• Teamwork Delivers

    Posted by NJASA Executive Director Dr. Richard G. Bozza on 8/12/2021


    From my vantage point as a school leader with forty plus years of experience, I can confidently share the concept of working together for the good of a cause is the pathway to a successful accomplishment.

    One’s ability to attain goals are contingent upon many factors at the time, as well as the involved stakeholders. Simply stated, you are concentrating all your efforts on the belief of teamwork to achieve your end goal. This model regularly occurs within all types and cultures of organizations including education and government.  

    The American Rescue PlanThe American Rescue Plan (ARP) signed by President Biden on March 11, 2021, is an excellent example of teamwork for the good of the cause. According to a detailed AASA ARP Summary Memo, “the funding includes supports for vaccines, schools, small businesses, and anti‐poverty programs.” It also

    “includes almost $220 billion for education, child care, and education‐related programs, plus $362 billion for local and state fiscal relief, much of which could ultimately support education. The total for the Department of Education is more than twice the fiscal year 2021 regular funding total of $73 billion.”

    This initiative from the federal government is just the beginning of a collaborative process. The real work of cooperation is occurring at the state and local levels. On behalf of NJASA, I recently attended a forum convened by Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senate Education Committee Chair Senator M. Teresa Ruiz regarding the use of federal funds for education. I was pleased to join the Senate leadership and a broad array of colleagues, educators, advocates, school officials and educational organizations in providing input on school district needs and the use of federal funds supporting student learning following the pandemic.

    School district leaders appreciated the foresight demonstrated by the Senate leadership in meeting with educational leaders to understand the challenges now being faced and the opportunities and benefits that federal funding can provide in addressing those challenges and supporting students throughout the state.

    The Senators also found the discussion extremely helpful.  After the closed-door discussion, Senator Sweeney said, “I walked in expecting to have a conversation about the finances of the schools, how are you spending your money, what are you going to do. And it really turned into a meeting of the struggles that the school districts are having - and they’re legitimate - that have to be addressed. And we have to fast-track as much as we can to get ourselves in a better position.” 

    End goals emerging from the forum focused on the bureaucratic barriers to moving swiftly on capital projects, and the officials’ desire to remove health-related decision making from the hands of schools.

    Capital Projects Barriers: HVAC was the main capital project discussed. There was a strong desire to streamline the process for capital projects that do not have a direct educational purpose. It was noted that an HVAC project needs to not only go through the normal bid process but get approvals from the Departments of Education and Community Affairs. Each approval process can take up to six months to complete. Solutions, including an approved vendors list, were proposed. We noted that even with red tape reduced, we will be hampered by a lack of sufficient contractors to carry out the work.

    Health Policies: Issues voiced included sometimes differing guidance from local and county health departments, local health departments that are not always helpful in providing guidance, and the volatility of the debate over masking students. The common request was a global mandate for masks in schools, or at least to not leave the decision to require masks or not up to districts. We, as educators, pointed out that having local districts embroiled in these health decisions takes us away from spending time on educational decisions.

    As we all know on August 6th, Governor Murphy signed Executive Order (EO) 251 that requires all students, educators, staff, and visitors to wear face masks indoors for the start of the 2021-2022 school year.

    The next steps in the teamwork process include the Senators’ plan to continue discussions with the Murphy Administration, and to consider executive actions and/or potential legislation that could alleviate some aspects of the school leaders concerns regarding the barriers to capital projects.

    We achieved our end goal of identifying the most effective and responsible ways to utilize the aid allocated to public schools in New Jersey from the federal ARP over the next three years. However, our work is not completed. We need more teamwork to advance our goals within New Jersey.

    I strongly recommend that all school leaders take a few minutes today to complete an AASA ARP brief survey to help bring the ARP dollars to life! New Jersey needs to expand our teamwork efforts to the AASA’s advocacy team to help Congress understand and see what these dollars mean to your districts, how they are being used, and what a difference they make as it relates to our work to open schools, support students, and address learning recovery.

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  • The Case Against 2021 Statewide Spring Assessments

    Posted by Dr. Richard Bozza, NJASA Executive Director on 2/23/2021 4:00:00 PM

    Much has been written this year about student academic progress during the pandemic since schools were closed in March 2020. I have not read one report disputing that in-person instruction for our students is the most effective in advancing learning and addressing their social-emotional health. School leaders throughout the nation continue to advance student learning in a mix of fully remote, hybrid, and in-person learning programs depending on the community assessment of disease prevalence by health departments and the availability of school staff to teach pupils in person. Recent Center for Disease Control guidance indicates that in-person schooling can resume safely with masks, social distancing and other strategies, and vaccination of teachers, while important, is not a prerequisite for reopening. This report has fueled the debate about the safety of the school environment for students and staff and leaves the possibility of widespread in-school instruction this academic year in limbo.


    Legislators and others have expressed concern about insufficient student learning progress during the past eleven months of pandemic schooling.  Many have suggested that an assessment be conducted for all students to determine individual “learning loss” during this period. In January, the New Jersey Department of Education announced the 2021 schedule for spring standardized assessments that were cancelled last year. The announcement received great opposition to renewing the testing with opponents (including NJASA)  strongly suggesting that such an assessment is well-intended but ill-advised. In response, the New Jersey Department of Education announced on February 12 that “To further explore options, including flexibilities regarding the use of statewide assessment data in federal accountability – and to ease the burden of preparing for and administering assessments while these options evolve – the NJDOE is postponing the planned start date of all assessments and plans to begin statewide assessment administration no earlier than April 5, 2021.” I joined my counterparts at NJEA and NJPSA to issue a statement supporting the delay but noting “Nonetheless, we remain steadfast in our opposition to any statewide standardized testing this year in light of the conditions our students have faced for the last 11 months.


    Why do we insist on a waiver of the assessments? Let us examine a few reasons.


    1. How will students benefit from the assessment?

    Spring assessments serve no diagnostic purpose supporting student learning. They are summative assessments used for accountability. Results come too late in the academic year to be useful. School personnel have sufficient measures of student progress to determine the degree to which students are achieving state standards and can provide a summary if needed. Instructionally grounded assessments that guide student learning in real time offer the most benefit, not global summative assessments that gauge the universe of instructional topics. We question how spring assessments support student emotional and social well-being particularly at this time when we increasingly hear students report the increased stress they are experiencing.


    1. Are the assessments an effective use of allocated learning time?

    Educators need to maximize learning in this pandemic period of lost instructional time and not exacerbate the problem by using that which is available to administer standardized assessments that do not guide learning.  


    1. Is test administration feasible or valid during this period of variable learning schedules?

    Remote and hybrid learning programs offer the challenge of conducting assessments in the home environment and raise the question of privacy. There is great doubt that a suitable testing environment without distractions can be created in all homes where testing will occur. Equally a concern is the reliability of assessments conducted on-line in student homes compared to in-school administration. The practicality of home administration is dubious given the need for security, reliable connectivity, and access in homes where there is family demand for the same resources.


    1. Do state officials need the results for accountability?

    The question of test reliability given current patterns of schooling casts additional doubt on the valid use of the assessments for school and district accountability. Governor Murphy and his education team have already waived assessments (standardized or portfolio) for this year’s high school graduation requirements and the use of Student Growth Objectives in educator evaluation. This is a reasonable response to the current abnormal school learning environment. We do not need more testing to tell us what we already know about school, or even individual, performance that cannot be gleaned from educator analysis and 2019 assessment results.


    NJASA members wish to support their students to the greatest degree possible during this difficult time. Here is what they need to accomplish that goal:


     Advocacy by Governor Murphy and Commissioner Allen-McMillan in immediately applying to the federal Department of Education for a waiver of 2021 standardized assessments.

     Collaboration by New Jersey Department of Education officials in developing an updated “Road Back” plan that acknowledges current circumstances changed from those at the beginning of pandemic schooling including a plan for school reopening in September which addresses assessment of student progress and instructional program planning.

     Clear New Jersey Department of Health requirements for social distancing and classroom ventilation to be included in the renewed “Road Back” plan.

     Updated New Jersey Department of Health Covid-19 school reporting that coincides with the recently released Centers for Disease Control guidance.


    NJASA members stand ready to assist Commissioner Allen-McMillan and her staff in this important work as we travel the “Road Back.”



    At the time of publication, the NJDOE announced its intention to file for a federal waiver of spring assessment requirements. Check the NJDOE broadcast.

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  • Hope is Not a Strategy – But it Feels Good!

    Posted by Dr. Richard Bozza, NJASA Executive Director on 12/21/2020 12:00:00 PM


    This week the first doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccines are being given to healthcare workers and the FDA has endorsed the Moderna vaccine for emergency use. FDA approval of vaccines being developed by AstraZeneca, Johnson and Johnson, and other drug manufacturers are likely to soon follow. Distribution of vaccines during the months ahead is a priority for the new administration. The news has bolstered the Dow Jones Industrial Average over the milestone 30,000 mark and the country is becoming more optimistic over life during 2021! We all long for good news and the initial distribution of the vaccines offers a promise that the New Year will be different than the last.


    There does not seem to be a consensus on who first used the “Hope is Not a Strategy” statement. Some attribute its initial use to the military as early as the middle of the last century.  As school district leaders face the reality of the current situation in our communities, we understand that hope will only get us so far. We cannot just wish away the challenges that we continue to face.  Communities are divided by individual preferences for in-person or remote learning, children are “opting out” of virtual learning in the largest districts, families are relying on school systems to get needed meals, health agencies are issuing conflicting guidance to school districts, staff are expressing concerns about health risks associated with in-school learning, families are losing employment and income, districts are receiving insufficient funds to support increased operational demands, the public-in-general is demonstrating Covid-19 fatigue and not adhering to recommended precautions, and soaring infection rates are creating more fear and consternation. We recognize that there needs to be a concentrated and coordinated effort to address these problems to accomplish the desired results. School district leaders have forged plans with their stakeholders to address what can be managed by school personnel and continue to modify those plans based upon evolving information and day-to-day events.


    Now, as 2021 approaches, we indeed are hopeful that our lives will be changed, that the spring of 2021 will be the time that we can return to some semblance of the normal we knew and lost - nearly a year before. School leaders, just as their staff and school families, have been engulfed in the struggle of 2020 and have borne the challenge of leading the way in designing and implementing a new learning paradigm and addressing the needs of students, staff, and families. And we need hope. Without it there would only be despair.


    Hope may not be a strategy, but it fills our soul with the promise of the positive outcomes we can visualize and the future we desire. Educational leaders are in so many ways charged to make that vision a reality. And we can do so because we have planned.


    Colleagues, I and the entire NJASA staff offer you the best possible wishes for joy during the holidays with your families and friends, no matter how distant we might remain. We shall work with you to make the New Year one of accomplishment and celebration for all.


    “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” – Desmond Tutu 


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  • “Volatility – a Tendency to Change Quickly and Unpredictably.”

    Posted by Dr. Richard Bozza, NJASA Executive Director on 10/29/2020

    Many associate volatility with the stock market where, in most cases, the higher the volatility, the riskier the security. The stock market volatility that we experience today reflects the uncertainty felt by investors due to the current political, economic, and health factors facing the nation.


    Volatility is not the sole province of the financial markets. The situation in which school district leaders find themselves today is clearly a volatile one. There are increasing announcements by district leaders evaluating the spread of Covid-19 infections in their communities to extend or move back to remote learning. Simultaneously, other districts are successfully implementing in-person learning with support of their communities and minimal effect of Covid-19 infections.


    Community discussion about the status of schools is often highly charged as parents struggle with work and parenting obligations, staff members express concern about perceived threats to their health and that of family members, the CDC revises its definition of “close contact,” and Governor Murphy announces increased infection rates comparable to those experienced last May. It is not surprising that Chief Education Officers navigating unchartered waters during a pandemic to establish and support viable education alternatives for their students are feeling incredible pressure from constituents divided about in-person school attendance. 


    Unfortunately, I hear a growing chorus of discontent with our NJ Department of Education leadership regarding requirements perceived to be extremely burdensome or untenable during a period of pandemic schooling. Many NJASA members have expressed their frustration to an NJ DOE “business as normal” approach to demands placed upon school district personnel during an unrivaled time of educating students. They feel that their pleas are falling on deaf ears with no curtailment of regulatory obligations typical of a normal school year. The NJASA Executive Committee has endorsed this view and expressed it to the NJ DOE leadership.


    Governor Murphy has announced the nomination of Angelica Allen-McMillan, a lifetime New Jersey Educator, to the position of Commissioner of Education. She currently serves as the Executive Superintendent for Morris County and will assume the responsibilities as commissioner in November on an acting basis pending confirmation by the Senate. The reaction to the Governor’s nominee has been positive with NJASA members favorable toward a candidate who has “been in the trenches” in a variety of administrative positions.


    The NJASA leadership looks forward to supporting the work of Dr. Allen-McMillan during her tenure with the expectation that the perspective of a current practitioner will influence policy and regulations to establish a less turbulent educational environment and bring the voice of her contemporaries to bear as she oversees the New Jersey school system.


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    Posted by Dr. Richard Bozza, NJASA Executive Director on 9/21/2020


    Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
    March 15, 1933 – September 18, 2020



    Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

    On behalf of NJASA, it is with a heavy heart that I acknowledge the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a dedicated advocate of equality and justice.

    The words - "EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER LAW" written above the main entrance to the Supreme Court Building, express the ultimate responsibility of the Supreme Court of the United States. Justice Ginsburg's accomplishments exemplify the true meaning of these words. One of her most notable accomplishments is the Supreme Court's landmark decision in United States v. Virginia (1996), which held that the men-only admission policy of a state-run university, the Virginia Military Institute (VMI), violated the equal protection clause. Rejecting VMI's contention that its program of military-focused education was unsuitable for women, Ginsburg noted that the program was in fact unsuitable for the vast majority of Virginia college students regardless of gender. “[G]eneralizations about ‘the way women are,’ estimates of what is appropriate for most women, no longer justify denying opportunity to women whose talent and capacity place them outside the average description,” she wrote.


    The New York Times Editorial Board writes, "Justice Ginsburg, who was Jewish, died on the eve of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year. Fittingly, it is a day when Jews look backward and forward, reflecting on what has passed, and preparing for what is to come. Justice Ginsburg’s death marks the end of her long battle on behalf of equality for all Americans. Others must now carry that fight forward."

    Colleagues, my thoughts turn to all of you who are our frontline leaders making a difference in the lives of our students. I thank you for your efforts in educating and guiding the future Ruth Bader Ginsburgs of the world.

    We are in a better place because of her. And, I am hopeful, her wishes and beliefs will continue to make our country and the world a better place.

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  • Return to School Guidance Released – Significant Challenges Remain

    Posted by Dr. Richard Bozza, NJASA Executive Director on 7/1/2020

    Governor Murphy introduced “The Road Back - Restart and Recovery Plan for Education, the guidance for schools reopening prepared by the NJ Department of Education during his Friday, June 26 press conference. He declared that schools will open in September for in-person instruction, providing options to local districts to craft the way they will resume that instruction. The guidance, totaling 104 pages, relies heavily on the Center for Disease Control Guidelines, providing numerous resources to assist New Jersey educators in the arduous task of creating reopening plans that must be publicly announced one month prior to the start of the school year. 


    Most NJASA members believe that the social distancing requirements of the guidance point to a hybrid approach to schooling in September for most districts. Pupils can be in the buildings for some period, but not full time due to space restrictions. The report itself describes various alternative schedules that might be considered. District and school level planning teams that include constituent representatives must assemble to provide input to the school reopening plans. 


    The NJDOE guidance provides a set of standards and structural guidelines that school opening planning can, and must, be based upon. Yet, many questions have arisen and will continue to do so as district leaders accelerate the planning initiatives already undertaken. The minimum health requirements of the guidance, as well as the optional measures that districts might implement, will burden already reduced FY 20/21 school budgets. Other recommendations are similarly taxing on district resources, both human and capital. Meeting the professional development recommendations alone during the summer and school year seems an insurmountable task. The state legislature is now adopting a spending plan for the months of July, August, and September that confirms district reductions even before the full impact of the pandemic on state revenues is understood. Reduced tax and fee collections portend additional cuts to the state aid now committed to districts for the fiscal year. 


    Significant challenges beyond health and finances remain to be addressed even with the new guidelines. 


    • Will schools have the human resources to meet the demands of the hybrid model that is chosen?
      • Early parent and staff surveys indicate a reluctance by many students and school personnel to return to in-person schooling.
      • Senior staff members in many locales are contemplating retirement as they assess the health threats they might face on return to work.
    • Will school buses and drivers be available to undertake the additional bus routes that will be required to transport students?
    • Will the necessary personal protective equipment, disinfectants, shields, etc. be available?
    • Will co-curricular and athletic activities be conducted as previously expected?
    • Will districts conforming to the minimal health guidelines be immune to legal challenges when infections occur among pupils and staff?
    • Will parents be able to adjust childcare and at-home instruction requirements of hybrid schooling while returning to work as restrictions are lifted?
    • Will teachers and support staff reasonably be able to meet the additional demands of hybrid programming?
    • Will collective bargaining agreements require modification under the new schooling regimen?


    There are many more unanswered questions that arise as significant developments in the Covid-19 infection are occurring. Governor Murphy announced as I am writing this article that the plan to reopen inside restaurant dining is rescinded due to the spread of the disease in other states and the disregard by many state residents of the social distancing requirements. Arizona, Florida, and Texas are rolling back reopening activities as they are becoming the latest epicenters for the disease after loosening restrictions.  


    We refer to the “summer recess” for the months of July and August in the school calendar. An underwhelming label for a period when so many student programs, staffing, training activities, and school opening preparations are being undertaken!  Looking forward, there will not be any “recess” at all this year. Only overtime planning and implementation as the new school year races toward us.

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  • From Tech Start-up to Tech-Savvy in New Jersey’s Schools TECHSPO® Celebrates 25th Anniversary

    Posted by Dr. Richard Bozza, NJASA Executive Director on 1/6/2020

    Techspo 2020 In 1995, there were no iPads or Chromebooks. The worldwide web was just getting started. A classroom might have had one desktop computer, used as a supplemental tool. It was the infancy of technology in education.


    Fast forward 25 years and you can see the paradigm shift. Today’s schools are infusing technology in the learning process via laptops, tablets, and other smart devices coupled with innovative teaching methods like blended learning that encourage students to take charge of their educational journey.


    Far from a single computer in the corner, these classrooms are wired for learning. According to a 2018 study by MidAmerica Nazarene University, 86 percent of K-12 teachers surveyed had WiFi in their classrooms. Seventy-three percent said their students used tablets or laptops daily and 66 percent noted that the school supplied the devices. Twenty-five percent of the students brought devices from home.


    This dramatic evolution, from tech start-up to tech-savvy, would not have been possible without the foresight of New Jersey’s school leaders. It was in those formative years when NJASA initiated its Technology Committee to stay abreast of technological trends in education. In 1995, to bring these topical issues and emerging technologies to our members, we held the first TECHSPO®. It was a valuable resource as districts sought to implement the technology that would transform learning. Now in its 25th year, TECHSPO® ’20 is still New Jersey’s Premier Educational Technology Training and Exhibition Conference for school leaders and educators.


    Mark your calendar for TECHSPO® ’20 in Atlantic City, January 30th to 31st. It could be the most important meeting you’ll attend all year. Here’s why.


    At TECHSPO® ’20, you’ll network with more than 1,000 K-12 educators. You’ll find the latest on educational technology, and practical advice you can implement right away. You’ll hear from school districts that are pioneering groundbreaking programs. They’re starting coding in PreK. They’re using technology for K to 5 language instruction. They’re embracing the 21st century digital classroom.


    Importantly, you’ll get an expert view on the key issues you’ll want to explore.


    • Are you fully prepared for a cyber-attack? Learn the elements of good cyber security and how you can protect your district.


    • Are you seeking to improve equity in your district? Learn how you can use technology to enable equity for all learners.


    Empower your staff through tech coaching. Revolutionize social emotional learning with student-created virtual reality. Make learning visible through technology-based assessments. Choose from over 130 workshops covering everything from STEAM programs to classroom tech tools, and more.


    Inspiring Keynote Speakers Share Unique Perspectives


    Matt Miller is an educator, blogger and presenter who has infused technology and innovative teaching methods in his classes for more than 10 years. He is the author of “Ditch That Textbook: Free Your Teaching and Revolutionize Your Classroom.” After trying to teach by the textbook for a few years, he launched into a textbook-less path where learning activities were often custom produced for his students as well as infused with technology. Matt is a Google Certified Innovator and a PBS LearningMedia Digital Innovator, and we’ll learn a lot from his innovative approach.


    Dr. Katie Martin is the author of Learner-Centered Innovation and Vice President of Professional Learning at Altitude Learning.  She has worked in diverse contexts to learn, research, and support deeper learning for all students. At the university, district, and school-level, Katie aspires to create experiences that empower all learners to develop knowledge, skills, and mindsets to thrive in a changing world. As a mom, she wants her kids to have learning experiences in school that build on their strengths and interests and as an educator; she is passionate about making sure we do the same for all kids. 


    New This Year: Technology “Fireside Chats”


    This year, we’re hosting fireside chats, informal yet structured sessions where you can ask questions of our experts on the following topics:


    • What is the role of esports (competitive gaming) in education? We’ll discuss the academic and social emotional benefits, and share the challenges and successes.
    • How can we train our students to address the sustainability challenges that humanity collectively faces, such as climate change or global food security? We must move beyond conventional teaching practices and towards a reinvention of STEM education.


    Register Today for TECHSPO® ’20


    That’s just a glimpse of what you’ll find at TECHSPO® ’20. It’s two days, two keynote presentations, 280+ speakers, 130+ workshops, and 150+ exhibitors. This conference will help school leaders, educators, and anyone in your district working with technology.


    Don’t miss your chance to take your district’s technology to the next level. Join us at TECHSPO® ’20, on January 30th and 31st at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City. Click on the following links for the registration page, information on hotel reservations, and a waiver for overnight lodging. Together, we can conquer the challenges of technology and embrace opportunities so that students will be ready to take on their future. Learn more at


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  • Ensuring Equity for All New Jersey Students

    Posted by Dr. Richard Bozza, NJASA Executive Director on 11/19/2019

    Equity for All

    Today, the ultimate challenge for us as district leaders is to assure that each and every one of our students, regardless of background, is exposed to relevant and engaging learning experiences and the support that they will need in order to be successful in school and thrive in our world. That means that every student has access to the educational resources and rigor they need at the right moment in their education across race, gender, ethnicity, language, disability, sexual orientation, family background and/or family income, as defined by the Council of Chief State School Officers in 2017.


    At NJASA, we’re working for fair and equitable opportunities for all students, educators, and communities through our initiative, NJASA 4 Equity. Below is a glimpse of all we’ve been doing, and why you should join us on November 21st for our Second Annual Equity Conference in cooperation with NJASA Crown Jewel Sponsor Scholastic at The Palace at Somerset Park.


    We will be initiating a process of reviewing the survey responses from school leaders who provided input regarding strategies and resources needed for building and sustaining an equitable learning environment. Our goal is to create an Equity Toolkit of best practices. We know that this type of Toolkit is not a magic bullet as issues of societal discrimination and inequities have a long history in educational systems. However, with the collaboration of superintendents, district administrators, and our county affiliate presidents, this Toolkit will provide support, guidelines, frameworks and resources to New Jersey school districts as they endeavor to ensure both access and opportunity for educational equity.


    We believe in equitable access to funding for all school districts.

    We’re optimistic that we’re moving toward equal funding for all New Jersey students, but challenges remain as district court filings dispute the redistribution for districts losing state support.


    We believe in equitable access to professional development for all school leaders, and in equitable access to career opportunities and fair compensation for all association members.

    We’re continuing to support new superintendents through mentor relationships, specially designed meeting sessions, and network opportunities. We’re ensuring gender, racial and economic equity among those serving as central office leaders. We’re creating an ongoing repository of best practice professional development opportunities in areas of educational leadership. We’re also increasing awareness of the importance of self-care and wellness for novice and veteran superintendents and members of NJASA.


    New Jersey’s schools are #1. Equity will help us to remain at the forefront.

    Education Week recently ranked New Jersey’s schools first in the nation. What will keep us on top is equity for New Jersey’s 1.4 million students. Innovation, practice, policy and performance are so important, and our schools are rising to the challenge.


    In Hamilton Township, Mercer County, NJASA President Dr. Scott Rocco oversees 17 elementary schools, 3 middle schools, and 3 high schools. Equity is a goal in the budgeting process. As a result, not every school has the same budget. Rather, building budgets are developed to support the students’ needs for success. There are many examples of equity budgeting but one is paying for AP testing for students, regardless of their ability to pay. 


    In the Cranbury School District, NJASA Small Schools/Shared Services Committee Chair Dr. Susan Genco stresses the importance of access and opportunity. She says it is our responsibility as educators to create and provide opportunities for underserved and underrepresented populations.


    NJASA is working with the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania to provide educators with information and strategies that will help our students to achieve. We also are collaborating with the New Jersey Consortia for Excellence Through Equity Northeast, Northwest, Central, and South. These networks of urban, suburban and rural school districts are all driven by a mission to positively transform the lives of each and every one of their students by preparing them for success in post-secondary education and in life – especially those diverse children who have traditionally struggled academically in our systems, or who might likely be the first in their family to attend and graduate from college.


    As district leaders, you are key to promoting and supporting meaningful change. Again, please join us for our Second Annual Equity Conference in cooperation with NJASA Crown Jewel Sponsor Scholastic on Thursday, November 21, 2019 from 9:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at The Palace at Somerset Park.


    We’ll hear from esteemed, groundbreaking thought leaders on the forefront of equity who are covering an insightful agenda.


    Our keynote speaker, Fay E. Brown, Ph.D., will talk about “Reimagining Equity: The Case for a Whole-Child Approach for Effective Teaching and Learning.” Dr. Brown is a research scientist at the Yale Child Study Center. She has co-authored book chapters in such books as: Child by Child; Six Pathways to Healthy Development and Academic Success; and Dynamic Instructional Leadership to Support Student Learning and Development.


    Scholastic’s SVP of Education, Karen Burke, Ed.D., will serve as moderator. Burke has been an educator for more than 30 years, and currently helps district leadership understand and use data to create district-specific comprehensive literacy plans that weave pedagogy, programs, and professional learning together to elevate student learning.


    We also will learn from New Jersey’s school districts about creating and sustaining the structures, curricula and programs that eliminate gaps in achievement. We’ll learn to bypass race, ethnicity, and gender. We’ll remove barriers from language, (dis)ability or family economic background. We are partners who can help gather the resources, thought and energy needed to create and sustain meaningful educational change to the benefit of all of the diverse learners you serve. Together, we will ensure all students succeed.


    Whether you are just beginning to explore and create or you are maintaining developmentally appropriate conditions, I hope you’ll join us. Register today


    Look to NJASA for the Latest New Jersey Public Education News

    As the organization that supports school leaders, NJASA keeps its finger on the pulse on public education in New Jersey. We have a long and proud tradition of advocating for children and preparing leaders to steer schools and districts in the direction of positive futures. The children of New Jersey represent the future of our great state, and we have the responsibility to effectively educate all students through our public education system.

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  • Hot-Button Issues for NJ’s Public Schools – Fall 2019

    Posted by Dr. Richard Bozza, NJASA Executive Director on 8/29/2019

    Back to School We’re heading back to school. In New Jersey, that means plenty of hot-button issues on the horizon. The 2019-20 school year will be pivotal as we explore state funding, graduation testing requirements, regional consolidation, the teacher shortage, special education disputes, a new mental health curriculum and a later school start time. Here’s a look at what lies ahead, and what it means to administrators, educators, parents and students.


    The Quest for Equitable State Funding


    Funding struggles are nothing new for New Jersey’s schools. But in past years, some districts didn’t receive nearly enough state aid. Landmark legislation passed last year was supposed to correct those imbalances — and it did. The problem is that it took funding from the budgets of other districts.     


    As a result, educational leaders throughout New Jersey have found themselves in one of two positions: finally receiving additional funds for their districts after years of hardship or losing funding and having to slash budgets.


    This summer, Governor Murphy signed the Fiscal Year 2020 Appropriations Act, which helps to ramp up K-to-12 funding by nearly $260 million dollars. Of that amount, $60 million will be dedicated to maintain and expand pre-K programs. Another $2 million will expand computer science education to all grades, and not just high school, and there’s $650,000 for STEM and other early college high school programs. Finally, the budget includes another $50 million for “extraordinary special education costs.” Districts can apply for this funding, as needed.


    We’re optimistic that we’re moving toward equal funding for all New Jersey students, but challenges remain as district court filings dispute the redistribution for districts losing state support.


    • What State Funding Means for Schools and Educators: Districts receiving funds are still operating at a shortfall since this support has been years in the making. Districts losing funds have already made the first set of cuts, in many cases essential staff. Pre-K programs seem to be the only “safe” bet in this funding scenario — for now.


    • What State Funding Means for Parents and Students: Expect cuts across the board in districts which are losing funds. Parents of preschoolers will have more public options. While STEM programs are already in the elementary grades, computer science will need a learning curve as districts explore appropriate curriculum for younger learners.


    The Path to Graduation is Still Unclear


    State law mandates that students pass an assessment in eleventh grade before they can graduate from a public high school in New Jersey. The PARCC test was intended to replace that requirement, with students passing both PARCC Algebra 1 and tenth grade English Language Arts.


    On December 30, 2018, the Superior Court Appellate Division invalidated those PARCC tests, and legislators have been scrambling to address graduation requirements ever since. The Department of Education (DOE) has recently released educator-prepared student learning objectives for the English Language Arts and Mathematics student learning standards, which will ultimately guide school district curricula and form the basis for a new generation of assessments.


    In the meantime, recent agreements approved by the State Supreme Court allow high school graduation standards to remain the same through 2022. Beginning with the graduating class of 2023, there will be a mandated, eleventh-grade assessment. NJASA is one of the many stakeholders informing future assessment decisions. Stay tuned.


    • What the Path to Graduation Means for Schools and Educators: Schools are continuing the status quo for the foreseeable future, as they await direction from the DOE and the state.


    • What the Path to Graduation Means for Parents and Students: Students graduating high school now through 2022 have a variety of options according to the state: the eleventh-grade state test, the PARCC assessments, SAT, ACT or ACCUPLACER scores and student portfolios.


    Senate President Steve Sweeney and others have introduced a series of Path to Progress bills that promise to fix the state’s financial crisis. A portion of the proposed legislation impacts New Jersey’s school significantly. The idea is to merge K-4, K-6 and K-8 districts into K-12 regional school systems, purportedly saving tens of billions of dollars for taxpayers.


    This is nothing new; we’ve been studying the issue for decades. Proponents say it will increase efficiency and lower costs. That’s not always the case. Regionalization can result in increased transportation costs, higher property taxes, and loss of state and federal aid. Local participation and involvement also is an issue. Our experience leads us to believe that parents identify and participate with greater frequency in local school districts rather than in larger regional districts where a town may only have one board member and the meetings take place in a different town. Finally, the quality of existing courses and services in many small districts is excellent. Many students thrive in a small educational setting. Therefore, bigger in terms of educational organization does not necessarily mean better.


    We believe that for some districts regionalization may bring some students a wider range of course offerings and services, and possibly some other benefits. We also feel strongly that combining school districts must be a local decision. It could be right for your district, but that’s for communities to decide — not the state.


    • What the Path to Progress Means for Schools and Educators: Districts that consolidate may lose their unique offerings and ability to personalize education. Prepare for faculty cuts as districts eliminate redundancy.


    • What the Path to Progress Means for Parents and Students: If regionalization becomes a reality, parents and students will need to navigate a more complex education system while potentially paying more in taxes.


    What You Need to Know About the Teacher Shortage


    A growing concern is New Jersey’s teacher shortage in critical areas. Simply put, districts are struggling to employ teachers who represent their diverse student base. Having a teacher that looks like you, or shares a similar cultural background, helps to build relationships. That in turn promotes equity, where all children have an equal opportunity to succeed. Districts are working on opportunities for minority students to develop interest in education careers. School leaders are also making an effort to recruit a more diverse teacher base.


    This summer, the Department of Education held its first statewide conference on equity in education. There were workshops on LGBTQ inclusivity, disability awareness, empathy and trauma, among other topics. The DOE also is encouraging a focus on social-emotional learning initiatives to help students thrive.


    • What the Teacher Shortage Means for Schools and Educators: Equity continues to be the watchword in today’s districts. Look for more programs to learn how your school can establish equity for all.


    • What Teacher Shortage Means for Parents and Students: Don’t expect significant staff changes overnight as schools struggle to recruit talent. Do expect an emphasis on social-emotional learning, and ask your child’s teacher how he or she is addressing this important aspect of education.


    Streamlining Special Education Disputes


    There are hundreds of disputes each year between districts and families with special education students. At issue are whether student needs are being addressed. Due to a shortage of judges, these cases can drag on for months or even years.


    New state rules promise to streamline the process. Cases must be resolved within 45 days. That may seem challenging, and time will tell whether that’s realistic. There will be non-judicial hearing officers to help process the caseload.  We’ll be keeping a close eye on this complex issue.


    • What Special Education Disputes Mean for Schools and Educators: Schools will have increased accountability to the state. It’s unclear whether the non-judicial hearing officers will have the expertise to make decisions.


    • What Special Education Disputes Mean for Parents and Students: Cases will be resolved during the current school year, or close to it, for more immediate action.


    Fostering Mental Health


    Governor Murphy signed legislation requiring mental health education in K-12 health curriculums. That means in future physical education and health classes, students also will study mental health in an age appropriate manner, starting in kindergarten.


    • What Mental Health Curriculum Means for Schools and Educators: New curriculum could mean additional investments for fund-strapped districts.


    • What Mental Health Curriculum Means for Parents and Students: Mental health curriculum will hopefully reduce the stigma and instill greater empathy among students.


    Later Start Time


    The Governor also established a pilot program that would test later start times in New Jersey schools. The program will be tested in five districts, representing urban, suburban and rural areas of the state.


    • What a Later Start Time Means for Schools and Educators: Research has suggested that a later start time may improve student learning outcomes.


    • What a Later Start Time Means for Parents and Students: There will be jockeying for timing of transportation and extracurricular activities, but most students will enjoy a later start.


    Look to NJASA for the Latest New Jersey Public Education News

    As the organization that supports school leaders, NJASA keeps its finger on the pulse on public education in New Jersey. We have a long and proud tradition of advocating for children and preparing leaders to steer schools and districts in the direction of positive futures. The children of New Jersey represent the future of our great state, and we have the responsibility to effectively educate all students through our public education system.


    Stay tuned to the New Jersey Association of School Administrators website at, this blog and our Facebook page for continuing up-to-date information on these critical issues and our professional programs.

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  • 2019 NJASA Distinguished Service Award Winner

    Posted by Dr. Richard Bozza, NJASA Executive Director on 6/14/2019

    Dr. Scott McCartney Makes a Difference in Moorestown and Beyond


    Great leaders don’t set out to be a leader. They set out to make a difference.


    Dr. Scott McCartney That’s the case with Dr. Scott McCartney, Chief Education Officer for Moorestown Township Public Schools. As recipient of the 2019 NJASA Distinguished Service Award, Dr. McCartney had made quite a difference both at the local level and statewide.


    The Value of Education

    For Dr. McCartney, it started with a longstanding interest in education that turned into a major in college. But it was during his undergraduate practicum at Ursinus that he realized the full value of his chosen profession. He was asked to teach the color green to three young special needs students. It took many attempts, and a lot of creativity, but he succeeded – and was captivated by the experience.


    The first of his family to attend college, he went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in secondary education from Ursinus and followed with a master’s degree in education administration and leadership from Rowan University and a doctorate in administration from Seton Hall University.


    Taking the Helm to Lead Toward the FutureDSA Award Recipient


    During that process, Dr. McCartney officially began his career as a teacher, substituting in the very district where he once attended school. The district recognized his potential and soon offered him a full-time teaching position for language arts, writing and reading. His administrative career soon followed, as assistant principal and principal at the George L. Hess Complex in Hamilton Twp., Atlantic County.


    At the age of 32, he took the helm of Dennis Township Schools in Cape May County, becoming – at the time – the youngest chief education officer in New Jersey. He has since served as chief education officer for Downe Township Schools in Cumberland County and Egg Harbor Township Schools in Atlantic County.


    Today, Dr. McCartney is Superintendent of the Moorestown Township Public Schools, a post that he has held for the past three years. And lot has transpired in those three years.


    The district has been awarded a Bronze Certification in the Future Ready Schools Program. It has extended and enhanced technology integration. It has engaged with the community to address social and emotional learning.


    Dr. McCartney has also worked with the Board to generate over 2.5 million dollars in new revenue through grants and programs in the district.  This includes a school security grant of over a million dollars for Moorestown High School.


    Through it all, Dr. McCartney is doing what he does best – making a difference. In addition to providing stability in leadership, he has engaged the school community on focused district goals. He emphasizes innovation, social and emotional learning and targeted instruction for different learners.


    Taking on the Challenges that Make the Difference


    His dedication to the profession is shown by his extensive record of service. Dr. McCartney is an active member of NJASA, and a past president. He also is an NJASA mentor and a former AASA Governing Board Member for New Jersey. Professional development remains his passion, and he regularly presents at the local, state and national levels. He is proud to be part of the Moorestown Township School family.


    Throughout his career, Dr. McCartney has sought and been asked to participate in visionary programs and to take on new challenges.  As a first-year teacher, he was asked to build a new computerized writing lab program and stepped in to help redesign an alternative school.  As a building administrator, he has always looked forward to see how innovation and progressive thinking could benefit his students and my staff.  Some of those areas included the development of a school based professional development institute, looping, innovative schedules and a variety of new instructional program and curricular models.  As a Chief Education Officer, he has led the charge to implement standards-based instruction and reporting, professional learning communities, differentiated instruction, character education programs, STEAM, alternative programs, and a host of other visionary initiatives.


    Says Dr. McCartney, “This career in education has blessed me and continues to do so daily as I serve a robust and talented community of learners.  I am encouraged, excited, and enthusiastic about the care I see being delivered in our public schools each day and I truly feel privileged and grateful to be a part of it!”


    For these reasons, and others too numerous to mention, it is my pleasure to recognize Dr. Scott McCartney with the 2019 NJASA Distinguished Service Award.


    Click here to view the video.


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