There are still several bills outstanding involving charter schools, board of education elections, school budget due dates and superintendent evaluation due dates being considered at the state level. It is not clear what legislation may ultimately be considered by the full legislature during the “lame duck” portion of the legislative calendar (Post November election until January 2014 when the new legislative session begins). We will continue to monitor the progress of these and other education related bills as they develop.
I had the opportunity to attend and speak at the 10/29/13 Naval Junior ROTC Annual Inspection. Our cadets not only looked very good, but they also performed very well in the drill portion of the event. There was a large group of parents and members of the community who were in attendance. Overall, the event went very well.
I attended the October 18th meeting of the NJSBA Board of Directors in Trenton where we discussed administrative, personnel, PARCC testing and Workshop 2013 related issues. I also attended the Executive Committee Meeting in Trenton on October 29. At this meeting we discussed administrative and personnel issues along with the upcoming Board of Directors Meeting on November 15 and the semi-annual Delegate Assembly on November 16. We also had a debriefing on the events held at Workshop 2013. At Workshop 2013, I introduced and presented an award to NJ’s Teacher of the Year for 2013-2014. She is Ms. Kathleen Assini of the Delsea Regional Middle School in Gloucester County, NJ. Ms. Assini’s platform speaks to mental health and substance abuse issues that have affected her son and family. Ms. Assini now moves on to Washington, DC for the National Teacher of the Year competition. I, along with association Immediate Past President Raymond Wiss, co-presented the preliminary School Security Task Force Findings at Workshop 2013 in Atlantic City to an estimated crowd of 200 school board members. The presentation is available for viewing online at www.NJSBA.org/schoolsecurity. From the feedback we got the presentation was very well received by the membership. I also continued work on writing the final report of the School Security Task Force for release in the near future.
In addition to the problem of comparing different groups of students, taking different versions of the same test at different moments in time and trying to tie these dissimilar results to a measure of student achievement based on a letter grade, the rankings also produce confusion and in many cases negative misperceptions among the public. For example, InJersey awarded a Burlington County high school a letter grade of D. Yet, the school’s student achievement composite was better than a number of other schools that received a grade of C or better. In addition, its average SAT score was higher than that of the majority of the county’s high schools. Apparently, the D grade resulted primarily from a 1% decrease in its academic achievement composite score over the four-year rating period. I think most rational people would agree that this grade does not reflect the school’s actual level of student achievement when compared to other institutions. This situation was not unique and repeated itself in the rankings around the state.
My point in all of this is that school quality is a complex subject. Unfortunately, the eyes of many readers never go beyond the simple letter grade or ranking. School board members and many parents know that educational quality is a factor of the entire school program including the subjects addressed, the honors and AP courses offered to students, the special education programming and school character and climate. These elements do not lend themselves to simple letter grades. All I would say is that on the most recent state DOE monitoring assessment for Manchester, our high school was rated in the 84th percentile academically for comparable high schools from throughout the state. We are very proud of our high school and the achievements of our students and we will continue to pursue academic excellence as we go forward.
Activities in Our Schools
The school openings went well. Most of the planned physical plant and technology improvements were in place for the start of the school year. Some remaining work still needs to be done, but it will be completed in the next couple of months. I attended, along with my fellow members of the board, the Back-to-School Night events at our schools. These events were well attended and the parents and staff were very enthusiastic.
NJ School Boards Association Activities (NJSBA)
I co-chaired the September 10th meeting of the NJSBA School Security Task Force in Trenton. The committee is now in the process of writing the final report and making decisions regarding recommendations and best practices to be followed by local school districts. I also participated in the September 3 Executive Committee Meeting of the association where Workshop 2013, administrative, personnel and financial issues were reviewed and discussed.
The next regular meeting of the Board of Education will be held on October 16, 2013 at the Ridgeway School, with the public portion of the meeting beginning at 7:30 PM.
We continue to monitor legislation being approved or proposed at the State level that affects public education here in Manchester. Recently, the Governor vetoed Senate Bill S-1191. This is an anti-subcontracting bill related to school support services that would only apply to local school districts and colleges. On 8/22, I met with our State Assemblyman, David Wolfe, in his Brick Office. This meeting was arranged by NJSBA and included several other BOE members from around Ocean County. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss issues of mutual concern. Discussion items included the State Aid funding formula; school security funding issues related to the Administrative and 2% Cap; positions on pending legislation; lingering fiscal/administrative issues related to Super Storm Sandy that resulted in the displacement of large numbers of students; construction project and ROD Grant concerns/problems and the burdensome SDA (School Development Authority) assessments levied on local school districts.
Summer Activities in Our Schools
I had an opportunity to personally visit all of our schools again over the past two weeks. Our staff has been very busy. Heavy duty cleaning by our custodial staff continues to be done in all schools. Flooring is being replaced on a selective basis in various schools. Selective painting is being done in all of our schools. Installation of a new district-wide telephone system, WiFi installation and selective security upgrades and facility repair work are being done throughout our schools. School supply orders are being received and distributed to classrooms on a daily basis. We expect that all of our summer projects will be completed in time for the start of the new school year next week.
I attended, along with my fellow members of the board, the Meet and Greet Night events for our new Principals at the High School & Whiting Schools. I also attended and spoke at the Kindergarten Orientation Meetings at our elementary schools over the past two weeks.
NJ School Boards Association Activities (NJSBA)
I Co-chaired the August 12th and 22nd meetings 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 law enforcement, security, communications and school climate. A “Best Practices” report from the task force is now in the process of being written and will to be delivered to the Association President by the end of September. At these recent meetings we heard from Chief Brian Klimakowski of our own Manchester Township Police Department, who is an expert on school security issues. We also heard from representatives of the NJ Department of Education concerning school safety drill requirements and the mandated MOA (Memorandum of Agreement) that is required between schools and local law enforcement officials.