Dear South Orange & Maplewood School Community,
Photo Credits: CHS, Moussa Fofana #25
As we shared with our SOMSD Community yesterday, a terrible tragedy occurred on Sunday evening involving two of our students at Underhill. It is with deep regret that we inform you of the recent loss to our school community, of CHS Junior, Moussa Fofana. Moussa was killed by gunfire, while a second CHS student was wounded by gunfire, with a non-life-threatening injury.
We offer our sincere condolences to the Fofana family during their time of grief. Moussa entered the District in 2014, as an ELL student and attended Maplewood Middle School; he later went on to attend Columbia High School, where he was a current Junior. He was a member of the CHS Cougars Varsity Soccer Team ( #25), a friend, teammate, well-liked student, a son, a brother, and aspired to make it to a Pro-soccer league. A consistent theme shared by all who knew Moussa was
the joy he brought to everyone he encountered, to everything he did, and to life in general.
Our entire District community is stunned and saddened by the senseless loss of life and this act of violence against our students. Moussa touched the lives of all that he encountered and in reviewing the news coverage from both TV and print, staff and students alike had only positive memories to share of his character and the impact he had in the lives of many. Below the District would like to share statements from some members of our District administration and staff:
Statement from Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Ronald G. Taylor:
“Life is a precious gift. The life of a young person is full of promise, potential and unspoken wonder. The pointless loss of Moussa has robbed our community of the joy and pride that comes from observing our adolescents as they find their voice and blossom into adulthood. This senseless act of gun violence is a reminder of how quickly our daily lives can shift to the unthinkable. We must hug our children and let them know how loved, valued and cherished they truly are. “
Statement from Maplewood Middle School Principal, Dara Gronau:
“Moussa was beloved by everyone at MMS. He was always ready with a smile or a joke. He seemed to know everyone and everyone seemed to know him. He was kind of like the mayor of MMS. Somehow, he managed to interact with everyone who worked at our school almost every day. He loved people and loved to ask questions--both silly and serious. He enjoyed connecting with other people. Moussa grew in so many ways in his three years with us. We were so proud of the progress he made and we will miss him dearly. We are heartbroken by this tragic loss. Truly, he is gone too soon. Our thoughts and prayers are with Moussa’s family and loved ones.”
Statement from CHS Principal, Frank Sanchez:
“Even in a big school like Columbia, we all knew Moussa Fofana. That’s because his smile and gregarious personality lit up the hallways. He will be missed by his classmates and his teachers, but his spirit will not be forgotten. Right now our focus is on his teammates and fellow classmates to make sure they are processing this tremendous loss as best as possible.”
Statement from CHS Cougars Soccer Coach, Ryan Muirhead:
“The CHS Soccer program is heartbroken by the senseless violence which has taken a teammate, a friend, a brother and a son away from this community. Moussa embodied everything that we wanted in a member of our program. His passion for the game was unrivaled, often speaking to his desires of playing professionally one day. Likewise, his love for his teammates also knew no limits, as everyone always knew Moussa had their back. He was the heart of a team that celebrated one of its best seasons in recent history this past fall. We will miss him dearly, not only for his skill, but also for the joy he brought each and everyone of us. Moussa could often be heard shouting his favorite phrase, “I am unstoppable, I am unbeatable...my name is Moussa!” and now each and every one of us plan on continuing that legacy for him. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Fofana family.”
This loss is sure to raise many emotions, concerns, and questions for our entire school community, especially our students. Therefore, our focus in the schools continues to be to counsel those students and staff members who have been affected by this tragedy. Our professional staff members and local mental health professionals will continue to assist students and staff through group and individual services to all schools for the remainder of the week and as long as needed. We also want to provide resources to our families, to help in guiding discussions around death, loss and grief with your children:
- NPR: Be Honest And Concrete: Tips For Talking To Kids About Death [Link: https://n.pr/2RAW4uz]
- NASP: Helping Children Cope With Loss, Death, and Grief Tips for Teachers and Parents [https://bit.ly/3zl9g7Z]
At this time, there are still many unanswered questions, however, the Maplewood Police Department and law enforcement are continuing to investigate this tragedy. We encourage anyone who has information or tips to reach out to the Maplewood Police department at (973) 762-3400. We will continue to update the community as necessary.
Dr. Ronald G. Taylor, Superintendent, South Orange & Maplewood School District
Frank Sanchez, Columbia High School Principal
Cc: Thair Joshua, Board President