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BOE President's Report February 2018
Donald Webster, Jr.

State/Federal Issues

We continue to monitor education related legislation and regulations that may affect Manchester. On the state level, Senate Bill No. 414 passed very quickly through the legislature, presumably as a result of a critical newspaper article about certified staff who are accused of inappropriate sexual conduct or abuse with children signing confidentially agreements and then moving on to work in other public/private schools. The abuse/sexual misconduct allegations are often unknown by the receiving district. The term used is "passing the trash." This bill would require additional levels of background checks beyond just the criminal records checks that we are currently required to do. It would also require sending districts to be more forthcoming with information about alleged sexual misconduct and abuse and provide more than just a confirmation of employment. Confidentially agreements would no longer be allowed. There are a whole host of questions related to how the provisions of this bill would be implemented. Obviously, one cannot argue with the intent of the legislation. How the bill would ultimately be implemented is a concern that many have. On the Assembly side, their Education Committee held a Hearing on Sexual Misconduct and Abuse on 2/13. In addition to a bill that would mirror the Senate bill, the Assembly also introduced a number of other bills that would mandate changes to the NJ Student Learning Standards to better inform and educate our students on the various issues related to this important topic.

On the federal front, Congress has finally passed the framework of a budget agreement that would cover the 2017-2019 Budget Cycles (2 Yrs.). However, until we see the detailed Appropriations Bill, it is difficult to know exactly what the final impact will be on K-12 public education funding. Initial indications are that the administration is recommending that the Education Department Budget be decreased by $3.8 billion. Most of the reduction would occur via the elimination of the Title II and Title IV programs. These programs provide professional development funding and support teacher recruitment and retention programs along with student academic supports nation-wide. We have also heard that the CHIP Program (Child Health Insurance Program) would be reauthorized and funded going forward. There was initially concern that this important program would not be funded. Significant reductions in federal education funding will have an adverse impact on Manchester's schools.

Manchester School District

I attended the Superintendent's Roundtable Meeting at MTES on 1/29. At this meeting staff of the Curriculum Department conducted a presentation on the resources available to students and parents related to our elementary school mathematics program. These resources are available online. Staff showed us where to find these resources and how to log on to the website. They also answered audience questions about our math program. The Superintendent also fielded questions and concerns from the parents in attendance on a variety of topics and issues. The next meeting is scheduled for 3/5.

NJ School Boards Association (NJSBA)

On 2/2-2/7/18, I attended and participated in the National School Boards Association (NSBA) Equity Symposium and the Advocacy Institute in Washington DC at no cost to the district. At the Equity Symposium we heard from experts in the field who encouraged us to adopt an "Equity Policy" for our own school districts. Manchester already has such a policy. They spoke about the issue of equity relating not only to funding, but also with respect to course offerings, discipline, and general educational opportunities for our increasingly diverse student population. At the Advocacy Institute Conference, we heard from political and educational experts who discussed the state of affairs in Washington. The consensus is that this is the most polarized Congress we have had in the last 50 years. Obviously, this has created significant division and a lack of cooperation in efforts to move forward on important national legislative issues. I was able to meet with representatives of Congressmen Smith and our senators, Booker and Menendez, to discuss our concerns as they relate to NJ and Manchester in particular. These concerns included inadequate federal funding for Titles I, II and IV, IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) and Vocational Education. I also spoke about consideration of infrastructure funding for schools if Congress decides to embark upon a national infrastructure initiative. Finally, I spoke with the representatives about the long overdue need to reauthorize, update and address issues with the IDEA and the Carl Perkins Vocational Education laws.

I also attended and spoke at the joint Monmouth/Ocean County School Boards Association Meeting in Howell Township on 2/8. At this meeting, board members were able to satisfy their mandated state training requirements in a local setting.

Sustainable Jersey

No activity since our last meeting.

Education Leadership Foundation Of NJ (ELF NJ)

No activity since our last meeting.

Next Meeting

The next regular meeting of the Manchester Township Board of Education is scheduled to be held on March 21 at the Ridgeway Elementary School with the public portion of the meeting beginning at 7:30 PM.