On July 13, at its regular monthly meeting, the State Board of Education passed regulations, effective immediately, that require schools to test drinking water for lead within one year. Districts must develop a lead sampling plan that will govern the collection and analysis of drinking water samples, which must then be sent to a certified testing laboratory.

Districts must make all test results available at the school facility and on the district’s website. The regulations also require notification to the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) and to parents in any instances where positive results over a certain level are reported. The notification must also describe the steps taken to immediately end the use of each drinking water outlet where the lead level in the water is too high and the measures being taken to ensure that alternate drinking water has been made available to all students and staff. The rules also require all school districts to test their water used for drinking and cooking at least once every six years.

Districts may be eligible for reimbursement for the costs of water testing and analysis. A reimbursement application will be posted on the New Jersey Department of Education website; NJSBA will alert members when that application is available.

The full text of the rules is available here; the text of a memo that went to schools on July 19 regarding the new regulations is available here. Information from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) on lead in water is available here.

Every Student Succeeds Act The State Board also heard about the NJDOE’s efforts concerning the state’s compliance with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. As part of its implementation of ESSA, the federal government is requiring states to engage with the public and stakeholder groups about the new federal law. As part of its outreach efforts, the NJDOE is conducting a regional listening tour about ESSA. The dates and locations for the listening tour are:

  • Sept. 6, 4 – 6 p.m., College of St. Elizabeth, Dolan Performance Hall, 2 Convent Rd., Morristown, NJ 07690. Register here .
  • Sept. 8, 4 – 6 p.m, . Rowan College at Gloucester County, Lecture Room 430, 1400 Tanyard Rd., Sewell, NJ 08080. Register here.
  • Sept. 14, 5-7 p.m., Middlesex County Vocational and Technical Schools, Auditorium, 112 Rues Lane, East Brunswick, NJ 08816. Register here.

In addition to the listening tour, the department has set up a website page with information about the ESSA.

School Security The State Board of Education received an update about the work of the NJDOE’s Office of School Preparedness and Emergency Planning. The goal of the office is to increase the protection of students, staff, and facilities by promoting best practices that prevent violence in the schools, reducing vulnerabilities in the schools, enhancing response capabilities and maximizing recovery and resiliency. The office conducted 550 unannounced drill observations at schools throughout the state during the 2015-2016 school year.

Educator Effectiveness/Evaluation Proposed changes to the evaluation system for educators were approved for publication. The changes include a requirement that a post-observation conference for one observation must occur prior to another observation; the rules will clarify that while professional development plans must be updated annually by Oct. 31, they may be modified as needed at anytime during the year; in addition, District Evaluation Advisory Committees will no longer be required beginning in 2017-2018. The full proposal with all of the changes may be found here.

Harrassment, Intimidation and Bullying (HIB) The State Board also approved the publication of a proposal for changes to the HIB regulations. Among the proposed changes is one that would permit a principal to make a preliminary determination as to whether a reported incident or complaint is a report of an act of harassment, intimidation, or bullying. More information is available here. The NJDOE is also proposing extending HIB protections to those students who attend private schools for students with disabilities.

Student Transportation The State Board also began preliminary discussions on amendments to the transportation regulations that would require a school bus manufactured on or after July 17, 2016, to be equipped with a sensor system to detect the presence of a person(s) or object(s) in the front and rear of the bus. The sensor system shall include an audible and visual alert signal placed in the driver’s compartment to alert the driver when a person(s) or object(s) is detected within the sensor’s designated range. These changes are being made in accordance with the requirements of recent changes in law

Election of Officers: The State Board elected Mark Biedron as president, and Joe Fisicaro as vice-president.

Passaic County Educational Services Commission The State Board of Education approved a name change for the Passaic County Educational Services Commission to the Northern Region Educational Services Commission. Started in 1977, the Passaic County Educational Services Commission delivers a variety of services not only to districts in Passaic County, but also districts in Bergen, Morris, Hudson, and Sussex counties.