While I have been the president of NJSBA for two years (my term expires in November), I am as excited about the Association’s training initiatives now as I was my first day in this post. That’s because we have several new programs that are helping board members, their districts and the schoolchildren of New Jersey in a variety of ways. I’d like to share information about a few of them with you.

In April, I was among a group of 38 New Jersey board members who attended a full-day seminar at the NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration ) Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The trip served to educate board members about STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education. In addition to touring the facility, we took a virtual robotics tour, listened to a panel discussion with engineers who shared their personal stories, participated in hands-on STEM activities, and spoke with John Mather, a Nobel-prize-winning astrophysicist. John Henry, NJSBA’s STEM and sustainability specialist, was instrumental in setting up this program. John, a former technology educator, was at NASA as an Einstein Fellow a few years ago. NASA has a wealth of resources for school districts and students; districts can contact John Henry with questions or requests for more information.

NJSBA is also partnering with two institutions of higher education: Burlington County College and Richard Stockton College. Both have highly regarded “green” and sustainability degree programs. They have worked with NJSBA and the U.S. Green Building Council’s New Jersey chapter to present programs for board members on ways to use sustainable practices as a means to create alternative revenue streams and improve student achievement.

The training, offered this spring, also included an overview of sustainability career pathways for students and information about a college-credit course that is available to high school seniors, while they are still in school. We look forward to continuing these partnerships in the future.

Meanwhile, NJSBA has refocused its efforts to provide the best training possible in all of its programs, not just in our new initiatives.

The Association’s internal Task Force on Training Quality is hard at work reviewing and evaluating our in-person and web-based programming. We are identifying the professional development needs of members – and determining how we can improve what we provide our members. Some of the group’s recommendations have already been incorporated in programs. This will not be a one-time effort; the Task Force on Training Quality will be a permanent fixture at the Association, and will ensure continuous improvement.

In this issue of School Leader, we pay tribute to the board members and boards that have earned various individual and group certifications through NJSBA’s Board Member Academy. These are board members who have gone above and beyond their mandatory training requirements to further their professional development and become better leaders in their communities. I join the Association in saluting them.

Between our hardworking and conscientious members, the Association’s continuous review of its training programs, and exciting initiatives that focus on new areas, I know that we will attain our goal of having the best-trained local board of education members in the nation.

John Bulina is president of the New Jersey School Boards Association