We continue to monitor education related bills that may affect Manchester. During the recent “lame duck” portion of the state legislative calendar, the legislature passed a number of education bills. The Governor has signed two of the bills into law. The approved new laws provide an expedited process for the processing of utility bills by local school districts and call for the expansion of voting hours for certain school elections. Several other bills are awaiting action by the Governor. If he does not act on them by 1/18, they will die and need to be reintroduced in the next legislative session if the legislature still wants to pursue them.
Activities in Our Schools
I attended several athletic events over the holidays. Out student athletes showed good sportsmanship and performed very well. I also attended the 47th Annual Martin Luther King Program at the High School on 1/15. The combined Gospel Choir was outstanding and the overall program was very thought provoking. The event was well attended by students, staff, parents and community members.
In anticipation of a possible change to a modified block schedule at our high school, I met with and had discussions in Trenton with several education experts concerning the pros and cons of such a proposal. The feedback I received was overwhelmingly positive, however, it was noted that a number of steps needed to be taken in order for the proposal to be successful. These included communication with the affected parties, training of staff on the new schedule format and teaching guidance, schedule modifications for AP and Music classes, curriculum review and modifications where necessary, and Guidance Office oversight on the sequencing of classes in order to help minimize adverse student learning and knowledge retention issues.
Sustainable Jersey for Schools
I attended and participated in a Sustainable Jersey Trustees meeting on 12/3. A very thorough annual overview and update on the status of the organization was provided by program staff. It was a successful year for the program, especially with the very successful launch of the Sustainable Jersey for Schools Program, of which Manchester is now a member. I also participated in a Sustainable Jersey for Schools Certification Standards Sub-Committee meeting on 12/9. At this meeting proposed new standards were discussed along with revised program evaluation criteria. In addition, a proposed new award designation (Gold) was discussed by committee members. Sub-committee reports were shared on the work being done by these groups related to program operations and initiatives.
Over the past month, I have attended and spoke at County School Board Association Meetings in Gloucester, Ocean, Somerset, Hunterdon, and Monmouth counties. These meetings, which were all very well attended, focused on PARCC test issues and results, NJ School Ethics Commission Decisions, governmental relations and the importance of advocacy by local school board members, and the review and update process being undertaken to evaluate and revise as needed New Jersey’s state education standards for our public schools.
On 1/8-1/10/16, I attended and participated in the New Board Member Weekend Orientation Program held in Princeton, NJ. Over 100 new board of education members from around the state participated in this training event that is required by state law for new members within the first year of their election. NJ School Board Members are some of the best trained public officials in the nation. I spoke at the opening and closing sessions and participated in both large and small group sessions during the weekend. I was also able to meet with many of the new members, answer their questions, and provide them with information about the association and the services membership offers.
I attended the State Board of Education Meeting in Trenton on 1/11, where I accepted a Proclamation from the board recognizing local school board members for their dedicated service and contributions to their communities. This action was in recognition of “National School Board Member Recognition Month-January 2016.” Board of education members perform a critical role within our community. There are 8 members on the board of education here, 7 are elected citizens from Manchester and 1 representative is from Lakehurst Borough (The Lakehurst School district sends their 9-12th grade students to our high school on a tuition reimbursement basis). Members serve 3-year terms and are uncompensated volunteers. All of the currently serving board members have or did have children in our school system. Therefore, we have a vested interest in the success of our school district. We help to see that our schools are well run. We don’t run the day-to-day operations of the school district. That is the responsibility of the professional staff we have hired. Our major responsibilities include the development and approval of the board policies that govern the operation of our schools, the review and approval of the annual school budget, we have final approval over all personnel actions within the district upon the recommendation of the Superintendent of Schools, and we are responsible for the hiring and annual evaluation of the Superintendent.
I chaired the Executive Committee Meeting (EC) held on 1/13 at NJSBA Headquarters. At the meeting we heard updates from the Executive Director (ED) and the Directors of the various association departments. We also reviewed a draft of a proposed new contract for the ED and we discussed the upcoming Equity Conference and Advocacy Institute Programs in Washington, DC on 1/23-1/26/16. At the Advocacy Institute on 1/26, we will meet with all of the NJ Congressional Delegation and their staffs for discussion of federal education issues and the affect they have on NJ and Manchester Township.
And on 1/16, I participated in a joint Board of Directors, Legislative Committee, and County Association Leadership Meeting in Jamesburg that was focused on the development of the legislative agenda of the association for the upcoming NJ Legislative Session. This joint meeting was the result of the adoption of association’s Strategic Plan.
I participated in another iSteam Study Group Meeting on 12/8 at NJSBA with several DOE, Higher Ed, local educators, NJSBA staff, and staff of our state legislators. This meeting was held in conjunction with our concerns about the number of qualified teachers our colleges and universities are producing in the iSteam field. The discussion focused on what are our local school district needs, available funding, what our higher education institutions are seeing in terms of student enrollment, how is Higher Ed working to increase the number of graduates, and what other factors may be impeding efforts to attract students to this important field. We also discussed the training needs of our existing school staff with respect to the principles of iSteam. A draft of a proposed action plan was presented and discussed by the committee that will help to guide the work of this group going forward.
The next regular meeting of the Manchester Township Board of Education will be is scheduled to take place on February 17, 2016 at 7:30 PM at the Ridgeway Elementary School.
We continue to monitor education related bills that may affect Manchester. An historic day! After almost seven years of legislative wrangling and inaction, on 12/10/2015 President Obama signed the Every Students Succeeds Act (S. 1177) to replace the much criticized No Child Left Behind Act. The new law gives states and local school districts more flexibility to deal with important education issues including student testing, educational standards, staff evaluations processes, and the use of federal funding where it is really needed.
Activities in Our Schools
I attended several of the winter concert events during the past month. Our talented students performed very well and all of the events were well attended. I also participated in the Kevin’s Kids wrapping party at the Ridgeway School on 12/13. We had a large and enthusiastic group of people who came out to help with the wrapping of all of the items purchased for our disadvantaged students. A special thank you to all of the staff, businesses, individual citizens, and community groups who helped to make this year’s event a success.
I attended and spoke at county association meetings in Monmouth, Gloucester and Ocean counties. I also participated in the Sustainable Jersey Board of Trustees Meeting on 12/3 and the Sustainable Jersey for Schools Evaluation Committee Meeting on 12/9/15 in Trenton.
The next regular meeting of the Manchester Township Board of Education will be determined at the reorganization meeting, which is scheduled to take place on January 6, 2015 at 7:00 PM at the Ridgeway Elementary School.
We continue to monitor education related bills that may affect Manchester. Due to the state-wide Assembly elections in early November and the ongoing federal budget/debt limit debate in Washington, action on education related legislation has been very limited during the past month. The Governor did recently sign several pieces of legislation that the legislature had passed during this past summer. These bills included mandatory training for bus drivers related to special needs children, a prohibition on standardized testing of kindergarten to second grade students, and a prohibition on reducing state-aid for districts that do not meet the 95% federal testing rate related to the current NCLB requirements. We expect legislative action to begin to pick up when the new state legislative cycle begins again in January of 2016.
Activities in Our Schools
I attended several high school athletic events during the month. Our student athletes performed well and the events were well attended.
I attended the NJSBA Workshop 2015 in Atlantic City on 10/27-10/29 at no cost to the district. During the event, I attended numerous presentations and addresses by keynote speakers including Commissioner Hespe, members of the State Legislature and the State Board of Education. I also was a co-presenter along with Mayor Wahler, President of the League of Municipalities, of a program related to the 2% CAP Law and how school districts and municipalities can work together to save money and live within the NJ CAP Law. We repeated this same presentation at the League of Municipalities Convention in Atlantic City on 11/17. I also attended and spoke at county association meetings in Salem, Atlantic, and Cape May counties.
The next regular meeting of the Manchester Township Board of Education will be held on December 16, 2015 with the public portion of the meeting beginning at 7:30 PM at the Ridgeway Elementary School.
We continue to monitor education related bills that may affect Manchester. As I have said in previous reports, long awaited Federal legislative bills to overhaul the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA-No Child Left Behind) recently passed in both houses of the Congress. I should note that these bills will have major implications for both the Common Core Education Standards and PARCC related testing requirements. They will also greatly affect both funding and related regulatory requirements for the Title I and IDEA Programs. A Conference Committee will now be trying to come up with a compromise bill that members of both houses can support. It appears that debate over the new federal budget and the raising of the debt ceiling will dominate the political agenda for the remainder of the current calendar year. So it appears that progress on the re-authorization of ESEA, along with many other important education issues, will now have to wait until the spring of 2016.
On the state level, the Governor has just a signed into law a bill that will create a new designation of teacher called “Teacher Leader Endorsement.” The goal of this legislation is to create a career track for veteran teachers and recognize the dedication, knowledge and skills of our most experienced professional teaching staff. Exactly what this program will look like will be the focus of an appointed committee made up of education leaders.
Activities in Our Schools
Members of the board participated in all of the Back-to-School Night Programs in all of our schools. All of the Back-to-School nights were very well attended. Members also had the opportunity to attend a number of district athletic and cultural events during the past month.
NJ School Boards Association Activities (NJSBA)
During the month I attended and spoke at County School Boards Association Meetings in Mercer, Middlesex, Cape May, Monmouth, Hunterdon, Somerset and Atlantic counties. During these meetings, staff from the NJ Dept. of Education (DOE) spoke about the review and revision process for the NJ education standards for our schools and the anticipated release of data from the new PARCC testing process that took place this past spring. A report on the NJ education standards, revisions, and recommendations is expected to be sent to the Governor by January of 2016. PARRC testing results for school districts and printed reports for parents are expected to be made available in November for the districts and early December for parents.
I also participated in a charity/community fundraising event, The Komen Race for a Cure at Great Adventure in Jackson, NJ on Sunday, 10/4. I was a member of our own Team NJSBA. Congratulations to all of our team members who fundraised and came out on a very chilly and windy early Sunday morning, especially our Team Captain Sandy Raup, for a very successful effort where our team raised over $2,600 for this worthy cause
I attended a meeting of the Sustainable Jersey for Schools Board of Trustees on 9/30 in Wall Township. There are now 100+ school districts and over 200+ schools from all 21 counties participating in this sustainability program. The goals of the program are multi-dimensional: to save taxpayer money, provide education to students and staff in the elements of sustainability, and to help keep the planet green. Additional sustainable grant funding opportunities are expected to be announced in the very near future for member districts such as Manchester. Additionally, the first annual recognition program for schools/districts that have made significant strides in their sustainability efforts will be held at Workshop 2015 in Atlantic City on October 27.
I also attended a meeting at NJSBA with representatives from the NJ DOE, Rutgers, The Woodrow Wilson School, school board members, teachers and education foundation staff to discuss the current state-wide shortage of trained staff in the principles of iSteam, Sustainability and hands-on Technology. A number of school districts have reported to us that they are having trouble filling positions with staff who have the necessary qualifications. Data has now shown us that there is a significant shortage and that the gap is growing. The goal of this group is to come up with recommendations to address the staff shortages we are seeing and also to figure out ways to provide training in the beneficial principles of iSteam to all of our existing staff members.
The next regular meeting of the Manchester Township Board of Education will be held on November 18, 2015 with the public portion of the meeting beginning at 7:30 PM at the Ridgeway Elementary School.