BOE Reports & Notes

  • BOE President's Report December 17, 2014

    Posted by Donald Webster, Jr. at 12/18/2014 9:00:00 AM
    State/Federal Issues
    We continue to monitor education related bills that may affect Manchester.  Recently the NJ Legislatures Joint Committee on the Public Schools held hearings on the impact of Superintendent Salary Caps and School District Regionalization.   Government Relations Representatives from NJSBA testified at both of these hearings. 

    It was noted that that there has been an excessive amount of turnover among school superintendents (+40%) over the last several years, especially in the northern part of the state.  Some of the blame for this phenomenon has been attributed to the salary caps implemented by the state.  Some districts have been using interim superintendents for over 4 years now, as they have not been able to find a permanent replacement with the experience or credentials and willingness to accept the salary cap pay limitations. Testimony indicated that many times the interim superintendents are retired individuals who are collecting both a state pension in addition to the payments they receive from the local school districts.  In addition, according to current state regulations they may only serve as an interim superintendent for up to two years in a particular district.  It was stated that the state is not saving the money they originally envisioned, effective school leadership is suffering, and ultimately entire districts struggle to function and improve as required under the student achievement expectations and the accountability regulations.
     
    During the regionalization hearing, it was noted that there are a lot of misconceptions about how regionalization works and the assumptions that go into the decision by school districts of whether to go forward with regionalization.  It was stated that there are generally perceived winners and losers when regionalization is forced upon districts and communities.  The perception is that regionalization efforts are solely focused on the amount of money that can be saved and the impact on local property taxes.  When in fact, many voluntary and successful regionalization efforts were focused primarily on the pooling of resources and the expansion of educational opportunities for students.  The legislature is under the impression that huge amounts of money will be saved and property taxes will be dramatically reduced and this will be the panacea for all our property tax problems in NJ.  The recent voluntary South Hunterdon Regional School District Consolidation was cited by the Committee Chair as a successful consolidation that saved a lot of money.  However, testimony indicated that the rationalization of the South Hunterdon district ultimately save only $170,000.   The primary stated reason for the consolidation was the pooling of resources and educational opportunities for students.  It was noted that a Rutgers study had indicated that if all of the state’s K-8 districts were forced to merge into K-12 districts the state could potentially save $400 million, but that property tax payers would not see a dramatic overall drop in their property taxes.  Again, there would be perceived winners and losers.  In addition, testimony indicated that the state has in place a number of impediments that make the decision to go forward with regionalization less than desirable for local school districts and communities.  The committee was urged to reduce the impediments to regionalization and provide funds for feasibility studies that would help districts/communities decide if voluntary regionalization makes sense for them.

    Activities in Our Schools
    I attended several of the holiday concerts in our schools. The students performed at a very high level and the concerts were very well attended by parents, relatives and community members.

    Sustainable Jersey
    I was appointed as a Trustee of this organization replacing John Bulina, Immediate Past President of NJSBA.  The organization met at TCNJ on December 4.  The purpose of the group is to promote and recognize conservation efforts and the reduction of the carbon footprint of both Municipalities and Schools in NJ.  In this way, communities and schools can help the environment while saving money for local taxpayers.  More information can be obtained at the website www.SustainableJerseySchools.com.

    Governor’s School Security Task Force
    The committee continues to meet at least twice per month in Trenton in order to come up with best practices and security recommendations to be implemented on a statewide basis following the guidelines that were developed by the state legislature.  The task force expects to complete its work and issue a report by April of 2015.   We will be hearing from additional experts in the field along with state officials and we will be holding public hearings around the state in order to get input from the public on this important issue.   The public hearings are expected to take place during January 2015.

    NJ School Boards Association Activities (NJSBA)
    I participated in a second meeting with Rutgers University Officials and local school district representatives to discuss exciting new research based on collaboration of school officials and key stakeholders.  This research will lead to a pilot project in some of our local school districts with the goal being to enhance student achievement.  Participating entities included the NJ Education Association, American Federation of Teachers, NJ Association of School Administrators and the Principals and Supervisors Association.  A statewide forum is being planned for February of 2015 in order to role out the pilot project.  I also participated in a Legislative Committee Meeting in Trenton on 12/6 were we received updates on State and Federal legislative initiatives.  I attended and spoke at County School Boards Association Meetings in Hunterdon, Monmouth, Middlesex, Salem, Somerset and Ocean Counties.  Each of the meetings had separate themes geared towards relevant public education issues.

    NJ Schools Insurance Group Activities (NJSIG)
    I attended the 12/10 regular meeting of the Board of Trustees.  We approved the bill and claims lists and financial reports for the group. We discussed the status of the groups search for a new headquarters location.  We also interviewed and approved the appointment of a new Executive Director effective for 2015.

    Next Meeting
    I would like to wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season and a healthy and prosperous new year.  The reorganization meeting of the board will be held on January 7 beginning at 7:00PM at the Ridgeway Elementary School.

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  • President's Report November 19, 2014

    Posted by Donald Webster, Jr. at 11/20/2014 8:00:00 AM
    State/Federal Issues
    We continue to monitor education related bills that may affect Manchester.  Recently a series of five bills were passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor in order to promote Vocational and Technical Education Programs around the state.  This action is in keeping with New Jersey’s goal of helping to insure that our students will be college and career ready once they graduate from high school.
     
    Activities in Our Schools
    I attended a number of fall athletic events at our high school over the past month.  Our student athletes performed very well.  I also attended a meeting of the district’s Strategic Planning Committee on 11/12 as we worked to wrap up this important planning process for the district.
     
    Governor’s School Security Task Force
    I have been appointed to this task force as the representative for NJSBA.  The committee has now met several times in Trenton in order to come up with best practices and security recommendations to be implemented on a statewide basis following the guidelines that were created by the state legislature.  The task force expects to complete its work in the next 6-8 months.   We will be hearing from experts in the field along with state officials and we will be holding public hearings around the state in order to get input from the public on this important issue.

    NJ School Boards Association Activities (NJSBA)
    I participated in a meeting with Rutgers University Officials to discuss exciting new research based on collaboration of school officials and key stakeholders.  This research may lead to a pilot project in some of our local school districts to enhance student achievement.  Participating entities included the NJ Education Association, American Federation of Teachers, NJ Association of School Administrators and the Principals and Supervisors Association.  Another meeting of this group to discuss future plans is planned for early December.

    I attended the annual NJSBA Workshop 2014 in Atlantic City 10/28-10/30.  I participated in a number of programs and events while at Workshop.    Mr. Ray Wiss, Immediate Past President and I presented the final report of the NJSBA School Security Task Force.  The report contains 45 recommendations on improving security in our schools and calls for action by local school boards, the state and federal government.  I also presented an award to recognize the NJ Teacher of the Year, Mark Mautone.  Mark, who has been teaching for nineteen years, teaches elementary grade level autistic children in Hoboken, NJ.  He uses technology in new and innovative ways in order to reach these kids.  He also serves on numerous professional boards and promotes the dignity of special needs children and the disabled.    I participated in extended discussions with Commissioner Hespe, members of the Legislature, the State Board of Education and Dr. Michael McGough, a keynote speaker whose presentation “Leadership Under Fire: Lessons from the Whitehouse” was very interesting and well received by the convention attendees.

    As incoming President of NJSBA, I was invited by the NJEA Leadership to attend their Gala event on Friday, November 7 in Atlantic City in conjunction with their annual convention.  I had an opportunity to talk with their leadership about areas of mutual agreement and concern in public education here in NJ.  It was a very nice event and it provided for the exchange of information in an informal setting.  The leadership of NJEA also attended the NJSBA 100th Anniversary Celebration at our convention in October.

    I attended the NJSBA Board of Directors Meeting in Trenton on 11/14.  At this meeting we were updated on the progress of the association, we approved a new Strategic Plan for the association through 2017, received the annual report of our association auditors (Supple & Company).  We also heard a presentation by former NJSBA President and current NSBA Northeast Region Director Kevin Cyak on his trip to Finland and the review of their educational system.  Some of his key observations and takeaways were that Finland sorts their kids after Grade 6 into career tracks (Vocational vs. College) and they only report international test scores for college bound students; they do not rely heavily on student testing and they don’t understand why America is so focused on testing; their average costs per student in Finland are only slightly less than NJ’s costs; they do have a small population of special needs students who receive special assistance and programs; they are a socialist society were workers are paid comparable wages regardless of their education/profession; they have a very low amount of poverty; they have a very homogenous population (little diversity) and very little mobility into or out of their country or for that matter within their borders; only 10-15% of the people who want to be teachers are accepted into the profession and they must possess a masters degree in order to teach above the kindergarten level; they value professional development and collaboration between their teachers and principals; teachers and principals are paid comparable wages and principals and individual schools function very independently and are focused more on future goals for students.  It is noteworthy that their officials stated that they did not set out to be a highly regarded education system on the world stage nor is that their primary focus.  Their focus is to bring out the best in individual students for the benefit of their country. It is my opinion that we are a very different society than Finland and it is difficult in many cases to draw comparisons or to make blanket statements about educational quality and student achievement between our two countries without clarification of the assumptions used behind the data.

    I also attended the Semi-Annual Delegate Assembly of NJSBA at Mercer County College on 11/15.  At that meeting delegates from boards across the state heard a presentation on the State of the Association; reviewed three resolutions submitted by local boards of education for changes to basic policy and philosophies of the association; paid tribute to outgoing Immediate Past President Raymond Wiss of the Northern Valley Regional District in Bergen County; and elected new officers of the association for 2014-2016.  I was elected President, along with Jason Jones of the Neptune BOE in Monmouth County (VP for Legislation & Resolutions), Daniel Sinclair of the Wanaque BOE in Passaic County (VP for County Activities), Michael McClure of the Maple Shade BOE in Burlington County (VP for Finance) and outing President John Bulina of the Tabernacle BOE in Burlington County assumes the role of Immediate Past President.  I am looking forward to working with these gentlemen in order to advance student achievement through effective governance for all of New Jersey’s 1.3 million public school children.

    NJ Schools Insurance Group Activities (NJSIG)
    I attended the 10/22 regular meeting of the Board of Trustees.  We approved the bill and claims lists and financial reports for the group.  We had a presentation from our auditors on the results of the groups audit for fiscal year 2013-2014.  We received an unmodified opinion with two minor recommendations for improvement from the auditors.  We also discussed the status of the groups search for both a new headquarters location and a new Executive Director.

    Next Meeting
    The next regular meeting of the Manchester Township Board of Education will be held on December 17 with the public portion of the meeting beginning at 7:30 PM at the Ridgeway Elementary School.

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  • BOE President's Report Oct. 15, 2014

    Posted by Donald Webster, Jr. at 10/16/2014

    State/Federal Issues
    We continue to monitor education related bills that may affect Manchester.  The NJ State Legislature has been relatively quiet since it returned from its summer break.   There has been some discussion about the introduction of bills to re-examine the current school funding formula and the cap on superintendent’s salaries.

    Activities in Our Schools
    I participated in two more meetings of the District QSAC Team as we work towards preparing for our upcoming review by the State during the current school year.  The Governance Group that I am chairing has wrapped up the process of gathering the most critical documentation required for the review and completion of the necessary State Assessment Forms.  A couple of additional documents will be added to our file after the October BOE Meeting (Board Approval of the Annual Audit Report and the Annual Statement of Assurance).

    Members of the Board of Education attended all of the back-to-school nights in September in order to provide information about the referendum and to answer any questions parents may have had about our schools.  All of the back-to-school nights were well attended.

    The Board of Education would like to thank the public for their support of the referendum, which will allow us to make needed repairs to critical HVAC, roofing, lighting and physical security at all of our schools in a cost effective manner.

    NJ School Boards Association Activities (NJSBA)
    I participated in a Strategic Planning Meeting in Trenton on 10/7.  At this meeting we developed the initial draft of the Goals and Objectives of the association for 2014-2017.  I also represented the association officers and spoke at the Ocean County (10/1), Gloucester County (10/2), Monmouth County (10/6) and Somerset County (10/8) School Board Association fall meetings.

    NJ Schools Insurance Group Activities (NJSIG)
    I met with the owner of a building under consideration for purchase by the group for our future headquarters.  The meeting was called to clarify timeframes for the possible purchase of the building and to discuss the anticipated purchase cost.

    Next Meeting
    The next regular meeting of the board will be held on November 19, with the public portion of the meeting beginning at 7:30 PM at the Ridgeway Elementary School.

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  • BOE President's Report Sept. 17, 2014

    Posted by Donald Webster, Jr. at 9/17/2014 9:00:00 PM

    State/Federal Issues
    We continue to monitor education related bills that may affect Manchester.  Recently, the Governor approved a new law that will require us to provide instruction to students on the use of CPR and Defibrillators. This law affects students in grades 9-12 and is effective for the current school year.  It should be noted that our seniors in the High School currently receive CPR instruction as part of our health curriculum.  As a consequence of the new law, we will also need to add additional defibrillators to some of our school buildings over and above the units we currently have in place in order to comply with certain specific spacing and location requirements of the new law.  No additional funding from Trenton is expected or associated with the implementation of the new law.

    Activities in Our Schools
    I participated in the first meeting of the District QSAC Team to begin the preparations needed for our upcoming review by the State during the current school year.  Teams have been formed to address individual performance indicators and we are in the process of gathering the documentation required for the review and completion of the necessary State Assessment Forms.  I also visited each of our elementary schools shortly after school opened to review conditions in our schools and view final changes and the status of certain projects that had been undertaken during the summer (new flooring, fencing, renovations, security upgrades, etc.).  The interior of all our schools looked very vibrant and learning centered.

    NJ School Boards Association Activities (NJSBA)
    I participated in a Strategic Planning Meeting in Trenton on 9/6.  At this meeting a vision for the future of NJSBA was developed by the program participants.  Specific goals, objectives and action plan’s will developed at the groups next meeting on 10/6.  I also attended a meeting of the Centennial Committee, Audit Committee and the Board of Directors (BOD)  meeting on 9/12.  The Centennial Committee finalized plans for the upcoming Workshop 2014 celebration in Atlantic City on 10/28-10/30.  NJSBA is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.  The Audit Committee reviewed the association auditor’s final report for Fiscal Year 2013-2014, internal transfers of funds requiring approval, and travel expenditures processed for the Executive Director, Officers and Staff of the association for the past fiscal year.  At the BOD meeting we discussed the status of the association and the creation of a best practices data base for use by our board members.

    NJ Schools Insurance Group Activities (NJSIG)
    I chaired a meeting of the Facilities Sub-Committee on 9/17 to discuss a consultant’s report related to a possible new headquarters site for the group.  A recommendation from the sub-committee will be made to the full board at the October trustees meeting once the committee has had a chance to digest the architect’s report.  I also participated in the Trustees meeting that same day where bills and claims reports were reviewed and approved.  We also reviewed a report by the group’s actuaries and approved the renewal of certain consultant services for the upcoming fiscal year cycle.

    Next Meeting
    The next regular meeting of the board will be held on October 15 with the public portion of the meeting beginning at 7:30 PM at the Ridgeway Elementary School.

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