Friday, March 31, 2017

YOUTHNET CONCERT TONIGHT


Tonight there will be a YouthNet Concert and Forum at The Woodland, 160 Woodland Ave., focused on the MAPSO area becoming sanctuary cities.

YouthNet's purpose is to serve the children of Maplewood and South Orange by providing them with easily accessible programs that encourage communication, collaboration, and participation.
The forum will have speakers from Maplewood and South Orange, including some Board of Education members, and feature performances by various CHS student music groups after the discussions. - Josie Sandor, CHS correspondent


MAPLEWOOD POLICE RECEIVE FAIRNESS TRAINING

From Maplewood Police today:

In recent years government officials, community leaders and police executives have engaged in a national discussion involving policing, bias and the critical need to enhance police-community relations by enhancing public trust and legitimacy for law enforcement agencies. Within New Jersey the goal to improve police-community relations has been advanced by the NJ Attorney General in establishing a mandatory police continuing education program outlined in the NJ Attorney General’s Directive 2016-5 issued on October 4, 2016. The directive requires all sworn law enforcement officers to participate continuing education courses on cultural diversity to enhance police-community relations.
 
Recognizing the importance and exigency of this issue, Chief Robert Cimino and Sgt. Thomas DiMaggio recently attended an instructional training course known as “Fair and Impartial Policing - Training of Trainers”  in order to ensure that the Maplewood Police Department would be at the forefront of newly mandated cultural diversity training.  The course was hosted and funded by the Essex County Prosecutors Office in February of 2017. Both officers are now certified instructors for the course, which will be presented to all Maplewood officers. Chief Cimino has prioritized the training so it is scheduled to begin in the first quarter of the year with the goal of having every sworn officer trained by June 1, 2017.

According to a US Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs Press Release regarding this training; The Fair and Impartial Policing training is specifically designed to enhance officers' understanding of how bias — including implicit or unconscious bias — affects officer behavior, and the impact that biased policing has on officers and the community. (November 6, 2014)

The Fair and Impartial Policing curriculum was developed with the support of the US Department of Justice and based upon research conducted by Dr. Lori Fridell, a national expert on racially biased policing. Fair and Impartial Policing is based on research and the science of human bias. A fundamental concept of the course establishes that all people, even well-intentioned people, have biases.  Research has shown that while some bias is explicit and purposeful; some is unconscious or “implicit” - a result of subtle associations and stereotypes that people make. 

Fortunately, social psychologists have found that when equipped with information and motivation, police officers, (like all people in general), can implement measured (unbiased) responses that override the automatic associations and biases that exist for all people. The implementation of these concepts in policing is meant to supplement the Maplewood officer’s existing skills and training and to reaffirm the commitment that Maplewood Police actions be fair, impartial and procedurally just. The Fair and Impartial Policing Course meets the requirements of NJ Attorney General’s Directive 2016-5. 

Maplewood Police Department is proactive in training all personnel, including the Recruit / Patrol Officers and Command Level Supervisors.  Over the years, as an accredited agency, the department has further trained all personnel in Bias Based Policing, Cultural Diversity Sensitivity, and all mandated training in compliance with the New Jersey Attorney General Guidelines. The “Fair and Impartial Policing” course will build upon the existing knowledge, skills and abilities of Maplewood officers. All Maplewood Police training aligns squarely with our agency’s commitment to serve citizens fairly, professionally and to buttress a foundation of trust with all members of the community we serve.

CHS CODE YELLOW WAS DUE TO UNFOUNDED GUN "THREAT" THAT LED TO SUSPENSIONS

The "code yellow" shelter in place lockdown at Columbia High School last Friday was due to concerns about a possible gun being brought to school and ended with three students sent home, according to police reports.

While no gun threat ever occurred, the report states school officials phoned police on March 24 after overhearing discussions of a threat that stemmed from an altercation between some students the previous day in Maplecrest Park.

As the school revealed in a note to parents later that day, there was a 15-minute lockdown, but no danger was ever found to students. In response, however, police indicated they would provide "extra attention" to the school and parks. 

See the police report, with student names redacted, below:




SEE WHAT'S COMING TO SPRINGFIELD AVENUE

The recent opening of T-OP Fried Ice Cream and Chicken is just one of several new businesses opening along Springfield Avenue these days.

T-OP, which opened a few weeks ago, held its ribbon-cutting earlier this month at Springfield and Boyden avenues.

But more new places are on the way.

Look for soon-to-open businesses on the avenue that include a T Mobile store near Yale Street, a meals-to-go shop next to The Rack, and a martial arts studio down by Dunkin Donuts at the former Springfield Liquors.

Stay tuned for more details.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

ACTOR JOHN AMOS AT THE TOWN HALL ON RACE: "EDUCATE THE EDUCATORS"

John Amos at a school district meeting in May 2016
Actor John Amos is known around the world as a legendary performer, from his stint on Good Times through Roots and other notable moments on stage and screen.

But more recently he has become a regular at school district meetings and events, often observing how the district functions. A longtime friend of School Board Member Johanna Wright, Amos most recently attend several school board meetings dealing with the recent racial issues.

But at last night's Town Hall on racial and bias issues, Amos spoke up, urging the district to organize trips to the African-American History Museum in Washington, D.C.

See his comments below:



SCHOOL DISTRICT TOWN HALL ON RACE DRAWS IDEAS, COMPLAINTS

Several hundred parents and residents showed up at Wednesday's long-awaited town hall meeting on racial and bias issues, which the school district had promised as an answer to the string of troubling incidents at several schools.

The event held in the Columbia High School cafeteria was in response to several incidents in recent weeks that included racist messages found at CHS and South Orange Middle School, swastikas scrawled at SOMS and South Mountain School, as well as the creation of slave auction posters by South Mountain students.

The concerns were raised further several weeks ago when some students at Jefferson School took it upon themselves to hold a mock slave auction when their teacher was away and a substitute in charge.

Superintendent John Ramos opened the forum by repeating an apology he had offered earlier for the incidents and noting that some had resulted in discipline, but did not detail exactly what punishment was handed out.



After his address, participants split up into discussion groups and were tasked with offering what they believed were solutions to the problem, from better curriculum to more student input to desegregation of some schools. See some of those ideas below:



The evening also included a panel discussion and a presentation by Harvard professor and South Orange parent Khalil Gibran Muhammad. Another Town Hall meeting is planned for May 3.

MAPLEWOOD WOMAN'S MURDER NOT A CAR-JACKING

The fatal shooting of a Maplewood woman in Newark, which was wrongly reported by one news outlet to have been the result of a car-jacking, is still being investigated, according to the Essex County Prosecutor's Office.

We reported on the death of Deborah Burton, 62, of Boyden Avenue, earlier this month, citing a Star-Ledger article.

But the prosecutor's office on Wednesday issued an update:

Acting Essex County Prosecutor and Newark Public Safety 
Director Anthony F. Ambrose have announced that the 
Prosecutor's Major Crimes Task Force is continuing the
investigation of the March 13, 2017 fatal shooting of Deborah 
Burton, age 62, of Maplewood. 

Burton was shot while in the area of 43 3rd Street in Newark. 
The incident occurred at approximately 1:45 pm and the victim 
was pronounced dead at University Hospital a short time later.

There is no evidence, at this time, to indicate that the victim was 
carjacked, according to Chief Assistant Prosecutor 
Thomas S. Fennelly, who added that the investigation is active 
and ongoing. 

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Essex County 
Prosecutor's Major Crimes Unit at (877) 847-7432.

There is no additional information available at this time.

Asked why the update was issued, the investigators said via email: 

A non-law enforcement source reported to Star -Ledger/
NJ AdvanceMedia that the victim was carjacked.

PRO-CHOICE LEADER TALKS ORGANIZING AT IDEAS FESTIVAL TONIGHT


Ilysse HogueIlyse Hogue, President of NARAL Pro-Choice America, is an expert in organizing and mobilizing grassroots support around social-justice issues, including human rights, media reform and representation, and reproductive freedom. 7 pm at the Main Library.

 Ideas-Festival-Logo-2017

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

WHO ARE THE BIAS AND RACE EXPERTS AT TONIGHT'S TOWN HALL MEETING?

Khalil Muhammad
Tonight's Town Hall at Columbia High School is the district's response to a string of bias and hateful incidents in local schools, ranging from offensive words and swastikas at South Orange Middle School to slave auction lesson activities in class at two other schools to last week's offensive messages in a CHS student bathroom.

Along with Superintendent John Ramos, the town hall will include two experts on race and bias issues - Professor Khalil Gibran Muhammad, a Harvard professor and South Orange parent; and Dr. Khyati Joshi, a social justice and cultural responsiveness consultant who has worked with the district in the past.

Khyati Joshi
The notice flyer says that Dr. Joshi will be part of a panel, but does not indicate who will be on the panel or how it was chosen.

Some have asked why Joshi is involved given that she has been working with the district since 2015 and could be seen, perhaps, as part of the status quo for the district's response to bias and racial issues.

Muhammad, meanwhile, has an interesting family history as the great-grandson of Elijah Muhammad, the former leader of the Nation of Islam. He is also married to school board member Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad, sparking questions of a conflict of interest.

We asked the district about these concerns and why these two were chosen for this very sensitive event. See the district response below:  


Dr. Khyati Joshi was hired 3 years ago to be our anti-bias consultant.  She has
worked with administrators, board of education members, teachers and other staff
providing professional development on issues of social justice and culturally
responsive teaching.  She also has held programs for SOMSD parents and students. 
Dr. Joshi is not being paid separately to participate in the town hall.

Dr. Khalil Muhammad is not being paid.  He is volunteering his time as a SOMSD
parent and community member.  We chose him for a number of reasons, including his
professional experience. He currently is Professor of History, Race and Public
Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and was previously the Director of the
Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture of The New York Public Library.
 
The event is also being held as many remain concerned that the district cut short its planned contract with Sage Educational Consultants earlier this year. The firm was hired as part of the district response to the racial bias lawsuit from the ACLU.

THEFTS, SHOPLIFTERS, ARRESTS MARK POLICE WEEK. BUT WHO TOOK THE SHRIMP?

From Maplewood Police:

March 22, 2017; Theft; At approximately 12:45 PM, three males that were in a store on the 1800 Block of Springfield Ave, picked up a cell phone that was left on the counter and fled.

March 23, 2017; Theft from Auto; At approximately 10:45 AM the police department received a call of a male going through unlocked vehicles in the rear parking lot on Springfield Ave near Prospect St.  Officer observed a male fitting the description and stopped him.  The on scene investigation led to the male  being identified as the actor and he was found to have a stolen cell phone in his possession.  John Garner, age 18 of Newark was taken into custody, charged and released on a summons.

March 23, 2017; Shoplifting; A review of security video at Kings Supermarket led to the discovery of three thefts of shrimp from the store by a female.  The incidents are being investigated.

March 26, 2017; Shoplifting; At approximately 8AM officers responded to CVS on Valley St on a reported shoplifter.  A male later identified as Michael Allen, age 43 of Newark was stopped a short distance away.  He was found to be in possession of multiple items stolen from the store.  He was arrested and charged with shoplifting before being released to another agency on an outstanding warrant.

TOWNSHIP ANNOUNCES PARKING LOT CLOSURES FOR CLEAN-UP

From Maplewood Police:

The following is a schedule of planned Parking Lot Closures.
3/29- Ricalton Square Lot and Lot #10 (Near St. Joseph's Church)



3/30 Lot 2
3/31 Lot 7
 

The above lots will be closed from approximately 7 AM until noon on the above dates. Please plan accordingly and do not park in these areas on the days that they are scheduled for cleanup. Thank You

BABY LIT TODAY AT LIBRARY

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

FIRM CHOSEN TO RENOVATE LIBRARY PRESENTS AT IDEAS FESTIVAL TONIGHT

Tonight's Ideas Festival event at the Maplewood Library is a presentation of library planning by the firm chosen to renovate our library.

Sage & Coombe was picked last year for the estimated $15 million project and recently presented their options to the Township Committee. 

See the announcement of tonight's event below:

Architects Jennifer Sage and Peter Coombe, award-winning principals of Sage & Coombe Architects, will discuss the big thinking and practical details of what makes a 21st Century Library. 7 pm at the Main Library

MAYFEST CALL FOR VENDORS

From Springfield Avenue Partnership:


MayFest 2017 Call for Vendors
Calling all Maplewood, South Orange and neighboring nonprofit organizations, artists, vendors and local businesses. MayFest 2017, Maplewood's largest street fair, happens on Sunday, May 21 from 11 am to 5 pm. and we'd love to have you join us. With thousands of visitors every year, MayFest is a great opportunity to showcase your product, business or organization. Please visit our website to download a vendor application: http://springfieldavenue.com/events/mayfest

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

UPDATED DISTRICT TOWN HALL: CHILD CARE, SECOND EVENT IN MAY

The latest flyer for Wednesday night's school district town hall includes a notice for free child care and that a second such town hall will be held in May.

See below:
Image may contain: text

SPRING EGG HUNT SET FOR SATURDAY

From Maplewood Township:

It’s time to kick off the Spring season with our annual egg hunt!
Please mark your calendars and join us this Saturday, April 1st from noon to 2pm in Memorial Park for music, snacks, and some great prizes.
Bring your baskets, your friends and neighbors, and hop on down to enjoy some free family fun.
If you have any questions, feel free to call the Recreation Department at 973.762.8120.
We hope to see you all Saturday!

PORTIONS OF ORCHARD ROAD, WEST PARKER CLOSED

From Maplewood Police:

Orchard Rd. will be closed between Elmwood Avenue and Parker Avenue, due to road construction until further notice.

West Parker Avenue will be closed from Valley Street to Dunnell Road due to road construction.

Monday, March 27, 2017

DISTRICT PAYS UP DELINQUENT TEACHERS UNION DUES

We reported on Saturday that the school district owed more than $266,000 in dues to the New Jersey Education Association, the parent organization for the local teacher's union.

NJEA officials offered an update today, stating that the back payments had been brought up to date, but offered few details.

The issue arose a week ago when Paula Bethea, president of the South Orange Maplewood Education Association (SOMEA) -- the union for district teachers -- brought up the late dues at last week's school board meeting, advising the board that $266,604 was owed to the union from dues collected by the district. 

"This is not to embarrass but to publicly say I have been advised by NJEA to present this to the board," Bethea said at the meeting. "Our payment is due on a monthly basis."

Dues run $866 annually for full-time members, according to the NJEA website. They are collected on a monthly basis by the district as part of paycheck deductions and are then sent to NJEA, which forwards a portion to SOMEA. 

But an NJEA statement, dated March 1, indicated no dues were sent to NJEA during September, October, and December 2016 and January and February 2017. It revealed they add up to $266,604.

NJEA spokesman Steve Baker told Maplewoodian.com today that the balance had been brought up to date. The district did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

PORTIONS OF RUTGERS ST., WOODLAND LOT CLOSED

From Maplewood Police today:

Advisory: Due to construction Rutgers St will be closed between Newark Way and Burnet Ave.

Advisory: Parking Lot Closures :The Woodland Lot and Highland lot (5) will be closed until 12pm for maintenance

ONE MAPLEWOODIAN'S TAX ASSESSMENT DEBACLE

Phil Orphanidis. Photo: NJ.com
As we all await the fallout from the recent property tax reassessment, at least one resident as already had his own run-in with the Township over a tax increase that more than doubled his tax bill.

Phil Orphanidis told NJ.com that when he bought his home at the end of 2015, it had already received renovations and improvements that prompted a "special assessment" unrelated to the town-wide review.

But as the story indicates, the improvements were wrongly assessed and launched a tax fight still going on.

As NJ.com reported last week:

We're used to seeing property taxes rise -- but not like the gut punch received by Phil Orphanidis of Maplewood after a recent reassessment fiasco.

His property taxes more than doubled -- up 111 percent -- in just 18 months.

"They raised my assessment with bogus data adding non-existent features," said Orphanidis, 30. "If they're doing this to me in Maplewood, I'm 100 percent sure they're hammering other homeowners who aren't aware they're being taxed on items which their home does not have."

Orphanidis' property taxes skyrocketed because of bad appraisals that added phantom features (bathroom) and square footage to the home.
He said with this most recent assessment, his taxes will have gone from $7,100 in December 2015 to more than $15,000 in June 2017.
Trying to get the town to fix what he says are errors has been incredibly frustrating, Orphanidis said.

See the entire story HERE.

JOB HUNTING HELP AT HILTON LIBRARY TODAY

Northern NJ Professionals in Transition

10:00 am – 12:00 pm

Hilton Branch – How Your Search Effects Your Spouse and Other Close Relationships
John West Hadley will explain the emotional impact of the search on those close to you. He will offer suggestions on how to involve them in your search, and also seek ideas and suggestions from the attendees.
Network with other professionals who are currently unemployed or looking for new career opportunities. Meetings alternate between guest speakers and career workshops. Programs are free and open to the public. Subscribe to the group here.
More information about Professionals in Transition
2017 Meeting Dates: January 9 & 23; February 6 & 27; March 13 & 27; April 10 & 24; May 8 & 22; June 5 & 19; July 10 & 24; August 7 & 21; September 11 & 25; October 16 & 30; November 13 & 27; December 11

Sunday, March 26, 2017

COLUMBIA HIGH SCHOOL RUMMAGE SALE TODAY

From CHS:

Students at CHS taking a college-level course in art history have been offered the opportunity to continue their art immersion with a summer study abroad trip to Spain. To raise money for the trip, they will host a giant rummage sale in the Black Box Theater. 

Today, 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

HOW COULD YOU MISS THIS GIRL SCOUT COOKIE STAND?

Did you spot the Girl Scouts of Troop 20393 from Clinton School in Maplewood Village on Saturday?

If you missed their very colorful and promotional cookie stand in front of Maplewood Stationers, you must be blind.

Good work girls!

MAYOR ANNOUNCES NEW VALLEY STREET TRAFFIC LIGHT, REPAVING, AND MORE

Mayor Vic Deluca this week announced a slew of projects, most related to Valley Street, that range from a new traffic light to repaving. There will also be a developer-funded renovation of the DeHart Center.

At Tuesday's Township Committee meeting, he announced:

* Essex County will provide pothole repair patching along Valley Street and NJ American Water will replace and repair asphalt over a trench they dug during their lengthy work along the street last year. 

* The county will then repave all of Valley Street, from Millburn Avenue to the South Orange border. 

* Next year, there will be a full traffic light installed at Valley Street and Pierson Road near The Mill and the Maplewood Country Club back course area.

* Elite Properties, which owns the apartments on Boyden Avenue known as Maplewood Crossing and are building another complex across the street, is donating $145,000 for the renovation of the De Hart Community Center next door.

See Deluca's report on all of these projects below:

SEVEN OPEN HOUSES TODAY

Find your next home or just see what the market is offering.

Full list HERE.


Saturday, March 25, 2017

BAKER STREET BUSINESS FIRE AVERTED


From Maplewood Fire Department today: 

A significant fire was averted at 89 Baker St. on March 23 as a result of a quick response and detailed investigation by Maplewood firefighters.

The Maplewood Fire Department responded at 4:52 p.m. for the reported possible building fire. Arriving fire personnel initially found nothing showing from the building, but upon further investigation, it was discovered that an employee from a neighboring business was extinguishing an exterior fire to the rear of the Bee & Thistle Antiques store with a pot of water. A light smoke condition also existed inside the store, warranting firefighters to check the interior for possible extension of fire. 

Further investigation revealed that shelving and boxes located near the rear door were smoking and had evidence of burn marks. The burned shelving and boxes were removed to the exterior of the building and the store was cleared of the smoke, allowing the business to remain open with minimal interruption. Without the quick response and detailed investigation by firefighters, the business could have suffered severe damage and ultimately closed.

Investigation revealed that the cause of the fire was from an improperly discarded cigarette in close proximity to the building.

MAPLEWOOD IDEAS FESTIVAL OFFERS ART AND MUSIC TODAY

SCHOOL DISTRICT OWES $266,000 IN BACK DUES TO TEACHERS UNION

The school district owes more than $266,000 in dues to the New Jersey Education Association, the state-level umbrella for the teachers union, according to a statement issued to the district this month.

Paula Bethea, president of the South Orange Maplewood Education Association (SOMEA) -- the union for district teachers -- brought up the late dues at Monday's school board meeting, advising the board that $266,604 was owed to the union from dues collected by the district. 

"This is not to embarrass but to publicly say I have been advised by NJEA to present this to the board," Bethea said. "Our payment is due on a monthly basis."

Dues run $866 annually for full-time members, according to the NJEA website. They are collected on a monthly basis by the district as part of paycheck deductions and are then sent to NJEA, which forwards a portion to SOMEA. 

But the statement, dated March 1, indicates no dues were sent to NJEA during September, October, and December 2016 and January and February 2017. It revealed they add up to $266,604.

"We have a delinquency because nothing has been sent this year," Bethea told the board. "If I don't receive dues I cannot run SOMEA."

Board President Elizabeth Baker said during the meeting, "Obviously, we're going to ask" Business Administrator Paul Roth "to follow up. We have not, the board has not been aware of that...we will follow up."

Asked for further information on why the dues were not sent, the district had no further information. NJEA officials, meanwhile, also did not respond to a request for an update.

TOWNSHIP COMMITTEEMAN MCGEHEE OFFICE HOURS TODAY

Township Committeeman Frank McGehee will hold his office hours at Bagel Chateau today from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.  

Stop by for breakfast and let him know what you think, ask a question, or give him a pat on the back.

Remember, he works for you!

Friday, March 24, 2017

CHS CODE YELLOW "SHELTER IN PLACE" TODAY: ALL CLEAR

From Columbia High School today:

Dear CHS Families,  

CHS had a code yellow/shelter in place for about 15 minutes today when we were made aware of a potential safety concern.  Shelter in place means that no one is permitted to enter or leave the building, but that classes continue as usual.  
 
We were quickly able to ascertain that there was no direct threat to CHS.  The code yellow was lifted, and classes were able to complete period 3 and move on to period 4 on time. 

We are grateful for the assistance of the Maplewood Police Department in keeping our students and staff safe.

South Orange Maplewood School District

RENT PARTY TONIGHT


NJ TRANSIT MIDTOWN DIRECT TRAINS DIVERTED DUE TO PENN STATION DERAILMENT

From NJ Transit:

All rail service is suspended in and out PSNY due to a derailed Amtrak train in PSNY. MidTown Direct trains are being diverted to Hoboken Terminal. Cross honoring is in effect system-wide with NJT bus, private carriers, and PATH.

From WCBS TV:

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — An incoming NJ TRANSIT train was hit when an Amtrak train leaving Penn Station derailed Friday morning.
It happened around 9 a.m. as Acela Express Train 2151 from Boston was departing Penn on its way to Washington D.C.
Amtrak said the train had “a minor derailment while moving at a slow speed.” That’s when NJ TRANSIT said one of its trains coming into Penn from Montclair was hit by the Amtrak train when it came off the tracks

TOWNSHIP COMMITTEE APPROVES NEARLY $4 MILLION IN CAPITAL PROJECTS

The Township Committee this week approved $3.4 million in bonds for a variety of projects in 2017, from repaving of Maplewood Avenue to new computers for the library. The total cost of the projects with other funding is $3.9 million.

See the related legislation and list of projects HERE.

SCHOOL DISTRICT RACIAL BIAS TOWN HALL ANNOUNCED

From the school district Thursday evening;


Thursday, March 23, 2017

SUSPECT ARRESTED FOR ALLEGED CAR BREAK-IN ON SPRINGFIELD AVENUE

...Scanner indicates police arresting a suspect for allegedly breaking into a car on Springfield Avenue, apprehending him near Yale Street ... No other details ...

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: