and more importantly thank our teachers, school support staff and school-based administrators who only had a few days to prepare our instructional spaces for our students’ return. This was an incredibly challenging transition that could only be accomplished by their herculean effort demonstrating their commitment to the students they serve. For those who may not be as familiar with the transformational construction work that has been ongoing please take a moment to visit our website as we have months of reports available that include pictures and detailed descriptions.
We are tremendously excited about bringing year 2 of our Intentional Integration Initiative to fruition. As our Board approved last year, we have moved forward with expanding our year 1 pilot (which was limited to our Kindergarten Students), to now include grades K, 1st and 6th. This means that the 1530 students in these three grade levels have now been placed in their schools via our III algorithm/placement methodology… this ensures that each of our schools has a growing population of students that more consistently represent our overall demographic diversity. High level professional development for our staff in support of this work is continuing as well. We have published our Intentional Integration journey on our microsite that is within our District website.
In closing, while we are so excited that the feeling of ‘close to normalcy’ is palpable in our schools, we of course know that COVID-19 is still a reality for us (as demonstrated by our reopening guidebook). The normalcy that was mentioned repeatedly by our educators during my visits reflected their observations of ‘how’ our students are coming to school this year… how they were able to be a part of a more normal school day/school year schedule vs. last year. That students (and staff) are more comfortable returning to classrooms together… that rituals and routines were more easily transitioned to this year … that everyone is offering each other more grace, understanding and acceptance. Something that virtual or hybrid learning, while impactful for many as a necessity during the worst parts of COVID, did not 100% allow for. The Social and Emotional recovery that we have continued to invest in, is pointing towards the positive outcome that we sought, though there is still much work to do.
Dr. Ronald G. Taylor, Superintendent of Schools
SOMSD Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month
Hispanic Heritage Month Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Ramón Robles-Fernández, K-12 Supervisor of World Languages and ELL
Dr. Ramón Robles-Fernández was born in Granada, Spain and raised in Barcelona, Spain. Holding a master’s degree in English Literature and Language Teaching from the University of Barcelona, he went on to complete a doctorate in Urban Education at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.
The bulk of his pedagogical experience began in 1990 when he began a long career as an English as a Second Language instructor and head of the Foreign Language Department in a language academy in Spain. In 1997, he was selected to become an exchange teacher through the Visiting International Faculty Program (VIF) where he was placed in a high needs elementary school in North Carolina forging lasting relationships with students and faculty. Three years later, he was offered and accepted a position in the South Orange Maplewood School District as a Spanish teacher at Columbia High School. During his tenure as a teacher at Columbia he taught all levels of Spanish and helped develop a new and updated curriculum. In addition, he became one of the advisors of the LGBTQ+ club, Spectrum. In this role, he worked with students to develop ways to improve the experiences of LGBTQ+ youth in the school. Along with a dedicated group of youth, they ran three successful forums in the district to provide students with a space to discuss issues that were relevant to them.
In 2015, he became the K-12 Supervisor of World Languages and English Language Learners. As a supervisor he works tirelessly to ensure that students have access to a high-quality World Language program and that our ELL population has access to all the support they need to be successful in our schools. In 2017 he applied for a State Department grant to support the district in starting a Chinese program. The District was awarded a grant for two consecutive years, which allowed us to build and develop a full time Chinese program.
To his extensive portfolio, he adds an adjunct position at New York University, where he teaches a Participatory Action Research (PAR) course at the Educational Leadership, Politics and Advocacy Program and an adjunct position at Montclair State University (MSU), where he has taught several graduate courses in their Master of Arts in Teaching program and Educational Leadership program. Currently, at MSU he teaches a course for Heritage Speakers of Spanish.
Some of his research interests include youth activism, Culturally Competent Pedagogy, and the educational experiences of minority and LGBTQ+ students in K-12 educational settings. His research on the educational experiences of LGBTQ+ students has been published by Peter Lang Publishing.
2022-23 SY Elementary School Social Work Program Offers Counseling Services for Students in Grades K-5
The Elementary School Social Work Program offers counseling services for students at each of South Orange and Maplewood School District's elementary schools from grades K - 5. The program offers individual and small group counseling with a social work intern. Its aim is to remove barriers to success and to provide students with the social/ emotional support necessary for them to get the most out of their school experience.
Areas of Focus can Include:
- Dealing with anxiety
- Managing your feelings (stress, worry, anger, etc.)
- Feeling good about yourself
- Working out friendship problems
- Dealing with the many changes that COVID-19 has brought to schools and homes
- Dealing with peer pressure and bullying
- Dealing with behavioral concerns
- Dealing with loss or family changes
- Crisis intervention
For more information visit: https://bit.ly/3S4KEsQ
Our District Administration has been working with the YMCA and Beyond the Bell to continue to expand aftercare seats for families. Over the past few weeks we have engaged and offered ideas that have led to a significant increase in new staff for our after-care programs and have confirmed that parents are indeed being brought forward from the waitlist. Our work has included aligning ESS (our paraprofessional vendor) with the YMCA to provide additional talented educators to add to their programming. We will continue to have these productive conversations and outside-the-box ideas, with hopes to significantly increase capacity for our families.
2022-23 SY Student Code of Conduct & Restorative Justice Guide
As per Board policy the "Student Code of Conduct & Restorative Justice" information is to be disseminated annually to all school staff, students, and parents. This Code of Conduct & Restorative Justice is presented to assist students, staff, and parents/guardians to understand the expectations for acceptable conduct while in school or attending school-sponsored activities, on school grounds, and while on the way to and from school. All students are expected to follow the Code of Conduct & Restorative Justice. K-12 Principals will review core principles and key components of the Code of Conduct & Restorative Justice with their staff and students (as developmentally appropriate) at the beginning of each school year, and as needed throughout the year. We ask families to do the same with their children. It is the collective responsibility of students, staff, and parents/guardians to ensure that the expectations set forth in this Code of Conduct & Restorative Justice are adhered to.
DISTRICT REMINDER FOR FAMILIES
2022-23 SY Testing Assessment, Report Card, Progress Reports and Elementary Conference Dates
- SOMSD Community CLICK HERE to view/download the 2022-23 SY Testing, Progress Reports, Report Cards and Elementary Conference Dates.
REMINDER: 2022-23 SY Free & Reduced Lunch Applications
For the 2022-23 SY, the USDA meal waiver extension (which provided free meals to all SOMSD students for the 2021-22 SY) will not apply for the upcoming SY. For 2022-23 SY SOMSD will offer students healthy meals daily at a reasonable price:
- Elementary: $3.25
- Middle: $3.50
- High School: $3.75
Families may prepay for student meals through the Meal Pay Plus online payment system.
To Receive Free & Reduced Meal Benefits or the 2022-23 SY eligible families must complete a new free and reduced lunch application online: Free & Reduced Lunch Application
IMPORTANT NOTE: The free & reduced meal lunch application needs to be completed every year if families wish for their child(ren) to be considered for free/reduced lunch. Your status from the previous school year does not carryover from year to year.
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: https://www.somsd.k12.nj.us/headlines/district-news/2019/12/16/sms-text-message-communications-from-the-district/
SOMSD Upcoming Dates/Events
- Wednesday, October 5: Yom Kippur, District Closed
- Thursday, October 6: Board of School Estimate Public Meeting @ 5:30 pm
- Tuesday, October 11: Early Dismissal Schedule for PreK - 12 (Teacher PD)
- Thursday, October 20: Board of Education Monthly Public Session Meeting @ 6:30pm
Out & About Around Town
Additional Information & Resources for the Community
- 2022-23 SY Return to School Guidelines, News, Resources & Updates
- District SMS/Text Messages
- Chromebook 1:1 District Initiative
- SOMSD Mental Health & Counseling Resources
- Student Discipline & Code of Conduct Policy
- SOMSD Intentional Integration Initiative (III) Microsite
- District Withdrawals/OOD Transfers