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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. 

New Book : Social Conscience and Responsibility: Teaching the Common Good in Secondary Education .

https://www.linkedin.com/posts/janebleasdale_ethics-commongood-secondaryeducation-activity-6601950918168715264-HKHn

Excited to share the news about our textbook project Social Conscience and Responsibility: Teaching the Common Good in Secondary Education .Grateful to my co editor Julie Sullivan. so proud of all the University of San Francisco School of Education (Official) students and alum who contributed.
https://rowman.com/Action/SERIES/_/RL055/Teaching-Ethics
Hardcover – Available for pre order . To be released February 28, 2020
by Jane E. Bleasdale (Editor), Julie A. Sullivan (Editor)https://www.amazon.com/s?i=stripbooks&rh=p_27%3AJane+E.+Bleasdale&s=relevancerank&text=Jane+E.+Bleasdale&ref=dp_byline_sr_book_1

School Security and Safety. Misguided Vigilance

With the increased fear of school shootings we have seen an increase in school safety drills. There is a lot of debate about the need for and effectiveness of such drills . However, we do know that learning and development is being disrupted on an almost daily basis by them ….

Here is a recent statement from Dr. Khadijah Costly White who represents SOMA Justice and is leading a working group reviewing School Security and Safety.( Published with Dr.White’s permission)

Dear Members of the Board and Superintendent Taylor, I’m writing in regards to the recent proposed school security policy on the agenda for this evening, October 27, 2019. I very much appreciate the small changes you did make, signaling your willingness to include social workers, accommodate kids with special needs and trauma from drills, and making sure they aren’t left in hallways. But I am sincerely disappointed with the very significant changes you did NOT make in this policy. In particular, this new policy suggests you: plan to do MORE drills than required, involve police MORE often than necessary, Will give no limits on how long the drills will be, refuse to give parents reasonable notice regarding drills, will not replace will not replace physical reenactment drills with effective and time-saving tabletop drills, and fail to substantively engage social workers in these drills or developing policy in meaningful ways. To be very, very clear — even if these are not your intentions, the policy implies otherwise. We are asking for very clear language that prevents these possibilities from happening at the school level. Not just regulations (which Dr. Shea has refused to make transparent), but actual policy. On Item 1: If you don’t plan on doing more drills than required, then why change the language to “at least” instead of “no more than”? On Item 2: Obviously, police need to be involved in real emergencies — but this policy is about drills, not real emergencies. Police can practice after school hours or with staff. Given the fact that the highest cause of death for young black men in this country is by police officer, and the events of July 2016, I think you understand how even that forced interaction can be traumatizing. On Item 4: Advanced notice is NOT banned by state regulations — and the state actually encourages good communication around drills. Even in Parkland School District where an actual highly publicized school shooting has taken place, parents are informed about drills in advance, concurrently, and afterwards. It’s common sense that when you don’t want to scare people, you provide them with information. Moreover, there is no good reason why providing this information should be avoided except for lack of transparency. There is absolutely no evidence showing that unannounced drills make students more prepared for either a drill or a real emergency. This is a small change that can go a long way. On item 6: We have already learned firsthand that while a social worker might be in the room getting updated on security measures, their voices are NOT typically included in security measures. In 2018, Boardmember Adamson told me that a licensed social worker would have to sign off on any drill policy moved forward to make sure that it is developmentally appropriate — that, of course, is not built into this policy and is not being done at the district level. But we thought her idea a brilliant one and were hoping it would be included. Additionally, we feel it is dishonest to suggest that social workers who know our kids and our district are substantively engaged in developing and approving practices that are literally traumatizing our children when they are not. We are not arguing that this policy is out of compliance; 20 prison guards could be placed at each school if we were just aiming for compliance. Rather, we are arguing that this policy goes against research and evidence that exists about drills and the harm they cause. We ask, again, that you revise this policy so that it supports strong, progressive, and evidence-based security policy. We don’t need to continue this unproven and unnecessary harm to children in lockdown and security drills. We need the Board’s guidance, your input, and your contributions to this policy. You are parents, too. I understand you want to listen to law enforcement. But please, please listen to our kids. Listen to the experts involved in this proposal. Listen to the research. Listen to evidence. Please, take this seriously and revise. And if you won’t do these things, please let us know why. We very much appreciate this opportunity to engage with you on this matter.

BOE- SOMSD REPORT CARD

 

 

 

BOE CANDIDATES SCORECARD

 

SOMA Justice: Addressing Race and Inequality and P.A.R.E.S (Parents in Partnership with Respect and Equity in SOMA School)  provided 5 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 ‘Score 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. Report Card

Report card prepared by Kathy Greenstone

 

Questions focused on :

  1. The SOMSD access and equity policy
  2. Segregation and racial achievement gap
  3. Disproportionality in the areas of discipline and special education
  4. Safety and Security
  5. Redistricting component of the capital improvement plan

 

CANDIDATES/Grades FINAL GRADE
Chisholm-Greene, Narda* NA
Cutler, Marian C
Cuttle, Shannon A
Farfan, Javier A
Laskowsky, Michael* NA
Navarro, Bruno B
Maini, AnneMarie A
Trzaska, Christopher** NA

 

*Greene and Laskowsky submitted their answers after the deadline so they were not included in the scorecard.  Their answers, however are included on the link.

** Trzaska did not submit answers ( updated Trzaska submitted answers on 10/21/18 after documents were shared for publication)

 

Scale Used

A 90 – 100

B 80 – 89

C70 – 79

D 60- 69

 

——————–

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 research students 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 five 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: Last year, the questions started with yes and no questions.  This year there were qualitative questions asking about the strengths and areas of improvement needed.  What was different this year with scoring?

A: While last year’s questions had yes and no questions, the reality is that people wrote extensive qualitative answers.  The coding was revised this year to allow for analysis of key words and phrases associated with equity and justice.

 

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 SJ Demonstrates 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, Dr. Bleasdale is acting as an independent (volunteer) consultant to the group. She is also a community member and parent of two students in the district.

 

 

Candidates statements can be read HERE 

The description of the process can be read HERE

 

SOMSD BOE ELECTIONS -REPORT CARD PROJECT 2018

Letter to the candidates:
October 3,,2018
Dear Candidate,

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

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.

ReZoning Public Schools: A neighbors guide to (civil) discourse

This is a preliminary attempt at a parent/neighbors guide to positively supporting the rezoning of SOMSD – how to talk to those who are reluctant to change.
I welcome your feedback !
June 17, 2018

Dear Allies and Concerned Community Members,

I am a parent, and educator and an educational researcher . I have followed the district’s struggles with inequity since 2013. And I truly believe that the rezoning proposed is a significant step in the right direction – moving forward to desegregate our schools is long overdue.

So here are some talking points – for those of you who are allies and want to know where to begin, how to share the ideas with neighbors and friends in positive ways. Hope it helps !

Q: Why is SOMSD rezoning ?
A: In a NUTSHELL to address the inequalities in our schools – mostly the racial inequities.

Q: Why is rezoning essential for racial equity ?
A: Because of the income inequalities in our hyper racialized society not everyone can afford to live in certain areas of our town. Housing inequity goes all the way back to the slavery, home ownership was something white folks have passed down from generation to generation – POC, specifically those of African descent have not had the same benefits.
Federal and state laws have been passed to balance these inequities but they will take decades to impact the inequities.This is called the Fair Housing Act for more information follow this link FHA

Q: Why do we need to desegregate the schools ?
A: All students regardless of their socio economic background deserve a fair and equal education – that is the basis of Public education. Socio economics are impacted by race and so when white and privileged students often receive more resources in their schools. Because students of color, specifically Black and Latinx students, recent immigrants and those who are English Language Learners deserve the same educational experience as others.

Q: But how will this impact my (white) kids?
A: Look your kids already have a gazillion benefits – this will, as it happens , have a positive impact on them. BTW have you ever thought about white privilege and the seen and unseen ways you and your kids benefit from it ?To learn more about White Privilege read this article – which was one of the first on the topic ‘Unpacking the Invisible KnapSack’. By Peggy McIntosh Peggy McIntosh

Q: Do you really believe that ? We had a Black President, we live in a post racial society!
A: No we don’t.
For an overview of racism and white privilege here is a 101 article Racism and White Privilege

Q: OK so racism exists but can I really solve it ?
A: The only way racism will end is if we all work to end it ….
Racism exists everywhere, it is in the air we breathe. Beverly Daniel-Tatum – renowned author, educator and national expert (spoke at the Coalition on Race twice) describes the work against this as travelling up a down escalator. For more information and some excellent reads go to Dr.Daniel Tatum’s website. Dr.Daniel-Tatum

Q: I did not know the purpose of public education is not so that our kids can do better than others. The common good, that sounds like some liberal BS –
A: The purpose of education is the ‘common good’ – when we are not supporting the common good and only meeting the needs of certain students we are violating the very purpose of public schools. NC Board of Education has embraced this ideal – linked here NCBOE

Q: But how do I benefit from the common good ?
A:This article from 1983 explains the benefits for the US market ( may appeal to the pro capitalists) PublicSchoolandthecommongood

Q: I just think this is some socialist BS – I have worked hard to get where I am ….
A:You’re probably not a fan of Huffpost, but let me tell you about an article I read that explains it really well. This Huff Post Article offers a really good summary of common good HUFFPOST
Also noone worked harder than those who were enslaved and built the very infrastructure of this country – and that’s the basis of the inequity….This article explains the evolution of education and the ‘gross inequalities ‘ in a really succinct way. Lots of links articles cited edweekarticle

Q: Maybe I Will just send my kids to private school!
A: That’s your choice but the value of good public education is something we all benefit from …Purpose Of publiced

Q: I don’t believe what I do really impacts all of this
A: Well it does, and so does the ideas and decisions of your neighbours , family and friends. Our system is not working, some schools have more resources US history shows that desegregation and integration is essential LOC

Q: But it isn’t an issue at my kids school …
A: But it is, it just isn’t an issue for your kid – yet. We have not achieved integration. School segregation is not a myth – and we suffer as a result of it.Integration. Do you really want your kid to be successful at the expense of other kids ?
As desegregation happened in the cities – it was once again done on the’ back of ‘ POC. That is white students were not bussed to ‘black schools’ but black students were bussed to white schools, which were hostile and unwelcoming places. When this was ruled unconstitutional white folks began what we call ‘white flight’ they fled to the suburbs ….Desegregation

Q: This is why we moved here – for the good schools
A: Me too – but I want good schools for everyone, not just my kids !
This NY times articles focus on why desegregation should be on the top of the agenda for public school reform School Reform

Q: I just don’t see how this will benefit my kid
A: It will trust me ( it always does)‘How desegregation changed us’ is an article from Teachers College about desegregation positively impacts everyon TV article

Q: I don’t want my kids test scores to go down…
A: They won’t – most of the standardised tests are culturally biased and so white kids will always do better in them anyway ..but the achievement gp won’t affect your kid. And integration will benefit everyone.The achievement gap more appropriate called the opportunity gap exists in society and in our school district. This article explains the achievement gap and societies lack of concern around it ( by society read white folks) Achievement Gap

Q: I’ve heard about that ,I just assumed it was because kids didn’t have you know, two parents, a stable home life.
A: We can get into that topic another day = that’s a myth that is ut out there look at these statistics…we all suffer if we keep things the same way.National Center for Statistics – all the date you need on this topic NCES The Racial Achievement Gap – and its impact on the US Atlantic

Q: What causes the achievement gap ?
A:It’s not always the socio economic, or the parental homelife – there are many reasons why it exists …..and the solutions include integrated schools and shared resources National Education Association

Q: But we have the best teachers in the district …
A: Says who ? according to what ? Define best ? Listen to what the teachers are saying …Causes of and solutions to the achievement gap National Study of teachers Solutions

Q:teachers are humans too we can’t expect them to solve all the worlds issues
A: No we can’t but we can work with them to provide better opportunities for all of our kids, do you know the HUGE impact teachers have on student success ?ANother issue that impacts student success is teacher bias, The Harvard Implicit Bias research is well documented – and the impact this has on education is explained here Implicit Bias

Q: But what about my kids getting ahead in the world – won’t their chances be negatively impacted by this . after all we bought a house on _____ street so they could go to ________ school.
A: Just because you bought your house there does not mean you have the right to the local school ….that is not written into our laws as a town, state or nation. What is written is that everyone has the right to a free and equal education and that just is not happening right now in SOMSD. This is what zoning means, this is why we need to do it ,
Overview of zoning practices explained here Zoning

Q: I chose the school …
A: then you chose a racist segregated community – and we need to move past it School boundaries cause segregation Boundaries

Q: But my kids …
A: Look you probably dislike NPR as well but humor me, your kids will be fine…NPR story on how segregation benefits whites and harms POC NPR

Q: It seems’ like an impossible undertaking ….
A: Other districts have done this and we need to as well ……Desegregated By Intent

IN CONCLUSION …. here is the article you were probably hoping for when you came to this page,,,If so if you are still reading …benefits or HERE or HERE

Looking forward to doing this work with you !

Unfortunately the hyper links do not work here so please click on this LINK

Jane E.Bleasdale PhD
http://www.janebleasdale.com
email:bleasdale.erc@gmail.com

J² CAMBODIA 2018

 

This Spring I am traveling to Cambodia with a team from the University of San Francisco-School of Education. I am taking my son Justin ( hence J²)

Follow us here for daily updates

Twitter: @janeyb70
.Saturday/Sunday/Monday TRAVEL

We flew to Tokyo/Japan from San Francisco.The flight took fourteen hours. Then we flew to Bangkok/Thailand which took 6 hours. Then we stayed at the hotel called the Centerra which was a very fancy hotel. There was fifty five floors in the whole entire Hotel. They had a pool and a bar on the roof. We went to a restaurant inside of the mall right next to the hotel that had some really interesting food. One of the unique foods were ox tongues. Thailand people are really friendly they bow and smile when they greet you and to say thank you – or you are welcome. We asked how to say thank you Krub Khun Ka. For breakfast I had an omelette on fried rice for lunch ( I slept through breakfast)
When we walked through the city I noticed there is alot if ‘unity’ in Bangkok – unlike America every sign has the information in at least 5 languages, Thai, Japanese, CHinese , English and Spanish. A Lot of people speak English – because the country was ruled by England as a colony.
We stayed at the hotel for two nights and then had a really early flight to CAMBODIA

Then we took a flight to Cambodia/Siem Reap. We went to a hotel called Lotus Blanc. They had a pool and when we walked outside the first thing I saw was a man Knocking off coconuts on the trees.

Tuesday
Then we took a flight to Cambodia/Siem Reap. We are staying at a hotel called Lotus Blanc. They have a pool and when we walked outside the first thing I saw was a man Knocking off coconuts from the trees – when we arrived at the hotel they served us with Lemongrass tea – in glasses ( not teacups). Everyone at the hotel is Khmer – that means they are Cambodian. THey ALL speak English, some not very well but they want to speak to us all the time to ractive their English.

Cambodia was a French colony – so the hotel is in a French colonial style – when we went to the pool we saw people from all over the world. Italy, Germany, Spain, China, Japan. Lots of people work here doing menial ( jobs that are not paid well and now what I would want to do )A Lot of the hotels are decorative and rich – but where people live is very different. A Lot of Cambodians are very poor – there are some wealthy Cambodians but they do not share their wealth.
The main transportation here is Tuck tuck, and motor bikes. THe traffic is CRAZY people cut each other off, drive really close to each other .A Tuck Tuck is a carriage being pulled by a motorbike. Sitting in the tuk tuk we can almost touch the people driving by on motorbikes .

The climate

The weather here is topic and hot it is monsoon season so it has rained every day- at the hotel there are several ponds with fish in them – there is a HUGE fish that looks like a ….It is humid but different from New Jersey –

The city of Siem Reap

Siem Reap is really busy, there are lots of street markets, sidewalk stores, it is not what I expected. The roads are concrete – not a lot of dirt roads. There are alot of American companies – Starbucks, McDOnald’s, Burger King, Pepsi and Coke is everywhere. They also have lot of things you won’t find in many places – like the fruit. Dragon fruit and coconuts are being sold at the side of the street.
The food stores and street vendors have food just ganingin the oen – ducks, snakes,
On the menu last night there was stuffed frog – I just had beef !

The buildings almost all have flat roofs and they are very low – this is because of the rains, during the monsoon season it can rain for three months.

Sunday May 27 – update
So, blogging takes more than we realized – we have been so busy we have not had the energy to write in the evening and not having cellular service (we chose to go low tech) means the hotel room is our only internet. Anyway, enough excuses.

We did two school visits the main purpose of our time in Cambodia – we went to Xavier Jesuit School – the Jesuits have started this school in an area left devastated by the killing field. The school is so unique in so many ways and there is a lot we can learn from them…. As a community based project the local community is welcome at the school day and night, children play on the grounds, adults can come to the language classes in the evenings ad earn alongside their kids, when the site is finished there will be space for 12o students to live on campus.
Supported by International volunteers the school is staffed mainly Cambodians – Khmer folks who live locally – as well as teaching all day they are learning English – because the school is dual immersion.

Justin visited the school with us and sent hours playing football with the other kids, speaking and learning some Khmer and engaging the eager hosts with their English. Kids as young as 5 were able to say hi and introduce themselves to us.

At this Jesuit school, there are no lockers or locked spaces —- there is a true sense of community. Justin noticed right away that students were happy – that they could leave their belongings anywhere and that kids of all ages were playing together.

The auditorium doubles as a gym, community meeting space and performing arts space. There is an art room and a music room – the only school in the province (State) that has fine and performing arts! In the afternoons, the 8th grade work on their project – a garden for vegetables and fruit. It was great to see kids joyfully tilling the land, working as a team and enjoying the environment.

It was an introduction for the partnership we hope to build between USF and the schools here – we have much to learn!
Xavier Jesuit School Cambodia

BOE CANDIDATES – SOMSD 2017

BOEHighScorersThe Board of Education for the South Orange Maplewood School District has 8 candidates vying for 3 positions. We recently consulted on a process to evaluate participants commitment to equity and racial inequality. Here are the details:

SOMA Justice: Addressing Race and Inequality provided 9 questions to each candidate on 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)

Representatives of  P.A.R.E.S.  and SOMA Justice were asked to ‘grade’ the answers

based on the group’s values and expectations for BOE representatives.

UPDATED INFORMATION ON THE PROCESS

STATEMENT FROM DR.J.BLEASDALE (VOLUNTEER CONSULTANT)

 

Over the summer when the BOE candidates were announcing their intention to run, the group SOMA JUSTICE: Addressing Race and Inequality began discussing how they could learn more about the candidates’ focus on equity issues and decide which candidates had the most equitable forum.The group was looking for new and innovative ways to engage the process.

An idea that was shared was to have a report card style evaluation similar to one seen in political elections. The group leaders engaged membership on ways to gather data and move forward.

The group was looking for new and innovative ways to engage the process -Knowing that many organisations host panels, locals offer coffee houses, park picnics and even cocktail parties to give their candidates of choice a forum to meet the community-  SOMA JUSTICE wanted a further reach – to really focus on the topics concerning to their membership.The idea for the report card was suggested using focused questions. Group member and educational researcher and consultant Jane Bleasdale volunteered to facilitate the process in collaboration with the group leadership.

Members of SOMA JUSTICE who also work with SEPAC ( Special Education Parents Advisory Committee) knew the execs of SEPAC had been successful in recent years in soliciting and sharing written responses from the candidates and decided to use a similar model. Unlike SEPAC however, this group went a step further – they gathered  participants answers and shared them with group representatives who then graded candidate responses using the groups priorities as a guideline.

 

Several local groups were invited  by the leadership of SOMA JUSTICE to participate in the process :

 

  • Parents in Partnership for Respect and Equality (PARES),
  • Community Coalition on Race,
  • Black Parents’ Workshop,
  • SOMA Action,
  • MAPSO Freedom School.

 

Once the questions were formulated ( with input from many invited voices) and the process was decided two groups withdrew. ( BPW and Mapso Freedom School).

The candidates were then invited to participate and given 10 days to respond.

Once we received the answers we removed ALL identifiers. The objective questions were shared via a document where candidates were simply identified by letter.

The narratives were also stripped of identifiers . This was done by two qualified educational researchers with experience in the field. ( Not Dr. White or Dr.Bleasdale but other researchers volunteering their time – people not connected to the district).

 

The answers were shared ‘blindly’ with  representatives from the remaining groups

 

  • Parents in Partnership for Respect and Equality (PARES),
  • Community Coalition on Race,
  • SOMA Action,
  • SOMA Justice

 

Ultimately the answers were evaluated from representatives of TWO of the original SIX groups. – P.A.R.E.S and SOMA JUSTICE

 

The scores were collated and tallied using a simple mean average  according to best practices in educational research.. No one person is responsible for the final numbers

 

This is the original invitation shared with BOE candidates:

 

September 27, 2017

 

Dear Candidate,

 

I am writing on behalf of the local grassroots group “SOMA JUSTICE”, in collaboration with Parents in Partnership for Respect and Equality (PARES), Community Coalition on Race, Black Parents’ Workshop, SOMA Action, and MAPSO Freedom School. We invite you to share your thoughts, experiences and ideas as a candidate in the specific area of justice and inequality.

 

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 submitted to a representative member group to be read and rated; any identifiers will be removed to ensure fairness. We will share results in an easily accessible guide. SOMA Justice (and possibly other allied groups) will be making our BOE endorsement based on this survey.

 

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.

 

In order to be included, please submit your answers to me via email no later than October 8, 2017 to bleasdale.erc@gmail.com.

 

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).

 

I look forward to hearing from you.

 

Sincerely,

 

Jane E. Bleasdale, Ph.D.

 

Bleasdale Educational Research and Consulting gathered the responses and collated the data independently.The questions and candidates answers, in full, can be read here. Candidates answers

The process for gathering and analyzing the data can be read here SOMSD BOE PROCESS

 

Questions:

Questions for BOE candidates from the social justice group: Addressing Race and Inequality in SOMA

  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)? Yes or No

DESIRED ANSWER NO

Please clarify your answer.

  1.              Do you have a specific plan to move the SOMSD forward in dismantling the segregation and racial achievement gap that exist in our schools ? Yes or No

Please clarify your answer (in addressing both segregation and the racial achievement gap)

DESIRED ANSWER YES

  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

DESIRED ANSWER YES

Please clarify your answer.

  1.              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? Yes or No

DESIRED ANSWER YES

Please clarify your answer.

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

Please clarify your answer.

DESIRED ANSWER YES

  1.              Do you support the placement of School Resource Officers in SOMSD schools.Yes or No

Please clarify your answer.

DESIRED ANSWER NO

  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.

DESIRED ANSWER YES

  1.              Given the aging infrastructure of buildings across the school district plus the requirement for dedicated capital expense funds which may be limited for repair and renovation; do you believe the district should seek funding with corporations and other private organizations ? Yes or No.

Please clarify your answer.

DESIRED ANSWER YES

  1.              What are your two top priorities if elected ?
  2.           If you are an incumbent please explain how you have worked to address race and inequality in SOMSD during your previous tenure.

Scores  – (received from three independent evaluatrs representatives of SOMA JUSTICE & P.A.R.E.S)

  • Incumbent candidates were asked two additional questions and grades aveaged in their final score
CANDIDATES
TOTAL(200)
A*
SMITH
B
MAZZOCCHI,A
C*
BAKER.E
D
BAKER,R
E
CUTTLE
F
GEORGE
Evaluator 1
%
118 (+5)
59
59*
136
68
171(+8)
85.5
85*
157
78.5
156
78
126
63
Evaluator 2
%
126(+5)
63
62*
135
67.5
185
92.5
92*
152
76
146
73
126
63
Evaluator 3
%
112(+4)
56
55*
129
64.5
168(+9)
84
84*
146
73
147
73.5
140
70
Mean % 59 67 87 76 75 65
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