• Irene LeFebvre presides over her last Delegate Assembly as NJSBA president.

Irene LeFebvre presided over her last Delegate Assembly as president of the New Jersey School Boards Association on May 13 at the Conference Center at Mercer in West Windsor, with the Association electing new officers and conducting other important business.

LeFebvre began the meeting by acknowledging the outgoing officers, members who have chaired or participated on committees as well as the delegates in attendance.

“Two years ago, in a virtual delegate assembly meeting of 2021, I realized that I had some really big shoes to fill,” she said. “As president, Mike McClure had found himself, the Association and the entire educational world navigating the unprecedented worldwide COVID pandemic. Under Mike’s leadership, the Association took on the tremendous job of providing counsel and guidance to all 5,000 of our members as you struggled to create availability, equity, and excellence in virtual education as the primary way to provide programing to our 1.3 million students. I’d say, ‘Well done Mike.’ I’d say, ‘Well done’ to every serving board member and administrator and educator!”

Later in her speech, she said, “As a result of the pandemic, we have learned so much – that educating children in a 100% virtual format has its disadvantages … but there are many ways we can use technology to our benefit.”

LeFebvre also highlighted the success of NJSBA in navigating challenges, including delivering two successful Workshops in a virtual format and harnessing technology to deliver services in new ways. One of her most critical duties as president, she said, was helping to bring on Dr. Timothy Purnell as the Association’s new executive director.

“Dr. Purnell has brought new energy – amazing energy — and excitement to the Association,” she said. He started by listening to everyone “as to their hopes and dreams for the Association” and how to move it forward, she said.

She added, “I know the Association is in the most wonderful hands. Dr. Karen Cortellino will do an amazing job as your next president. Under her leadership, our new slate of vice presidents will work effectively with Dr. Purnell and our highly skilled staff to build on the progress we have made.”

Executive Director’s Report

Next, Purnell delivered his executive director’s report, outlining the progress the Association has made under his leadership as well as some of his goals and objectives in the coming months.

“At the heart of our work is our content,” he said, highlighting items such as the new “Board President’s Corner” feature published monthly in School Board Notes and a quarterly podcast titled “The Boardroom,” which he hosts. An upcoming episode will feature Lorenzo Richardson, a trustee with the Jersey City Board of Education.

He also touted the Association’s new Negotiations Data Portal and some recent and upcoming Association programs. You can see a full list here.

Purnell also highlighted the important work of the Association’s Firearms Safety Task Force, which recently issued a final report filled with suggestions that local boards and other organizations can consider implementing at the local level.

When he shifted gears to focus on the upcoming Workshop in Atlantic City, the audience cheered upon hearing that soccer legend and Olympic gold medalist and two-time World Cup Champion Carli Lloyd would be the keynote speaker, as reported recently in School Board Notes. “We are very proud to have her and excited about her presentation,” Purnell said.

The Association is also recognizing Unsung Superheroes in Education in various categories, including:

  • Librarian/media specialist.
  • Coach/club adviser.
  • School nurse.
  • Bus driver/aide.
  • Custodian/maintenance/building and grounds.
  • Cafeteria/food services.
  • Crossing guard.
  • Secretary/administrative assistant.
  • Paraprofessional/aide.
  • School security personnel.

There is still time to submit an Unsung Superheroes nomination; the deadline is Aug. 1.

Purnell credited Kimberly Lane of the Piscataway Board of Education and an alternate on NJSBA’s board of directors representing Middlesex County, for coming up with the idea to honor school district staff members who do not always get the credit they deserve. He also lauded the Unsung Hero program that county associations promote at the local level to recognize students, playing an NJSBA video that highlighted one such student, Nicolas Velasquez, a senior at New Providence High School.

Moving forward, the Association will continue its advocacy efforts, which includes helping to ease the staff shortage at New Jersey schools, Purnell said. He highlighted his appointment by Gov. Phil Murphy to the Task Force on Public Staff Shortages in New Jersey, which released some initial recommendations in a March report. Purnell joined other leaders in education to attend a recent press conference featuring Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt, who represents New Jersey’s 6th Legislative District, and who announced a 12-bill package that would minimize barriers to entering the teaching profession.

One of the root causes of many of the challenges school districts face, Purnell observed, is the 2% cap on the tax levy increase schools can pass on to residents. The cap creates a barrier to paying teachers more and ensuring that facilities are up to date, he said. He also noted how important it is for the Association to remain nonpartisan and maintain its focus on the children of New Jersey.

Purnell’s report included a discussion about some critical NJSBA staff being added to better serve member needs, including a business administrator in residence, an additional field service representative and personnel in the legal department. “We are listening to your concerns and addressing them by adding staff members,” he said.

Nominating New Officers

When it came time to vote on the officers that the Nominating Committee had selected to serve as officers, they were elected by the delegates. The officers are:

  • President – Dr. Karen Cortellino, Montville Township Board of Education (Morris).
  • Vice President for County Activities – Barry Fitzgerald, Lenape Regional Board of Education (Burlington).
  • Vice President for Legislation/Resolutions – Chanta L. Jackson, Neptune Township Board of Education (Monmouth).

Two people, however, were seeking the vice president for finance post, as NJSBA bylaws provide a process for candidates to be nominated by petition. Tom Connors, vice president of the Piscataway Board of Education, met the conditions to run as such a candidate, taking on Jonathan Castaneda, president of the West New York Board of Education (Hudson), who was put forward by the Nominating Committee as its choice to serve in the role.

Each candidate was given two minutes to explain to the delegates why they deserve to serve in the position, with Castenada noting that he is a “proud product” of the state’s public school system who has been a board member for eight years. He added that he has a diverse professional background that is fitting for the role.

Connors noted how he is known as “the numbers guy” and has been advocating for a fair application of the state aid funding formula for years. In his professional life, he has managed multi-million-dollar projects for Colgate Palmolive Co. “I know firsthand how budgets are developed and how to advocate for change,” he said. He concluded by asking the members of the audience to vote for him, noting, “P.S. – Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms,” which led the audience to cheer.

When the votes were tallied, Connors was named as the winner, and he will serve as the Association’s vice president for finance.

Resolutions and Other Business

The Association received no emergency resolutions.

Ten resolutions were received prior to the official cutoff date. Three resolutions were removed from the agenda of the Delegate Assembly by the Resolutions Subcommittee pursuant to Article V of the bylaws. Two resolutions were combined due to the similarity of the proposed resolved clauses, one resolution was withdrawn by the sponsor prior to the Delegate Assembly and another was withdrawn at the Delegate Assembly itself. As a result, four resolutions were voted on by the delegates.

  1. There was a resolution from the Hunterdon Central Regional High School District that proposed new policy language limiting New Jersey mandated student assessments to one assessment or one assessment series that measures student proficiency in the New Jersey Student Learning Standards and that all other assessments be left to the discretion of local districts based on each district’s assessment needs.

The Resolutions Subcommittee recommended approval of the proposed resolution with the following substitute resolved clause, which would create new policy language at File Code: 6147, to be included in NJSBA’s Manual of Positions and Policies on Education:

The NJSBA believes that state required assessments should be limited to one assessment series and the NJGPA that measures student proficiency in the NJSLS and that any additional testing should be left to the discretion of the local district based on individual district assessment needs.

There was a proposed amendment to strike the words “and the NJGPA” from the resolution, which was approved. The resolution as amended was approved by the delegates.

  1. There was a resolution from the Plainfield Board of Education that proposed additional policy language that would enhance and support student health services by including training for teaching staff and administrators in the provision of emergency support services, including cardiopulmonary resuscitation, first aid, automated external defibrillators, the emergency administration of epinephrine, insulin, glucagon and asthma treatments. The resolution also sought to expand the scope of Janet’s Law to afterschool programs, and that the NJSBA encourage all New Jersey schools to provide regular refresher courses and ongoing training opportunities to ensure that staff and administrators maintain their proficiency in these critical health-related skills.

The Resolutions Subcommittee approved this resolution with the following substitute resolved language, which would create additional policy language to be included in NJSBA’s Manual of Positions and Policies on Education:

The NJSBA believes, that New Jersey boards of education should be explicitly granted the statutory authority to adopt policies, in consultation with the school physician and school nurse, that provide appropriate emergency health services training to staff and volunteers as befit anticipated emergency circumstances. The NJSBA believes that immunity from legal process be extended to any staff member or volunteer acting in compliance with said emergency administration policies. The NJSBA believes that the State should provide specific funding for such emergency training.

After much debate and discussion, the delegates voted to approve the resolution as it was submitted by the Resolutions Subcommittee with its substitute language.

  1. Another resolution came from the Toms River Regional (Ocean) Board of Education, which proposed new policy language seeking the ability for boards of education that hold their elections in November to put a second question on the general election ballot that would apply for the next fiscal year, rather than the current year as required by law.

The Resolutions Subcommittee approved the resolution with the following substitute resolved language, which would create additional policy language at File Code: 3100, to be included in NJSBA’s Manual of Positions and Policies on Education:

Voter Approval of School Budgets: The NJSBA believes that there should be no requirement in Type II districts to submit to the voters the Department of Education – approved annual school budget. Boards of education should be able to maintain the option of requesting voter approval for additional locally financed spending characterized under State law as “second questions”. Local boards of education that hold their elections in November should be permitted the flexibility to seek voter approval  for “second questions” at the November election that would apply to the subsequent fiscal year.

The delegates approved the resolution as it was presented by the Resolutions Subcommittee.

  1. The last resolution delegates voted on came from the Union County Vocational-Technical Board of Education (Union), which proposed revised policy authorizing the NJSBA Nominating Committee specific authority to consider vocational-technical board members the ability to be considered for participation on the Nominating Committee.

The Resolutions Subcommittee adopted the resolution proposing the revision of NJSBA bylaws such that, “Due consideration shall be given to the inclusion of vocational board members as members of the Nominating Committee.”

Two suggested amendments — one to specifically include charter school members, and another to read “all school boards”— were not approved by the delegates.

The resolution as presented generated a flurry of debate; it was ultimately rejected by the delegates as only 60% voted in favor. That fell short of the two-thirds vote needed.

Cortellino also presented the periodic review of positions and policies on education and a review of the 9000 section (Organization/Operation of Local Boards) in accordance with GO/8700.

The delegates approved to support the sunset review of the policies and capped off the meeting by watching the swearing-in of NJSBA’s new officers.

After being installed as president, Cortellino noted that when she became a school board member 17 years ago, she never envisioned that she would one day be NJSBA president. She added that she’s prepared to tackle future challenges and thanked NJSBA’s past presidents for their service as well as the Association’s outgoing officers, including LeFebvre, as well as Tammeisha Smith, the outgoing vice president for finance; Bruce R. Young, the outgoing vice president for county activities; and Michael R. McClure, who wrapped up his duties as immediate past president at the gathering.

“Thank you for allowing me to pursue this work and for all your support and trust,” Cortellino said.