The focus is on expanding options for students at Manchester Township Middle School this year, with the addition of new elective courses in music and drama, as well as the upcoming debut of a new Genius Hour Lab.
BOE News & Reports
Seventy-four percent of Manchester Township High School students surveyed said they feel they learn better under the new block schedule by taking just four classes per semester instead of seven all year. Instituted in September 2016, The block schedule received good reviews from students and staff in a recent survey.
The Manchester School District will deal with a state aid cut of $111,232 by not replacing several teachers who retired and increasing budgeted extraordinary aid based on funds received during 2016-17. Business Administrator, Craig Lorentzen, explained that the state budget approved in early July included revisions to 2017-2018 state education aid for school budgets already approved by the Department of Education.
Gayle Mount took the oath of office as the newest member of the Manchester Township Board of Education at the July 26 BOE meeting. Mrs. Mount is a Special Education Teacher in the Brick school system and a member of the MTHS Class of 1995. She was appointed to fill a vacancy created when Mary Walter resigned from the board in May.
We continue to monitor education related legislation and regulations that may affect Manchester. On the state level, the upcoming November elections continue to consume our legislators' attention. As a result, there have not been any meetings held of the respective Legislative Education Committees nor have there been any new education related bills introduced for consideration.
On the Federal level, a recent effort to replace the current national healthcare system has failed. However, the President has just signed some Executive Orders that could affect health care coverage and funding. We are trying to access the implications of this new information. Also, the House of Representatives has passed a full budget bill for the first time in at least 10 years. The bill's negative impact on education funding was less than had been anticipated. Overall, a $2.5 billion reduction in education funding is proposed, with most of the reduction coming from Title II funding. Title II funding supports nationwide professional development and teacher recruitment and retention efforts. This reduction is being proposed at a time when there are well-documented shortages of teaching staff across the country and significant enrollment declines are being seen in education programs at our nation's colleges. A small increase in IDEA funding was proposed along with no changes to Title I funding. However, IDEA funding would remain well below the levels promised in the original federal enabling legislation of 40%, while NJ's actual IDEA funding rate is currently closer to 17%. Given the ongoing increase in the numbers of students qualifying for Title I services, this action is in essence a funding reduction that will be have to be borne by state/local taxpayers. It should be noted that the House bill also rejected the Administration's proposal to dramatically increase voucher and charter school funding levels that would have further reduced funding levels for state and local school districts.
Manchester School District
Several board members attended the Back-to-School Nights at the Ridgeway, Whiting and Regional Day School during the weeks of 9/25 & 10/2. We handed out brochures that talked about the role of the board, the accomplishments of our district and its students, and the ways that parents can interact with our schools and be supportive of their children's education. These events were all very well attended.
On 9/29 & 10/13, several of the members attended the High School football home games. There were large and enthusiastic crowds in attendance and our athletes played well. Finally, on 10/13, I attended the first district meeting of our NJ QSAC Committee. Our district will be subject to this official state monitoring review process for the first time since the 2014 school year. We are now beginning the process of gathering and organizing the needed documentation and filling out the required forms for review when the state officials visit the district in a few months.
NJ School Boards Association (NJSBA)
On 10/11/17, members of our Government Relations Staff and I met with State Assemblyman Dancer in his Cream Ridge office. These meetings are part of our state association's ongoing efforts to help educate and keep our state/federal legislators aware of the issues that local school districts face here in NJ. Our discussions revolved around school funding issues, escalating Special Education costs, school district consolidation issues, and related federal/state concerns that adversely impact school districts. We had a very productive conversation with the assemblyman.
On 10/23-10/25, a number of the board members will be heading to Workshop 2017, NJSBA's annual conference and premier training event in Atlantic City. In accordance with state law, all local school board members are required to undergo numerous training programs during their term of service. NJ is unique in this regard for sitting board members. There will be over 200 mandatory/non-mandatory training opportunities provided for local board members, school business officials, IT directors, administrators, facilities managers and other school staff. The Commissioner of Education, Kimberly Harrington, will be one of the featured keynote speakers. Dr. Maurice Elias of Rutgers University, a nationally recognized expert in the area of Social/Emotional Learning and School Culture and Climate issues will also deliver a keynote address. Members of the State Board of Education will engage in a panel discussion, while members of the State Legislature will also address conference attendees. School attorneys will engage in a "Mock Board Meeting" that is always a popular session with attendees. There will also be a presentation and awards ceremony for the new "Future Ready Schools Initiative" jointly created by the NJ DOE, NJSBA and NJIT. This is a digital learning initiative focused on preparing our school classrooms for the future needs of our students. When you think about it, the kindergarten students who entered our schools in September are the high school graduating class of 2030. We will be preparing them for a world that will likely be much different than it is now. The jobs in the future may not even exist now. We need to focus on what they need to learn and how digital learning in our classrooms can help in that process. Finally, the regional winners of the US Army sponsored "Steam Tank Challenge" will be making their presentations to a panel of judges. This program involves teams of students who develop invention concepts that will have a positive impact on our lives and our planet. Students must thoroughly research their concepts and make compelling arguments to the judges as to why their proposal is doable, cost effective, and will be the most beneficial. This program is modeled after the popular television show "Shark Tank."
On 10/24, I will be speaking as a Trustee at the Sustainable Jersey for Schools Awards Program at Workshop 2017 in Atlantic City. I will also be involved in presenting awards to deserving schools/districts who have met the program's certification standards. Since the inception of this program four short years ago, more than 600 individual schools representing over 230 school districts from around the state have joined this program in order to help make a difference in their schools and communities. The program promotes sustainability and energy saving efforts in our schools through education, training, funding, and certification programs that recognize schools and districts for their efforts. Ultimately, these sustainability efforts promote cost savings, the greening of our school environments, the education of our students, and benefit our planet's overall health. Manchester is a participating program member and a number of our schools are approaching certification award status.
Education Leadership Foundation (ELF NJ)
As a Trustee, I will be helping to staff the organization's display booth at Workshop 2017 in Atlantic City on 10/24-10/25. We will be handing out informational brochures and answering questions about the role and work of the organization in relation to the training initiatives and programs that we help fund for local school board members throughout the state.
The next meeting of the Manchester Township Board of Education is scheduled for November 29 (date change) at the Ridgeway Elementary School with the Public portion of the meeting beginning at 7:30 PM.