Provide access for all students
- Elissa will work with teachers and administration to help provide opportunities for ALL students, holding the district accountable if they do not. This includes not only minority students who have been greatly overlooked in this district but also special education students, students with 504s and our gifted students who have not been served well by the district.
- Elissa supports a system that allows for and actively courts upward mobility. Access and equity mean nothing if there isn’t a plan to prepare students, recruit them into more advanced classes, and support them to make sure they succeed.
- The safety and security of our staff and students must be our number one priority. Constant Cleaning, Masks, Social Distancing and PPE for all staff are a must.
- Elissa believes that we need to prioritize in person learning for our most marginalized students. Our students who qualify for free and reduced lunch, special education students, ESL students, and our Pre-K and early elementary students who are too young to be left alone.
- She will work to make sure teachers and students have the resources they need to successfully learn from home.
- She will work to make sure teachers have the training they need to learn how to successfully teach remotely. We must train our teachers on the pedagogy of remote learning and teaching.
- Our students need daily interaction with their teachers and with the students in their class. We must build those into any remote learning options.
- She believes we must also provide resources for parents and guardians on how to best support their students during remote learning. We should be offering parent outreach and support.
- She believes everything outlined in this article https://medium.com/@shaylargriffin/some-students-should-go-to-school-most-should-stay-home-8a57894b8487
close the equity gap
- The Access and Equity policy put in place in 2016 (largely in response to an ACLU complaint against the district) looked great on paper, but failed to significantly move the needle in addressing the overall issue because the district failed to solidify a plan for effective implementation and monitoring.
- Policies mean nothing, no matter how well-intentioned they are, unless those policies are well implemented and evenly applied.
- Elissa will work hard to make sure the intentional integration plan moves forward without a hitch and that the requirements of the Black Parents Workshop settlement continue to be addressed by the district.
fix the curriculum & instruction issues our district faces
- The curriculum, as implemented by the district, should be readily available online for everyone to see. This has been “in the works” for at least 3 years which is not acceptable.
- Our district’s curriculum, although technically compliant, represents the bare minimum to hit that level of compliance. As a result it is open to a great deal of interpretation by individual teachers which opens the door for very uneven learning. We don’t accept the bare minimum from our students -- why are we accepting it from the district?
- Our curriculum is still largely whitewashed. It is critical that our curriculum be revised to include instruction, and adopt instructional materials that accurately portray political, economic, and social contributions of persons with disabilities, Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) and individuals who identify as LGBTQ+ as required by law.
- 3 years after a slave auction project painted black elementary school kids as slaves and “sold them” to white kids, the Amistad Curriculum is still not fully implemented in our district. This is not okay.
- Curriculum needs to be revisited much more frequently than it has been in order to ensure it continues to meet its goals and adjusts based on current knowledge. The state department of education recommends a three year cycle.
- Elissa supports the idea of intentionally diverse teacher/administrator committees being used to determine curricula, texts, materials, and new programs rather than relying on expensive outside business groups as we have in the past. She has confidence in the abilities of our staff as a whole. They are the only ones with the tools necessary and are the real experts in the field.
- Elissa believes we must add labs back to our science classes at the High School.
- Our curriculum must be updated to add climate change to seven standards: social studies, science, visual and performing arts, health and physical education, world languages, computer science and design thinking, and career readiness, life literacies, and key skills.
- Our schools are known for their music and arts programs, but they do not have the supports and staff necessary to meet the demand. We must invest more in our music and arts curriculum and programming.
- Elissa believes we need to revamp our curriculum department. We need a Director of Curriculum that has the experience, expertise and skills necessary to revamp not only our curriculum but also how we supervise and evaluate teachers and their ability to properly apply the curriculum. Our supervisors are overwhelmed and spending most of their time doing evaluations and not enough time supporting the teachers they supervise. We need supervisors, who are considered experts in their area, to help teachers grow. .
- We need to prepare our students for careers that do not even exist. We must infuse technology and STEM into our curriculum. Makerspace, computer programing, robotics, must exist for all students at all grade levels.
providing quality special education services
- With the number of students in SOMA requiring special services continuing to grow, we need to look at ways to keep those students in district and bring as many students currently in out-of-district placement back if we have the services available to give them the education they need.
- Highly trained and qualified Paraprofessionals are key to the success of our special-education programs. A number of years ago SOMSD outsourced these jobs as a cost-cutting measure. We immediately saw first hand a huge drop in the quality of services provided. We must look for ways to bring our Paraprofessionals back in house..
- At the core, we must get back to basics and follow students’ IEPs and 504 plans as required by law. In the past year alone SOMSD settled 24 lawsuits brought by parents of students whose plans were not followed. The district is hemorrhaging money because it can’t seem to follow the agreements it knowingly entered into with families.
enhance communication amoung stakeholders
- The district needs to do a better job communicating with all stakeholders. Elissa will push to make sure the district’s outreach to educators, students, parents and other community members is on track. Communication is more important than ever right now as our community simultaneously deals with a pandemic, the execution of large scale capital projects and intentional integration.
- Schedule two board meetings a month. We can’t expect anyone to vote with a clear head on budget, policy or personnel matters at midnight after a full day’s work and over 4 hours in the horseshoe. Increasing the frequency of board meetings to twice a month will allow for more sound decision making, more timely action and, most importantly, provides a better means of addressing issues and concerns before they spiral into bigger problems.
- When it is safe, Elissa believes the BOE should hold listening tours at numerous community locations around the two towns (for example, at houses of worship, public libraries, DeHart Community Center, and more). These meetings should also vary the timing so that we can reach all stakeholders. believe we must continue to hold monthly meetings with officials from the two towns. We should also be communicating regularly with the leadership of SOMEA (the teachers union) and ASCA (the administrators union) which will in turn improve collaboration amongst the groups. Everyone should have an opportunity to be heard!
- In the COVID era, communication is key. We need to be holding virtual office hours and virtual town hall events where parents can ask and get answers to important questions.
examine hiring practices
- Elissa supports a system that examines more closely the qualifications when hiring new educators. We need to get back to the time period where we hired educators and administrators with experience.
- Elissa supports the concept of an intentionally diverse group of teachers, administrators, parents and BOE members serving on committees that choose new administrators. Hiring a recruiting firm should never be off the table, but it should be treated as a last resort.
- Studies show that all students learn better when their teachers look like them. I support actively looking at ways to attract, and more importantly, retain teachers that mirror our diverse school population.
improve fiscal responsibility
- Our current business administrator has done an excellent job translating what is a complicated and convoluted budget process so it is easier for the public to understand, but we can still provide more data to the public in a way that most can understand and digest.
- Elissa will look to identify areas where our schools and our towns can generate across-the-board savings for fixed costs, such as employee benefits and facility maintenance. NJPAC, SOPAC and Seton Hall University are also widely untapped resources that could, if courted, benefit our students, teachers and parents greatly.
- She wants SOMSD to become a leading advocate at the state level to help restore funding and level the playing field for districts like ours that feel the budget crunch the most. It’s an uphill battle, but we’ll never get anywhere if we are reactive rather than proactive on this issue.
- She will work to make certain that the community is getting monthly progress reports on the bond implementation through partnerships with local news outlets.
- She will work to create an oversight process to ensure bonding and long term facilities plan are effectively implemented and there is a constant drum-beat of communication to parents and community stakeholders
- She will work to monitor costs to minimize cost overruns.
ensuring the safety & security of our students & Staff
- No student or teacher should ever feel unsafe in our schools. We will work closely with administration to make sure that they have the tools and resources to make that a possibility.
- We must be proactive in our approach to discipline and look for ways to work with students through conflict resolution, restorative justice or counseling to reduce the number of children who are repeat offenders. If a child is getting suspended numerous times then clearly suspensions are not working and we need to look at other means of helping that child.
- The district must address what is still an uneven application of discipline that affects students of color disproportionately as compared to their white classmates..
- Elissa will work to make sure our students have the social workers and counselors they need.
- She will work to implement Social and Emotional Learning best practices in our schools.