The New Jersey School Boards Association conducted an array of important business at its Dec. 2 Delegate Assembly at The Conference Center at Mercer in West Windsor, with delegates voting on five resolutions.
Karen Cortellino, M.D., updated members on the progress she’s made on achieving her goals as Association president during her President’s Report.
One task she’s taken on with the Association’s other officers is visiting various county meetings, which she has found educational and inspiring.
“I’ve had the chance to meet so many hardworking board members and to hear their concerns about a variety of issues like funding cuts, the teacher shortage, PILOTs and more,” she said. “I’ve seen the strain in their eyes and passion in their hearts. They want to help – and sometimes solutions seem so out of reach. NJSBA is here for you. Reach out.”
Another one of her goals is “getting back to basics,” which Dr. Timothy Purnell, the Association’s executive director and CEO, has delivered on with the support of his staff, Cortellino said.
“One important initiative the Association has undertaken is a reboot of Governance I, which involves a committee looking at how we can improve our mandated training,” she said. “Dr. Purnell will also be hosting a new monthly podcast series titled ‘The Boardroom,’ which will feature live and transparent conversations with board members. Each month, a senior staff member will join him to highlight specific topics and answer questions related to their subject area. I can’t wait to hear the first podcast, which will be January 10 and feature Marcia Lavigne, the Association’s director of professional learning.”
She also highlighted the Association’s new online platform, NJSBA Connection, noting that the various initiatives show that getting back to basics “is a process that is constantly evolving.” She added, “We need to keep doing new things, otherwise our basics become stagnant.”
Cortellino’s third goal is to celebrate the Association, and all that it does for its members. “Whether it is the Alliance for Competitive Energy Services, which has saved school districts more than $270 million in natural gas and electricity charges since 2009; our Cooperative Pricing System, which has saved districts more than $3 million in the past three years alone; our partnership with E-Rate Consulting, which has delivered more than $95 million in funding through the E-rate program over the last three years; or one of our many other services and offerings, the Association continues to be an essential partner to board members and districts,” she said.
Executive Director’s Report
In delivering his executive director’s report, Purnell shared that he is laser-focused on concentrating on three areas: content, connections and advocacy.
“I believe that if we can provide top-notch content, enable our members to connect with each other and with our staff; and effectively advocate for the interests of local boards of education, you can each focus on your most important goal: promoting the achievement of all students,” he said.
He also updated members on the new staff members the Association has recently hired, noting, “One of the most important tasks for any leader — perhaps the most important task — is making the right hiring decisions. Getting the right person in a position affects an organization’s performance, culture and productivity. In the past few months NJSBA has added staff members who bring expertise and experience to the Association. They are already making a difference here.”
The new employees include:
- Charles Muller is the Association’s new business administrator in residence. “Charlie has spent 30 years specializing in school finance, and so is a perfect fit for the new position of BA in Residence,” Purnell said.
- Kimberly Gatti has joined NJSBA as the director of policy. An attorney, she formerly worked at the New Jersey Department of Education, where she was coordinator of the State Board of Examiners and worked as a policy and planning analyst.
- Kelly Mitchell and Dr. Tim Teehan are new field service reps. Mitchell, a master board member who once served as the president of the Vernon Township Board of Education and vice president of the Sussex County Board of Education, will serve as a field service representative for Passaic and Sussex counties. Teehan, who has spent 25 years in education as a teacher, administrator and superintendent of schools, will serve as a field service representative for Monmouth County.
- Karen Callahan is the county activities coordinator for the central section of the state. She served on the Cranbury Board of Education, including as board president and vice president, and was the Montgomery Township School District COVID-19 coordinator in 2022.
- Felicie Tsogbe is the Association’s new front desk receptionist. “We think of her as our director of first impressions, and she is doing a great job at this!” Purnell said.
Purnell also mentioned his new ‘Boardroom’ podcast, which Cortellino mentioned earlier in the meeting.
“One of my objectives in doing these podcasts is to foster transparency with our members,” Purnell said. “I believe that participating in open communication helps build trust, reduces misunderstandings and creates a higher level of engagement with members.”
He added, “The first podcast (on Jan. 10) will feature our director of professional learning, Marcia Lavigne – just in time for our members to learn more about mandated training. The February podcast will spotlight Charlie Muller, who can answer questions about the school budget development process. But I want to stress that we’re open to answering any questions during the podcast, not just those pertaining to a specific subject area.”
Purnell also highlighted other initiatives and offerings, including NJSBA Connection, singling out Kurt Rebovich Jr., the Association’s associate director of partnerships, as a driving force in making the platform a reality. He also spoke about county meetings, The 3 Rs Program for new board members, various educational stakeholders and groups that the Association regularly interacts with, initiatives to alleviate staff shortages and various advocacy efforts being led by NJSBA’s Governmental Relations team.
Much of the meeting was spent addressing and voting on several resolutions presented to the body for consideration.
Chanta L. Jackson, the Association’s vice president for legislation and resolutions, noted that NJSBA received 26 resolutions prior to the deadline, but 20 were denied as they did not comply with policy. One was withdrawn, which left five resolutions for the body to consider, which are outlined below.
- Resolution No. 1, submitted by Plainfield in Union County, addressed the ability for school districts to classify students as “excluded from cohort.” The resolution was approved.
- Resolution No. 2 (also submitted by Plainfield in Union County), proposed policy supporting a provision that non-English speaking career and technical education educators be permitted to obtain certification without English proficiency when subsequently paired with an English-speaking co-teacher. The resolution failed.
- Resolution No. 3 (submitted by the Essex County School Boards Association) addressed guidelines for evaluation and selection of instructional materials in New Jersey Public Schools. The resolution was approved.
- Resolution No. 4 (submitted by Franklin Township in Warren County) proposed additional policy language supporting school district access to data resources that effectively and thoroughly document prior employment history(ies) of individual(s) whose conduct implicates the physical or emotional abuse of children. The resolution was approved.
- Resolution No. 5 (submitted by Union County Vocational-Technical Schools in Union County), focused on NJSBA’s Nominating Committee and proposed a substitute resolved clause for inclusion in the NJSBA bylaws, amending Article X, Section 3, of the Association Nominating Committee membership structure. After voting to approve an amendment that slightly adjusted the wording of the resolution, it was approved.