Hot-Button Issues for NJ's Public Schools - Fall 2018Posted by Dr. Richard G. Bozza, Executive Director on 9/20/2018 2:00:00 PM
School is in session, and so is the New Jersey State Legislature. In fact, as busy as we’ve been setting up our districts for a new school year, it seems the folks in Trenton have been even busier. So much has transpired since our video of August 28 that we’re eager to share important updates. As the organization that supports school leaders, NJASA keeps its finger on the pulse of public education in New Jersey. Here are the latest issues as of September 17, 2018.
Look for Proposed Bond on November Ballot
The state will be placing a $500 million school bond referendum on the November ballot — a compromise from the $1 billion originally proposed. If voters approve the bond, it would support: $350 million — career-technical education and school security in K-12 schools; $50 million — county colleges; and $100 million — school district water infrastructure projects.
Tragedy Spurs Action on School Bus Safety
The fatal Paramus school bus incident earlier this year has prompted a flurry of legislative action to address school bus safety concerns. A new law signed by Governor Murphy requires school buses to have shoulder restraints as part of their seatbelts. This boost in safety comes at a cost — of about $7.5 to $10 million a year. In addition, the Senate Transportation Committee approved a bill that requires suspension of a school bus driver’s license after a certain number of moving violations. It heads to the full Senate next for review. Finally, a series of other bills sought to make bus drivers more accountable. These included thorough investigations of school bus safety, proof of driver physical fitness, and designation and training of school safety personnel. Stay tuned.
Segregation Lawsuit Could Have Far-Reaching Implications
A recent lawsuit claims that New Jersey schools are segregated. Since students attend the school nearest their homes, they tend to be similar in race, culture and economic status.
The Murphy administration has agreed to begin negotiations in this civil suit. This could have an impact on whether parents will be able to send their child to the local neighborhood school. In other states, students spend as much as 45 minutes on a bus to attend school.
Is Regionalization Best for the Students?
Senate President Sweeney is calling for a significant regionalization of all New Jersey school districts. If his plan, Path to Progress, advances, New Jersey would have only K-12 school districts. Currently, the plan recommends merging all K-4, K-5, K-6, K-8, and K-9 school districts into K-12 regional districts and establishing two countywide school district pilot programs. Senator Sweeney will be hosting informal meetings regionally with the NJASA membership and his staff to exchange ideas and discuss related issues. NJASA will support regionalization if it’s in the best interest of the students, but this is a decision best made at the local level.
Stalled on State Assessment
By this time, PARCC testing was supposed to be history. However, rather than voting it out, the New Jersey State Board of Education (NJSBOE) at its September 12th meeting asked to delay the vote until its October meeting. That could mean there weren’t enough votes against PARCC, and Governor Murphy was being cautious.
A joint meeting of the Senate/Assembly Education Committees on September 17th with NJDOE Commissioner Repollet and the Department's Senior Staff explored having the Legislature lead the assessment discussion and move to a finalized program rather than transition only away from high school assessments as an interim step. NJASA anticipates the eventual removal of PARCC, and the transition to the next generation of state assessment. The proposed changes include:
• Streamlining graduation requirements by reducing the number of required tests in high school from six to two;
• Ensuring that educators and parents receive test data in a timely manner; and
• Providing flexibility for first-year English learners on the English language proficiency test.
Daily Recess Put on Hold
A new law requiring mandatory recess will go into effect a year later than originally announced. The law specifies at least 20 minutes of unstructured playtime daily for K-5 students. Districts now have additional time to adjust their schedules. The mandatory recess law will take effect in the 2019-20 school year.
Look to NJASA for the Latest New Jersey Public Education News
The NJASA has 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.
NJASA Announces the Distinguished Service Award Winner, Patrick Fletcher of River Dell Regional School DistrictPosted by Dr. Richard G. Bozza on 5/16/2018 3:05:00 PM
There are great things happening in the River Dell Regional School District, and we think it’s because of who is at the helm. Meet Patrick Fletcher, the guiding force behind this highly-ranked district, and the recipient of the 2018 NJASA Distinguished Service Award.
At the helm of the district since 2006, River Dell Regional Superintendent Fletcher has made his mark. Under his leadership, River Dell Regional has been called one of the best public districts in the state -- and nation -- in publications such as NJ Monthly, The Bergen Record, The Star Ledger, Newsweek and US News & World Report.
He created the first tri-district office of curriculum and instruction as a shared service with two sending districts. He supervised over $29 million in building renovations. He introduced a district-wide technology program and a one-on-one laptop computer initiative for students in grades 7-12. He spearheaded programs to support students with disabilities, ages 18 to 21, to transition from school to work and other educational opportunities. He works hard to ensure his seventh through twelfth grade students are well prepared academically, and well supported socially and emotionally.
Superintendent Fletcher gets things done in River Dell by understanding people, education, business, and the community. Being a Certified Public Accountant with an active license – and a former school business administrator -- doesn’t hurt when it comes to analyzing school budgets.
He is most proud of developing a comprehensive special education program that provides the same opportunities to disabled students as their non-disabled peers. It is not uncommon for these students to be a part of an academic awards ceremony, the school musical or a competitive athletic team. Patrick Fletcher also initiated a program to support under-achieving students who do not meet the threshold for special education intervention. As a result, every student succeeds at River Dell.
But it’s not just his influence within the district. Patrick Fletcher’s service to NJASA, and other professional associations, is truly inspiring. An NJASA member since 1999, he has served as secretary, treasurer, president, immediate past president and currently is a NJASA past president. He also served on NJSIAA’s non-public committee. For his accomplishments in River Dell, he was chosen as the Northern New Jersey Superintendent of the Year by his peers in NJASA in 2014.
Superintendent Fletcher’s reach in the community is equally pervasive. He is a past president of the Bergen County Business Officials Association and a past president of the Bergen County School Administrators Association. He is a trustee for Bergen County Community College. He was selected as the 2016 Person of the Year for the YMCA of Greater Bergen County. His work with the West Bergen Mental Health Center also earned him a Distinguished Service Award.
He leads by example, donating his time over the years to such organizations as the Volunteer Center of Bergen County, the organization that helped coordinate much of Super Storm Sandy relief efforts. He is working to make a difference—in River Dell and beyond. Following the terrorist attacks of September 11th, he helped to form the Bergen County Flight Team. Consisting of trained school personnel, the team responds when schools need help in dealing with tragedy and grief. That model is now in wide use across the state.
Superintendent Fletcher is a constant presence in the classrooms and hallways of his schools, and attends every event. He is deeply engaged in his district and in the success of his students, and he leads by example, inspiring them to make a difference.
For influencing a generation of students, for helping forge a path for quality education in New Jersey, and for giving his time generously to causes that matter, we salute him. Congratulations, Patrick Fletcher on receiving the 2018 NJASA Distinguished Service Award.
NJASA Announces 2018 Superintendent of the Year Dr. Kathleen W. Taylor of Ocean City, NJ Public SchoolsPosted by Dr. Richard G. Bozza, Executive Director on 5/16/2018 2:55:00 PM
Bold. Visionary. A leader for today’s challenging times. That, in a few words, describes our 2018 New Jersey State Superintendent of the Year, Dr. Kathleen Taylor.
“From the preschoolers taking their first tentative steps into the classroom to the graduating seniors taking their first tentative steps into the world, my commitment and focus has always been on helping each student to find who they are and tap into what moves them,” said Dr. Taylor. “What makes them feel remarkable and unique? What brings them the greatest joy in school and in life?”
From her vantage point of 24 plus years’ experience as a school administrator, Dr. Taylor is most proud of fostering “leadership for learning” by making closing the achievement gap a district’s strategic plan goal and incorporating this goal as part of the evaluation system for the teachers, administrators and the chief education officer. The strategic improvement strategies are aimed at analyzing the individual student scores, developing intervention strategies, and arranging for push-in and pull-out support schedules. Dr. Taylor has also actively engaged the students’ parents in ways that can help their children. This educator-parent partnership has enabled students to grow academically in ways that would otherwise not be possible.
Ocean City is fortunate to have Dr. Taylor at the helm. In 2014 and 2015, when two Ocean City students took their own lives, Dr. Taylor made the bold decision to address mental health head-on. She involved teachers, administrators, board members, parents, police officers, clinicians, and community members. The goal was to empower students to cope with life’s stressors. Now mental health is an integral part of the student learning experience at Ocean City schools. Friends, family members, faculty and staff are equipped with resources to support students in need.
Dr. Taylor is a mentor to many—including New Jersey State Teacher of the Year Amy Andersen, and Nora Faverzani, selected as the student representative to the State Board of Education. She inspires excellence from her colleagues, staff and students. Recently, the Ocean City High School crew team honored Dr. Taylor by naming a boat after her. She continues to be a role model for them, traveling to races in Philadelphia and beyond to support the program.
A prolific writer and presenter, Dr. Taylor serves as Chair of the NJASA Curriculum and Instruction Committee. On behalf of NJASA, she participated in the NJEA Teacher Leader Summit. She also co-wrote a grant for the EE4NJ Pilot Program. Subsequently the Ocean City School District was selected as one of the ten Cohort I Pilot Districts.
Currently, she serves on the Executive Board of the Ocean City Education Foundation and the Ocean City Chamber of Commerce. She is part of the Ocean City’s Task Force for Health and Wellness. She has organized and led the Ocean City School District’s and Community Committee for the “Did You Know Campaign” – a drug prevention program.
For these, and many more accomplishments too numerous to name, Dr. Kathleen Taylor was named NJASA Superintendent of the Year for 2018. In accepting this prestigious honor, Dr. Taylor said, “I have been blessed with a challenging and rewarding career that has taken me from the classroom to the principal’s office to my role as superintendent of a high-achieving district in an idyllic community. But regardless of my role, responsibilities or district I serve, I never lose sight of what drew me to and ignited my passion for education – the students whose lives we as educators are privileged to touch and share.”
NJASA Announces the Regional SOY Winner, Chuck Sampson of Freehold Regional High School DistrictPosted by Dr. Richard G. Bozza, Executive Director on 5/16/2018
There are more than 10,500 students in the Freehold Regional High School District, and Chief Education Officer Charles B. Sampson is ensuring each one has the opportunity to reach unprecedented heights. As a result, his district has been honored repeatedly at the local, state and national levels.
Now Superintendent Sampson can add one more honor: NJASA Regional Superintendent of the Year.
“This honor not only recognizes my work in the district but acknowledges the fantastic team that makes the Freehold Regional High School District a lighthouse district,” said Superintendent Sampson. “I am very fortunate that our district has been able to accomplish so much thanks to a strong team of dedicated individuals.”
His goal is authentic and modern learning for all at Freehold Regional. There is dramatically increased access to AP, IB and honors programs, particularly for minority and economically disadvantaged students. There also are magnet programs and specialized programs for the neediest students. These programs are designed to challenge students in highly personal ways while they are fully supported with unique and locally-created intervention strategies.
Technology is pervasive—so much so that Superintendent Sampson was recognized as Future Ready by President Obama and the Office of Educational Technology. Superintendent Sampson joined more than 100 school district leaders at the White House who shared promising approaches for using technology in our nation’s schools. “It is not sufficient to tinker along the edges of tradition,” he was quoted as saying. “We need to create bold new paths”—and he is.
Superintendent Sampson has led the district since 2011 and is known for his hands-on approach. When he wanted to evaluate the student experience in his district, he didn’t just observe a class. He spent the day as a student.
As a result of his leadership, the district has earned numerous accolades:
- Two separate Program of the Year designations from the New Jersey School Boards Association;
- The only public district in New Jersey to be honored twice at state level for innovations in special education;
- One of only nine districts this past year to receive a $500,000 grant to support the expansion of the computer science program;
- One of only two districts in New Jersey to be named to the AP Honor Roll for the first five years of that designation; and
- Acceptance into the prestigious League of Innovative Schools, a national coalition of forward-thinking school districts organized by Digital Promise, an independent, bipartisan nonprofit organization authorized by Congress to accelerate innovation in education.
“We have worked hard to embrace the changing trends of technology to create an inventive, student-centered learning environment,” he said. “Organizations like the League of Innovative Schools allow teachers and administrators to learn from a community of practice.”
Superintendent also has received his share of individual recognition, as a byproduct of his exceptional district-wide commitment to students. He was named 2017 Monmouth County Superintendent of the Year. He was the 2017 Manalapan Mayor’s Charity Ball Honoree for outstanding leadership and contributions to the community. He was appointed to the Common Core Standards Review Committee to rethink the standards for New Jersey.
He continually seeks best practices from among his peers—as an executive officer of the Garden State Coalition of Schools, a network of high-performing New Jersey districts dedicated to quality education for all. He is a member of the Panasonic Foundation, New Jersey Network of Superintendents, dedicated to improving excellence and equity for all students. An adjunct professor at Montclair State University, he was recognized for outstanding contributions for the next generation of school leaders.
For these, and many more accomplishments too numerous to name, Chuck Sampson is NJASA’s Regional Superintendent of the Year for 2018. Please join us in congratulating him.