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Black Parents’ Workshop says it won’t be seeking further legal action against the Southern District of Orange-Maplewood – for now

James Davis of the Black Parents Workshop says BPW has decided not to pursue further legal action against the South Orange-Maplewood School District at this time as it awaits further action on a settlement with the district.

Davis announced at a virtual town hall in February that BPW may take action in July over what BPW members cited as non-compliance with a 2020 settlement with the district regarding access and equity for black students. A district spokesperson reported at the time that the district believed to be in compliance.

In an interview with Village Green on July 27, Davis said he found the school district still not fully compliant with the regulation; however, Davis said the district recently contacted the settlement’s monitor, former New Jersey Supreme Court Justice John E. Wallace Jr. — one of the previously listed areas of noncompliance cited by BPW.

“The district reached out to Wallace this spring after nearly two years,” Davis said. “We are now waiting for the next steps regarding the meeting with the monitor.

“Hopefully we can sit down with the Monitor, but my personal preference would be for us to do it in front of a judge so it’s under oath,” Davis said.

David also clarified what he said were areas of non-compliance: “Although BPW has acknowledged that the district is in compliance with certain elements, there are two components of the regulation that continue to be ignored. First, Dr. Fergus’ equity report is incomplete because it does not include elementary or secondary school data. Second, the District never invited or allowed BPW to contribute to the integration plan, which it continues to describe as a success. And in regards to Judge Wallace, the District was supposed to contact Judge Wallace in 2020. We are now in 2022. It is more than a coincidence that the District contacted Judge Wallace in April after our February town hall where we pointed out that they hadn’t contacted Judge Wallace. We will continue to pursue all legal remedies to ensure that students in the district receive the benefits of the agreed settlement. »

Davis also said the departure of former Asst. The superintendent of access and equity, Dr. Gretel Pérez, had a direct relationship with the attitude of the district and was during his time with regard to the settlement.

Village Green contacted Pérez to verify this characterization. Pérez told Village Green that Davis’ statement was accurate but incomplete in that his departure was due to the district’s attitude “both with matters around the rules and outside of the rules – that was the overall fairness”.

Pérez said she doesn’t want to give further details at this time as the settlement is pending.

“I hope the district takes its obligations seriously and makes any adjustments, hiring, improvements it needs to ultimately benefit the children,” Davis said.

In February, SOMSD Director of Communications, Anide Eustache, told Village Green: “Overall, we believe we are in compliance with BPW’s settlement agreement. If there are any disputes to be addressed or resolved, it would go through the procedures agreed to by the parties in the settlement.

Eustache said the district has made available monthly suspension and expulsion data and annual course enrollment data and:

“In addition, over the past 1 ½ years, the District has:

  • Launched Cougar Academy to support CHS students who have demonstrated a need for more support;
  • Added four new teachers to CHS and middle schools (total) to academically support underrepresented students;
  • Committed to Equal Opportunity Schools at CHS to pursue a targeted, data-driven approach to adding underrepresented students to our most rigorous offerings;
  • Created and made room for Asst funding. Supt A&E (interviews are progressing with the hope of closing the position in the coming weeks);
  • Year 1 of the intentional integration initiative was successful and a proposal for year 2 will be presented in March to the BOE;
  • Representatives from BPW attended planning meetings with our Director of Human Resources regarding a strategy for targeting HBCUs to help recruit a more diverse teaching force;
  • Two academic coaches were added to our district this year for teacher support and professional development (as recommended by Dr. Fergus); and we will be proposing 2 more to possibly add to next year’s budget for consideration by the Board.

Read more about the February BPW town hall and the district’s response here: