Why a whole candidates’ night just on integration in the schools?

People sometimes ask “Why a whole Board of Ed Candidates’ Night just on integration in the schools?”  The short answer is that there are inequities in our school district that have not changed in the twenty plus years of the Coalition’s existence.  In South Orange and Maplewood, we pride ourselves on the diversity of our towns. But that diversity has not translated into true integration in our schools. In fact, recent Coalition on Race demographic studies show that our elementary schools are actually becoming more segregated. District policies have been put in place to address issues like the academic achievement gap and the lack of diversity in staff.  But the Access and Equity policy does not do enough to help students who have opted into higher level classes to succeed in those classes. And we still have too few teachers of color in our district. It is for these reasons that the Schools Committee of the South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race continues to host a candidates’ night devoted to the issue of integration in our schools.
The 12th annual forum for candidates for the Board of Education will be held on Tuesdayevening, October 24, 2017 at 7:30pm in the all-purpose room at Marshall Elementary School. We will present a series of questions for the candidates to consider, concerning the relationship between school policies and integration in our schools. These questions will include some of the issues named above, as well as issues such as professional development for teachers, particularly in cultural competency and anti-bias education. As in the past, there will be direct questions from the audience. Audience members will be given an index card to write down the question and then, if time permits, to ask the question.
While we are a strictly nonpartisan organization and never endorse individual candidates, it is our opinion that a candid and open dialogue about race in our school district is an imperative step toward full integration in our schools. We want the candidates to consider and explain to the public how the policies they propose will affect integration, equity, and excellence within the schools.
The Coalition and the Schools Committee are interested in a school system that supports rigor, demands excellence and equity in opportunity, and provides an environment in which each student can succeed–while simultaneously encouraging true integration in our schools and towns.
Our Board of Education needs to act to assure that our schools bring the entire community together to create schools that are the first choice of families of all races and socio-economic backgrounds. We want to see the racial minority academic achievement gap closed, and we look forward to a day when the school district is stably integrated overall, within academic levels, and within schools – to a time when students of all races are expected and encouraged to excel in a community that joins together in pride and support of its schools.

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