Being an Advocate for Your Students
Advocating on behalf of students is the most critical responsibility of a school district leader’s role. This responsibility starts with always making decisions that are in the best interest of students. In addition, we must stand up for students and be their voice where theirs might not be heard. Here are three challenges that impact your work with students in your district and what you can do to address them:
- Issue – Potential Modifications to High School Graduation Requirements and Educator Accountability
As the November gubernatorial election has now been decided, the potential for significant changes to student graduation requirements, student assessment and educator evaluation is considerable with Ambassador Phil Murphy assuming the role of Governor. NJASA and NJPSA (New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association) leaders have worked jointly to develop position statements on these critical topics. Among the joint recommendations are:
- eliminating reliance on high stakes testing data in teacher and principal evaluation;
- focusing state resources and support on coaching and professional growth;
- limiting the use of PARCC assessment in the upper grades to only ELA 10 and Algebra 1; and
- decoupling PARCC from educator evaluation and establishing a working group of education professionals to develop assessment recommendations that conform to state and federal requirements.
NJASA and NJPSA representatives anticipate meeting with the Incoming Governor and his advisors as the new administration is forming to share additional information and to continue advocating for New Jersey’s students, taxpayers and educators.
What You Can Do
Be a “Thought Leader” in your educational community, discussing recommended policy changes that benefit students and educators. Encourage all district constituents to make their views known to the Governor, members of the State Board of Education and the next Commissioner of Education.
- Issue - NJDOE Proposed Changes for Services for Nonpublic School Students
The NJDOE has proposed rule changes for 2017/18 for Chapters 192/193 services for nonpublic school students that will significantly affect the responsibility for your district and its workload in assessing and authorizing nonpublic school services. The proposed requirements require districts to verify student eligibility and sign the 407-1 forms prior to service provision. This will negatively impact provision of important instructional services to nonpublic school students. The changed requirement would cause services to be significantly delayed while providers are sending forms and eligibility documentation to districts and then waiting for them to be verified, signed, and returned.
The proposed process for reviewing eligibility documentation is particularly burdensome for districts with many nonpublic school students. The new verification requirement will fall to already burdened special services departments to ensure service provision to students eligible for special education and related services and code compliance. We believe that, in most cases, the proposed changes to the Nonpublic Guidelines will necessitate the need for districts to hire additional staff, thus creating a significant financial burden on districts.
What You Can Do
Recommend to your Board of Education that it pass a resolution calling for the NJDOE to rescind any change that takes away the opportunity for LEA providers such as Educational Services Commissions, Jointure Commissions, and Special Services School Districts to provide the verification of eligibility and provision of services for nonpublic school students.
Encourage your board to consider filing a complaint with the Council on Local Mandates alleging that the change is an unfunded mandate in violation of the NJ Constitution because it does not authorize resources to offset the additional direct expenditures required for its implementation. Here is a link to the form:
- Issue – NJ Department of Agriculture Changes for Contracting for Food Services
The New Jersey Department of Agriculture (NJDA) on June 14, 2017 notified districts participating in the National School Lunch program changing the procurement protocol for contracting of food service management companies that operate breakfast and lunch programs. This change requires districts to contract on a “Fixed Price Basis” rather than the current “Cost Reimbursement Basis.” This change severely restricts the ability of districts to modify the food service program, impacting the quality of meals and the participation of children in the breakfast and lunch programs. Imagine receiving recommendations from your nutrition advisory committee and not being able to make changes unless the contract with the provider is rebid!
What You Can Do
Recommend to your Board of Education that it pass a resolution calling for the NJDA to reconsider its plan to move the awarding of Food Service Management contracts to a “Fixed Price” basis and allow districts the option of maintaining the “Cost Reimbursement.” Here is a link to a sample resolution.
I encourage you to embody your leadership in the words of Civil Rights leader Whitney Young: “I am not anxious to be the loudest voice or the most popular. But I would like to think that at a crucial moment, I was an effective voice of the voiceless, an effective hope of the hopeless.” Now is a crucial moment!