You might have seen the statistics before:

Our state’s public school students consistently rank among the best in the nation in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), commonly known as the “Nation’s Report Card.”

New Jersey places second in the nation in academic achievement among public elementary and secondary school students, as measured by Education Week’s annual Quality Counts analysis.

According to The College Board, the number of New Jersey high school students receiving a score of 3 or higher on Advanced Placement exams, the benchmark for receiving college credit for AP courses, exceeds the national average and has grown by over 80.5 percent since 2002.

There are other impressive facts, including New Jersey’s ranking—the fifth lowest in the nation—in administrative spending as a percentage of the school budget, as reported by the U.S. Department of Education.

Statistics may validate success, but they only go so far. The true value of education is best observed first-hand in classrooms, science labs and media centers.  As a district superintendent, I enjoyed interacting with teachers and principals and witnessing their work with schoolchildren.  So, it was certainly a delight to visit public schools in Burlington and Monmouth counties at the invitation of district officials recently.

On June 4, I joined Commissioner of Education Chris Cerf, NJSBA President John Bulina and state Board of Education member Joe Fisicaro, along with other guests, on a visit to Seneca High School in the Lenape Regional district.  We observed an innovative character education program and other impressive classes.  Thanks to Lenape Regional Superintendent Dr. Carol L. Birnbohm and Seneca Principal Jeffrey Spector for their hospitality.  It was great to be in a school again.

We also enjoyed our visit to schools in two of Lenape Regional’s constituent districts—DeMasi Middle School in Evesham Township (Principal Irene Romanelli) and Indian Hills Elementary School in Shamong Township (Principal Nicole Moore).

At the initiative of John Van Noy, a member of the Howell Township Board of Education, I also had the opportunity to visit Ardena Elementary School (Dr. Deborah Pennell, principal) on June 12.  Dr. Enid Golden, superintendent, and Ronald Sanasac, business administrator, served as my “tour guides.”  Both of these leaders were proud and excited about the good work happening in their district.

The dedication of the teachers and the enthusiasm of their students exemplified the goals and mission of school board members across New Jersey.  These visits presented an opportunity to witness some of the great things happening in our schools and the partnership among boards, superintendents and faculty…everyone working together so that each student experiences success.

The everyday positives rarely make the news, and that’s too bad, because teaching and learning are alive and well in our schools.  I only wish the media spent more time focusing on our many successes.

These are my Reflections. I look forward to hearing yours.  Contact me at feinsodreflections@njsba.org.

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