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BOE President's Report June 2019
Jackie Bermudez

NJSBA Special Education Symposium

I attended NJSBA's Special Education symposium on May 13, 2019. Next year makes the 45th year since the US Congress passed, and President Gerald Ford signed, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Under that law schools must identify students with disabilities, provide them with a free and appropriate education, and adhere to a process that protects the rights of these most vulnerable students. The IDEA guaranteed an education to students who were often overlooked and underserved. Unfortunately, the federal government has never delivered the funding promised to enact the IDEA leaving it to the states to pay a much higher percentage of the cost than originally envisioned.

Our district takes great pride in the fact we have an outstanding education program. I attended a program on discipline and Special Education students: How to discipline a student with an IEP. Disciplining a student eligible for special education requires analyzing more than just the code of conduct. The presentation analyzed every issue to be considered.

The other presentation I attended discussed that even straight A students can have an IEP. And it addressed the social emotional learning needs of the special education student.

The keynote speaker was Ian Hockley, the Executive Director of the Dylan's Wings of Change foundation. Mr. Hockley is the father of Dylan Hockley, who was killed in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012. His son Dylan was autistic and just 6 years old. The mission of Dylan's Wings of Change is to empower empathic and courageous children to create strong, inclusive communities. Working with dedicated experts, the foundation created Wingman, a youth leadership program that develops social and emotional skills through engaging experiential activities and inspires children to go above and beyond for others. Mr. Hockley discussed the importance of social emotional learning across the general population to enhance the experiences for special education students. Mr. Hockley will be a keynote speaker at the NJSBA workshop in October. I encourage board members and our administrators to learn more about this wonderful program by attending his presentation in October.

NJPTA/NJSBA Legislative Day

I attended the NJPTA and NJSBA Legislative Day in Trenton on May 16th. We heard from a Government Relations Panel who spoke about advocacy and what we as board members can do. There was a panel of legislators who answered questions. Cary Booker, the Senior Education advisor for Governor Murphy, spoke about the P-TECH Education Model. The P-TECH (Pathway in Technology Early College High School) model, co-developed by IBM, spans grades 9-14 and brings together public high schools, community colleges, and businesses to create a clear pathway from high school to college to career. Participating students at the three P-TECH schools, located in Burlington City, New Brunswick and Paterson, will graduate with a high school diploma, associate degrees in competitive STEM fields, and workplace experiences such as mentorships and internships, within six years. Supporting STEM-focused high school programs and increasing degree attainment for all residents are key to the Economic Plan that the Governor announced last November.

Peter Chen from the nonprofit Advocates for Children of NJ spoke about the 2020 Census. There are many obstacles the census is facing next year. It is the first time that you will be able to submit your census online. There is an increase of distrust in our federal government and there is a question that may be on the census asking your citizenship. They are encouraging school districts to support the census because State and local funds are often distributed based on population, meaning that every person is important when advocating for funding. The strength of census statistics and data also helps inform many public policy proposals at all levels of govern.

County Leadership Meeting

I attended the County leadership Meeting with Mrs. Biscardi. Mike Vrancik, the Director of Government Relations, spoke about the Path to Progress campaign which includes 27 bills.

Senate bill 3219 eliminates us of census-based funding of special education aid in school funding law.

Senate bill 3755 would require executive county superintendents of schools to establish a consolidation plan to combine all school districts in the county into all purpose regional districts.

Senate bill 3759 would create a special education unit within the Office of Administrative Law.

These are just a few of the 27. The bills' languages have yet to be posted leaving many questions and interpretations ahead.

OCSBA Spring Meeting

May 21st I attended the OCSBA spring meeting. We recognized board members for their accomplishments including Manchester's own Mr. Don Webster for his service as NJSBA past president. I received my 10 year pin and Mrs. Biscardi received her new board member Boardmanship certification. I would like to thank Mr. Trethaway for attending and supporting his board members' accomplishments. Our county field representative presented a training on goal setting . This topic was chosen because in July school boards across the county will be setting up their board goals and district goals for the 2019-2020 school year.

Senior Awards

One of the highlights of our Manchester school year is the Senior Awards. I was honored to present 4 scholarships to 4 MTHS seniors. The evening was filled with awards and scholarships given by foundations and organizations of the Manchester Community. Our students are blessed to have such overwhelming support and generosity throughout our township.

Lastly, On behalf of the Board of Education, Congratulations to the Class of 2019.