Manchester Township School District's Teachers of the Year and Educational Service Professionals of the Year were honored at the May 10, 2017 Board of Education meeting. Teachers of the Year are: Nina Hennig - Ridgeway, Elizabeth Hahn - MTES, Nancy Condardo - MTMS, Christine Newbury - MTHS, Talyah HIngston - Whiting, and Karen Craig - Regional Day. Educational Service Professionals of the Year are: Madeline Sias - Ridgeway, Roisin Cooke - MTES, Lisa Dolan - MTMS, Carol Moroz - MTHS, Diane Zakerski - Whiting, and Debra Gallaro - Regional Day.
BOE News & Reports
It all started with MTHS AP Environmental Science teacher, Will Schmidt, wondering why he saw so many dead deer along Route 37 West on his commute to school. The result: a partnership with BASF Corp. that has students doing fieldwork and data collection to investigate the deer population at the company's Toms River site. Schmidt and MTHS Vice Principal, Stacie Ferrara, gave an update on the project at the April 26, 2017 Board of Education meeting.
The Manchester Township Board of Education approved the 2017-18 school district budget at their April 26, 2017 regular meeting. The budget maintains all current staff, programs and services, including block scheduling and the S.O.A.R program at the high school, after school busing, and all extracurricular programs and staff. Additions for next year include new courses at the high school, the addition of an Elementary Guidance Counselor, new Chromebooks (or similar) for use in classroom instruction and testing, new and replacement interactive projectors at all levels, new textbooks, and replacement of buses.
We continue to monitor education related bills and regulations that may affect Manchester. Proposed bills in the NJ Legislature include:
- Continued discussion of the Governor's proposed State Budget for 2017-2018 and the fate of the current School Funding Formula (SFRA) continues to dominate the legislative agenda, public hearings, and the various legislative committee meetings. Reports have recently surfaced that changes may be made to the formula that would drastically change the funding previously provided by the state. We have also heard that the changes could be effective beginning in September. This would be extremely problematic in that districts have already put together their budgets and had them approved by the state. Municipalities are using the approved budget data to calculate and prepare tax bills. Staff have also been notified of their employment status for the next school year as required by law. So even if staff reductions were to be necessary for September, they could not be accomplished until well after the start of the next school year. It could get very costly and messy for local districts.
- A3376/S-3191 would expand the voting rights of sending district representatives who are members of receiving district boards, as in the case of our Lakehurst Representative.
- A-3944/S-2402 would require the NJ DOE Commissioner to develop a fact sheet for student athletes related to opioid abuse.
- A-493/S-293 would prohibit the use of smokeless tobacco products in all public schools.
- S-3067 would direct the Commissioner to develop statewide guidelines for transgender students in our schools.
- A-3521 would require the Commissioner to develop a special pilot program for young children related to reading literacy.
- A-3655 would require boards of education to prominently display in all schools a Child Abuse Hotline Notice.
- A-4332/S-2757 would require one bus aide for every fifteen special needs students on a school bus. This could become another costly unfunded mandate.
- A-3347/S-2242 would create a School Safety Specialist Academy to train staff from each school district in safety strategies. The state would be required to pick up the cost. This action would also be a clearinghouse for best practices and current trends and allow for annual face-to-face professional development on the latest threats and strategies to keep our students & staff safe. This recommendation came out of the NJSBA School Safety Task Force Committee that I co-chaired. It was also a recommendation supported by the Governors School Safety Committee, of which I was a member.
At the Federal level, I reached out to our federal legislators with concerns over the overhaul of the federal healthcare program. As currently proposed, the new healthcare bill would eliminate Medicaid funding for the medically fragile students in our schools. These funds currently help us cover mandated nursing, medical services, medical supplies, and equipment needed by these students during the course of their school day. Loss of these federal funds would mean that local taxpayers would be responsible for 100% of these costs going forward.
Manchester School District
I attended the Whiting School STEM Lab Grand Opening on 5/18. The lab incorporates various stations and utilizes makerspace materials, computers and manipulatives designed to encourage students to problem solve, experiment, collaborate, and effectively communicate with one another in a group setting in order to solve problems. This structured learning environment is rapidly gaining acceptance as a means of addressing what employers have said they are looking for with respect to the skills that our students need for 21st century college and careers.
I was at the Ridgeway School Choir Concert on 5/25. The concert had a timely patriotic theme that the students really seemed to enjoy. An enthusiastic overflow crowd of parents, friends and relatives were on hand to enjoy the concert too.
I participated in the Manchester Education Foundation Charity Golf Dinner on 6/5 in Lakewood. Unfortunately, due to adverse weather, the golf portion of the day was cancelled. Vouchers were distributed by the golf course so that our golfers could play a round of golf on another date. In spite of this, the dinner was well attended and the foundation received a lot of generous donations from individuals and the local business community. The funds raised by the foundation are used to support scholarships, mini-grant awards to our schools and staff, supports for extra school programs, and donations to our schools for things like technology upgrades and STEM Labs.
Finally, I attended the graduation ceremony at the Regional Day School on 6/8. This is always a very emotional event for the students, their parents, and our staff. Congratulations and a big thank you to the RDS staff who do such an amazing job with these disabled students!
NJ School Boards Association (NJSBA)
On 5/19, I chaired my last Board of Directors Meeting as State President in Trenton. At this meeting we heard reports from the Executive Director and the Officers; received a Government Relations update; reviewed the Executive Director's Annual Performance Evaluation; approved the replacement of an HVAC chiller for association headquarters; agreed to make a donation to the Sustainable Jersey for Schools Program; and discussed recent regulation changes that will ultimately require Carbon Monoxide detectors to be installed in all of our schools.
On 5/20, I also chaired my final Delegate Assembly Meeting at Mercer County College. At this meeting, we elected new State Officers, heard a State of the Association Report by the Executive Director, discussed the Annual Report of the Association Finances, reviewed and acted on Resolutions submitted by member districts, approved Policy revisions recommended by the Student Achievement, Finance and Special Education Task Forces and Committees, and we re-authorized existing association policies that were subject to sunset review.
Since our last meeting, I attended and spoke at a County School Boards Association Meeting in Hunterdon County. This meeting focused on the board's role in advancing student achievement, government relations issues, and recognition of boards of education and individual board members who have completed advanced training courses or who have reached member service milestones. There was also a presentation on how demographic studies are conducted in accordance with state requirements. Hunterdon County is seeing diminished numbers of students, population, and jobs. Board members are trying to figure out what their county and schools will look like in 5 years, so that they can start the planning process now. Our association has heard similar reports from counties like Sussex and Warren in North Jersey, as well as counties along the Delaware Bay in South Jersey. Coastal resort communities from Atlantic to Cape May County are also reporting significant reductions in the number of students they are seeing. This is likely linked to the loss of jobs and the high cost of real property in these communities. This phenomenon is a growing area of concern for our local schools and communities including Manchester, where several large developments have been proposed and/or already approved by the Planning Board. A number of these developments as proposed or approved are likely to have an adverse impact on our schools. Our district will need to begin to address these concerns in the very near future.
On 5/17, I had the privilege of meeting with General Jeffery Snow, US Army Commander for recruiting efforts throughout the entire United States. The meeting took place at Joint Base. The purpose of the meeting was to highlight and discuss our relationship with the Mid-Atlantic Recruiting Battalion and the unique school based programs and supports that were developed in conjunction with the Army and NJSBA here in New Jersey. The General was interested in hearing about these efforts first hand for possible consideration of expanding these collaborative efforts and programs nationwide. He also suggested that he would like to see these efforts expanded in the future.
On 5/24, I attended the LEE Group Meeting (Leadership for Educational Excellence in NJ) in Trenton. This group is made up of the leading state-wide education organizations (NJ PTA, NJ ASA, NJ ASBO, NJEA, NJSBA, plus the Commissioner of Education) in the state. At this meeting we talked about the current status of the state budget discussions and the school funding formula debate, reviewed a proposal to change standardized testing requirements for Special Education Students, and discussed the status of school audit requirements for the fiscal 2017-2018 cycle.
On 6/2, I attended the annual NJSBA School Security Conference held at Mercer County College. At this event, we heard security updates from the NJ DOE, state, federal and local law enforcement, Homeland Security, and school focused security experts. There was a very interesting presentation from staff of the FBI, including the Special Agent in charge for NJ. The conference also included various breakout sessions on a variety of school security related topics and product presentations.
Finally, on 6/6, I had the privilege of attending the Change of Command Ceremony at Joint Base for Lt. Colonel Edward Croot, Commander of the Mid-Atlantic Recruiting Battalion. The Lt Colonel has been a great partner over the past two years in supporting both NJSBA and our schools with assistance in creating STEM programs, providing professional learning opportunities for our students, sponsoring Military Opportunity Day, providing educational experiences for local board members and school staff, along with the provision of general funding to support training activities for local school board members along with the creation of the "STEAM Tank Challenge Program" for our students. We wish him well in his new assignment at Ft. Bragg. We also welcomed Lt. Colonel Bryant to NJ and we hope to continue and expand our relationship with the Army.
Sustainable Jersey For Schools
I attended the Trustees Meeting at TCNJ on 6/8. We received updates on the status of program events, the work of our subcommittees, membership participation numbers, finances, and organization staffing. There was also an update and an additional follow-up discussion related our strategic planning meetings.
The next meeting of the Manchester Township Board of Education is scheduled to be held on July 26 at the Ridgeway Elementary School with the public portion of the meeting beginning at 7:30 PM.