On Oct. 29, the full state Senate was scheduled to vote on Senate Bill No. 2843, which would have established various job protections for high school athletic coaches. However, the Senate removed the bill from its board list prior to the start of the voting session and it did not receive a vote.
The NJSBA opposes S-2843 because it is an unnecessary and inappropriate overreach into a board of education’s duty to make prompt and responsive personnel decisions that are in the best interest of the community. Therefore, the Association welcomed this positive development.
The NJSBA joined several other major statewide education organizations representing school districts and administrators who opposed the legislation. A copy of a joint letter sent to the Senate from the NJSBA, the N.J. Principals and Supervisors Association, the N.J. Association of School Administrators, the N.J. Association of School Business Officials, the Garden State Coalition of Schools and the N.J. Council of County Vocational-Technical Schools can be found by clicking here.
After the bill was scheduled for a vote earlier in the week, the NJSBA issued an alert asking school board members to contact their state Senator and urge him or her to vote “NO” on the bill.
“The NJSBA sincerely thanks all members who quickly answered the call and joined in our advocacy efforts,” said Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod, executive director. “The actions taken by our members, combined with the collaborative efforts with our educational partners, unquestionably played a key part in the removal of the bill from the Senate agenda.”
Several school board members have expressed a desire to adopt a formal resolution opposing this legislation, which could always resurface in the future. The Association has drafted a sample resolution that boards can adopt and send to their local legislators, legislative leadership and the governor. A copy of the sample resolution opposing S-2843, along with its Assembly counterpart A-1911, can be accessed here.
If it were ever adopted, S-2843 would:
- Grant three-year employment contracts to all high school varsity coaches. All assistant coaches would be given two-year contracts.
- Direct a school district official to provide written notice of the basis for the dismissal of a coach within five days after the decision is made by the official but prior to any action being taken by the board of education. The bill would further provide that any coach dismissed based on a poor annual evaluation must be provided one year in which to correct and overcome any identified deficiencies.
- Authorize a dismissed coach to request a hearing before the board of education after receiving the written notice of the basis for the dismissal. Such coach would also be entitled to representation by counsel, to present witnesses, and to ask questions and cross examine any of the district officials who participated in making the termination decision. The hearing would take place in executive session with a court reporter (paid for by the district) present.
- Permit a board of education’s decision to dismiss a coach to be appealed to the commissioner of education.
While the NJSBA appreciates the intent behind the bill to provide stability and protection from arbitrary dismissal, that objective must be balanced with a board of education’s responsibility to make personnel decisions based on educational needs, financial capacity and operational considerations. A copy of the NJSBA’s full position statement on the bill can be accessed here.
Senate Voting Session
On Oct. 29, the Senate also approved the following measures affecting school districts, which now move to the Assembly:
Meal Distribution During COVID S-2849 directs the N.J. Department of Agriculture (NJDA) to request necessary waivers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide food and meals during school closures due to the COVID-19 public health emergency. NJSBA supports the bill.
The bill instructs the NJDA to request the waivers to authorize participating schools or providers to:
- extend the implementation of the Summer Food Service Program throughout the calendar year;
- provide emergency food, non-congregate feeding services, and grab-and-go meals with no time restrictions under the Summer Food Service Program, the federal Child and Adult Care Food Program, or any other child and adult community food programs administered by the United States Department of Agriculture; and
- offer food, meals or other services through any of those programs on the grounds of a school, notwithstanding any restrictions otherwise imposed on providing the programs and services on school grounds.
The bill defines “participating school” as a school that provides food and meals through the Summer Food Service Program, the federal Child and Adult Care Food Program, or any other child and adult community food programs administered by the USDA.
Delaying School Audits S-3043 extends the deadline for the completion of the annual audit of the 2019-2020 school fiscal year until April 30, 2021 and its submission to the commissioner until May 5, 2021. According to the bill statement, this extension of five months is necessary as a result of the approximately five-month period that schools were required to be closed as a result of COVID-19.
Assembly Voting Session
The full General Assembly also convened on Oct. 29 and approved the following measures:
BOE Student Representative A-3392 requires that at least one student representative be appointed to each board of education of a school district and board of trustees of any charter school that includes grades nine through 12. The student is to be selected by the student body. The representative shall attend all meetings, present to the board on matters of student concern and provide a monthly report to the student body. The student representative shall have no vote and will not be permitted in closed session. NJSBA supports the bill.
Diversity and Inclusion Instruction A-4454 would require school districts to include instruction on diversity and inclusion as part of the implementation of New Jersey Student Learning Standards. Under the bill, instruction would:
- highlight and promote diversity, including economic diversity, equity, inclusion, tolerance, and belonging in connection with gender and sexual orientation, race and ethnicity, disabilities, and religious tolerance;
- examine the impact that unconscious bias and economic disparities have at both an individual level and on society as a whole; and
- encourage safe, welcoming, and inclusive environments for all students regardless of race or ethnicity, sexual and gender identities, mental and physical disabilities, socioeconomic status, and religious beliefs.
Under the bill, the commissioner of education will provide school districts with sample learning activities and resources designed to promote diversity and inclusion. NJSBA supports the legislation.
Social Justice Instruction A-4545 requires school districts to include instruction on racial discrimination and social justice for middle school students. The legislation would require school districts to provide instruction on such issues in an appropriate place in the curriculum of middle school students as part of the districts’ implementation of the New Jersey Learning Standards in Social Studies. Under the bill, the commissioner of education, in consultation with the Amistad Commission, would provide school districts with age-appropriate sample learning activities and resources designed to enhance students’ overall understanding of issues surrounding racial discrimination and social justice. NJSBA supports the bill.