The NJSBA Board of Directors met virtually on Friday, May 7, 2021. President Mike McClure presided over the meeting from the Association’s headquarters in Trenton. Executive Director Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod provided his report to the board from headquarters.
Action Items The Board of Directors approved the following items:
- Resolution on the sale of the NJSBA Hamilton property
- Employment of special counsel to handle the sale of the Hamilton property
- Appropriation of $100,000 from free balance for future technology upgrades
- Grant request from ELFNJ to ACES in the amount of $50,000 for fiscal year 2020-2021 to support the Sustainable Jersey Digital Schools program
- Open session minutes of the March 19, 2021 meeting
- Legislative Committee appointments
Executive Director’s Report Dr. Feinsod addressed NJSBA activities and the progress made in enabling school districts to meet the challenges presented by the public health crisis, ensuring that members continue to benefit from essential training, advocacy, and direct service.
- Special Education Week The Association recently received a copy of a formal proclamation from the governor, declaring May 9 through May 15 this year to be Special Education Week. Every year, the second week of May is when the NJSBA recognizes the achievements of the state’s special education students, the work of their teachers, and the support of their parents and school officials. Since 1985, NJSBA has been a sponsor of Special Education Week, which is also marked with our Innovations in Special Education Awards. These awards focus on inventive and effective programs for special education students. This year, the winners were recognized virtually in an NJSBA Facebook Live event on Tuesday, May 11 at 10 a.m.
- Teacher Appreciation This week is also national Teacher Appreciation Week. We thank our teachers and honor them for all that they do for students.
- Advocacy Update Last summer, the NJSBA developed a “Pandemic Advocacy Agenda,” and this week another significant goal from that agenda was achieved. The governor signed A-4461 and its identical legislative companion, S-2698, which require the state to enter into contracts and coordinate with certain cooperative purchasing systems to help schools purchase COVID-related goods and services. Members were reminded that NJSBA’s own Cooperative Pricing System carries a full range of COVID-related goods and services.
- Testimony NJSBA has testified on the state’s budget proposal and has reached out directly to members of the budget committee and other legislators. In its testimony, NJSBA supported the proposed increases in formula aid, extraordinary special education aid, preschool expansion aid, and the critical need for the proposed $50 million Stabilization Aid fund, which will provide transitional funds to districts experiencing a decline in state aid.
- Workshop 2021 The website for the event is now live online, and registration will open on May 17. Group registration will be the same price as last year, and registration allows boards to bring up to 25 people from the district to the virtual conference.
- Spring Education Symposium Scheduled for May 12 and 13, the symposium will provide more than 40 training sessions on topics such as learning loss mitigation, cybersecurity, special education, school law and social-emotional learning. Participants can view sessions for up to 30 days after the conference.
- Member Engagement Recently, NJSBA sent out a survey to board members, superintendents and business administrators. Nearly a quarter of respondents reported increased engagement with NJSBA since March 2020. Among the resources with a higher level of usage reported: the NJSBA website, School Board Notes and School Leader, training and webinars.
- Mandated Training Compliance Board members are required to participate in mandated training. They have one year after taking their board seat to fulfill this requirement. NJSBA is the state‐designated provider of this training and is required to report to the School Ethics Commission (SEC) the board members who do not comply. Each year, some board members who have not completed their training within the required 12‐month period are contacted by the NJSBA after which they typically finish the training. This year has seen an increase in the number of board members in noncompliance. The number stood at close to 200 just two months ago. That number is now down to 47 members. The SEC extended the deadline for completing the requirements, and NJSBA has taken steps to notify board members of their status by emailing all non‐compliant members, calling the business administrator/board secretary, and calling the board members themselves for members who have provided personal telephone numbers. NJSBA also reached out to the SEC to discuss the actions that can be taken. NJSBA believes that the SEC needs to take firmer action, and not permit additional time extensions. NJSBA will continue to press the SEC to keep the bar high for board member training.
- Sale of the Hamilton Township Property and Employment of Special Counsel In November 2006, the NJSBA purchased about 10 acres for $1.6 million to build a new headquarters. Due to state regulatory changes in board member training allowances and expenses, and the Great Recession of 2008, the Association decided not to go forward with the construction. Recently, a serious offer was received from a company wishing to buy the property. In April, a non‐binding agreement was signed to sell the property for $2 million. Dr. Feinsod recommended that the Board of Directors approve a resolution presented during the meeting, which endorses the sale of this property. Approval was given by the board to hire attorneys with special expertise in real estate and land use issues.
- The NJSBA Strategic Plan NJSBA is developing a strategic plan that will guide the Association from January 2022 through the end of 2024. To develop the plan, the Association is undertaking a series of activities to gain input from members and staff. A survey will be distributed to all members in June. During June and July, NJSBA members will be invited to participate in two strategic planning forums to take place in October. The group will consist of 40 to 50 members of local boards of education and NJSBA staff. The Executive Committee will receive the proposed strategic plan at its regular meeting on Nov. 3. The plan will then go to the Board of Directors for approval at the Nov. 19 meeting.
- NJSBA Online University – Part I of the development of the NJSBA Online University is well underway. The mandated training courses of Governance I, II, III and IV are online and running, as are Introduction to Salary Guides and the Comprehensive New Board Member Orientation. More courses are in development for delivery in the coming months. In Phase II and Phase III of the development of NJSBA Online University, the service will expand beyond its primary goal of serving board members. In the new phases, comprehensive professional development will be offered to classroom teachers, district leadership and support staff. Some of these courses will provide the continuing education credits that professionals need, including Qualified Purchasing Agent credit, and Certified Educational Facilities Manager credit. We are partnering in this venture with SHI, a Somerset company that services districts with integrated IT services, and with Eduscape of Montvale, a national leader in K‐12 professional development.
Recognition of Retiring Members The following retiring members were recognized for their service to the New Jersey School Boards Association and the students of New Jersey: Dan Sinclair, immediate past president; Pete Calvo, member representing Gloucester County; and Mark Bonjavanni, member representing Monmouth County.
Staff Retirements The following retiring, long-time employees of NJSBA were also recognized: Cynthia Jahn, Esq., general counsel, served for 29 years; Jane Kershner, director of field services, served for 25 years; and Kim Blum, director of human resources, served for 23 years.
The Board of Directors also received reports from the president, vice president for county activities, vice president for finance, vice president for legislation/resolutions, and immediate past president.
Information items included Association financials, Executive Director’s 2021-2022 goals, GO Policy 4124R Revisions, Governance Calendar 2021-2022, legal case summary, NJSBA Delegate Assembly update, officers’ reports, letter from the immediate past president, and the Special Education Week Proclamation.