NY Times trashing our school district today

notupset

The New York Times is just in free fall these days.    Today's article trashing aspects of our school district is a case in point.   "A Suburb Believed In Liberal Ideals. Then Came A New Busing Plan".   What an ignorant headline.  Our town does still believe in liberal ideals.  If we knew for sure that a new busing plan would materially help a lot of children without harming others, just about everyone would be on board.   But objecting to a busing plan that may not be perfect does not mean you don't have liberal ideals.   Then we have  "This suburb, with its high-performing schools, seems a haven of diversity and progressiveness".   Do we really have high-performing schools? Not really.  Only when compared with other "challenged" school systems.  We do not just seem like a haven for diversity and progressiveness. We are a haven for diversity and progressiveness.   Really - where else in this world would one go to find more diversity and progressiveness?   Later in the article we get to “There can be no more lying about the racism that infects public education in our school district”   I truly do not believe that our school district is racist.  Can someone please tell me if they know a single racist teacher or administrator in our district?  Are there any employees in the district who would not be joyful about reducing the achievement gap as lower performing kids excel?        We have an achievement gap.   It would be great if that can be fixed or improved.   I think one resident quoted has it about right, that economic disparities and the related social disparities are a much bigger, more important aspect of the issue.   That aspect seems to be ignored, resulting in pinning virtually the entire problem on the school district, when in fact it might amount to 10% of the actual situation.         One last thing:  It is a good thing this guy is out:  “To find a segregated elementary school in probably one of the most progressive towns in New Jersey, I mean, on the East Coast outside of New York, I don’t know how that happened there,” said Thomas Ficarra.    Dude - is it news to you that people prefer to send their young children to local neighborhood schools?  Is it shocking that the make up of the population of neighborhoods changes? Totally surprising that forcing kids to be bussed to other neighborhoods doesn't just happen organically in the school district?    Wishing all a great day and a successful school year.           https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/30/nyregion/nj-schools-desegregate-race.html?searchResultPosition=2




ml1

at the risk of making you upset, I'd just say I don't find anything inaccurate or inflammatory in that article.  We've been in Maplewood for 24 years and sent two kids through the SOMA district from K-12, and I think the article is a pretty fair representation of what our schools are like.  And I think it's a positive thing that the issues of segregation and opportunity are being addressed.


annielou

 I sat in my car one day waiting for a relative to pick up some takeout. It was long because they were backed up. I did not see one non-white face, except for a few nannies, for a good hour.  Purely anecdotal, I realize, but experience virtually the same thing at Maplewoodstock and other events in town. Not so much in South Orange. Where’s the diversity in Maplewood?


chalmers

ml1 said:

at the risk of making you upset, I'd just say I don't find anything inaccurate or inflammatory in that article.  We've been in Maplewood for 24 years and sent two kids through the SOMA district from K-12, and I think the article is a pretty fair representation of what our schools are like.  And I think it's a positive thing that the issues of segregation and opportunity are being addressed.

The headline reads “A Suburb Believed in Liberal Ideals. Then Came a New Busing Plan.” Is there a new busing plan? I didn’t think one had been introduced yet.


yahooyahoo

What busing plan?

Was it an idea that Ficarra floated that was not accepted?

Can't read the article because it's behind a paywall.

By the way, Ficarra is an a$$hole and I'm really happy he's gone.


mrincredible

I'm a little baffled by the Ficarra quote, because to me the way local real estate is marketed has a huge impact on why racial disparity exists in the schools. Wealthy white people moving to town are told which neighborhoods are most desirable and which schools are best. I remember seeing a house described as being in the "desirable Tuscan area." 

I know it's one factor among many but newcomers have been indoctrinated with the idea that their kids must attend particular schools to succeed. It's a common theme in New York City. 

There's also a lot less expensive housing stock in the area which is assigned to Seth Boyden. So of course there's going to be a different socioeconomic population in that area. How could he possibly not know this?


chalmers

This paragraph also is poorly written to the point that it might require a published clarification:

“The district has long tried to address the differences by allowing white parents to send their children to Seth Boyden, though that has largely failed to rectify the imbalance. Black parents at Seth Boyden had not been allowed to send their children to other schools until a year and a half ago, when the district ended that policy.”

This makes it seem like SB opt-ins and opt-outs are (illegally) based completely on what race you belong to rather than what school your home is zoned for.


annielou

Maybe the NYT sees stuff from a more objective point of view than those of us who reside inside the bubble of this “diverse” community. 


ml1

mrincredible said:

I'm a little baffled by the Ficarra quote, because to me the way local real estate is marketed has a huge impact on why racial disparity exists in the schools. Wealthy white people moving to town are told which neighborhoods are most desirable and which schools are best. I remember seeing a house described as being in the "desirable Tuscan area." 

I know it's one factor among many but newcomers have been indoctrinated with the idea that their kids must attend particular schools to succeed. It's a common theme in New York City. 

There's also a lot less expensive housing stock in the area which is assigned to Seth Boyden. So of course there's going to be a different socioeconomic population in that area. How could he possibly not know this?

 is it just a coincidence that the schools marketed as "desirable" are also mostly white. The concept of neighborhood schools has been used to justify de facto segregated for decades. 

Our kids were bused from the Jefferson neighborhood to Marshall and it was no big deal. Supposedly many years ago that was a solution to segregation in the district. I would suppose demographic shifts have made it a now inadequate solution. As long as our neighborhoods remain segregated some form of busing would likely be the only way to better integrate the schools. 


galileo

Wonder where the author is getting her info. I see Walter Fields is quoted and pictured. Seems to me this article has the wrong slant.


mrincredible

ml1 said:

 is it just a coincidence that the schools marketed as "desirable" are also mostly white. The concept of neighborhood schools has been used to justify de facto segregated for decades. 

Our kids were bused from the Jefferson neighborhood to Marshall and it was no big deal. Supposedly many years ago that was a solution to segregation in the district. I would suppose demographic shifts have made it a now inadequate solution. As long as our neighborhoods remain segregated some form of busing would likely be the only way to better integrate the schools. 

 Not supposedly. It was. Jefferson was huge majority white. Marshall was huge majority African American.

According to my wife who was here at the time there was a great deal of wailing and gnashing of teeth. Ostensibly because parents didn't want their young kids to have to ride a bus to school. 

If you take a look at those two school populations it's made a big difference. Marshall and Jefferson are much more balanced and their respective neighborhoods have followed along. Although my observation is that a lot more white families have moved into the neighborhood around Marshall than African-American families have moved into the area around Jefferson.

I wonder if a similar arrangement between Seth Boyden and Tuscan or South Mountain would have a similar effect. 

The current proposal right now sounds like a more radical plan to balance the racial demographics throughout the elementary schools by completely revamping how students are assigned to schools. But one argument I have heard against that approach is that to do this you would have to completely disrupt the school community at Seth Boyden. To more uniformly integrate each of the other schools, you'd have to divide up the African American students at SB and send them all over.

We attended one of several informational meetings about this proposal last year at the end of the 2017-18 school year. It's part of the proposal to expand some of the schools as well as combine the middle school populations (5-6 at one school, 7-8 at the other). I don't know what has changed since then.


yahooyahoo

galileo said:

Wonder where the author is getting her info. I see Walter Fields is quoted and pictured. Seems to me this article has the wrong slant.

My guess is that Walter Fields was one of the reasons why the article was written.


jfburch

yahooyahoo said:

What busing plan?


Can't read the article because it's behind a paywall.


 PM me and I'll send it to you


jfburch

I agree the headline is pretty loaded, and not quite accurate.

And the whole piece is jumbled.

My understanding is that the re-districting will aim for racial AND socio-economic balance in the elementary schools, and that it will not roll out till next fall.

That said, I have heard from some folks at elementaries of confusing (and contradictory) information about their kids' placements, so some things may be underway.

I will say that this kind of statement has been true for the 19 years I have lived here:

"Mr. Ficarra recalled how some parents reacted when the integration plan was first presented.

“We got the kind of resistance where people say, ‘We are very much in favor of total integration — but,’” he said."


ml1

mrincredible said:

 Not supposedly. It was. Jefferson was huge majority white. Marshall was huge majority African American.

According to my wife who was here at the time there was a great deal of wailing and gnashing of teeth. Ostensibly because parents didn't want their young kids to have to ride a bus to school. 

and by the time we moved into the neighborhood in 2000, it was no big deal.

People can nitpick the article as much as they want, but I think the big picture of what our towns and school district are like is pretty accurate.  We do like to pat ourselves on the back for openness and diversity, but in reality our towns are pretty segregated.  If we are really committed to an integrated community, it is not going to be done with half measures.  It will probably take a fairly radical redistricting.  But in five or ten years, it will be like the busing between Jefferson and Marshall -- no big deal.


joan_crystal

mrincredible said:

I'm a little baffled by the Ficarra quote, because to me the way local real estate is marketed has a huge impact on why racial disparity exists in the schools. Wealthy white people moving to town are told which neighborhoods are most desirable and which schools are best. I remember seeing a house described as being in the "desirable Tuscan area." 

I know it's one factor among many but newcomers have been indoctrinated with the idea that their kids must attend particular schools to succeed. It's a common theme in New York City. 

There's also a lot less expensive housing stock in the area which is assigned to Seth Boyden. So of course there's going to be a different socioeconomic population in that area. How could he possibly not know this?

How times have changed.  When my son was at Tuscan, it was touted as the only integrated elementary school in the district.  If Tuscan is now "mostly white,"  our neighborhoods do indeed change over time.


Jaytee

Like Joan said, my kids went to Tuscan also. It was very diverse, very much like Seth Boyden was. If it's all white now ( which I doubt ) then change is constant I guess. 


chalmers

ml1 said:


If we are really committed to an integrated community, it is not going to be done with half measures.  It will probably take a fairly radical redistricting.  But in five or ten years, it will be like the busing between Jefferson and Marshall -- no big deal.

I agree that the M-J busing is no big deal (though it's probably instructive to determine if the pairing is linked to a demographic shift in the Marshall neighborhood).

That's why it seemed like a similar arrangement between Seth Boyden and Tuscan might be the simplest solution, especially given their proximity. Of course, that wouldn't fully integrate all of the district's elementary schools. South Mountain would be a notable outlier.

By a "radical redistricting," I presume you mean something beyond an SB-T pairing that would reach each elementary school, which is probably most people's overall goal, if it can be achieved.

What do you think is the best way to do that?



safetyfirst

notupset said:

The New York Times is just in free fall these days.    Today's article trashing aspects of our school district is a case in point.   "A Suburb Believed In Liberal Ideals. Then Came A New Busing Plan".   What an ignorant headline.  Our town does still believe in liberal ideals.  If we knew for sure that a new busing plan would materially help a lot of children without harming others, just about everyone would be on board.   But objecting to a busing plan that may not be perfect does not mean you don't have liberal ideals.   Then we have  "This suburb, with its high-performing schools, seems a haven of diversity and progressiveness".   Do we really have high-performing schools? Not really.  Only when compared with other "challenged" school systems.  We do not just seem like a haven for diversity and progressiveness. We are a haven for diversity and progressiveness.   Really - where else in this world would one go to find more diversity and progressiveness?   Later in the article we get to “There can be no more lying about the racism that infects public education in our school district”   I truly do not believe that our school district is racist.  Can someone please tell me if they know a single racist teacher or administrator in our district?  Are there any employees in the district who would not be joyful about reducing the achievement gap as lower performing kids excel?     We have an achievement gap.   It would be great if that can be fixed or improved.   I think one resident quoted has it about right, that economic disparities and the related social disparities are a much bigger, more important aspect of the issue.   That aspect seems to be ignored, resulting in pinning virtually the entire problem on the school district, when in fact it might amount to 10% of the actual situation.         One last thing:  It is a good thing this guy is out:  “To find a segregated elementary school in probably one of the most progressive towns in New Jersey, I mean, on the East Coast outside of New York, I don’t know how that happened there,” said Thomas Ficarra.    Dude - is it news to you that people prefer to send their young children to local neighborhood schools?  Is it shocking that the make up of the population of neighborhoods changes? Totally surprising that forcing kids to be bussed to other neighborhoods doesn't just happen organically in the school district?    Wishing all a great day and a successful school year.           https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/30/nyregion/nj-schools-desegregate-race.html?searchResultPosition=2

 Unfortunately we live in a racist society. We just need to keep confronting our own racism. I wish I could say otherwise. I am constantly engaged in the topic of race in my daily life. But I think about it.  The problem is in not acknowledging this.


mrincredible

According to this link Tuscan is 68% white, 18% black. 

The same website lists Seth Boyden as 64% black, 23% white.

I looked through most of the elementary schools in in SOMA. Every one I looked at was about that same as Tuscan ... over 60% white, less than 20% black. The exception is Seth Boyden. 

You can expand to see racial percentage trends going back a few decades. The graphs I copied are the percentage of black students at three of the schools. Caveat: I don't know the source of their data.


joanne

May I ask what is probably a naive question?

Why the bump in attendance between ‘98-‘04ish on all the graphs (combined)? Is that the effect of the community push to integrate, or something to do with population movements from NYC? Or something else?


sac

Yes, the racial distributions have changed a lot in the last two decades since my kids started in the schools. The issues the article is trying to address are real but there were many inaccuracies and loaded statements (starting with the headline) in it.  I’m not aware that we have a ‘busing plan’ at this time, but it is certain that the plan (not yet complete or at least not yet announced) will rely on some busing to achieve the desired balance. (Approximately equal proportions in all of the schools.) There is a huge discussion of this going on in at least two of the local Facebook groups if people want to read more about what is being said. 

When I was growing up, we rode school buses to our ‘neighborhood’ schools on routes which covered distances comparable to crossing the entire district here, so I think that getting ‘up in arms’ about busing within SOMSD is a bit silly. (It was a suburban area, just somewhat more spread out.) 




mrincredible

Here are Clinton, Jefferson and South Mountain.


tpb

Isn’t it interesting that the article initially “downgraded” the academic accomplishments of Dr. White, and misidentified her in the photograph (and corrected both errors later)?


DaveSchmidt

Three brief comments about the headline, from someone who has written headlines for 35 years: 

  • The grammar calls for Believed, because the action happened in the past. When the plan to expand busing came, this was the belief.
  • Busing Plan is probably shorthand. It can be said that a plan to expand busing is a busing plan, even if a proposal doesn’t yet exist.
  • It’s more important than ever for headlines to draw online readership. “Loaded” may be one word for it. Another term I hear a lot is “engaging.” We do try not to cross the line into clickbait, but a head that might have sufficed in the print era, like Suburb Divided Over School Integration Efforts, doesn’t do the job on the web.

And one briefer comment about the correction, from someone who has made mistakes at newspapers for 35 years:

  • They happen for all kinds of reasons.

mrincredible

joanne said:

May I ask what is probably a naive question?

Why the bump in attendance between ‘98-‘04ish on all the graphs (combined)? Is that the effect of the community push to integrate, or something to do with population movements from NYC? Or something else?

 Probably multiple factors. We could start a whole new thread on that. 

I can't imagine that getting contentious at all.


ml1

chalmers said:

I agree that the M-J busing is no big deal (though it's probably instructive to determine if the pairing is linked to a demographic shift in the Marshall neighborhood).

That's why it seemed like a similar arrangement between Seth Boyden and Tuscan might be the simplest solution, especially given their proximity. Of course, that wouldn't fully integrate all of the district's elementary schools. South Mountain would be a notable outlier.

By a "radical redistricting," I presume you mean something beyond an SB-T pairing that would reach each elementary school, which is probably most people's overall goal, if it can be achieved.

What do you think is the best way to do that?


 I don’t know. I haven’t studied how to integrate school districts and I don’t pretend to be an expert. I think it’s sufficient on the part of someone like me to recognize the problem exists and acknowledge that the district needs to do something about it. 

IMHO, one of the frustrating things about social media is that a lack of knowledge or expertise seems rarely to be a barrier from people pontificating about solutions. I try not to add to that. 




mrincredible

The current official solution on the table seems to be this.

For elementaries pretty much do away with the idea of neighborhood schools. Then find a way to transport students around the district to achieve roughly equal ethnic breakdowns at each school. I think that's the busing plan the Times article refers to.

For middle schools combine the 5-8 population.  All 5-6 graders at one middle school and all 7-8 graders at the other. So full integration of the entire district student population occurs at age 10 or so. 




In order to add a comment – you must Join this community – Click here to do so.

Real Estate Listings

Sponsored Business

Find Business