As a school board member with more than 17 years of service – and as the president of the New Jersey School Boards Association – I am often asked two questions:

Has school board service changed since you first took office?

– and –

What advice would you give to new—and experienced—board members to help them fulfill their responsibilities?

You don’t need 17 years of board of education membership to realize that the responsibilities of governing a public school system have grown exponentially. School board membership is no easy job. However, as indicated by many of the authors in this issue of School Leader, creatively approaching new challenges can reap results. For example, responding to current financial limitations can translate into sustainable practices and, further, into curricular improvements in the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) areas.

Whether you are a board member with one year or 20+ years of experience…or anywhere in between…professional development is key not only to understanding the responsibilities of the position, but also to learning about the opportunities and resources available to help your school district advance the achievement of your students.

As I said shortly after my election as NJSBA president, “Education is a bit art and a bit science, and it is ever-changing and evolving. As board members, we have to educate ourselves and evolve and change.”

There is no greater opportunity for growth than our annual Workshop. This year’s event (October 27-29) will offer more than 200 training and information sessions that can help you find ways to lower operating costs, build the technological infrastructure your students need to prepare for college and careers, negotiate effectively with employee unions, work collaboratively with your administration and staff to advance student achievement, improve health and wellness in your schools, and become a better school leader.

Of particular note are the special programs and features highlighted in “Workshop 2015: Empowering the 21st Century Student,” starting on page 24. I am enthused about our keynote speakers – Travis Allen, who at age 23, has become a leader in the emerging digital learning movement, and Jack Berckemeyer, a successful middle school teacher and nationally recognized author and humorist. Their presentations promise to be forward-thinking, thought-provoking and optimistic.

With that, I am most optimistic about how Workshop 2015 will help you, your board and your administrative team advance toward the goal of building the school system our students need to prepare for success in college, career and life.

Please visit the NJSBA Workshop website for information about programs and registration. I look forward to seeing you at Workshop 2015!

Donald Webster, Jr. NJSBA president