Thursday, May 18, 2017


Madhu Pai
A black parents group is criticizing School Board Member Madhu Pai for an online comment she made that sought to defend the lack of black male teachers, comparing them to unicorns.

Pai made the statement on the Facebook group South Orange-Maplewood Cares About Schools

See it below:


The comment was part of an ongoing discussion about funding gaps that began when the page's creator, Elissa Malespina, posted a link to a story about the issue.

Walter Fields, leader of SOMA Black Parents Workshop, added his comments to the discussion, stating at one point, "I oppose additional aid unless funds were earmarked to address the achievement gap and the hiring of Black teachers."

After further discussion, Pai posted the comment above in an effort to explain her view of why there are fewer black male teachers.

See a portion of the online discussion HERE.

That prompted a lengthy criticism of Pai and her comments from Fields and the SOMA Black Parents Workshop in a press release

It said, in part:  

Today is the anniversary of the United States Supreme Court decision in Plessy v Ferguson that codified segregation in American society.  How shameful that in 2017 in South Orange and Maplewood New Jersey we have a member of the Board of Education who reflects the sentiments of Chief Justice Roger Taney in that dreadful Court ruling. Board member Pai plies excuses that echoes the White Citizens Councils of the 1950s. It’s no wonder there is a dearth of Black teachers in the South Orange-Maplewood School District and most Black children receive an inferior education compared to their white peers.” 

See the entire release HERE. 

Pai responded to a request for comment by by issuing her own statement, which said, in part:

It is of great concern to me that a post I made attempting to provide context and data around teachers of color has led to a Public Relations statement assailing my motives and character. I fear actions like will scare people off from engaging with each other, discourage uncomfortable discussions that we need to have as a community, and that the looming specter of negative media attention and litigation will continue to distract us from the critical work that needs to be done. I want to feel safe engaging publicly without being misrepresented in the media – and I want others to feel safe also.

See her entire statement HERE.

Pai is one of the few school board members who has been engaged on social media, posting often on the South Orange Maplewood Cares About Schools page and other web sites.

Fields, who launched his group three year ago, has been a vocal critic of the district and its racial issues. When the ACLU filed suit against the district in 2014 claiming a disparity in promotion and discipline of minority students, Fields was among the most outspoken African-American parents. 

That suit resulted in an agreement between both parties to improve racial conditions, which included the hiring of an outside consultant. But when that consultant was dismissed last year before the end of her contract, which was to go through 2017, Fields and others were quick to complain.