I had the opportunity to attend several spring athletic events over the past three weeks. Our student athletes performed well and conducted themselves in an exemplary manner. I also attended, along with Mr. Trethaway and Mr. George, the 33rd Annual Governor’s Arts in Education Award Ceremony in Trenton on May 2. Mrs. Jennifer Ansbach of the high school received an award as the 2013 NJ English Teacher of the Year. The program included a number of outstanding student talent performances, presentation of awards and scholarships in the arts to deserving students, along with recognition of teaching and administrative staff for their work, innovation and support of the arts in New Jersey’s schools.
We continue to monitor legislation being approved or proposed at the State level that affects public education here in Manchester. Recently, a bill was signed into law that precludes districts from implementing electronic surveillance of students in their homes/residences through the use of tracking software on district provided laptop devices. This bill was in direct response to an issue that arose in a Pennsylvania School District that generated adverse legal; privacy rights concerns, and media attention.
At the Federal level, the issue of sequestration remains unresolved and will cost our district $250,000 in Federal funding support next school year. Inaction by the Congress translates into more pressure on local school budgets and taxpayers who have to make up the funding and continue to comply with a myriad of Federal laws and regulations.
NJ School Boards Association Activities (NJSBA)
I co-chaired the April 30 meeting of the NJSBA School Security Task Force in Trenton. The task force members continue to gather information and hear presentations by noted experts in the field of school climate, school design and school security. A “Best Practices” report from the task force will to be delivered to the association President by the end of the summer. On May 13, I represented and spoke for the State association at the annual Special Education Week Awards Luncheon in Princeton. The awards program recognizes achievements of New Jersey’s special needs students and the dedication of their parents and teachers. Since 1985 NJSBA and the Association of Schools and Agencies for the Handicapped (ASAH) have organized the official celebration of Special Education Week. This year’s theme is “Journey into the Future of Education.” A number of innovative and creative programs from around our state that benefit special needs children were publicly recognized at this event.
The next regular meeting of the Board of Education will be held on June 19, 2013 at the Ridgeway Elementary School with the public portion of the meeting beginning at 7:30 PM.
We continue to monitor legislation being proposed at the State level that affects public education here in Manchester. The NJ SAFE Task Force on violence in our schools and communities released its report recently. With respect to school security, the task force issued a series of recommendations, the vast majority of which we have already implemented here in Manchester. A copy of the task force report can be found at Official State of NJ website or through various media outlets. We plan to continue to review and enhance our security protocols over the next several months.
The Board of Education has conducted its annual self-evaluation in accordance with the NJ Accountability Act and the requirements of NJ QSAC. The areas reviewed included Planning, Policy, Student Achievement, Finance, Board Operations, Board Performance, Board/Superintendent Relationships, Board/Staff Relationships and Board/Community Relationships. Overall, the board feels that it is functioning well in the areas reviewed. A few areas were noted for improvement and a number of challenges facing the board were identified as we move forward. (Attached is the complete report)
At the Federal level, the sequestration/fiscal cliff issue is still very much on the minds of educators. Significant cuts to our already under-funded Federal program funding were included in our recently adopted budget for next year. We now anticipate the loss of $260,000 in Federal funding next year. Statewide, the cuts are expected to amount to $73 million. The funding loss will have to be made up by local taxpayers, since there are no plans to waive or suspend the Federal education laws, regulations and mandates.
NJ School Boards Association Activities (NJSBA)
I chaired the Association’s Board of Director’s Meeting in Trenton on March 22 in the absence of our State President. At this meeting the directors approved the 2013-2014 State Association budget that maintains dues at the prior year level even though our costs are increasing. They also approved a plan to provide partial dues relief to districts who were adversely affected by Super Storm Sandy. Finally, the Directors approved an association position statement on school security related issues.
National School Boards Assoc. Delegate Assembly & Convention
I attended the 73rd Annual NSBA Convention in San Diego 4/13-4/15 at no cost to the district as a State Officer and Voting Delegate for NJ. At this event we elected a new National President, Mr. David Pickler from Memphis, Tennessee and a new President-Elect, Ms. Anne Byrne from Pearl River, NY. I attended a number of education training programs conducted by conference vendors and representatives from states around the nation. These programs included: National Core Content Standards, the Use of Technology in the Classroom and Teacher/Principal Evaluation Systems. I also heard the General Session Speakers including actress Geena Davis and noted education historian Dr. Diane Ravitch. Ms. Davis talked about the creation of her Institute on Gender in Media. She works with film and television creators to reduce gender stereotyping and increase the number of female characters in media targeted for children 11 and under. Dr. Ravich talked about her initial support for NCLB while she was an education policy member of George W. Bush’s Administration and how she now believes NCLB was seriously flawed and a mistake to implement. She spoke about the various reform efforts now underway in our country and how she believes these efforts are seriously misguided and will do more harm than good to our nation’s K-12 education system.
We continue to monitor legislation being proposed at theState level that affects public education here in Manchester. Recently, we learned that the legislature is considering a law (S-1501) requiring 20 minutes of mandated recess each day for elementary school children in grades K-5. Other recently posted bills would restrict school districts from entering into subcontracting agreements for certain school related services (S-1191) and (S-2163) would require binding arbitration for certain non-teaching staff disciplinary matters in order to determine whether there is just cause for said action. In addition, several bills have been written in response to the events at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which address current gun laws and gun violence in NJ. Finally, a bill has been written to create a task force to review how schools fund, utilize and implement services for special needs students in the wake of a report that concludes that that there are inconsistencies between programs in different school districts. I should note that NJSBA has also created a task force to look at Special Education Costs and Services to see if there are ways to more effectively deliver these services to students.
On March 1, several BOE members participated in the Read Across America Day program in our Elementary Schools. The children were all very attentive and enthusiastic about the reading program and the day’s scheduled events.
On March 5, the BOE adopted a tentative budget for FY2013-2014 that calls for a small overall increase in spending that is well under the State imposed 2% spending cap. The impact on the tax levy will be calculated once we receive approval of our budget from the County Superintendent of Schools and the certified property levy amount from the town. No cap waivers that could have been exercised by the district will be utilized in this budget. A possible significant reduction in Federal funding support has been incorporated into the budget in accordance with State DOE budget instructions. We are scheduled to receive a small increase in our State Aid (+$80,000), however, we were also advised that our debt service assessment payment to Trenton for old bond issues formerly paid for by them will be increasing by $56,000. Thus, the overall net increase in aid will be negligible. Since Manchester was cut $2.4 million in State Aid in 2009-2110, we remain over $1.4 million below where we were in terms of State support for this budget. For every dollar in State Income Taxes we send to Trenton we receive eleven cents back in the form of State Education Aid. Significant spending reductions that have been initiated (cooperative group purchasing, fuel & utility savings programs, health insurance plan changes among others) over the past several years are included in the budget and additional opportunities for further savings are constantly being explored and implemented as feasible. The budget basically represents a maintenance budget for the district. unfunded State and Federal mandates and events beyond the control of the BOE continue to put severe pressure on the district to maintain compliance with hundreds of laws and regulations, while at the same time, holding the line/reducing district spending and local property taxes.
On March 13, I co-chaired the first meeting of the NJSBA School Security Task Force. The Task Force is made up of 13 BOE members from around the State who have varied backgrounds in law enforcement, Homeland Security, corporate security, human behavior, technology, school security and the practice of law. The charge of the committee is to “identify best practices and changes in statute and regulation that would promote student safety and enable school boards to fund and implement security measures.” The report of the task force is due out in the next several months. As you may also be aware, the Governor has also created his own task force that intends to look at violence in our schools and our communities. Their report is due out shortly.
At the Federal level, the sequestration/fiscal cliff phenomenon is still very much on the minds of our nation's educators. Significant cuts to our already under-funded Federal program funding are still anticipated. Scheduled to take affect in the next budget cycle, the automatic budget reductions are expected to result in the loss of current Federal education funding of reportedly between 5.8%-20% for Manchester. Statewide, the cuts are expected to amount to $73 million. The funding loss will have to be made up by either reducing existing education program spending or by local taxpayers, since there are no plans to waive or suspend the Federal education laws and mandates.
NJ School Boards Association Activities (NJSBA)
I attended the Executive Committee Meeting in Trenton on March 5. Financial, budget, personnel and administrative issues were discussed. The theme for Workshop 2013 in October was approved. The theme will be “Student Achievement, Share the Vision.” I also attended and participated in the weekend New School Board Member Orientation Program on 3/8-3/10 in Princeton. Mrs. Walter also participated in this training program serving as a Group Leader.
We continue to monitor legislation being proposed at the State level that affects public education here in Manchester. Recently, the Governor has created a task force to look at safety in our schools and in our communities. They were given three months to provide a report on their recommendations.
Three members of the board (Mr. Pate, Mr. Placido &myself) and the Superintendent attended a statewide forum on January 18 at TCNJ to discuss school security issues. Renowned safety experts, current education administrators, law enforcement, and representatives of the NJ Department of Education and the State Attorney General’s Office participated in panel discussions and Q&A sessions. Board members, law enforcement, mayors and parents were in the audience (over 600 attendees). The panelists and attendees shared a lot of good information about school safety measures. The consensus is that there is no one thing that can be done to ensure school safety. School culture, technology, safety procedures, the relationship with local law enforcement, the physical plant environment and security personnel can all be a part of a good school safety program. It was noted that this will be an ongoing assessment process and each community’s needs may be different. We were cautioned not to give in to the temptation of a knee jerk reaction to help resolve this issue. Manchester has made some positive changes to our security protocols and we will continue to evaluate our options for additional changes and enhancements in this area as we move forward.
At the Federal level, the sequestration/fiscal cliff phenomenon is still very much on the minds of our nation’s educators. Cuts to our already under-funded Federal program funding are still anticipated. Now scheduled to take effect in early March, the automatic budget reductions are expected to result in the loss of current Federal education funding of approximately 5.1% or $61,200 for Manchester. Statewide, the cuts are expected to amount to $73 million. The funding loss will likely have to be made up by either reducing regular education programs or by local taxpayers, since there are no plans to waive or suspend the Federal education laws and mandates. I went to Washington on January 27-29 as a participant in the National School Boards Association (NSBA) Federal Relations Network Conference. On January 29 we met with members of the Senate and House and their staffs from NJ on Capitol Hill to discuss the Federal funding of public education and the long awaited reauthorization by Congress of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, Aka No Child Left Behind). The news was clearly not positive. Due to ongoing gridlock within the Congress, no one was very optimistic that either sequestration or the reauthorization will be dealt with in a timely or non-partisan manner. Some members of Congress apparently see public education as just another discretionary program within the Federal budget that carries no more importance than all the other discretionary Federal programs. The current reauthorization of ESEA expired in 2008 and the administration has taken it upon themselves through Executive Orders, due to the inaction of the Congress, to grant NCLB waivers to the states. However, by doing so, they have created their own new vision of public education and a whole new set of mandates and requirements on local districts without the accompanying Federal funding. In addition, these waivers will expire in 3 years and it is not known if they will be extended. So, we could well be spinning our wheels, wasting time and taxpayer money on reforms that could be superseded by new laws in the near future.
NJ School Boards Association Activities (NJSBA)
I attended the Audit Committee and the Board of Directors(BOD) Meetings for the state association on January 18 in Trenton. Discussion at the BOD Meeting focused on responses to the Sandy Hook School shootings and the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. As one can imagine, the representatives from our various counties had an array of opinions that mirror the dialog that is now going on in our country with respect to school security. Some members were in favor of armed guards in our schools. Some were not. Some were in favor of new gun restrictions and background checks and some were not. The Association is in the process of putting together a consensus position paper on our beliefs in regard to school safety that will be issued shortly. Concerning Hurricane Sandy, the members discussed the impact of the disaster, recovery efforts and the implications for schools and school funding going forward.
On February 11 and 13, the BOE held budget meetings where the principals, department heads and our administrators presented their individual budget requests and concerns to the BOE for our consideration. The BOE will approve a tentative budget on March 5 to submit to the County Superintendent of Schools for review. The overall budget request for the 2013-2104 school year will be presented at a public meeting on March 21 at 6:00PM.
The March meeting of the Board of Education has been moved from Wednesday, March 20 to Thursday, March 21 at 6:00 PM for our Public Budget Presentation, followed by the regular meeting. The meeting will be held at the Ridgeway Elementary School.
Since our last regular meeting in early December, I attended several Winter Concerts/Plays for our Middle School and Elementary Schools. The students performed very well and the events were well attended. We have some very talented students in our community. I also had the opportunity to attend a High School Boys and Girls Basketball Tournament Game over the holidays. Our student-athletes conducted themselves in a positive manner at the games I attended.
We continue to monitor legislation being proposed at the State level that affects public education here in NJ. Recent bills include changes to the State Sunshine Law, raising the required age for attendance in school from 16 to 18 years, and the creation of an Education Security Task Force among others.
The recent tragedy in Connecticut has caused all of us to reexamine our security protocols in all of our schools. Our in-school safety teams have been meeting and we have been in consultation with our security vendor and local law enforcement over what additional steps we should consider taking in order to help provide a safe environment for our students, staff, and visitors. We will also be attending several statewide forums that have been scheduled to discuss security issues with renowned safety experts and representatives of the NJ Department of Education and the state Attorney General’s Office. We have already made some changes to our existing security protocols in our schools and we will likely make some more changes in the coming months as additional information and suggestions come in from law enforcement, security experts and public officials. Actions may include additional restrictions on school access, additional perimeter electronic surveillance, new security devices at building controlled access points, security personnel in our schools, reconfiguration/renovation of our existing lobby and main school building entrances, and any other measures that the board deems as appropriate and necessary.
At the Federal level, the across the board reductions in existing Federal funding of education programs (AKA Sequestration/ fiscal cliff) appear to have been mitigated somewhat by the last minute actions of Congress. However, some cuts to our already under-funded Federal Program funding are still anticipated. Originally scheduled to take effect in January, the automatic budget reductions would have resulted in the loss of current Federal education funding of approximately 8.2% or $100,000 for Manchester. The funding loss would likely have to be made up by local taxpayers, since there are no plans to waive or suspend Federal education laws and mandates. I will be heading to Washington on January 24th as a participant in the National School Boards Association (NSBA) Federal Relations Network Conference. On Tuesday, January 29, we will be meeting with members of Congress and their staff on Capitol Hill to discuss Federal funding of public education and the long awaited reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, aka NoChild Left Behind). Enclosed in the BOE member packets are informational documents I have prepared for the Congressman and their staffs on these issues and their impact on Manchester, which I will hand deliver to them on the 29th. At next month’s meeting, I will report on how these meetings with the members of Congress go.
NJ School Boards Association Activities (NJSBA)
On January 8, I attended the Executive Committee Meeting in Trenton where we discussed association business including personnel, financial and organizational issues. I will also be attending the Audit Committee and the Board of Directors Meetings for the association on January 18 in Trenton.
Middle School Mold Issue
The Middle School reopened on November 26 for students and staff. The re-opening went very well. Some minor punch list items and the replacement of the gym floor are still being worked on and should be completed by the end of the calendar year. Again, the Board of Education wishes to thank the students, parents and teaching staff for their understanding and support during this difficult time period. We also want thank the contractors and our maintenance and support staff who worked so very hard to make the return to the school a reality in a very short turn around period.
I attended the Winter Concerts for our High School and will also attend the Elementary Schools. The high school students performed very well and the events were well attended. It goes without saying that we have some very talented students in our community.
At the Federal level, the across-the-board reductions in existing Federal funding of education programs (AKA Sequestration/ fiscal cliff) are still a major concern for boards of education around the country. Scheduled to take affect in early January, this automatic budget reduction would result in the loss of current Federal education funding of approximately 7.8% or $100,000 for Manchester. The funding loss would likely have to be made up by local taxpayers, since there are no plans to waive or suspend Federal education laws and mandates. I have written and emailed several times to both of our Senators (Menendez & Lautenburg) and Representative Chris Smith about our concerns with these funding cuts as they relate to Manchester. I have received positive responses to my inquiries from both of our Senators saying they are working to mitigate the possible cuts to education. No response has been received so far from Congressman Smith’s Office on this issue.
NJ School Boards Association Activities (NJSBA)
On November 16, I attended the NJSBA Board of Directors Meeting at Mercer County College. I provided a financial update for the association. Executive Director, Dr. Larry Fiensod, updated the directors on how the association was trying to assist school districts that were adversely affected by Sandy by providing technical assistance, linking third-party donors with needy districts and identifying districts who can help take in displaced students. He also shared his new vision of NJSBA with all of us.
On November 17, I attended the NJSBA Semi-Annual Delegate Assembly at Mercer County College. Over 140 local school board representatives from around the State attended the assembly. At the assembly, delegates passed a resolution which calls upon NJSBA to advocate for more accountability, and controls over third-party online education programs that are taken for education credits by staff and administrators. The concern expressed by the Maywood School district is that although reputable institutions of higher learning may sponsor these programs, often times the programs themselves are contracted out to third parties whose accountability and program content have been called into question.
After the formal Delegate Assembly, we heard a presentation by three experts related to the issue of school funding and property taxes here in NJ. The experts included Richard Keevey, former Director of the Office of Management and Budget for NJ and now a Rutgers Faculty Member, Mr. Gregg Edwards, Chief of Staff to the Secretary of Higher Education in NJ and Mr. Ernest Reock Jr., professor emeritus at the Rutgers Center for Government Services and a noted expert on school funding and local property taxes. The speakers talked about the looming fiscal crisis and property taxes as identified in the recent Volcker/Ravitch study that reviewed the financial condition of six states including NJ. They said that given the current indebtedness of NJ and our future pension liabilities, the likelihood that NJ will be able to dig itself out of its current funding shortfall with just spending cuts alone is unrealistic. The state will still need to address healthcare, transportation, infrastructure, poverty and a whole host of other needs and concerns simultaneously. In addition, some spending cuts will likely have to come from education, since education aid is the largest component of the state budget. This puts educators, legislators, and the public in a bit of a pickle. Prioritization of our spending commitments will be essential going forward. Also, the focus on other viable revenue sources for the state must be part of the conversation. Members were also cautioned about arbitrarily eliminating property taxes in favor of other taxes to fund public education. Like it or not, property taxes are a more
stable funding source than other taxes. States that rely heavily on lotteries and sales and use taxes to fund education are struggling greatly to maintain their education programs and facilities. The bottom line here is that there will not be any easy answers/solutions to this dilemma going forward.
The next meeting of the Board of Education will be held on January 2, 2013 at the Ridgeway Elementary School beginning at 7:00 PM. This will be the Re-organization Meeting for the board. This change to our re-organization process is due to the decision to move school elections to November in order to increase voter participation and reduce election costs.
Middle School Mold Issue
The rebuilding of the first floor classrooms continues to move along at a steady pace. Furniture and educational support materials that we need in order to put the classrooms back together have arrived and are being installed. The recent Hurricane did cause a slight delay in getting some work done at the school, but we are optimistic that we can recover from this situation in the near future. We still hope to re-open the school following the Thanksgiving Holiday. The Superintendent will continue to provide weekly updates of this situation on his district website blog.
The recent coastal storm(s) us with a number of unique challenges, not the least of which was our decision to re-open our schools on Monday 11/5/12. I want to thank the parents, students, staff and municipal officials for their cooperation and help in working with us during this difficult time period.
During the past month, I was able to attend another High School football game and the recent marching band competition hosted by Manchester. The band competition was very well attended and all of the participating bands did a great job with their performances. A moment of silence was observed for the two Jackson Memorial High School students (sisters) who died in a tragic car accident recently. I would say that overall the event was a resounding success for our High School Music Staff and our Marching Band Parents Association.
A recent study by NJSBA determined that 31.4% of districts began the 2011-2012 school year with a new school superintendent. This is the highest turnover ratio in the past decade. Superintendents are the chief school leaders who are expected to effectively manage the overall operations of school districts while working toi mprove student achievement. It seems to me that the turnover issue is becoming a serious concern for school districts around the state. In my opinion, it will be very difficult if not impossible, to significantly impact student achievement in a positive manner when there is a revolving door at the front office.
I am pleased to announce that Marie Bilik, outgoing Executive Director of NJSBA has been appointed as the new Chief Operating Officer for the National Schools Boards Association in Washington, DC. Marie has a wealth of experience as a local school board member, field service representative, mayor, and State School Boards Association Director here in New Jersey. I am sure she will be a great asset to the national association.
At the Federal level, the across the board reductions in existing Federal funding of education programs (AKA Sequestration) are still a major concern for boards of education around the country. Scheduled to take affect in early January, this automatic budget reduction would result in the loss of current Federal education funding of approximately 7.8% or $100,000 for Manchester. The funding loss would likely have to be made up by local taxpayers, since there are no plans to waive or suspend Federal education laws and mandates. I have written and emailed both of our Senators (Menendez &Lautenburg) and Representative Chris Smith about our concerns with these funding cuts as they relate to Manchester. I have received positive responses to my inquiries from both of our Senators saying they are working to mitigate the possible cuts to education. No response has been received so far from Congressman Smith.
NJ School Boards Association Activities (NJSBA)
On October 23-25, I attended the annual Workshop 2012 in Atlantic City for the benefit of local school board members, business officials and school administrators. Several of our board members and administrative staff also attended all or part of the workshop. This year’s conference theme was “Partners in Student Success.” Board members who attended this event were able to take advantage of over 150 training opportunities, vendor presentations and exhibits, student talent performances and demonstrations, and the keynote speakers. For example, Mr. Griffin and I attended the State mandated Governance IV Training Program required for re-elected school board members. This program is basically a legislative update focusing on recent court decisions and new legislation that affects public education here in New Jersey. I also had the pleasure and privilege of introducing and presenting an award to New Jersey’s Teacher of the Year for2012-2013, Ms. Lauren Moracco, an elementary school teacher from the Perth Amboy School District. I also had the pleasure of introducing the keynote motivational speaker, Mr. Billy Riggs.
The keynote speakers this year included NJ Department of Education Commissioner Mr. Christopher Cerf and Mr. Billy Riggs. Mr. Cerf focused his remarks on the recent State testing results and what the NJDOE will be doing to help low performing school districts to improve on those results. He noted that NJASK test results were basically flat and that HSPA results were up significantly from last year. Here in Manchester we have seen positive growth results in State testing from year to year at virtually all grade levels. However, the Commissioner is cautious about jumping to any conclusions about the high school test results because he does not believe that the current HSPA test measures or is a good predictor of college and career readiness. This is why the state is moving to the new PARCC testing in the future. He also expressed great concern that the achievement gap between white and minority students is not narrowing, as he would like to see. He believes that the new RAC’s (Regional Achievement Centers) will be key to addressing problems in low performing schools and the identified achievement gap. He also stated that he wants to eliminate cumbersome rules and regulations for school districts that are performing well. Essentially, he will leave those districts alone and focus on the underperforming districts. Finally, he thanked school board members for all of their efforts and asked us to continue to focus on student achievement, good governance and to be active on the State legislative front in order to bring about constructive change to our schools here in New Jersey.
Mr. Riggs had a very entertaining and uplifting presentation. He used both magic tricks and illusion to drive home his message that the core beliefs of local school board members and administrators can be used to propel each local district to a higher level. He said he knows that we have the knowledge and determination to bring about positive change in our districts; we just need to trust in our abilities as school board members. His motivational speech and overall presentation was very well received by the audience in attendance.
The next meeting of the Board of Education will be held on December 19 at the Ridgeway Elementary School beginning at 7:30PM.
We recognize that our community has suffered some significant damage and that there are still power outages and downed trees scattered around some neighborhoods. After touring all of our schools and local neighborhoods on Saturday, and in consultation with the State Department of Education, local Office of Emergency Management (OEM) Officials and our Police Department, we have decided to re-open our schools from Monday to Wednesday of this week. All of our schools now have power, fuel and functioning utilities. Food Service and Transportation services will be provided and available to all of our schools. The action of re-opening our schools will offer our students and staff who do not have power an opportunity to come into a safe, warm environment where hot food will be available. It will also provide parents with an opportunity to either go to work or to work on repairs to their property while their students are safely supervised in our schools.
We realize that some staff and students may not be able to get to school this week and that is understandable under the circumstances, but we felt that it is important to get our students back into the classroom as soon as possible in order to continue with their education. We will be adjusting a couple of our bus stops where downed trees and or non-live power lines could be a hindrance to our bus routes in Pine Lake Park and Holly Oaks. Our tour on Saturday determined that the vast majority of the roadways and bus stops around the community were safe and passable. I should note that we will be flexible and understanding with respect to late arrivals to our schools and related attendance issues.
I also want to make it clear that our decision to not open our schools on Thursday and Friday had nothing to do with Union contracts or issues with the Manchester Township Education Association. Union leadership has been both very cooperative and understanding of our situation. Many of their members have suffered catastrophic damage to their homes. Rather the decision about Thursday and Friday had to do with local OEM concerns and the National Weather Service Warning about another non-tropical coastal storm expected to arrive here in New Jersey on Wednesday evening into Thursday. The National Weather Service forecast warns that this storm could produce both heavy rain and gale force winds. Our concern is that there could be additional power outages and flooding for these days along with related safety concerns for our students and staff. For this reason, we decided not to press our luck by trying to open for Thursday and Friday. Hopefully, the new projected storm will not be as bad as predicted, but we decided not to take the chance.
Finally, we hope to hold a Halloween celebration for our students in our schools on Wednesday, once our staff is able to re-establish their basic classroom functionality and some normalcy in the schools. We understand that psychologically this can be important to our students who have been through a lot of angst this past week along with their families and friends. The Board of Education hopes that you and your families are all safe and that we will be able to restore our community back to where it was before the hurricane as soon as possible. In the meantime, we will work to continue to provide your students with the best education we can under difficult circumstances, in a safe and caring manner.
Middle School Mold Issue
The mold clean up process is well on its way to being completed at the Middle School. Rebuilding of the first floor classrooms is now also well under way. Needed building materials, furniture and educational supplies that we need to put the classrooms back together have been ordered and are arriving on a daily basis. The Superintendent will continue to provide weekly updates of this situation on his district website blog.
I attended, along with my fellow members of the Board of Education, Back-to-School Nights for the Regional Day School, Middle School, High School and Manchester Township Elementary School. All of these events were well received and well attended by our parents.
Earlier this month, I was able to attend another High School football game, a field hockey match and boys and girls soccer matches. Our student athletes played well and exhibited good sportsmanship at all of the events that I attended.
At the State level, I want to make everyone aware of legislation that Senator Weinberg has introduced (Senate Bill 968) that limits local autonomy by imposing procedures and standards regarding when and how public services privatization contracts could be awarded. NJSBA is opposed to this legislation because it interferes with managerial prerogative, provides additional unneeded restrictions for both local school districts and their employees, will be more expensive for taxpayers and, ultimately is of little or no benefit to students receiving a public education in NJ.
At the Federal level, K-12 education reform efforts remain at a standstill. There has also been no movement towards recognition of full funding for federally mandated education programs that adversely affects local school districts. Also, across the board reductions to existing Federal funding (AKA Sequestration) is still looming as early as January of 2013. This action would result in the loss of current Federal education funding of approximately 7.8% or $100,000 for Manchester, and the funding loss would have to be made up by local taxpayers.
NJ School Boards Association Activities (NJSBA)
On October 5-7, I was part of the NJ Delegation at the annual National Schools Boards Association (NSBA) Conference of Northeast Region States, this year hosted by the Delaware School Boards Association (DSBA) in Wilmington, Delaware. I attended this event at no cost to the district. I also served as a member of the Regional Nominating Committee for the selection of Board of Directors members to the national association. At the conference we heard an update from the NSBA President, Mr. C. Ed Massey, who is a member of the Boone County Kentucky Board of Education and we were also introduced to the newly named Executive Director of NSBA, Mr. Thomas J. Gentzel. Mr. Gentzel most recently served as the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and is well know to our delegation. I am confident that he is the right person to lead NSBA into the future.
MS Mold Update
As you all know by now, our staff discovered a mold-like growth in several locations on the first floor of the Middle School in early August. The district has brought in environmental and cleaning experts to assess and develop a remediation plan to address this situation. Students, staff and the public will not be allowed into the building until the experts in this field give us the “all clear and safe” certification.
Earlier this month I was able to attend a HS football game and several boys and girls soccer matches. Our student athletes played well and exhibited good sportsmanship at all of the events that I attended.
Manchester is a High Performing District
We have recently received word from the State of NJ in the form of written correspondence that as a result of the Quality Single Accountability Continuum (Aka QSAC) review process that occurred in the spring of this year, the Manchester Township School District has been determined to be a “High Performing District.” This information will be provided to the State Board of Education for formal recognition at their next meeting. Congratulations to the administrators and staff who worked very hard to demonstrate to the state officials that we were in compliance with all of the performance standards and regulations established under NJ QSAC.
State Legislative News
At the State level, on 9/6 the Governor released the report of his Education Reform Task Force. Th etask force was formed last year with the stated goals of looking to reduce redundant and unnecessary regulations, update current statutes to match current practice and regulations, provide for more local school board flexibility and control, and to help reduce the overall cost of K-12 public education in NJ. The report contains over 428 recommendations to reduce/revise regulations and over 46 proposed changes to existing State Education Laws. It seems to me to be ironic that the task force is now proposing more local flexibility and control and the reduction of burdensome regulations when over the last several years all we have seen out of Trenton is the erosion of local flexibility and control and the addition of many burdensome and unfunded mandates (ex. Accountability Regulations, HIB, Teacher Evaluation Process). It makes one wonder whether the new message out of Trenton is that we thought we knew what was best for your kids and school districts and we were wrong, or we tried that and it didn’t work so, lets go back to what we know works for the vast majority of our public school districts; i.e. local control and flexibility to implement education reform efforts that are needed and are tailored to address the specific needs of local communities and not the one size fits all philosophy that some people have been advocating for recently.
Federal Legislative News
At the Federal level, K-12 education reform efforts are pretty much at a stand still and most likely will remain so until after the Presidential Election in November.
NJ School Board Assoc. Activities
On August 25th, I participated in the final interview sessions of the Executive Director (ED) Search Committee. At this meeting, we interviewed three finalists and selected a candidate to fill the soon to be vacant ED position. The new ED is expected to begin work for the association on or before December 1. I attended the September 4th Meeting of the NJSBA Executive Committee where association financial, personnel and operational items were reviewed, discussed and approved. I also attended and spoke at the Monmouth County School Boards Association Meeting on September 6 in Howell Township while representingthe State Officers of the association. At that meeting we heard reports from the County Executive Superintendent on the new Teacher Tenure Law and the new staff evaluation process, which is scheduled to be implemented in the 2013-2014 schoolyear. On 9/14, I attended the NJSBA Audit Committee and Board of Directors Meetings at Mercer County Community College. At the meeting, the BOD approved the hiring of Dr. Larry Feinsod to be the new Executive Director of the association upon the retirement of Marie Bilik at the end of the current calendar year.
Policy Committee Update
Members of the BOE Policy Committee and the Superintendentmet again in August and September to continue the process of reviewing, revising and updating board policies. We have now basically reviewed all of the BOE policies. Doing this work ourselves will save the district money and allow us, in the future, to have our policies updated and accessible online. Completion of this task should occur this fall.
The next meeting of the board will be held on October 17 at the Ridgeway Elementary School beginning at 7:30 PM.