We continue to monitor education related bills that may affect Manchester. There are proposals in both the NJ Senate and Assembly that call for new funding to help expand preschool programs around the state. These bills could affect Manchester. There are also bills moving through the NJ legislature to address the recent lead in the water issues that have arisen in Newark and other cities and communities around the state. Our federal Senators are also looking to add provisions to the Federal Clean Water Drinking Act that would address lead issues in our schools. Both of these bills would provide funding for mandatory testing and remediation of lead in drinking water in all of our schools. The NJ DOE is in the process of developing state regulations in support of the Federal ESSA Act that replaced No Child Left Behind. This new Federal law will bring about some revised and new mandates that will affect all NJ schools.
Activities in Our Schools
I attended the State PTA Arts Show and Awards Ceremony in Princeton on 4/16 as a guest of the State PTA. Members of the Manchester Township PTA were also in attendance at the conference and awards ceremony. At the awards program students from around the state were recognized for their talents in art, music, dance, poetry and the video arts. I also got to attend some early spring High School sports games (baseball & softball). Our student-athletes performed well and exhibited good sportsmanship. On Saturday 4/16, my wife and I attended the annual High School musical production “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” The students gave a well-rehearsed and stirring performance that we both really appreciated and enjoyed.
Over the past month, I attended and spoke at County School Board Association Meetings in Passaic, Bergen, Atlantic and Cape May counties. These meetings, which were extremely well attended, focused on government relations issues, student recognition programs, transgender policies, and data security considerations for school districts. I also attended and served as a State Delegate to the NSBA Delegate Assembly and Convention in Boston, MA on 4/8-4/11. At the Delegate Assembly, former NJSBA State President, Mr. Kevin Ciak of the Sayreville Board of Education in Middlesex County, was elected to the position of President-Elect of NSBA. Kevin will assume the Presidency of the National Schools Boards Association in Denver in March of 2017. He will be the first local school board member from NJ in 50 years to the lead the national association. This is a tremendous honor for both Kevin and NJ.
Sustainable Jersey for Schools
I participated in a Sustainable Jersey for Schools Certification Standards Meeting on 3/22 at The College of NJ. A very thorough overview and update on the status of the program was provided by staff. We discussed upcoming meetings and sponsored events that are being planned for the remainder of the current fiscal year. We reviewed and discussed a proposed action item related to School Culture and Climate that is being considered as an addition to the program’s list of eligible action items for schools to complete in order to earn points towards their certification. We also talked about upcoming grant opportunities for the members. I also attended the Sustainable Jersey Trustees Governing Body Meeting in Woodbridge, NJ on 3/24. Again, a state-wide program overview was provided, a new Trustee member was approved along with a new contract agreement with NJSBA, and we discussed potential new grant funding opportunities and upcoming events.
The next regular meeting of the Manchester Township Board of Education is scheduled to take place on May 11, 2016 at 6:30 PM at the Ridgeway Elementary School.
We continue to monitor education related bills that may affect Manchester. The Assembly Education Committee met for the first time in the new legislative cycle on 3/1 in order to discuss a number of school security related bills. The bills included items related to electronic warning devices for schools, video linkages to local law enforcement agencies, panic buttons and further refinement of collaboration requirements between schools and emergency responders. At the federal level, the process of developing the regulations to support the recently passed “Every Student Succeeds Act” (ESSA) that replaced the “No Child Left Behind Act” has begun in earnest. We will continue to monitor this process in order to insure that the regulations mirror Congressional intent of the new law.
Activities in Our Schools
I, along with Mr. Christopher Nolan, attended an assembly at MTES on 2/25 featuring Major General Frederick Martin, Commander of Expeditionary Forces for the Joint Base. He spoke with the entire student body about being honest, helpful, and patriotic. He also said students should think big and work hard so that they can accomplish great things. He met separately with a number of the student classes throughout the morning. He answered individual questions from the students and encouraged them to be good students and citizens.
Over the past month, I attended and spoke at County School Board Association Meetings in Ocean and Monmouth counties. These meetings, which were all very well attended, focused on student recognition and collaboration issues.
On 3/10-3/12/16, Mary Walter and I attended and participated in the New Board Member Weekend Orientation Program held in Princeton, NJ. Eighty new school board members from around the state attended the program. 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 we offer. Mrs. Walter served as a Group Leader for the training of the new members during the small group breakout sessions.
I traveled to Alexandria, VA (near Washington, DC) and the Headquarters of the National School Boards Association (NSBA) to serve as part of the National Nominating Committee on 2/20-2/21. At this meeting we interviewed candidates for the NSBA National Officer Positions of President Elect and Secretary-Treasurer. I am pleased to report that New Jersey’s own, Mr. Kevin Ciak of the Sayreville BOE in Middlesex County was recommended by the committee for the position of President Elect. He will be on the ballot for the Delegate Assembly’s approval in April at the National Convention in Boston. Mr. Frank Pugh of California was recommended for the Secretary-Treasurer position.
Sustainable Jersey for Schools
I participated in a Sustainable Jersey for Schools Leadership and Capacity Building Task Force Meeting on 2/23/16. A very thorough overview and update on the status of the program was provided by staff. We discussed upcoming meetings and sponsored events that are being planned for the remainder of the current fiscal year. We reviewed and discussed a proposed action item related to School Culture and Climate that is being considered as an addition to the program’s list of eligible action items for schools to complete in order to earn points towards their certification.
The next regular meeting of the Manchester Township Board of Education is scheduled to take place on April 20, 2016 at 7:30 PM at the Ridgeway Elementary School.
We continue to monitor education related bills that may affect Manchester. A few bills that were passed by the Legislature during the “lame duck” session were signed into law by the Governor. They included a bill that calls for sensors to be installed on all new school buses to determine if someone is walking in front of or behind a school bus while stopped for loading or unloading, a bill to create an Ombudsman to represent Special Education Students and their parents at the state level during disagreements related to IEP’s, and a bill mandating certain minimum polling hours for school elections held in April.
A bill (A2572) has been introduced in the Assembly that would seek to fulfill the requirements of the 2008 School Funding Reform Act (SFRA) law that required access to full-day preschool for all three and four-year old children residing in school districts having large numbers of low income students. Manchester would be included under the provisions of this proposed law. The requirements of the original law were never implemented due to state funding problems. Finally, a bill has been passed in the NJ Senate that would create a new classification of Law Enforcement Officers (Special Class 3) who would serve as school security personnel. These individuals would be retired former police officers under the age of 65 who would serve without benefits at a lower cost than active duty personnel. This proposal came out of an NJSBA School Security Task Force Report recommendation. Finally, my scheduled trip to the NSBA Advocacy Institute in Washington, DC to meet with members of the NJ Congressional Delegation in order to discuss federal education issues was postponed due to the recent blizzard and has now been rescheduled for June.
Activities in Our Schools
Working around the blizzard, I was able to attend a couple of high school athletic events over the past month. The events were well attended and our student athletes competed very successfully.
I represented the NJ School Boards Association at the Governor’s FY 2017 Budget address on 2/16 at the Statehouse in Trenton. The Governor announced that all school districts would see at least a small increase in direct educational aid funding under his funding proposal to the legislature. There would also be some increases in Special Ed and Transportation Aid funding too. Specific aid numbers by district will be released in the next couple of days. It is important to note that Manchester is still far below the aid funding (-$1.1 million) that we received just five short years ago before dramatic reductions were made by the state to our school funding (-$2.3 million or 34.2%). State funding represents just 10% of our total budget. For every $1 in state income taxes Manchester residents send to Trenton, only 10 cents is received back in the form of school aid. Typically, districts receive 30 cents on the dollar on average and districts like Manchester usually receive 50 cents or more. The state continues to view Manchester Township as a wealthy community that does need additional school aid. This funding decision on the part of the state is in direct conflict with the demographics of our schools that indicate a much higher level of state support is needed, but not forthcoming.
Over the past month, I attended and spoke at County School Board Association Meetings in Warren, Mercer and Cape May counties. These meetings, which were all very well attended, focused on recent NJ School Ethics Commission Decisions, advocacy efforts by local school board members, and the implications on local school boards related to the failure of the State Legislature to re-authorize Chapter 78, the state law that required increased contributions by school staff members towards their health benefits. On 2/5, I attended an Audit Committee Meeting where we were briefed on the results of the Association’s FY 2014-2015 Audit Report. The audit report contained an “Unmodified Opinion” with no adverse findings or recommendations. It was as good a report as one could hope for. I also chaired the NJSBA Board of Directors Meeting that evening. At that meeting we formally accepted the report of the auditors, discussed a contract extension proposal for the association’s current Executive Director, and we reviewed and discussed information and issues relative to the school board elections that were held in November of 2015.
The next regular meeting of the Manchester Township Board of Education will be is scheduled to take place on March 16, 2016 at 7:30 PM at the Ridgeway Elementary School.
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.