The NJSBA Board of Directors met virtually on Friday, Nov. 13. President Mike McClure presided over the meeting from the Association’s headquarters in Trenton, where Executive Director Lawrence S. Feinsod also provided his report.
Action Items: The Board of Directors approved the following items:
- NJSBA 2019-2020 Annual Audit, which will be posted online at www.njsba.org
- Transfer of $65,000 to building/capital needs allocation fund
- Open session minutes of the Sept. 25, 2020 Board of Directors meeting
- Legislative Committee appointments
- At-Large appointments to the NJSBA 2020-2021 Nominating Committee
- Revisions to GO/3300, Use of Unappropriated Free Balances and Surplus Funds – First reading
Executive Director’s Report Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod addressed NJSBA activities and progress in enabling school districts to meet the challenges presented by the public health crisis while ensuring that the members continue to benefit from essential training, advocacy, and direct services.
NJSBA’s Virtual Workshop 2020 exceeded its programming, attendance and financial goals. There were more than 6,000 participants, who were able to access more than 100 sessions and nearly 140 exhibitors. Workshop featured keynote speakers: Anna Maria Chavez, CEO of the National School Boards Association, outgoing Interim Commissioner of Education Kevin Dehmer, and Sabrina Capoli, the student representative to the New Jersey State Board of Education.
Planning for Workshop 2021 has already begun and will include discussion of all variables from all-virtual to an in-person event or a combination of both.
The NJSBA has also seen increased revenue in several areas, including the TEC program—the cooperative pricing system that enables districts to obtain computer equipment and services at deeply discounted prices. The TEC program is also a source of personal protective equipment. Due to the challenges of the pandemic and remote learning, district purchasing of technology equipment has increased significantly and the NJSBA has been able to help districts save money.
In addition, there is an increase in charter school membership, and the number of superintendent searches has also increased.
NJSBA’s independent audit for fiscal year 2019-2020 reflects positively on the Association’s business and financial operations.
To assist local school boards and to direct public discussion of the challenges facing education during the pandemic, the NJSBA has been engaged in a series of research projects.
The most recent special report, “Reopening Schools: Online Learning and the Digital Divide,” was released on Oct. 23. The report looks at challenges facing school districts in providing remote instruction, including overcoming the digital divide. Shortly after the report was released, the Senate Majority office reached out to NJSBA, seeking more information regarding student learning loss for potential legislation.
Earlier reports included “Searching for a New Normal in New Jersey’s Public Schools,” which addresses potential issues involved in the reopening of schools. It was issued in May. In August, “Choosing the Best Road Back for Our Children” was released, which includes an “Advocacy Agenda for Public Education During the Pandemic,” and emphasizes the need for additional support from the state and federal government.
A fourth report is scheduled for release In January. It will focus on the psychological impact of the pandemic on our students.
For NJSBA, partnerships, which improve relationships at all levels of government, are critical to advancing our mission.
This week, NJSBA again led a statewide effort to encourage school districts to schedule a Military Opportunities Day. This initiative is designed to inform students and parents about the post-secondary education and career opportunities available through service.
Two years ago, NJSBA began providing a virtual toolkit for the local, county and state Teachers of the Year. It contains programs from Apple, Google, and other corporate donors. These toolkits have been much appreciated by the winners. The New Jersey Department of Education’s Teacher of the Year program involves a partnership among NJSBA, the New Jersey Education Association and ETS.
The NJSBA is looking forward to working with Dr. Angelica Allen- McMillan, whom Gov. Murphy nominated as commissioner of education in late October. Dr. Allen-McMillan is a sincere, dedicated lifelong educator—and a former school board member in Montclair. More recently, she has been a frequent participant in the county school boards association meetings in Morris County, where she served as executive county superintendent. Dr. Allen-McMillan reached out to Dr. Feinsod shortly after her appointment. They had a productive conversation about current educational issues and the impact of the pandemic on the public schools.
NJSBA will be reaching out to the newly elected school board members with information on the upcoming regional 3Rs programs, as well as the need to complete state-required criminal background checks. The 3Rs programs acquaint newly elected members with their roles, relationships and responsibilities. The programs are also open to current board members.
Due to the pandemic, the valuable in-person new board member weekend training conference will not be held. However, plans are underway to provide an exciting virtual multi-day program that will include small group sessions led by our group leaders. This is an example of how the NJSBA is working to accommodate the needs of our members while working within the constraints of the public health emergency.
But the Association needs to set its sights beyond the pandemic to determine how NJSBA will go forward with professional development and our other services. In that spirit, a staff task force, called the “NJSBA 2021: Moving Forward Committee” has been established. The Moving Forward Committee will review the organizational structure of the Association and recommend to the executive director changes in operations and organizational structure, which it believes are necessary to ensure that NJSBA maintains and improves the delivery of services past the pandemic.
Advocacy Update – Throughout the public health emergency, the Legislature has been very active in addressing pandemic-related issues along with other matters.
Most recently, the NJSBA stalled action on a bill that would infringe on local school boards’ ability to make critical personnel decisions. Senate Bill 2843, also known as the “Coaches’ Bill,” would have granted automatic multi-year contracts to certain coaches, and provide unreasonable protections for these positions. Along with our colleagues at NJASA, NJASBO and the Garden State Coalition of Schools, our action resulted in the Senate pulling the bill.
There has been progress on legislation that would require the state to coordinate cooperative purchasing systems to assist public schools in acquiring COVID-related goods and services. The bill is cited in NJSBA’s “Pandemic Advocacy Agenda,” which was included in the NJSBA report, “Choosing the Best Road Back.”
NJSBA was disappointed to see the governor’s veto of A-4006, which would postpone NJQSAC review because of disruptions caused by the pandemic. The bill, which is also reflected in the NJSBA Pandemic Advocacy Agenda, had passed unanimously in both the Assembly and the state Senate. Our Governmental Relations Department has reached out to the bill’s sponsor, Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalloti, to discuss next steps. NJSBA is also in contact with other education groups, the governor’s office and the State Department of Education to find common ground on legislation or regulatory action.
Workshop 2020 – The Board members engaged in a discussion about the pros and cons of Virtual Workshop 2020.
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 finances, legal case summary, November 2020 Delegate Assembly update and written reports from the NJSBA president and officers.