Thursday, March 23, 2017

TOWNSHIP COMMITTEE FLIPS ON RIGHT ON RED CHANGE AT BAKER/VALLEY

A plan to ease the No Right On Red restriction from Baker Street on to Valley Street was halted by the Township Committee on Tuesday night after three TC members who had originally supported the idea changed their minds.

An ordinance that had been approved on first reading two weeks ago was up for final passage. But three members who had voted for it originally -- Mayor Vic Deluca and committee members India Larrier and Greg Lembrich -- switched their votes. Frank McGehee had voted against it previously, while Nancy Adams remained the only supporter.

The ordinance would have allowed right turns on red at the intersection between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m., but keep the restriction in place the rest of the day. It lost, 4-1.

Those who switched said they had received increased opposition from local neighbors concerned about safety, including many from the nearby Crescents.  

"There were a few other people who contacted us besides the folks on the Crescent," Deluca said. "I think in the interest of waiting to see what happens I am gonig to be voting no."

See other comments below:



The reversal also followed the submission of a letter opposing the change submitted with the names of 22 residents who objected.

See that letter HERE.

SNOW BLOWER THEFT AND SHOPLIFTER LEAD POLICE WEEK

From Maplewood Police:

March 14, 2017; Theft; Between 3 PM and 3:20 PM, a snow blower left in the front of a home on Jefferson Ave was stolen.

March 15, 2017; Shoplifting; At approximately 10:15 AM, a female shoplifted several pieces of jewelry from a store on Maplewood Ave.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

RACIST WORDS, OFFENSIVE IMAGES AT CHS IN NEW SEPARATE INCIDENTS

Two more incidents involving alleged racist comments and images have occurred in the school district, this time at Columbia High School where racist words were used by a teacher, while a swastika and offensive comments were found in a bathroom.

See the note just sent to parents today:

March 22, 2017

Dear Columbia High School families,

We write to inform you of two incidents that occurred at Columbia High School today. 


In a classroom, students were allegedly using racist and derogatory language, specifically calling each other “n****s,” “b***s” and “hoes.”  In addressing the students’ use of these words, the teacher reportedly used the same words.  If true, this was clearly unacceptable and will be addressed according. One of our administrators will be joining the class tomorrow to follow up on the incident.

In a separate incident, graffiti was discovered in a student bathroom that included the words “KKK for Nazis,” other sexist and racist words, and an image of a swastika.


Administrators are investigating both incidents so that we can ascertain the facts and determine what disciplinary action may be appropriate, based on the code of conduct and our personnel procedures and union contract guides.  The graffiti incident was also reported to Maplewood police for their own investigation.

We know that these and other recent incidents do not reflect the values of the SOMSD student body or staff as a whole, or the values of the South Orange and Maplewood communities. They do, however, highlight the work we still have to do as a community to make sure our young people know that there is no place for derogatory, racist or anti-Semitic language or images in our classrooms and other school facilities, or in our community, and that they will not be tolerated.

Recent meetings between CHS leaders, staff and Black Student Union members have focused on how to build student and teacher competencies around the use of the “N” word in particular, since it is widely accepted by many students for a variety of reasons.  We ask for families’ support in helping students understand the pain that this word causes, and that it is not accepted at CHS, regardless of who is using it or their intent.


We are also reminding staff in all of our schools to make sure all of our communications with students, families and each other reflect our commitment to inclusivity and the cultural competency training that we have received.

Hate speech and images do not happen in a vacuum, and are not confined to our school buildings.  This is a family issue, a community issue, and a national issue, in addition to most certainly being a school issue.  Adults must take responsibility.  We once again ask for the partnership of all parents, guardians and community members in helping students understand the impact their words, images and actions can have on other individuals and on our communities.

Sincerely,

Dr. John J. Ramos, Sr. ,
Superintendent  
Elizabeth Aaron
Principal, Columbia High School


These follow a recent string of racist images and offensive actions at other district schools that have already drawn negative publicity and national attention to the district, as well as plans for increased sensitivity training and curriculum review.

The district has also promised a Town Hall meeting to discuss the issue, but it has yet to be scheduled.

SUPERINTENDENT RAMOS UPDATE ON BIAS INCIDENT RESPONSE; $100,000 FOR MORE TRAINING

Superintendent of Schools John Ramos today issued a lengthy update on efforts to combat bias and hateful actions in the district following the string of incidents that have included racist messages and swastikas in some schools.

Sent today, it indicates the proposed 2017-2018 school budget -- adopted Saturday -- includes another $100,000 to be set aside for cultural competency training next year.

The note says, in part:

In light of the recent increase in reports of bias incidents, we are reviewing all of our procedures and protocols for responding to bias incidents, to ensure consistent responses across the district.  We are also reviewing the Code of Conduct internally and plan to discuss it with the Board of Education’s Policy and Monitoring Committee, to determine whether we need to add more specific language about bias incidents, and related consequences.

The Administration, Board of Education and staff are working with instructional leaders and community leaders to chart out a broad range of next steps.   Since curriculum and instruction are the heart of everything we do, we are creating  a process by which our curriculum will be reviewed to ensure cultural sensitivity and responsiveness. This includes expanding elementary classroom libraries with additional books whose characters, settings and stories reflect our school community. We are also introducing new guidelines and supports for teachers to continuously examine their lesson plans and assignments for inclusiveness, bias and sensitivity.

We have retained an anti-bias consultant, Dr. Khyati Joshi, who is in her 3rd year of supporting our efforts in creating positive, bias-free cultures in all of our schools, and ensure culturally responsive delivery of our curriculum.  This year, Dr. Joshi provided in-depth training for 275 teachers in anti-bias education, social justice, and culturally responsive classrooms.  We also started the year with all new staff participating in a workshop on Striving for Social Justice. We have increased resources for cultural competency training for next year by allocating an additional $100,000 in the 2017-2018 budget.
 

Read the entire letter HERE.

TOWNSHIP INTRODUCES $43.6 MILLION BUDGET, $75 AVERAGE TOWN TAX HIKE

The Township Committee on Tuesday introduced a $43.6 million budget for fiscal year 2017, which includes a 4% spending increase over last year and an average $75 municipal tax increase per home in Maplewood.

Added to the average $249 increase per home by the school district proposed budget, adopted last weekend, and the average tax hike for Maplewood homeowners this year will be $324.

"The main drivers of our budget this year were increased pension payments, payments for debt," Mayor Vic Deluca said, adding that most other spending areas were flat. "The salary increases were pretty much based on the bargaining unit increases that we negotiated with our unions."

He said $29.7 million of the budget is to be raised from taxes, a 2% tax increase over 2016. That means the average municipal portion of taxes per home went from $3,750 last year to $3,825 in 2017. That does not include the school district taxes. 

"We've worked very hard to get this budget down," the mayor said. 

He also noted that since the Avalon Bay project on Boyden Avenue is being delayed due to the recent fire there, anticipated tax revenue from that project will not be received until next year, impacting the revenue stream as well.

The complete budget is to be provided on the Township website and at the Township Clerk's office this week.

A public hearing on the budget will be held on April 18.

See the mayor's budget message below:



WOMEN'S TRIVIA AND BABY LIT AT LIBRARY TODAY

Women’s History Month Trivia

12:00 pm

Win candy with the right answer!
Tuesdays @ Hilton Branch: 3/14 and 3/21
Wednesdays @ Main Library: 3/15 and 3/22

Hilton Baby Lit

11:00 am – 11:30 am

Hilton Branch * Ages birth – 2 ½  * Drop In * All children must be accompanied by an adult
Wednesdays @ 11-11:30 am: 3/8, 3/15, 3/22, 3/29

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

BIG TOWNSHIP COMMITTEE MEETING TONIGHT: FROM LEAF BLOWERS TO POOL FEES, AND MORE

The Township Committee has a pretty lengthy agenda for tonight's meeting, with issues ranging from pool fees to portable storage unit restrictions.

Oh yeah, and of course, leaf blowers.

See the full agenda HERE. 

Among the items being considered are:

* An ordinance to expand the summer leaf blower ban and institute hourly limits year round. See more on that HERE.

* An ordinance that would place restrictions on portable storage units, or PODS, in town. Details HERE.

* Approval of Maplewood Pool fees for 2017 that will include a new weekend-only discount.

* A change to the No Turn On Red restriction at Baker Street on to Valley Street, which will allow such turns between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m.

The TC will also introduce the 2017 fiscal budget. See the background on that HERE.

And, of course, you can speak at public comment. So show up, give them a piece of your mind, ask a question, or just a pat on the back.

Remember, they work for you!

The meeting is set for 7:30 p.m. at Town Hall, 576 Valley St.

SLAVE AUCTION CONTROVERSY/APOLOGY AT SCHOOL BOARD MEETING

The recent slave auction lesson controversy, which saw students at one school drawing posters and those at another engaging in a mock auction, was center stage at Monday night's school board meeting as Superintendent John Ramos offered an apology and several residents spoke out against the incidents.

Ramos opened the meeting with a lengthy statement that was part apology and part explanation for the events that came to light last week:




You recall the issue first arose last week when fifth-grade students at South Mountain School made slave auction posters, which were then posted around the school as part of a lesson. 

Days later it was revealed that one fifth grade class at Jefferson School had taken it upon themselves to hold a mock slave auction when their teacher was absent and a substitute in charge. Jefferson Principal Kim Hutchinson on Monday sent a letter home to parents indicating she was concerned that some of those students displayed a "jovial" and even "comedic" attitude toward the event.

At Monday night's meeting both board members and residents spoke out with different views of the situation, with some saying students need to learn the worst of our history, although admitting it might have been handled differently.

See those below: