The Parenting Center Wants You to Help Close the Gap

Friday, Sep 30, 2011 8:00am  |  COMMENTS (2)

If you want to help close the achievement gap in the South Orange Maplewood school district (SOMA), try to attend the Call to Action Symposium on Tuesday, October 4 at Clinton Elementary School in Maplewood. The event will bring together education experts, leaders from the district and parents to discuss what more the district can do to close the gap between Caucasian and African American children.

“There’s a long tradition in education of wringing our hands,” says Karen Weiland, director of The Parenting Center, which is sponsoring the event. “We are very intent not to do that. We will discuss what needs to be done, how to do it, and to do it with urgency and intensity,” she says. “We are envisioning of a talk, a sharing of ideas, and a call to action,” says Weiland.

The symposium will feature video clips from some of the nation’s top thinkers in education discussing what works to close the gap.

Following the screening, the panel of experts, which includes Christopher Cerf, acting NJ education commissioner, Superintendent Dr. Brian Osborne and several other educators in the district will respond to the clips and discuss what is viable here. Each panelist will discuss different topics including why they are focusing on closing the gap at the elementary school level, positioning African-American boys for success, and how to engage schools and parents.

The panel will focus on younger children because it’s critical to start as early as possible to close the gap. “By the end of second grade, kids solidify their ideas of themselves as learners and how they do in school,” says Weiland.

The audience will then have an opportunity to ask the panel questions and make suggestions. “We want to reach out to all parents and guardians to make sure they understand that this is a call to action,” says Lori Brown, the co-chair of Leap to Success, the Parenting Center’s parent committee that focuses on the gap.

In SOMA, the gap between white and black students from third through eighth grade scoring proficient or better in language arts was 31 percentage points last year.  Several programs are already in place, including Reading Buddies, in which high school students visit elementary schools and pair up with students to read with them, Rising Stars, a summer program that blends enrichment with academics, an after school program for students, and an evening program for parents.

Panelists include:

  • Dr. Brian Osborne, Superintendent of SOMA school district
  • Andrea Wren-Hardin, Board Member
  • Tina Lehn, Principal, South Mountain Elementary School
  • Marianne Hess, Assistant Principal, Tuscan Elementary School
  • Raquel Horn, Assistant Principal, Seth Boyden Elementary School
  • Shayna Sackett,Teacher, Seth Boyden


Barbara Heisler, Executive Director of Funding Exchange and former Executive Director of the South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race

A Call To Action: Symposium on Closing The Achievement Gap
Who: Parents and educators.
What: Featuring thought-provoking video clips from some of the nation’s top thinkers in education, this multimedia and interactive symposium will take stock of where our district is in addressing the achievement gap. An all-star panel of experts will offer local strategies on what works. The community will have an opportunity to ask the experts questions, put forth suggestions and be part of the solution in moving students toward higher achievement.
Where: Clinton Elementary School, 27 Berkshire Road, Maplewood, NJ
When: Tuesday, October 4 at 7 pm.
Cost: Free


  1. POSTED BY herbeverschmel  |  September 30, 2011 @ 9:29 am

    When will the symposium be that will help close the gap between Caucasian and Asian students?

  2. POSTED BY Tudlow  |  September 30, 2011 @ 2:15 pm

    Good question, herb. In a similar vein, I wonder when we will hold symposium on the gap between thoughtful, intelligent people and knee jerk reacting morons.

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And we can get this project completed in time for Montclair's sesquicentennial when we can stick a fork into historic preservation as a public policy.

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