More than 200 state education leaders, school administrators, school board members, higher education leaders and others attended the New Jersey Public School Labor-Management Collaboration Conference at Rutgers University on Tuesday, March 6.

Gov. Phil Murphy was among the featured speakers at the conference, which highlighted the experiences of school districts that are working to strengthen and improve teaching and learning by fostering collaboration between school district management and unions.

NJSBA Executive Director Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod introduced Kevin Ciak, president of the National School Boards Association and a Sayreville board member, who spoke about collaboration as a strategy between education stakeholders. In addition to expressing NJSBA’s support of this unique collaboration, Feinsod also introduced NJSBA President Dan Sinclair and noted Sinclair’s commitment to the work being done by the group, as well as his background as an educator. Also participating as part of the panel was Vince DeLucia, NJSBA director of training and educator-in-residence.

The N.J. Public School Labor-Management Collaboration was formed by NJSBA, the New Jersey Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers-New Jersey, the New Jersey Association of School Administrators, and New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association and Rutgers University.

To date, 13 pilot districts, including 59 schools educating 35,000 children, have attended training workshops to build capacity for collaborative work, and the districts involved are organized into an “Inter-district Learning Network” that meets regularly. Based on the success in the pilot districts, the Collaborative is trying to expand capacity and reach 10 percent of the state’s districts over the next three years.

The daylong conference highlighted the experiences of those districts and the network, and discussed the unique contribution New Jersey is making in the national debate on school reform, via collaboration among unions and district management.