More than 60 South Orange-Maplewood teachers and members of the public turned up to Monday night’s Board of Education meeting to ask questions of the board and voice concerns over the state-implemented Focus program and International Baccalaureate program.
Melissa Butler, sixth grade teacher at South Orange Middle School and head SOMEA representative, spoke first on behalf of her association. Butler said she was concerned that the Focus program, designed to improve schools with a low performance and graduation rates from special education students, was being managed too much by the state and not enough by the SOMA teachers and families.
“I attribute a lot of the success in my life to my education,” said Joe Malespina, a lifelong South Orange resident. “And the [International Baccalaureate] is a great concept, but from where I sit, it is expensive… and our teachers haven’t been properly trained… We’re looking at a sky high school budget and [IB] certainly doesn’t do anything to decrease the cost of our children’s education.
“Next to the students themselves,” Malespina added, “the professional members of this district’s staff are more equipped to create a curriculum for our children than anyone else.”
Several teachers addressed the board, posing questions about improper use of special education teachers as substitutes, out-of-date technology and curriculum materials in the foreign language departments.
Ana Reyes, a fifth grade teacher at Tuscan School, asked the board, “Are you aware that we have an infestation of mice in our building, and many around the district? They run around the classrooms during instruction.”
The Board members do not generally reply to members of the public who speak: Monday night was no exception.
Patch will have additional coverage of the Monday meeting throughout the week.