As the holidays approach, there will be no shortage of end-of-the-year reviews. At the New Jersey School Boards Association, 2016 was a year of accomplishment. And, for me, two words continue to guide our success: “relevancy” and “relationships.”

NJSBA’s research efforts provide examples of our relevancy.

  • In November, we saw a positive development in which NJSBA played no small part through its study of the state’s Accountability Regulations. The acting commissioner of education proposed loosening of restrictions on the five-year old superintendent salary cap. NJSBA has long maintained, and our study confirms, the superintendent salary cap is a cap within a cap and thus, infringes on the authority of local school boards. While the cap should be totally eliminated, we are happy to see movement on the issue.
  • This month legislation was enacted creating a new category of law enforcement officers assigned to schools – Class III officers. The measure, which was a major recommendation of NJSBA’s School Security Task Force, gives school boards the cost-efficient option of employing retired police officers, who are specifically trained to work with students. This fall, the governor signed legislation implementing a recommendation from another NJSBA study group, the Task Force on Special Education. The new law creates a Response to Intervention (RTI) initiative in the Department of Education. RTI is a multi-tiered process that provides early identification of students at risk of academic difficulty and provides needed instructional and behavioral supports.
  • Workshop 2016 was extremely successful, exceeding all financial, attendance, programming and sponsor benchmarks we had hoped to achieve.
  • Too often, research studies are relegated to dust collection on library shelves. I am happy to say that two years after their release, NJSBA studies on school security and special education are having a positive impact.

Success is not possible without relationships. Over the past year, NJSBA maintained a healthy exchange of ideas with the people who make decisions that impact our schools. We have strong lines of communication with the legislative leadership and the governor’s staff. We take part in monthly one-to-one meetings with the State Board of Education president. And we enjoy an excellent relationship with Acting Commissioner Harrington and the New Jersey Department of Education.

NJSBA has also formed successful – and innovative – partnerships with organizations that share our goal of advancing student achievement.

  • Our partnership with the U.S. Army is advancing integrative STEAM education (science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics) in our schools. The Army has placed a STEAM education specialist at NJSBA, who helps provide consultation with local school boards and plays an integral role in special events, such as the successful STEAM Tank Challenge (a makerspace competition for students) at Workshop 2016.
  • Our collaboration with the Sustainability Institute at The College of New Jersey has helped build the Sustainable Jersey for Schools program. Membership in that program has grown to include almost 40 percent of the state operating districts.
  • Our relationship with the NJDOE and the New Jersey Institute of Technology has resulted in the Future Ready Schools – New Jersey, a new initiative that will help schools promote digital learning.
  • Through a partnership with the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations, and several other educational organizations, NJSBA is leading a project, being piloted in 10 school districts, that is studying the positive impact of labor-management collaboration on student achievement.
  • Regular and in-depth communications with NJASA, NJPSA, NJASBO, NJEA, and the NJSPTA has resulted in collaboration on a number of legislative and programming achievements.

As the year end draws near, I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize NJSBA’s staff members, who are central to the Association’s success. I want to thank them, our officers, and members of the NJSBA Board of Directors for their efforts and support throughout the year.