Thursday, March 30, 2017


John Amos at a school district meeting in May 2016
Actor John Amos is known around the world as a legendary performer, from his stint on Good Times through Roots and other notable moments on stage and screen.

But more recently he has become a regular at school district meetings and events, often observing how the district functions. A longtime friend of School Board Member Johanna Wright, Amos most recently attend several school board meetings dealing with the recent racial issues.

But at last night's Town Hall on racial and bias issues, Amos spoke up, urging the district to organize trips to the African-American History Museum in Washington, D.C.

See his comments below:


Several hundred parents and residents showed up at Wednesday's long-awaited town hall meeting on racial and bias issues, which the school district had promised as an answer to the string of troubling incidents at several schools.

The event held in the Columbia High School cafeteria was in response to several incidents in recent weeks that included racist messages found at CHS and South Orange Middle School, swastikas scrawled at SOMS and South Mountain School, as well as the creation of slave auction posters by South Mountain students.

The concerns were raised further several weeks ago when some students at Jefferson School took it upon themselves to hold a mock slave auction when their teacher was away and a substitute in charge.

Superintendent John Ramos opened the forum by repeating an apology he had offered earlier for the incidents and noting that some had resulted in discipline, but did not detail exactly what punishment was handed out.

After his address, participants split up into discussion groups and were tasked with offering what they believed were solutions to the problem, from better curriculum to more student input to desegregation of some schools. See some of those ideas below:

The evening also included a panel discussion and a presentation by Harvard professor and South Orange parent Khalil Gibran Muhammad. Another Town Hall meeting is planned for May 3.


The fatal shooting of a Maplewood woman in Newark, which was wrongly reported by one news outlet to have been the result of a car-jacking, is still being investigated, according to the Essex County Prosecutor's Office.

We reported on the death of Deborah Burton, 62, of Boyden Avenue, earlier this month, citing a Star-Ledger article.

But the prosecutor's office on Wednesday issued an update:

Acting Essex County Prosecutor and Newark Public Safety 
Director Anthony F. Ambrose have announced that the 
Prosecutor's Major Crimes Task Force is continuing the
investigation of the March 13, 2017 fatal shooting of Deborah 
Burton, age 62, of Maplewood. 

Burton was shot while in the area of 43 3rd Street in Newark. 
The incident occurred at approximately 1:45 pm and the victim 
was pronounced dead at University Hospital a short time later.

There is no evidence, at this time, to indicate that the victim was 
carjacked, according to Chief Assistant Prosecutor 
Thomas S. Fennelly, who added that the investigation is active 
and ongoing. 

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Essex County 
Prosecutor's Major Crimes Unit at (877) 847-7432.

There is no additional information available at this time.

Asked why the update was issued, the investigators said via email: 

A non-law enforcement source reported to Star -Ledger/
NJ AdvanceMedia that the victim was carjacked.


Ilysse HogueIlyse Hogue, President of NARAL Pro-Choice America, is an expert in organizing and mobilizing grassroots support around social-justice issues, including human rights, media reform and representation, and reproductive freedom. 7 pm at the Main Library.


Wednesday, March 29, 2017


Khalil Muhammad
Tonight's Town Hall at Columbia High School is the district's response to a string of bias and hateful incidents in local schools, ranging from offensive words and swastikas at South Orange Middle School to slave auction lesson activities in class at two other schools to last week's offensive messages in a CHS student bathroom.

Along with Superintendent John Ramos, the town hall will include two experts on race and bias issues - Professor Khalil Gibran Muhammad, a Harvard professor and South Orange parent; and Dr. Khyati Joshi, a social justice and cultural responsiveness consultant who has worked with the district in the past.

Khyati Joshi
The notice flyer says that Dr. Joshi will be part of a panel, but does not indicate who will be on the panel or how it was chosen.

Some have asked why Joshi is involved given that she has been working with the district since 2015 and could be seen, perhaps, as part of the status quo for the district's response to bias and racial issues.

Muhammad, meanwhile, has an interesting family history as the great-grandson of Elijah Muhammad, the former leader of the Nation of Islam. He is also married to school board member Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad, sparking questions of a conflict of interest.

We asked the district about these concerns and why these two were chosen for this very sensitive event. See the district response below:  

Dr. Khyati Joshi was hired 3 years ago to be our anti-bias consultant.  She has
worked with administrators, board of education members, teachers and other staff
providing professional development on issues of social justice and culturally
responsive teaching.  She also has held programs for SOMSD parents and students. 
Dr. Joshi is not being paid separately to participate in the town hall.

Dr. Khalil Muhammad is not being paid.  He is volunteering his time as a SOMSD
parent and community member.  We chose him for a number of reasons, including his
professional experience. He currently is Professor of History, Race and Public
Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and was previously the Director of the
Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture of The New York Public Library.
The event is also being held as many remain concerned that the district cut short its planned contract with Sage Educational Consultants earlier this year. The firm was hired as part of the district response to the racial bias lawsuit from the ACLU.


From Maplewood Police:

March 22, 2017; Theft; At approximately 12:45 PM, three males that were in a store on the 1800 Block of Springfield Ave, picked up a cell phone that was left on the counter and fled.

March 23, 2017; Theft from Auto; At approximately 10:45 AM the police department received a call of a male going through unlocked vehicles in the rear parking lot on Springfield Ave near Prospect St.  Officer observed a male fitting the description and stopped him.  The on scene investigation led to the male  being identified as the actor and he was found to have a stolen cell phone in his possession.  John Garner, age 18 of Newark was taken into custody, charged and released on a summons.

March 23, 2017; Shoplifting; A review of security video at Kings Supermarket led to the discovery of three thefts of shrimp from the store by a female.  The incidents are being investigated.

March 26, 2017; Shoplifting; At approximately 8AM officers responded to CVS on Valley St on a reported shoplifter.  A male later identified as Michael Allen, age 43 of Newark was stopped a short distance away.  He was found to be in possession of multiple items stolen from the store.  He was arrested and charged with shoplifting before being released to another agency on an outstanding warrant.


From Maplewood Police:

The following is a schedule of planned Parking Lot Closures.
3/29- Ricalton Square Lot and Lot #10 (Near St. Joseph's Church)

3/30 Lot 2
3/31 Lot 7

The above lots will be closed from approximately 7 AM until noon on the above dates. Please plan accordingly and do not park in these areas on the days that they are scheduled for cleanup. Thank You


11:00 am – 11:30 am

Hilton Branch * Ages birth – 2 ½  * Drop In * All children must be accompanied by an adult
Wednesdays @ 11-11:30 am