Letter to the candidates:
I am writing on behalf of the local grassroots group “SOMA JUSTICE”, in collaboration with Parents in Partnership for Respect and Equity (P.A.R.E.S).
Last year we began this process of gathering written responses to questions focused on equity and inclusion. Identifiers were removed from the candidates responses and read and scored by local volunteers. Those candidates that gave answers most aligned with our mission were identified as ‘high scorers’ on race and equity. The feedback was disseminated in the form of a report card. The report card was shared via social media and local news outlets as a tool to assist the local community in the decision making process.
We appreciate the numerous panels and public events being offered for the public to glean an understanding of your platform; however not all of our members are able to attend such events. Ultimately we are aiming to evaluate how candidates plan to address race and inequality most effectively in our district.
We are asking for your written response to questions shared in the attached document. In addition to a yes or no answer, we are giving you the opportunity to share your thoughts, ideas, and experiences. Once we have collected responses, they will be anonymously reviewed and evaluated by educational researchers not affiliated with the South Orange/Maplewood community. We will share results in an easily accessible report card. To review the report card from last year and understand the process please click here
I, Dr. Jane Bleasdale, am acting as the liaison to the groups engaged in this process. As an engaged scholar, academic researcher and practitioner, I am professionally immersed in the work of equity and inclusion and am acting as an independent (volunteer) consultant to the group. I am also a community member and parent of two students in the district. I see your work as fundamental to the success of all of our kids and thank you for being willing to serve.
Please find the questions attached, please take time to read and respond and email your repose to me by October 12.
If you have any questions about the process, or the work we are engaged in, please do not hesitate to contact me directly. Thank you for being willing to participate in the important process as a candidate of the Board of Education of South Orange Maplewood School District (SOMA).
If you have any questions or would like further information please contact me directly,
Best wishes and THANK YOU again for being willing to serve !
Jane E.Bleasdale PhD
Questions for BOE candidates from the social justice group: Addressing Race and Inequality in SOMA .Please submit typed answers on this document before October 12 !
1. Do you believe the district’s access and equity policy introduced in 2016 goes far enough in addressing the issues of inequity in our district (particularly in regards to vulnerable populations, i.e., POC, queer, special needs, immigrant, second-language learners, etc)?What are the benefits of the plan ? What are the highest priority areas still needing improvement ?
2.What are your thoughts and/or plans to move SOMSD forward in dismantling the segregation and racial achievement gap that exist in our schools ? ( i.e. teacher education, policy review etc)
3. Do you think that SOMSD should take steps to address the racially disproportionate discipline of students in regards to suspensions and expulsions, and the disproportionate number of students of color placed in special education? If yes, please explain how.
4.What are the most important safety and security issues facing the district ?How do you believe SOMSD schools can be a safe environment for ALL students ?Do you support the placement of School Resource Officers in SOMSD schools?
5. Do you support the redistricting component of the capital improvement plan ? What do you see as the potential strengths and weaknesses of the plan ?
Please note there is a clarification for question 5.
Do you support the redistricting component of the capital improvement plan ? What do you see as the potential strengths and weaknesses of the plan ?
The Superintendent referred to this part of the plan as reconfiguration not redistricting.
Do you support the reconfiguration component of the capital improvement plan approved by the BOE ? What do you see as the potential strengths and weakness of the capital improvement plan ?
Information on the plan can be found here SOMSD CAPITAL PLAN
If you are an incumbent please explain how you have worked to address racism and inequality in SOMSD during your previous tenure.