Since the inception of the Future Ready Schools-NJ certification program, the New Jersey School Boards Association has urged school districts to participate. The benefits are implementation of effective digital learning strategies and, most important, leveraging technology to help each child reach his or her potential.

As I travel across the state and talk to school board members about the importance of “Future Readiness” for school districts, I also recognize the need to practice what we preach.

That’s why NJSBA has undertaken an assessment of its information technology needs, and has made plans to upgrade equipment and implement intensive employee training. Our goal: Using technology to better serve our member school districts.

Last May, we engaged a skilled consultant to assess our needs. Michael Esolda, our technology consultant, has the unusual distinction of serving as the chief information officer for Woodbridge Township, Woodbridge school district and the Woodbridge police department.

He interviewed NJSBA staff members, the NJSBA officers, reviewed the Association’s strategic plan, talked to current vendors that support NJSBA’s technology platforms, and reviewed a membership and an employee professional development survey to come up with his recommendations.

After four months of study, he presented a report to NJSBA in September 2017. Among the suggestions: replace equipment that is reaching the end of its useful life; upgrade our customer relationship management software system; and launch new professional development training programs for staff. 

One of the recommendations involves outfitting NJSBA with state-of-the-art videoconferencing facilities to allow NJSBA members to take part in meetings and conferences from a remote location, and would allow NSJBA staff members to deliver services to school boards or school personnel via videoconferencing. 

I am delighted to report that NJSBA will be able to turn that recommendation into reality at little or no cost to the Association. We have secured the largest in-kind donation in NJSBA’s 104-year history for videoconferencing equipment from Cisco Systems, Inc. The company will donate the equipment, worth approximately $200,000 to NJSBA.

Because we recognize that any technological equipment is only as effective as are the people that use it, NJSBA staff will also undergo rigorous professional development in an array of business desktop applications, as well as training to use the new videoconferencing capabilities. 

All of these changes will enable staff to work more productively and to collaborate to deliver better services and products to our members. 

Upgrades to our technology have already begun and will continue through 2018. Staff professional development will also begin soon. The future is now, and NJSBA is determined to be as future-ready as possible.