Two of my favorite weekends are coming up right after the holidays – NJSBA’s Weekend New Board Member Orientation programs. This year they will be held on Jan. 5 – Jan. 7 and on Feb. 23- Feb. 25 at the Princeton Marriott Hotel and Conference Center. These programs are offered at no cost to school districts.

If you are a new board member reading this, I urge you to register.  If you are a veteran board member, please urge your new board members to register for these programs.  There simply is no better orientation program for new school board members anywhere in the country. Attendance is limited, and the sessions fill up quickly. While NJSBA’s online and one-day program deliver a perfectly good introduction to the roles and responsibilities of board members, the weekend program brings training to a whole other level.

What makes this program so effective?  First, the fact that it is conducted over the course of a weekend means there is more time to delve into the substance of the respnsibilities of board membership and critical issues. Ethics, school law, school finance, policy, negotiations and student achievement are all covered in depth. But for many, the small group sessions, where attendees participate in hands-on activities under the expert guidance of experienced board members, are the highlight of the weekend.

As educators, we know that the best kinds of learning happen in groups. I have been pleased to have served as a group leader for four years. Every year I’m impressed with how engaged, enthusiastic, and committed our new board members are.

In the small groups, board members from different types of school districts – large and small; suburban, urban and rural; K-8, K-12 and regional high school districts –learn how they are both alike and different. This shared experience provides context for understanding education on a statewide basis. Members often bond and continue to act as a “support group,” calling each other (and their group leaders) long after the weekend is over to talk over challenges that their boards are facing.

The weekend orientation could not happen without the support of our corporate donors, who underwrite the program so that it is free for local board members.  We owe our thanks to this year’s sponsors, the New Jersey Schools Insurance Group, and the Educational Testing Service.

I always tell new board members to go to the weekend orientation program because it will make their life as a board member easier.  Here’s the other side of the equation:  veteran board members should know that it will make their lives easier, too, when new board members experience this rigorous in-depth training.

In April 2018, NJSBA will continue to extend its excellence in training to another group–board presidents, vice-presidents and board members who aspire to those positions.  I look forward to telling you more about that in the next issue of School Leader.

But for now, this is what you need to know: To register for the Weekend New Board Member Orientation program, go to