U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona is scheduled to attend the upcoming New Jersey Public Schools Labor-Management Collaborative inter-district meeting, along with Becky Pringle, National Education Association president and New Jersey Acting Commissioner of Education Dr. Angelica Allen-McMillan. It is also anticipated that Gov. Phil Murphy will participate in the conference.

The virtual conference will take place on Wednesday, March 24, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

“The New Jersey Public Schools Labor-Management Collaborative is an amazing program that has demonstrated that collaboration can lead to higher levels of student achievement in participating districts,” said Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod, NJSBA executive director. “We are looking forward to this event, and to hearing from these highly respected educators.”

The New Jersey School Boards Association (NJSBA), the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), the American Federation of Teachers New Jersey (AFTNJ), the New Jersey Association of School Administrators (NJASA), the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association (NJPSA), and Rutgers University joined together in 2014 to encourage and facilitate greater collaboration among unions and management at the state and district levels to strengthen and improve teaching and learning in New Jersey.

Dr. Saul Rubinstein, director of the Center for the Student of Collaboration in Work and Society at Rutgers, spearheaded this project, and has studied union-management collaboration for more than 25 years.

Now in half a dozen states, the collaborative has had the most success in New Jersey. This is largely because it includes input from school board members, said Vincent DeLucia, NJSBA’s educator-in-residence.

Currently, there are 21 districts from across the state that participate in the collaborative.

Fostering Communication Historically, a critical obstacle to agreeing on and enacting educational improvements has been division between stakeholders, particularly teachers’ unions and management. The collaborative aims to spark discussion on key issues and provide training on the issues. It forges partnerships and communication between principles, union representatives and teachers, and can include parents and students.

Positive outcomes from labor-management collaboration include improving student outcomes, boosting school safety, and reducing staff turnover.

The recent pandemic is one such issue the group has been tackling. Though it has put a strain on schools, DeLucia said districts in the collaborative responded more favorably to it because they had structures in place.

Looking Ahead There is no cost to attend the conference. As it is virtual, districts are encouraged to invite as many people from the district as are interested.

Attendees should come prepared with examples to share about how their districts and schools leveraged union-management partnerships and educator collaboration to cope with the impact of COVID-19 on teaching and learning. The collaborative will also be seeking suggestions on topics to be covered in future training sessions.

Registration Information School board members who attend will receive two Board Member Academy credits. Board members, superintendents, and others included on the census may register themselves online for this training program. Registrants will receive an email with the agenda and information on how to access the links to each session prior to the conference date. Attend online via computer, smartphone, or tablet with internet access.

For questions regarding this program, please email Lucia Gershman, NJSBA training and professional development program coordinator.