“You’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So… get on your way!” – Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!
The South Orange-Maplewood School District’s commitment to offering access to a high-quality preschool experience is demonstrated by its plan to expand its pre-K program with the support of the New Jersey State Department of Education (NJDOE) and in partnership with local preschool program providers. Once the expansion initiative is solidified, 2020-21 partners will be announced.
We appreciate the community’s interest in the program, and we recognize our families’ eagerness to register our three- and four-year old students (as of October 1, 2020). Information regarding registration is discussed above in the newsletter section “2020-21 Registration” and can be accessed via the district’s website click here. At this time, we are delighted to offer an insight into Tools of the Mind (TOM), the developmentally appropriate curriculum currently in place in our pre-kindergarten program.
Aligned with the New Jersey Preschool Teaching and Learning Standards, TOM is a comprehensive curriculum that presents content in an integrated manner. Its instructional strategies reflect a combination of student-initiated activities, explicit instruction, individualization through multiple levels of scaffolding (problem-solving through teacher modeling followed by increasingly independent student practice), and the ongoing use of multiple assessment data. These varied but cohesive approaches respond to the diverse needs of our students. Student growth is monitored as part of the daily routine of the classroom. The GOLD tool, an observation-based assessment system by early childhood education resource company Teaching Strategies, supports this aspect of the implementation of TOM. Progress reports are shared with parents/guardians three times per year, and parent-teacher conferences are scheduled throughout the year.
One key characteristic that sets TOM apart from other curriculum models is the intentional focus on our students’ development of both cognitive and social-emotional self-regulation at the same time that literacy and mathematical skills are introduced. Self-regulated learning is embedded into all activities. Teachers use strategies to help children improve the quality of their dramatic make-believe play so that it promotes self-regulation development. Research-based instructional activities are designed to teach self-regulation and reflective thinking. Classroom management techniques maximize time-productive interactions and task involvement, and most learning takes place in small groups or as partnered activities, engaging children in interaction with one another to learn, build social relationships, and create a positive sense of community.
Field trips provide students with valuable background knowledge that enhances make-believe play themes, as well as provide rich cultural experiences and a connection with the immediate community. Administrators, teachers and support staff participate in comprehensive required training, and the program’s Master Teacher supports teacher professional growth and curriculum implementation.
Parents sometimes focus on their children’s acquisition of basic letter and number recognition or pre-reading skills in isolation, but the instruction of young children optimally encompasses a lot more. Collectively, families and schools succeed best when aligning their efforts to focus on the development of the whole child and all the skills and strengths each child has developed.
Thank you for interest in the program, and for entrusting your children to a dedicated team of teachers, administrators, support staff and specialists.
Thank you to our panelists and all parents/guardians who were able to attend the “The ABCs of Kindergarten” Welcome Event. If you were able to attend please see below to access the following resources which were shared at the event:
- 2020 – 2021 Kindergarten Parent/Guardian Handbook
- 2020 – 2021 Kindergarten Registration Dates
- 2020 – 2021 Registration Information
In October 2018, the South Orange–Maplewood School District received a grant from the State of New Jersey to offer preschool education services at no cost to all interested Maplewood and South Orange residents. Prior to that, the District offered an integrated regular and special education preschool program for a number of years. The program shifted from Jefferson Elementary to South Mountain Elementary to Marshall Elementary before finding a permanent home at the Montrose Early Childhood Center (MECC).
At the start of the 2018-2019 school year and with the appointment of a new principal, Ms. Bonita Samuels, the program was ready to move forward. The grant posed the opportunity to expand the program, and with appointed Interim Assistant Superintendent of Special Services, Dr. Laura Morana, the District was now in a position to further advance the preschool program to address the needs of the early childhood population throughout the District.
With the opening of the 2019 registration season, the District received over 100 new applicants interested in enrolling children in the preschool program. To meet that need, the District met with private preschool programs in the immediate area to develop partnerships in an effort to expand the program. 2018-2019 school year, the District partnered with Applecore Learning, a preschool in Maplewood, as an additional Pre-K classroom site. In addition, a full-time Preschool Supervisor was hired to assist in expansion efforts, recruitment, contract development, and overall program management for the District’s preschool program.
The District’s preschool program received applications from 108 students in February 2019. Through a lottery system, all 108 applicants were offered a seat in the program between May and September 2019. Demand for preschool placements continued with the opening of the 2019-2020 school year. In response, the District held another lottery in November to seat applicants in available slots opening up in December 2019. Thus far, of the fifty-five students who were part of the November lottery, thirty-two have been seated and are beginning school this month.
As we enter a new decade, we will continue to seek additional partnerships to meet the growing need of parents in our District. The South Orange & Maplewood Universal Preschool Program continues to grow and is currently housed across four sites: Montrose Early Childhood Center, Marshall Elementary, Applecore Learning, and Zadie’s of the Oranges.
- Effective January 13, we will have a new partner, LaPetite Academy
- For more information on the Preschool Education program
Dear Preschool Parents/Guardians,
The new school year will bring about a new experience for all students and their families attending the District’s Preschool Program. The implementation of the Preschool Education Expansion Aid (PEEA), designed to offer high-quality early learning, is allowing the district to serve even more resident students for the 2019-2020 school year.
While we had an unprecedented interest in the program, a random selection of applicants led to the assignment of students to three sites thus far, Applecore Learning Early Childhood Center, Marshall Elementary portable classroom and Montrose Early Childhood Center. New students were selected based on a lottery system drawn in accordance with the District’s Registration Policy and Regulations. Our commitment to preschool education is fostering partnerships with local child care providers to secure additional classroom space for South Orange and Maplewood students to have access to a high-quality preschool experience.
As the program continues to grow, the research-based curriculum (Tools of the Mind) and developmentally appropriate assessment practices (Teaching Strategies GOLD) will be implemented with uniformity across all sites. An oversight team has been assembled to provide program leadership, professional development and support for the staff throughout the year.
An FAQ has been prepared by educators and parents as a tool to answer essential questions the community may have. Click here to view the online FAQ or click here to download a printable copy. Please review it and if you have any further questions, let me know. I can be reached at (973) 762-5600, Extension 1841 or you may send an email to email@example.com-.nj.us.
Additionally, we have reserved next Tuesday, July 30, 2019, 7:00-8:30pm at Columbia’s High School’s Auditorium, 17 Parker Ave, Maplewood, to address any further questions or concerns from our parents and families. I hope that you will join me then.
Laura C. Morana
Interim Assistant Superintendent for Special Services
|08-28-2019 10:33 pm|