As NJSBA’s semi-annual Delegate Assembly approaches (Saturday, May 18 is the meeting date), it’s a good time to recount the Association’s progress on key initiatives during the past six months.
Special Education Task Force: In January, NJSBA formed a task force to review our state’s current process for funding and providing special education services. The study group will recommend changes to state and federal statute and regulation. The goal is to reduce special education costs to local school districts without diminishing the quality of needed services. In addition, the task force will identify best practices.
As I’ve previously stated in this column, I began my career in education as a special education teacher. The education of children with special needs will always be close to my heart. However, there is a dire need to develop strategies that will maintain quality services, without negatively affecting resources for general education programming.
The Task Force is working under the guidance of Dr. Gerald Vernotica, Montclair State University associate professor and former assistant commissioner of education. The group has been involved in data collection and research, has consulted with experts, and is seeking information from New Jersey’s local school districts. Earlier this month, it issued a survey on special education trends to superintendents and special education directors. For more information on the survey, please contact John Burns, NJSBA counsel, at [email protected].
Parent Power: I am an unwavering believer in “parent power” and how it supports our children’s performance in the classroom and advances the mission of our public schools. When I became executive director last fall, I established parental involvement as a key goal for our Association. Parents are the ultimate advocates for their children’s education. The relationship between parents and boards of education must involve the highest level of trust.
Our new liaison with the New Jersey State PTA is a critical part of this initiative. On Thursday, June 6, we will sponsor the Legislative Day in Trenton with the state PTA. John Mooney of New Jersey Spotlight will moderate a panel discussion featuring members of the state legislature. It will be an exciting, and informative day.
Superstorm Sandy: For me, the action of our Association and its staff in the days following Superstorm Sandy will always be a source of pride. Within days of the storm’s landfall, NJSBA staff contacted each and every school board in the state with a message of concern and an offer of help. We also built a relief program to match up donors with school districts in need of equipment and supplies.
Today, NJSBA is offering a reduction in 2013-2014 dues to those districts that suffered severe damage to school and residential property and long-term displacement of students as a result of the storm. Interested districts have until June 3 to apply for the dues-reduction grants. The application process and eligibility criteria were described in an April 2 School Board Notes article.
Of course, these are not the Association’s only achievements. We have made notable advancements for our members in school security, STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), Sustainability and other areas.
President John Bulina and I will report on NJSBA’s progress at the Delegate Assembly on Saturday. It’s an important meeting that will center on critical educational policy proposals. So as my last request in this column, I urge you to make sure that your school board is represented at the May 18 assembly. For information about the agenda and registration procedures, visit http://staging.njsba.org/about/governance/delegate-assembly/.
These are my Reflections. I look forward to hearing yours. Contact me at [email protected].