Board of Education Elections 2019

 S.O.M.S.D. 2019 BOE CANDIDATES REPORT CARD STATEMENT 10/24/2019

The folks who run Soma Justice and PARES are all moms living in South Orange and Maplewood. We volunteer our time working to transform our towns into more equitable, integrated, and supportive communities. The BOE scorecard is just one thing we do in partnership with PARES. For example, in the last few years, SOMA Justice has paid off all lunch debt for local kids throughout the district, demanded police accountability in both towns, organized educational community events around social justice themes, delivered food weekly to neighbors, made education policy proposals focused on reducing trauma to kids at school, and helped form the first community police accountability board in the state of New Jersey.

We believe in social justice and we want elected leaders who are committed to advocating for racial, environmental, gender/sexual, immigrant civil rights, and all other marginalized communities.

For this reason, we create a scorecard to help other busy parents better understand candidates views on the issues that we know and observe firsthand in our community work. We lend our expertise and experience to sorting through the noise. And we are grateful that so many folks trust us based on our work, values, and goals for a better SOMA.

The scorecard requires months of work – we preview questions with our own groups, finalize questions, gather email addresses of candidates, send out a questionnaire, strip answers of key identifiers, and then coding with PhD students in California, format, upload to website, generate a scorecard graphic for accessibility, and post to relevant groups while monitoring posts to answer key questions. It is a lot of labor, but we see it as a service. Folks can see what we value in Board of Education leaders while also sorting through the answers themselves.

Some people chose not to participate in the scorecard and used valuable time to publish excuses instead. We were disappointed, but their lack of participation and communication with us conveyed to us a lack of value for our work and concerns.

This is only the third time we’ve done the scorecard. We have made changes every year as we fine-tune the process and find volunteers willing to read often lengthy responses. We go to elaborate lengths to limit any bias in our scorecard – not because we are required to do so, but because we want to make sure we are giving the answers a close and open-minded read. It is important to us that we try our best to read the answers candidates provide for what they say.  

We hope that community members closely read the answers of the candidates who participated. We appreciate their time and their demonstrated respect for our work in this community.  School district leadership affects all of our children and we sincerely want leaders who care about their needs and making a better SOMA. 

SOMA Justice is also working on School Security and Safety Issues . https://janebleasdale.com/2019/10/28/school-security-and-safety-misguided-vigilance/

PROCESS

SOMA Justice: Addressing Race and Inequality and P.A.R.E.S (Parents in Partnership with Respect and Equity in SOMA School)  provided  questions to each candidate on addressing the issues of inequity and safety in our district (particularly in regards to vulnerable populations, i.e., POC, queer, special needs, immigrant, second-language learners, etc)

Bleasdale Educational Research and Consulting gathered the responses and collated the data. The candidate answers were analyzed by an independent research team ( not connected to SOMSD). The research team ‘graded’ the answers from a lens of equity and inclusion and in alignment with the groups sponsoring the Report  Card Project (P.A.R.E.S and SOMA JUSTICE).

More details regarding the process including the questions and candidates answers, in full, can be read here. SOMSD EQUITY REPORT CARD 2019

CANDIDATES/GradesFINAL GRADE
Chisholm-Greene, Narda*F
Joshua, ThairA
Lawson-Muhammad, StephanieB
Siders ,ErinA
*Smith, Carey
F
Tannenbaum-Kraus,SharonF
Wright, JohannaF

*Smith and Wright did not respond at all to the invitation

** Chisholm-Greene, Tannenbaum-Kraus  did not submit answers 

Chisholm – Greene’s answers from 2018 can be found here

Scale Used

A 90 – 100

B 80 – 89

C70 – 79

D 60- 69

F. Failed to Submit

——————–

FAQ:

Q:  Who were the independent researchers that scored the answers.

A:   Dr. Jane Bleasdale an independent consultant and professor of education worked with two groups of educational researchers to analyze the data. The students attend the University of San Francisco graduate School of Education and have no affiliation to S.O.M.S.D.

Q: How did the researchers know how to ‘score’ the answers?

A:  The researchers completed the project using grounded theory. (Grounded theory involves the collection and analysis of data. The theory is “grounded” in actual data, which means the analysis and development of theories happens after you have collected the data. It was introduced by Glaser & Strauss in 1967 to legitimize qualitative research) Dr Bleasdale, a scholar, academic researcher and practitioner outlined the ideal key words and phrases that align with the values of equity and justice in all of the answers. The team of researchers then coded each narrative and gave it a score based on the frequency of the terms. There were also some points that are non negotiable ( any support for the presence of SRO or additional security shows a candidate doesn’t align with the stated mission of the organizations and would therefor not be considered as an ‘A’ response).

Q: Were the researchers aware of the challenges and issues in the SOMSD district to put the answers into context?

A: The researchers are completely independent and do not know the names, history or context of the SOMSD school district.  The true ‘blind’ nature of their analysis allowed for a robust review of the narrative answers.

Q: How is the grading scale of A, B, C, D used?

A:  The research team reviewed the candidates statements in light of the stated mission of PARES and SOMA: SJ . They compared the coded data with the mission of the two groups and used the following rubric.

 Exceeds (A)Meets(B)Approaches(C)Does Not Meet(D)
Understands issues of race and equality inline with the mission of PARES and SOMA SJDemonstrates a nuanced understanding of the multiple ways SOMSD perpetuates injustice. Shows significant knowledge of ways to create opportunities to challenge injustice, inequality, and oppression.Demonstrates understanding of the multiple ways SOMSD perpetuates injustice. Shows some knowledge of ways to create opportunities to challenge injustice, inequality, and oppression.Demonstrates a limited or superficial understanding of the multiple ways SOMSD perpetuates injustice. Shows limited knowledge of ways  to create opportunities to challenge injustice, inequality, and oppression.Failed to demonstrate an understanding of the way(s) SOMSD perpetuates injustice. Does not challenge injustice, inequality, and oppression. Relies largely on ahistorical or individualistic accounts of social phenomena.

Q:  Who is Dr. Jane Bleasdale who organized this project?

A: Dr. Jane Bleasdale is acting as the liaison to the groups engaged in this process.  She is a Assistant Professor at University of San Francisco as a scholar, academic researcher and practitioner.  Dr. Bleasdale’s research is focused on equity and inclusion in High Schools. She is also the principal of Bleasdale Educational Research and Consultants. For this project, She is also a community member and parent of two students in the district.Dr. Bleasdale is acting as an independent (volunteer) consultant to the group.

 Candidate responses posted below 

CANDIDATE STATEMENTS

Thair Joshua

Directions. 

  • Please submit your answers via this document. 
  • Each answer should not exceed  5 – 7 sentences.
  • Candidates must submit their own answers (not with/for a running mate) 
  • Late submissions will not be reviewed, included or shared with the public 

  1. Do you believe the BOE and school district need to improve their communication and community engagement practices? Do you believe that it is important for the BOE to be responsive in creating policy that addresses community feedback on urgent issues while also accomplishing long-term district goals? Yes or No. Please explain your answer

Answer:

Yes. Improving engagement, information flow and transparency in our district starts with building supports and approaches for more effective two-way communication. The district should prioritize filling the Director of Communications position, which will give us a focused administrative staff member who is charged with establishing a more proactive approach to creating informative and timely communications to students and families. The community also needs to have better and more inclusive ways to provide feedback. The Let’s Talk program had promise, but was ultimately deemed ineffective for a myriad of reasons. Public Speaks is a vital tool that community members have at their disposal to give the District immediate feedback. The reworking of that format is an unfortunate result of the Board attempting to address a real problem; the inefficiency of Board meetings. There are other ways the Board can address this inefficiency while preserving space for community input, such as providing more notice of agenda items and topics, holding more frequent meetings and pre-recording the board recognition and Board President’s statements and running them during executive session (award-show style). I would ask the Board to table the policy until the 2020 reorganization, when new board members can weigh in on the policy and community feedback has been incorporated. 

  1. Do you support the SOMSD 2021 Intentional Integration plan? (Integration Plan) Yes or No. Please explain your answer.  

Answer:

Yes. This plan stands to create the culture and environment across all of our schools that will benefit all of our children. As a Board member, one of my main priorities will be to ensure the board provides Dr. Taylor with the tools and support to ensure a successful rollout of the plan. I have a vested interest in a successful integration as a parent of 2 sons who will be affected by the Plan. As a member of the Parenting Center’s Intentional Integration committee I have first-hand understanding that our district needs a dedicated and thoughtful approach to ensure integration occurs and is not left to chance.

  1. Do you support the Long Range Facilities Plan?  Facilities Plan Yes or No. Please explain your answer

Answer:

Yes. Our facilities have seen better days and are in desperate need of updating. It rained inside of my son’s classroom last year. While it made for a fun story for him to tell, it is proof positive that our buildings are literally falling apart. The trailers we are using for children are unsafe and at the end of their useful lives. In some respects the plan does not go far enough, but I understand the need to keep costs, and taxes, under control. With Mr. Roth’s recent announcement that our interest rate came in significantly lower than expected, there may be some wiggle room to borrow a little more in the near future to address concerns not met in the original bond. 

  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 ? Yes or No. Please explain your answer

Answer:

The Access and Equity (A&E) policy was written to address the achievement gap between black students and white students at CHS and the middle schools. I have not seen any data since October 2017, when Dr. Morgan presented her findings to the Board and community showing there were minor improvements in the numbers of Black students taking higher level classes. On the surface, the benefits on the face of the policy are that students now have some ownership in what classes they can take, something that was previously in the hands of teachers, who may be unconsciously biased against Black and Latinx children. We need more updated information to understand if these changes have become more effective over time and to assess what other measures may be necessary to close the gap .

However, the policy does not go far enough, as we do not know if there are any LGBTQ, ELL and/or students with physical disabilities that are not getting the same access to higher level courses, nor do we know to what extent they  were underrepresented in those classes prior to the introduction of the A&E policy. 

  1. Do you support a vision for a new approach to professional development including a holistic, culturally-informed, comprehensive, systematic and sustained equitable practices? Yes or No Please clarify your answer

Answer:

Yes. It is important to have ongoing, comprehensive anti-racist training for teachers and staff in the classroom in a district where over 30 percent of the students are of color, but 77% of the teachers are white. It does not just end with training, however, as we must hold staff accountable to implementing their training and new practices in the classroom and changing behaviors. It is unfortunate that only certificated staff are required to receive anti-racist professional development training, as non-certificated staff such as lunch aides, paraprofessionals and custodial staff have frequent interaction with our students. I was encouraged by Dr. Taylor’s acknoledgement of this issue when I posed the question to him at the recent Elementary School Town Hall, and I look forward to hearing how he plans to address this going forward. 

  1. Have you had any training or professional development on addressing racism and inequality in education ? Yes or No Please clarify your answer.  

Answer:

While I have not had anti-bias training or professional development in the academic setting, I have had such training on racism, sexism and homophobia as part of my professional life as a financial services executive. Although the settings are different, I believe that many of the concepts are transferrable to the needs of students in our district. 

  1. Do you support the placement of any of the following in SOMSD schools: School Resource Officers, Armed Police Officers or Armed Correctional officers. Yes or No Please clarify your answer.

Answer:

We appreciate the quick response times of emergency personnel when there is a situation in our schools that requires their involvement. However, I believe the constant presence of armed officers in schools does not contribute to a safe learning environment. Officers are by nature reactive, not proactive in their approach to issues. We need more social workers and guidance counselors in schools, in lieu of police and/or resource officers to address the root causes of issues children have in school. A commitment to Student safety mandates that we protect students’ emotional, mental and physical health and school resource officers are not the bedrock of that commitment.

  1. Will you commit to creating policy that makes lockdown and red code drills safer and less traumatizing for children in our district, such as the recommendations community members have made to policy 8420? 

Answer:

Yes. One community member, Jennifer Serravallo, made the simplest and most compelling suggestion for training children and adults on drills – using video, similar to the safety instructions provided when flying commercial airlines. When I sat in the Board meeting during Jennifer’s public speaks comments, I was already aware that the code red drills were a problem, but her proposed solution is easy to implement and decreases the stress on children.

  1. Are you open to the creation of a small, special/private fund that will ensure that all students get access to the same lunch and forgiveness for small fees that hamper the receipt of a high school diploma? Yes or No Please clarify your answer

Answer:

Yes, because no child should spend the day at school hungry, and if a child can’t afford lunch for a day, lunch should still be provided. However, I would look to the district first to cover these costs to ensure students are fed while in our buildings. If there is still a shortfall after the district’s fund is depleted, then look to raise money privately amongst other SOMSD parents and the broader South Orange-Maplewood community. 

  1. What are your two top priorities, if elected?

Answer:

My top two priorities are to support Dr. Taylor as he builds a team to shepherd the facilities and integration plan, and to help facilitate policies that increase open and effective communication between the district and the public. 

Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad Response

10/7/2019

  1. Do you believe the BOE and school district need to improve their communication  and community engagement practices ? Do you believe that it is important for the BOE to be responsive in creating policy that addresses community feedback on urgent issues while also accomplishing long-term district goals? Yes or No. Please explain your answer

Yes. I’ve been on the board for six years and I have heard loud and clear the feedback from the community regarding communication. While we have made attempts at improving communication, the change has been too slow. The project to redesign the district website, for example, took much longer than I expected. But the new website has made information much more accessible to our families and has made it easier for site owners to keep our content up to date. With regards to addressing community feedback, the answer is also yes. We must prioritize balancing action on immediate concerns with our long-term goals. It’s not an either-or situation.

  1. Do you support the SOMSD 2021 Intentional Integration plan? (Integration Plan) Yes or No. Please explain your answer.  

Yes. I have been committed to a fully integrated school system for many years.  When I joined the Board in 2014, it was clear that the plan to integrate Seth Boyden had failed. There were not enough families opting into the school to create the expected demographic shift.  For years that community has been told to wait. Now – finally – we have district level commitment to provide long term solutions to ensure that every school in the district is a reflection of the district, both in terms of racial and socio-economic diversity. Districts around the state will be watching as we work to rectify an issue in our district that plagues all of New Jersey. If we can get it right here in SOMSD, we have an opportunity to help correct the imbalance at state level. I want the community to know that this initiative is not just about moving people around the district. It’s about creating a climate and culture in this district that makes every student feel as though they belong, and that fosters every student’s long term success.

  1. Do you support the Long Range Facilities  Plan ?  Facilities Plan Yes or No. Please explain your answer

Yes. This is a long overdue investment in our infrastructure. 

  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 ? Yes or No. Please explain your answer

No. It doesn’t go far enough, but it was an important first step, because it erased barriers to higher level classes for all students. It also paved the way for a major reduction in levels in math and science last year. My highest priority currently is the climate and culture of our buildings, beginning with the intense, focused training happening at the secondary level this year. In addition, I am encouraged by the work undertaken by Dr. Morana and her team to overhaul our special needs program in the last year and a half. I am also proud of our recent partnership with Hetrick-Martin Institute, which began at a Board retreat with a training session on the marginalization of the LGBTQ community.   These are all important steps to improve the experience of vulnerable populations in our district and drive toward equity.

  1. Do you support a vision for a new approach to professional development including a holistic, culturally-informed, comprehensive, systematic and sustained equitable practices? Yes or No Please clarify your answer

Yes. I think a culturally-informed staff is critical to the success of our students. I think a diverse staff is even more important, and I applaud Dr. Carrick for her efforts in that direction and continue to advocate that we do more to recruit and retain a racially diverse staff that more closely reflects the diversity of our student body.

  1. Have you had any training or professional development on addressing racism and inequality in education ? Yes or No Please clarify your answer. 

Yes. I attended multiple cultural competency workshops by Dr. Khyati Joshi in the district. I have also attended workshops run by NJ School Boards and Building One America. I have received training in Restorative Justice. Most recently I participated in a session focused on Creating Safer and Inclusive Environments by Hetrick-Martin Institute.

  1.  Do you support the placement of any of the following in SOMSD schools: School Resource Officers, Armed Police Officers or Armed Correctional officers. Yes or No Please clarify your answer.

Absolutely not. In 2015, after two firearms incidents, our towns were considering providing funding for SROs. I invited Sara Wakefield of Rutgers School of Criminal Justice to speak at a Board meeting at that time to provide a professional alternative view. There is no formal place for armed police officers or former prison guards in our schools. We must improve our efforts to transform the culture and climate in our district, particularly in the middle and high schools. Restorative justice is a critical first step, along with the updates to our code of conduct. We need to make our schools safe places for everyone, not criminalize our children.

  1. Will you commit to creating policy that makes lockdown and red code drills safer and less traumatizing for children in our district, such as the recommendations community members have made to policy 8420 ? 

This policy is currently under review by administration and our legal team. I will absolutely support recommendations in line with the goal of making these drills less traumatizing for our students. As I pointed out at a recent Board meeting, many of the recommended changes do not require policy changes and instead are a function of regulation. I suggested that administration look to reduce the traumatic impact of these drills immediately, without waiting for the completion of the policy review. 

  1. Are you open to the creation of a small, special/private fund that will ensure that all students get access to the same lunch and forgiveness for small fees that hamper the receipt of a high school diploma?Yes or No Please clarify your answer

Yes. No student should go hungry or be refused a diploma because of financial hardship. This is one way to increase equity and a sense of belonging for families that may be facing financial challenges. We should also consider a universal fund for other special activities and field trips across the district. The PTAs and HSAs already do some of this, but not all PTAs and HSAs are equally well funded.

  1. What are your two top priorities  if elected ?

The successful planning and implementation of SOMSD 2021: Intentional Integration and Innovation.

The stabilization of district leadership. I believe Dr. Taylor was the right choice for our district. I look forward to a stable leadership team across the district, once there are permanent hires in all key administration positions.

If you are an incumbent please list and describe the ways you have supported equity and inclusion for ALL students in your role as a BOE member. 

  • Core Policy Work
    • Policy #5755.1 Access and Equity that addressed both the intent and spirit of this OCR complaint: “All elementary, middle school, and high school parents/guardians and children in the South Orange-Maplewood School District shall have access to, and the ability to choose between current and future educational programs in all academic subjects, and at all academic levels”(Adoption October 19, 2015)
      • Much flowed from this policy
    • Policy # 2314 Academic Placement “The primary purpose of academic placement recommendations is to provide meaningful, non-binding guidance to ensure that all students receive an academic program that will encourage and guide success and ensure college readiness…The Board encourages students to challenge themselves by pursuing courses with the highest academic rigor that will prepare them for success in college or the workforce. The Board shall also make every effort to ensure that enrollment in classes at advanced levels proportionately reflects the demographic profile of the individual school consistent with governing law and the Board’s commitment to equal opportunity for all students.” (Adoption December 21, 2015)
    • Chaired P&M during period in which CEP was being updated – genesis of shift from perception to reality of the state of our district which lead to action around restorative justice and code of conduct
  • Support and Review of the Curriculum Changes:
    • Amistad Implementation for 6-8 and now K-5.
    • Rationalization of Math Levels from Algebra – Calculus
    • Elimination of 8th Grade Accelerated English
  • Changes to Climate and Culture
    • Cultural Competency Training and exerting pressure when pacing was too slow
    • Code of Conduct revision
    • Restorative Justice implementation
    • Opposition to 2015 push for SROs in response to gun incidents at MMS and CHS.  Invited Sara Wakefield to speak at Board meeting to provide a counter view.
  • Transparency
    • I directly supported NAACP Review meetings re: the impact and results of Access and Equity.  Advocating for full transparency and participation in sessions to share and collaborate around next steps
    • Supported comprehensive review of district during QSAC preparation that lead to standardizing lesson plan format to include actual strategies to support Gifted and Talented, ESL, and Special Ed
  • External Liaison 
    • SEPAC and Special Education PTO 2014
    • Community Coalition on Race 2014 – 2019
  • Funding Equity 
    • Support of additional funding for Seth Boyden (Various Years – Annual Budget)
    • approved funding of special education teachers at the high school to move from a consultative approach of services to an inclusion approach
    • Approved funding for guidance counselor to work on bridging the gap between the students struggling and the support lab services
    • Approved funding for 2 math coaches at middle schools
    • Approved funding for extra stem teachers at the high school to reduce class size
    • Supported board decision to address overcrowding solutions not just as a bubble with temporary fixes with the Long RangeFacilities Plan
  • Vision and Collaboration
    • Support of Ramos Strategy Plan Activity – which established a common language across our community to reflect what we believe and want for this district
      • Many things that were recommended as part of this Strategic plan have actually been implemented and are making a difference – we don’t do enough to highlight this and ensure the public is aware of the changes and the progress
  • Actively engaged in hiring of a superintendent that has comprehensive experience in the needs of our district:
    • long range facilities
    • elementary school reconfiguration
    • supporting and mentoring a great team.

Erin SIders

Directions. 

  • Please submit your answers via this document. 
  • Each answer should not exceed 5 – 7 sentences.
  • Candidates must submit their own answers (not with/for a running mate) 
  • Late submissions will not be reviewed, included or shared with the public 

  1. Do you believe the BOE and school district need to improve their communication and community engagement practices? Do you believe that it is important for the BOE to be responsive in creating policy that addresses community feedback on urgent issues while also accomplishing long-term district goals? Yes or No. Please explain your answer

Historically, the district has struggled in communicating with the community.  Communication has been unclear, inaccurate, late, confusing or absent. The district needs a communication policy that details the need to provide clear, concise, timely information to the community. Individual schools and the district has a whole must do better at creating pathways for student and parent input. People need to know that they are being heard and that the district is responsive. For urgent/emergency communications, there should be a timeframe for when the communication is to be disseminated to the community.  Ideally, the district would hire a media and communication specialist who would be responsible for this work.

  1. Do you support the SOMSD 2021 Intentional Integration plan? (Integration Plan) Yes or No. Please explain your answer.  Each school should reflect our whole community.  Research shows that ALL students learn best in environments that are socio-economic/racially-integrated.  That test scores are improved, students learn awareness and knowledge from students who are not like them, and it prepares students for post-secondary life in a global society. Integration will also help dismantle barriers to opportunity by providing equal access to private resources for schools. The Integration plan should also prioritize ongoing anti-bias and cultural competency training for all staff in the district.
  2. Do you support the Long-Range Facilities Plan?  Facilities Plan Yes or No. Please explain your answer.  Our district facilities have been neglected for decades and are in dire need of repair – from the buildings, to the portable classrooms, to the athletic fields. Some of our school buildings still have asbestos and, in the past, high levels of lead were found in some school water fountains. The need for a comprehensive overhaul of district facilities is clear. Our students/teachers/administrators deserve schools that are safe, clean, and modern. 
  3. 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? Yes or No. Please explain your answer.  We have removed the guardrails to higher level achievement – specifically at CHS – but what have we done to ensure specific student populations are engaged and represented?  I would like to see more family engagement, identification of students and encouragement to take more challenging courses, proactive support for struggling students and a yearly district assessment of student achievement that is not based on standardized test scores. The district needs to provide more outreach to ensure students are encouraged, feel safe, supported and welcomed in challenging classes.  
  4. Do you support a vision for a new approach to professional development including a holistic, culturally-informed, comprehensive, systematic and sustained equitable practices? Yes or No Please clarify your answer.  Of course, in a diverse district like ours, we need to make sure teachers/staff/administrators have access to the most current educational philosophies via professional development.  The professional development offered needs to be culturally competent, reflect our student population and support the whole child. We also need to ensure that teachers/staff/administrators implement what they have learned through training in the classroom. 
  5. Have you had any training or professional development on addressing racism and inequality in education? Yes or No Please clarify your answer.  I am self-educated in the delivery of special education in our district and code of conduct inequities, specifically as it relates to race and special needs classification.
  6.  Do you support the placement of any of the following in SOMSD schools: School Resource Officers, Armed Police Officers or Armed Correctional officers? Yes or No Please clarify your answer. Absolutely not!  Law enforcement does not belong in our schools; they not correctional facilities.  I don’t believe in armed personnel being in close contact with our school-attending children on a daily basis. Dealing with schoolchildren is different from dealing with adults in the criminal justice system and we should never conflate the two!  Schools should be a haven of freedom, creativity and learning – where children have right to express themselves. That environment can be stifled by the “law and order” presence of law enforcement officers.
  7. Will you commit to creating policy that makes lockdown and red code drills safer and less traumatizing for children in our district, such as the recommendations community members have made to policy 8420?  Yes.  Everyone who enters a district building deserves to feel safe and know that procedures are in place to handle security in emergency and crisis situations. The NJ DOE Security Act states that the school districts must provide school safety exercises on an ongoing basis.  But the law provides several options for conducting security exercises that are less traumatizing than active shooter drills. I believe that children do not need to be “trained experts” in school safety methodologies and should look to the adults in the building for guidance when emergency situations arise.
  8. Are you open to the creation of a small, special/private fund that will ensure that all students get access to the same lunch and forgiveness for small fees that hamper the receipt of a high school diploma? Yes or No Please clarify your answer.  I am going through this right now with my son, a CHS senior. His Spanish book was stolen two years ago, and the replacement cost is $80. Luckily, I was able to find a used book for a fraction of the cost, but not all SOMA families know or have my resources. We (the adults) should do all in our power to support ALL students and not penalize them for their socio-economic status. No child should go hungry, be shamed, or denied services due to their families’ inability to pay a fee. Fee paying rules are established and enforced by ADULTS and the lack of adherence is not the responsibility of children. 
  9. What are your two top priorities if elected?  Priority #1 – support and implement the Intentional Integration and Long-Range Facilities Plans.  We can re-make our schools into environments that reflects our community. We, as a community, have committed to this vision and the BOE and administration needs to make sure it comes to fruition.  Priority 2 – Ensure district policies remain in compliance with state and federal laws. Past district administrations did not maintain district policies and as a result, policies were outdated and in need of revision. Under Dr. Ficarra’s leadership, district policies were created, updated and improved.  The BOE and administration needs to continue the management, oversight and administration of district policies.

If you are an incumbent, please list and describe the ways you have supported equity and inclusion for ALL students in your role as a BOE member. 

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