BOE Reports & Notes

  • BOE President's Report July 22, 2015

    Posted by Donald Webster, Jr. at 7/23/2015 2:00:00 PM

    State/Federal Issues

    We continue to monitor education related bills that may affect Manchester.  Federal legislation to overhaul the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (NCLB) is in the process of being scheduled for floor debate and a vote in both houses of the Congress.  Both of the proposed bills have some positive aspects and some negative aspects to them. I have recently reached out to our Senators expressing my support and concerns over the content of the Senate bill.  Hopefully, we will see some positive movement on these long awaited bills in the near future.

    At the state level, the Governor’s School Security Task Force that I was a member of has released its final report.  The report recommends improvements in Emergency Response Times and Coordination, Emergency Communication System Enhancements, the placement of SRO’s in all schools,  the screening of all visitors, and the wearing of ID badges by all staff, visitors, and students.

    Activities in Our Schools

    I attended the Middle School and High School graduations. Congratulations to all of our graduates and their families and friends.  Thank you to the all staff of our schools for their hard work and dedication in helping our students reach their full potential.  I also had a chance to visit several of our schools to see the progress of the work being done first hand related to the recently approved construction referendum.

    NJ School Boards Association Activities (NJSBA)

    I attended a meeting with DOE Staff to hear about the plan to review and revise the Common Core Standards for NJ Schools. The process is expected to begin in earnest in August.  It will include a Steering Committee with input from teachers, administrators, parents and members of the business community.  There will also be subcommittees that will work on the details of the standards.  The subcommittees will be made up of subject matter and standards writing experts.

    I also attended a meeting with DOE, Higher Ed and Legislative representatives to talk about the training and requirements for being certified in iSTEAM (immersive Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Architecture, Mathematics) at our state’s teacher colleges.  There was a consensus that the requirements of and support needed for this program needs to change.  There is currently a severe shortage of trained iSTEAM graduates coming out of our state’s colleges and universities and a perceived need for existing staff in all our schools to receive training on the principles of iSTEAM.  This situation will only get worse if action is not taken soon to address these shortcomings.

    Next Meeting

    The next regular meeting of the Manchester Township Board of Education will be held on August 19, 2015 with the public portion of the meeting beginning at 7:30 PM at the BOE Offices in Whiting, NJ.

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  • BOE President's Report June 18, 2015

    Posted by Donald Webster, Jr. at 6/25/2015

    State/Federal Issues

    We continue to monitor education related bills that may affect Manchester.  Federal legislation to overhaul the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (NCLB) has been passed out of Committee in both houses of Congress and they await floor discussion, debate and approval/disapproval.  Both of the proposed bills have some positive aspects and some negative aspects to them. I have emailed Congressman Smith again related to my thoughts and concerns about these bills and the need to continue the push to get this long overdue legislation approved in the current Congress.  He has responded back to me that he is supportive of our position on these bills.

    At the state level, important discussions continue related to the State Budget for 2015-2016.  Hovering over the budget had been a lawsuit related to required pension payments for public sector labor unions.  The court’s ruling on the suit went in favor of the state.  It now appears that state aid for education will not be adversely affected in the final budget document.

    On May 28, I attended, along with several members of the staff, a national news event with Governor Christie concerning public education in NJ.  The Governor announced that, in his opinion, the Common Core State Standards adopted in 2010 were just not working for NJ nor are they being supported by parents and teachers.  Therefore, he has ordered the Commissioner of Education to form another review committee, this time including teachers and parents, and has charged them with coming up with a NJ version of required state educational standards for public schools.  The Governor expects the committee to be done with its work by 12/31/15.  This is a very ambitious schedule to say the least.  He also stated emphatically that we will continue to use the controversial PARCC test to assess if NJ’s educational standards are being met by its students.  He said he would not jeopardize federal educational funding to NJ just because some people don’t want to take a test.  If necessary, he said, the PARCC test would be modified to accommodate NJ’s own educational standards.  I have to say his comments were a real head-scratcher.  After 5 years of exhaustive work and considerable expense to revise curriculum and implement the Common Core and PARCC tests, it is certainly more confusing than ever as to where we go from here as a state in regard to public education standards and student assessments.

    Activities in Our Schools

    I attended the Whiting School Spring Concert at the High School on 5/28. The concert was well attended by parents, relatives and guests.   The students gave a terrific performance of hit songs from the 50’s right up to the present music genre. I represented the board and our greater school community at an Eagle Scout Court of Honor Ceremony on 5/30 for our student Kevin B.  It was certainly an honor to represent the board at this milestone event.  Kevin’s hard work, dedication, perseverance and community service will provide him with skills and qualities that will benefit him for the rest of his life. Congratulations to Kevin B.!  My wife and I attended the Manchester Township Memorial Day Celebration Program at the WW II Veterans Memorial Park in Whiting on 5/25.  A sizeable contingent of our High School Naval Jr. ROTC Cadets attended the event.  They were in their dress uniforms and they also marched in the parade to the park prior to the formal ceremonies.  On 6/1, I attended and participated in the Manchester Township Education Foundation Charity Golf Outing at the Eagle Ridge Golf Club in Lakewood.  Over 80 golfers participated in the outing.  Cloudy and somewhat raining conditions did not dampen the enthusiasm of the participants.  The event was a great success with a record amount of funds being raised for the benefit of Manchester’s students.  Thank you to the Officers and Volunteers of MTEF who helped put together this event and thank you to all of the golfers and sponsors who helped to make it a resounding success. On 6/4 I attended the Senior Recognition Awards Program at the High School.  I distributed a series of Memorial Scholarships (7) to the students.  These scholarships are now administered centrally by the district.  The event was very well attended and the students were appreciative of the efforts of the many sponsors who made the scholarships available to them.  Congratulations to the students and their parents and thank you to the many sponsors who provided scholarships for our students. My wife and I also attended the Relay for Life Event at the high school on 6/6 to benefit The American Cancer Society.  Again, the event was very well attended by both school and community members.  Thank you to all who attended and donated to the cause. A special thanks to all of the volunteers who helped put together this event for the benefit of our entire community.

    NJ School Boards Association Activities (NJSBA)

    I attended and spoke at County School Board Association Meetings in Mercer and Middlesex counties over the past several weeks.  I attended the annual NJSBA Legislative Day in Trenton on 6/11.  Commissioner David Hespe was the keynote speaker.  State Board of Education President Mark Biedron also spoke at the event.  There was a panel of legislators who also participated in the event and spoke about different issues of interest to school board members, PTA members and parents.

    Affiliation with NASA

    The NJ School Boards Association has entered into a formal relationship with NASA (The National Aeronautic and Space Administration) to assist schools in our state with guidance, support and access to iSTEM related information and tools for success in the classroom.  I had the privilege to travel to the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland on 5/29 to hear firsthand from engineers and scientists about what they do and what resources will be available to our schools from our relationship with them.  I got to meet with Dr. John C. Mather, Nobel Physics Prize Recipient in 2006.  He is the author of the book “The Very First Light” and the individual who helped develop the “The Big Bang Theory” related to the creation of the universe.  I heard about the importance of science and engineering to the future of our country.  NASA employs over 9,000 people and has the largest concentration of engineers and scientists in the USA.  During my visit, I witnessed actual construction in progress on the James Webb Space Telescope, which will replace the aged Hubble Space Telescope in 2017.  The work was being done in a high tech clean room over 8 stories tall.  I also witnessed testing in progress on various satellite components where conditions in space were being simulated in clean rooms and under high tech laboratory conditions.  This work is indicative of the type of jobs and careers that our students could pursue with a strong background in iSTEM education.

    Next Meeting

    The next regular meeting of the Manchester Township Board of Education will be held on July 22, 2015 with the public portion of the meeting beginning at 7:30 PM at the Board of Education Office, 121 Rt. 539 in Whiting, NJ.

     
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  • BOE President's Report May 13, 2015

    Posted by Donald Webster, Jr. at 5/14/2015 9:00:00 AM

    State/Federal Issues

    We continue to monitor education related bills that may affect Manchester.  Federal legislation to overhaul the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (NCLB) continues to be discussed and debated in Washington. A re-authorization bill in the Senate has moved out of committee with unanimous bi-partisan support.  In the House of Representatives, the re-authorization bill that was voted out committee along party lines is still stalled.  Both of the proposed bills have some positive aspects and some negative aspects to them. I have emailed Congressman Smith and Senators Menendez and Booker about my thoughts and concerns related to these bills and the need to continue the push to get this long overdue legislation approved in the current Congress.

    At the state level, important discussions continue related to the State Budget for 2015-2016.  Hovering over the budget is a lawsuit related to required pension payments for public sector labor unions.  Depending upon the outcome of this lawsuit, the state may need to dramatically alter its spending plan for the remainder of this fiscal year and its proposed budget for next year.  Since over 50% of the state budget relates to state aid payments to schools and municipalities, the outcome of the lawsuit could potentially have a dramatic negative impact on local school and municipal budgets going forward.

    Activities in Our Schools

    The Board of Education formally adopted the budget for the district for Fiscal Year 2015-2016.  The budget, which has been approved by and complies with State law, is within the provisions of the 2% State Cap Law.  The Operating portion of the budget is increasing by just 1.27% over the prior year.  We have not utilized any waivers from the cap to which we are entitled.   The budget includes the use of a small portion ($195,000) of “Banked Cap” (underspending from prior budget years) for needed technology upgrades in the Middle School and the High School.  All current programs and staff would be retained under the proposed budget.  The budget includes one new staff position in the expanded Technology Department.  We will also be replacing some of our oldest buses that are required to be taken out of service due to current state law.  We will also be replacing some textbooks and the adding some technology devices.  Projected enrollment would see a slight increase.

    The tax impact of the budget on a home assessed at the current township average of $157,000 would be a $57/year increase.  One-third of this increase is attributed to debt service payments related to referendum projects approved by a recent public vote.  It should be noted that since most properties in the township are assessed at less than $100,000, the most common effect of the budget increase would be $36/year or less.  Our actual and budgeted cost per student remain well below both the actual cost state average ($504 less/student, 2013-2014) and the budgeted average cost for our demographic grouping (K-12, up to 3,500 students)  at ($528 less/student, 2014-2015).

    Cost savings have been achieved in the budget wherever possible including:  significant energy cost savings initiatives and cooperative purchasing of electricity and natural gas, transportation routing savings  initiatives, cooperative group purchasing for school supplies, equipment and maintenance services, the refinancing of debt as appropriate, the use of shared programs and services with the township (paving, recycling, police SRO in HS) and the creation of jointure agreements for shared services with other local school districts in the county.  State-aid funding continues to account for only 11.4% of our budget due to the state-aid funding formula that views Manchester as a wealthy community.  Our projected state-aid next year will actually be $1.1 million less than what we received from the state just 5 short years ago.  Reduced federal funding next year will account for just 1.9% of the budget, even though federal education polices and mandates continue and actually cost considerably more than the level of funding support received.

    Sustainable Jersey for Schools

    I attended and chaired a meeting of the Certification Committee at NJSBA Headquarters on 5/5.  At this meeting we reviewed the status of school and district enrollment in the program, we talked about the grant applications received and the schedule for review thereof and the awards to be made, we discussed the proposed Certification Process Schedule for 2016 and we heard updates from various subcommittees related to the overall program.  As of now, we have 200+ schools from 70+ districts enrolled in the program.  It was noted that additional grant funding opportunities for our schools will be made available in the coming months as a result of the generosity and donations from interested organizations.  This program is designed to provide sustainable and green options for schools that will reduce operating costs, help the environment and provide classroom educational and grant opportunities for our schools.

    NJ School Boards Association Activities (NJSBA)

    I attended and spoke at County School Board Association Meetings in Cape May, Monmouth, Ocean & Somerset counties over the past several weeks.  I also represented the association at a LEE Group (Leading Education Associations of NJ) meeting at the NJASBO Office’s on 5/6 in Robbinsville.  At this meeting various topics of interest to the groups were discussed including the status of the proposed state budget for 2015-2106, pension reform and funding implications, ROD grant program changes, and whether state-aid payments would be withheld for May.  I co-hosted a Celebration of Special Education Week Awards Program in Princeton on 5/11.  This program recognizes achievements and innovation in NJ’s special education programs.  I am also attending an Audit Committee Meeting and Chairing the Board of Directors Meeting of the Association in Trenton on 5/15. I will also chair the Semi-annual Delegate Assembly Meeting of the Association on 5/16 at the Mercer County College Conference Center.  The Delegate Assembly will include reports on the status of the association by both the Executive Director and the Vice President for Finance.  It will also include a discussion and vote on proposed changes to the association’s bylaws.  A resolution submitted by a member district related to changing the timing of re-organization meetings following the November School Board Elections will also be discussed and voted upon by the delegates.

    Next Meeting

    The next regular meeting of the Manchester Township Board of Education will be held on June 10, 2015 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 April 22, 2015

    Posted by Donald Webster, Jr. at 4/23/2015 8:00:00 AM

    State/Federal Issues

    We continue to monitor education related bills that may affect Manchester. A bill in the House of Representatives that would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, out which came No Child Left Behind-NCLB), has stalled.  Although the bill was passed out of committee along party lines, it has not been brought to the floor for debate and a full House vote due to a lack of consensus on its content.  In the US Senate, the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is still working to come up with a re-authorization bill.  Further action is expected during the week of April 13.  We are concerned that several different versions of the bills have emerged.  Each of the bills have different perspectives on the reauthorization with respect to national standards, student testing, funding, teacher evaluations, and the role of the Federal government in public education.  Some of the provisions in these bills are encouraging, while others would appear to have a negative impact on our students, schools and funding. 

    In the NJ Legislature, the State Assembly has passed a bill that would delay the impact of PARCC testing, provide a formal state-wide opt-out process, and mandate alternative educational opportunities for students who choose to opt-out. The State Senate has yet to consider companion legislation.  

    Activities in Our Schools

    I attended the Whiting School’s 60th Anniversary Celebration on April 2.  It was a very nice day and included a spirited program.  It was great to see such a large number of former teachers, administrators and support staff who came back for the event.  The invited guests included 92 year-old Mary Clarke, who was a teacher at the school in 1955.  We enjoyed the student performances and viewing pictures of the school, students and staff from a long time ago.  The video presentation also included music from the past several decades.  Congratulations to all those who made the event so very special.  I also attended both a boys' baseball and a girls' softball game over the course of the past two weeks.  Our students played well and showed good sportsmanship.

    NJSBA School Security Task Force Presentations

    Mr. Ray Wiss, President Emeritus, Burlington County SBA President Brandon Pugh, and I participated in a BlogTalk radio program dedicated to school security issues on April 21.  The radio show focused on best practices for school districts as identified in the Association’s School Security Task Force Report entitled, “What makes schools safe?”  We also fielded and answered a number of questions from listeners around the state.

    NJ School Boards Association Activities (NJSBA)

    I attended the National Schools Boards Association (NSBA) Delegate Assembly and Convention in Nashville, TN on 3/19-3/23, at no expense to the district.  At the convention we elected Mr. John Tuttle of Oklahoma as the new National President.  Mr. Kevin Ciak, a former State President of NJ, was elected as the new NSBA Secretary-Treasurer.  We approved a number of modifications to NSBA policies and bylaws, debated and approved resolutions on educational policy as submitted by member states, and we heard from several keynote speakers including Jane Pauley and Montel Williams.   I had the opportunity to attend several training sessions on school security, educational leadership, and the closing of the achievement gap. 

    I attended and spoke at the Mercer County SBA Association Meeting on 4/16.  In the coming week, I will be speaking at the Monmouth, Atlantic and Somerset County School Board Association Meetings.  I attended an Audit Committee Meeting and Chaired the Board of Directors (BOD) Meeting of the Association, which were both held in Trenton on 3/27. At the BOD meeting we honored outgoing members, welcomed new members, reviewed and approved proposed changes to the association’s policies and bylaws, and we had a general discussion about the initial round of PARCC testing and its impact on our students and schools.

    Next Meeting

    The next regular meeting of the Manchester Township Board of Education will be held on May 13, 2015 with the public portion of the meeting beginning at 7:30 PM at the Ridgeway Elementary School.
     
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