School Board Notes • January 23, 2013 • Vol. XXXVI No. 24

State Board Discusses Security, Proposed Regulations

This month’s meeting of the State Board of Education addressed school safety, as well as proposed regulations dealing with allowing superintendents to call board meetings, bilingual education, teachers’ lunch periods, and career and technical education.
In a presentation before the New Jersey State Board of Education on Jan. 16, Anthony Bland, the state coordinator of the New Jersey Department of Education’s (NJDOE) Office of School Preparedness and Emergency Planning, announced several initiatives the department would take to ensure that districts are following the state’s security requirements, which he noted are among the most stringent in the nation. Bland said the department’s focus would be on effective practices and procedures, since it is critical that staff and students know what to do in the event of an emergency. 

NJDOE will perform assessments of district security plans and conduct unannounced visits and drills in some districts. The department will provide districts with a model template for security plans, conduct refresher training for school officials, present security information at county roundtables, and organize public education efforts for students. In April, county prosecutors and NJDOE executive county superintendents will meet to discuss security. NJDOE also plans to examine how to improve security training and practices for school bus drivers.

Proposed Regulations  The State Board approved for publication a proposed regulation that would give the chief school administrator/superintendent the unilateral power to call a board of education meeting. When first discussed, the regulation provided the chief school administrator the authority to call a school board meeting at any time. However, after considering the objections raised by NJSBA and others, the proposal was modified so that a chief school administrator may only call a school board meeting if the board has not met for two months during the school year. 

The State Board also approved for publication proposed regulations concerning bilingual education. The proposed regulations eliminate the requirement that school districts submit their program plans to NJDOE. Instead, districts would develop and maintain their plans in-district. NJDOE will focus its oversight efforts on ensuring accountability for student outcomes, specifically in students’ acquisition of English language skills and in meeting academic standards in English language arts and mathematics.

NJDOE also proposed eliminating a regulation concerning teacher lunch periods. The department said it believes that regulating teacher lunch periods is best left up to local districts and their collective-bargaining agreements.

The State Board also approved for publication proposed regulations concerning career and technical education (CTE) programs and standards. The regulations were modified to conform to changes in federal law requiring school districts receiving certain federal grants to establish programs of study that offer high school students opportunities to earn college credit by participating in dual-enrollment CTE courses or through agreements with colleges. NJDOE also announced some streamlining of policies and procedures governing CTE in keeping with the Governor’s Education Transformation Task Force.

After publication of proposed regulations in the New Jersey Register, there is a public comment period before the regulations come up for final approval before the State Board of Education. 

School Board Recognition  In other action, the State Board passed a resolution proclaiming January as School Board Recognition Month. See related story in this edition of School Board Notes.