“I Have Power”: Seth Boyden Stepping Program Connects Students to Black History

5/19/2023 1:54 pm

“I Have Power”: Seth Boyden Stepping Program Connects Students to Black History; leads to Field Trip to see Seton Hall Step Show.
SOMSD school again selected for innovative artist-in-residency program grants.

Now in its third consecutive year at Seth Boyden Elementary, an innovative stepping residency program has helped students find their power and joy while connecting to Black history. The residency has combined instruction in the physical movement of stepping, long performed at historically Black Colleges and Universities by historically African American fraternities and sororities, with instruction in the history of the art form and its importance in Black culture. The program was once again made possible through a generous grant from the prestigious Artists in Education Residency Grant Program (AIE).

Seth Boyden’s grant application for the Artists in Education residency program, valued at over $11,000, was accepted in June 2021. The very talented professional stepping artist Maxine Lyle, founder of the renowned troupe Soul Steps, conducted workshops for fourth-grade students from October through December 2022. An additional Dance to Learn Residency Grant supported workshops for Seth Boyden’s “Junior Steppers”—third graders, also with Maxine Lyle. The students’ hard work culminated in performances for classmates, teachers, and parents in mid- December 2022.

In each residency’s workshops, students learned and reviewed a variety of stepping movements and eventually created their own unique stepping performance. Ms. Lyle supplemented the lessons with frequent history discussions, such as the precursors of stepping in South African gumboot dancing. She also taught the students about Historically Black Colleges and Universities and how stepping is an important part of those schools’ culture of empowerment. These discussions raised issues of social justice that relate to the history of stepping. To build on this foundation, residency 4 th grade students recently took a field trip to Seton Hall University tosee a step show performed by Historically Black Greek-Letter Organizations from both Seton Hall and Kean University.

Each Seth Boyden residency workshop ended with the students rising together and saying in unison, “Hear me. See me. Feel me. I have power!” Power was certainly conveyed in the movement of the students performing together in their two December shows, as was a sense of connection. The Columbia High School Infinite Step team opened and closed the show as special guests and took questions from the residency students afterwards.

This year has been Ms. Lyle’s second one as resident artist at Seth Boyden. “After two years,” she says, “I feel like we’ve really become a step family.” Ms. Lyle has explained that the feelings of togetherness are part of the goal, especially for students living through difficult times. “With stepping you are tapping into other people doing the same rhythms, and you know you are not alone—you are part of a community. During hard times, the Jim Crow years, stepping was an important reminder that came out of a need to know you were not alone. The rhythm tells you that.”

The program is a perfect fit for Seth Boyden, which for the past 20+ years has served as a demonstration school introducing innovative approaches to learning based on honoring and supporting multiple intelligences. The school is applying for another year of AIE funding in the hopes of continuing the program in 2023-24 and becoming established as a “stepping school.” Seth Boyden is already expanding its stepping culture by offering a stepping club as an after- school extracurricular activity through the district’s “Beyond the Bell” program this spring. Two Columbia High School students from the Infinite Step Team are leading the course and Seth Boyden 4th grade teacher Shella Meisdor-Villard is teaching it.

Seth Boyden Principal Shannon Glander, Assistant Principal Sheila Murphy, and Ms. Mesidor- Villard form part of the Steering Committee for the grant, as does alum parent Alison Poe. The Seth Boyden PTA supports the residency each year with T-shirts for the performers and by creating documentation of the workshops, including a video by documentary filmmaker Erin Harper. Seth Boyden art teacher Laura Kruglinski worked with fourth-grade students to create the residency T-shirt graphic and PTA “VP of Happiness” Anna Dunbar coordinated all aspects of the show to ensure a successful, memorable event for the kids and their families.

The Artists in Education Residency Grant Program is a co-sponsored project of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and Young Audiences for Learning New Jersey & Eastern PA. It is carried out in partnership with regional partners Appel Farm Arts & Music Campus, Count Basie Center for the Arts, and Morris Arts. The third graders’ Dance to Learn Residency Grant “Junior Steppers” is a project of Dance New Jersey and Young Audiences Arts for Learning.

Steering Committee member Poe, who has managed the application for the stepping grant since the program’s inception, said, “It's deeply inspiring to see how the AIE's grant has helped to spark support from other organizations leading to new initiatives, like the third-grade ‘Junior Steppers’ program, the field trip to Seton Hall. We are so grateful to the AIE for believing in our school's vision and for funding it to grow into something larger and more impactful in our community than we could have even imagined when we started three years ago.

Read the full article at the Village Green website.


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Audition for the Variety Show!

5/18/2023 9:10 am

Sign up today to audition for the Seth Boyden 2023 Variety Show!


Auditions will be held:

May 23, 3:30 - 6:30 PM

May 24, 4:00 - 7:00 PM


Dress Rehearsals:

May 30, 3:30 - 6:30 PM

May 31, 4:00 - 7:00 PM



June 2, 5:30 - 7:00 PM


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Save Beyond the Bell

5/9/2023 11:15 am


Dear Parents and Teachers,


It has come to our attention that the District is considering transferring operation of the Beyond the Bell program to a third party. This poses many logistical issues that can have unintended consequences and have had a tangible negative impact on our students’ experience. Please consider writing an email to Superintendent Dr. Taylor and the SOMSD Board of Education members to voice concerns about this plan and ask for transparency and community collaboration. A sample letter is provided below and you can find an online copy here.


Thank you,
PTA presidents of the 6 SOMSD elementary schools

Sample Letter

Email to boemembers@somsd.k12.nj.us and rtaylor@somsd.k12.nj.us


Dear Dr. Taylor and Members of the SOMSD Board of Education,


It has recently come to my attention that the District is considering outsourcing the management and implementation of the Beyond the Bell program to a third party next year. As a parent in the school district, I have concerns about this plan and ask for transparency and community collaboration.


Past efforts to outsource services such as lunch aides, para professionals and transportation have come with many unintended consequences and have had a tangible negative impact on our students’ experience. I am concerned the same will happen if BTB receives the same fate


Not only does outsourcing this program – the success of which depends so intrinsically on working hand-in-hand with district staff – pose many logistical issues, but it also affects our most vulnerable students. How will a third party be able to work with school administration and social workers to help arrange for financial aid? Currently, BTB is able to provide para support for all who need it, will a third party be able to continue this benefit?


Additionally, aftercare and after school program options are already limited. There is not enough space to meet demand. Beyond the Bell spots fill within minutes. Families want and need these after school alternatives. Combining or reducing after school program options would only further exacerbate the problem.


As you move through this decision process, which could have significant impacts on this valuable program, I ask that you provide transparency into the goals and rationale for the switch and the opportunity to submit community input.




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PTA Meeting: May 6th @ 10:00am

5/5/2023 11:28 am

PTA General Meeting: All are welcome!
When: Saturday, May 6th at 10am
Where: Seth Boyden backyard (the school library if raining)

Learn about upcoming events and ways to be involved!

The Nomination Committee will present their 2023-2024 PTA Board nominations.

If you have any questions for Acting Principal Ms. Murphy or our teacher representatives, please submit them to ptapresident@sethboyden.com ASAP.

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Bingo Night Magic!

4/30/2023 3:53 pm

BINGO Night Magic!

What a night! Thank you to everyone who came out to Bingo Night and made it a huge success!


A shout out to Jackie “Josephine” Gambardella for making the night full of fun and laughter. 

Bingo Josephine


And a big thank you to Anna Dunbar, VP of Happiness, who made this event happen (!), our Bingo Planning Committee (Carey Brown, Zsofia Sereghy, Katie Tichacek, and Elizabeth Leonard Evangelista), our amazing day-of volunteers, and all the families who donated gift cards and baskets.

And our night wouldn’t have been complete without the support from our wonderful teachers! Thank you to Mr. Hein and Ms. Fakhoury for being good sports and serving as our Bingo callers, and to all the teachers and their families, Ms. Canzonieri and Ms. Murphy for coming! 

Bingo Callers Mr. Hein and Ms. Fakhoury


This was a SB community-wide labor of love and it showed! We had a blast and can’t wait to do it again next year!

Bingo 80s table


Bingo Old Ladies Table

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Bingo Night Fundraiser!

3/31/2023 7:46 am





***ONLINE Bingo sales end at 12pm TODAY (4/29). Tickets are available for purchase at the door**

Please note that entry is free -- ticket purchase is to play Bingo 


We hope you'll join us for our first-ever Bingo Night Fundraiser!

We promise a fun and exciting grown-up only evening full of lots of winners and prizes!


WHEN: Saturday, April 29, 2023. Doors open at 5:30pm, Bingo starts at 7pm.

WHERE: The Woodland, Maplewood, NJ

WHAT: 12 games of Bingo plus Raffle Baskets, Specialty Raffles, a 50/50 Raffle and a Wine Pull


VOLUNTEERS:  We need parent volunteers to help this event be a success!  If you are able to work the day of our Bingo Night, please click here or reach out to vphappiness@sethboyden.com


DONATIONS: If you can't make it to our Bingo Night Fundraiser, but would like to donate to the Seth Boyden PTA, please donate here. Thank you!


Please note: This event is BYO food and drinks.   Our tables will accommodate 8 people, so we encourage you to find friends to sit with and coordinate your meal.  It can be as easy as ordering a couple pizzas or coordinating a potluck or themed courses. (We will email you after your ticket purchase with a form link to tell us who you'd like at your table.)


Dress is very casual. We encourage themes, teams, lucky clothes or your finest grandma chic!


All Raffle Tickets will be sold on-site, including Basket Raffle Tickets, Specialty Raffle Tickets, 50/50* tickets (*cash only) and Wine Pull Tickets.





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Beyond the Bell Signups Start 2/8 at 7am

2/1/2023 4:51 pm

All course offerings and sign-up information at the district’s Beyond the Bell site.

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Submit a Family Recipe to the Seth Boyden Cookbook

2/1/2023 4:51 pm

The DEI Committee will select recipes as they come in for the cookbook.

Please email your recipes to VPDiversity@sethboyden.com

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History of Braid & Natural Hair Care Session

2/1/2023 4:49 pm

RSVP here to join: https://forms.gle/CYiSrZkeCE18v5Dk6

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PTA General Meeting 2/8 @ 7pm

1/28/2023 7:52 pm

The PTA will be holding a General Meeting on 2/8 at 7pm.
Zoom link
Meeting ID: 915 1551 5731
Passcode: Buu08z

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