By Dr. Larry Feinsod

Recently, I learned that the New Providence school district in Union County earned the distinction of “2017 National District of Character”—one of only four in the nation.

Presented by Character.org, the award recognizes the district’s dedication to character development and its positive impact on academic achievement, student behavior and school climate. In addition to the four school districts of character, the organization also recognized 83 individual “Schools of Character”—24 in New Jersey.

Earning this award is no small achievement. As a district superintendent, I recall when our high school was selected for the honor—and the hard work of the school board, administration, staff, students and parents that made it possible.

Whether we are focusing on preparing students for the post-secondary world of careers and higher education or ensuring safe and secure schools, a climate of respect and caring is an essential part of the equation.

That’s why I am very excited to have one of the nation’s leading experts on school climate and social-emotional character development serve as our keynote speaker at Workshop 2017.

Dr. Maurice Elias, director of the Rutgers Social and Emotional Learning Laboratory, will speak on “What do our students need to be successful in 2027…and beyond?” on Wednesday, October 25th at 11 a.m. His message: Students need outstanding social-emotional skills to be successful in school, family, community, workplace, and civic life… regardless of what new technologies emerge in the future.

Dr. Elias is no stranger to NJSBA. He contributed his time and expertise to NJSBA’s efforts on school safety and security following the Newtown, Connecticut tragedy. His work is also cited in the Final Report of the NJSBA Task Force on Student Achievement, released earlier this year.

Our other keynote speaker will be Commissioner of Education Kimberley Harrington—another dynamic proponent of reaching the whole child in the educational process. Wherever she goes, Commissioner Harrington talks about the importance of hearing students’ voices. There has never been a time when she has not focused on the need for the education community to work tirelessly for every child to reach his or her potential.

“A Conversation with Commissioner Harrington” will take place on Tuesday, October 24 from 2 to 3:30 p.m.

Throughout my 40-plus years in public education, I’ve always set aside time at the end of October to attend the annual Workshop conference. The training programs, information resources and networking opportunities are unparalleled.

For 2017, Workshop will feature more than 250 training and information programs, and some exciting new features, formats and themes: an additional day of training; a new leadership track; a focus on school technology, and an ever greater emphasis on student growth and learning.

So far, close to 90 percent of the state’s school districts have registered for Workshop 2017. This year, the group registration fee covers an expanded district team (18 individuals, up from 14 last year). Group registration may include the school board, the superintendent, the school business administrator, facilities managers, curriculum professionals, IT staff and other district professionals.

So if your district has not yet registered, please check out the exciting roster of training sessions, speakers and educational events on the Workshop 2017 website. And consider this a personal invitation to join us October 23 through 26 at Workshop 2017.

These are my Reflections. I look forward to hearing yours. Contact me at feinsodreflections@njsba.org. Follow me on Twitter: @DrLarryFeinsod