Innovative programs in six New Jersey school districts have earned recognition in the New Jersey School Boards Association’s annual School Leader Awards.

This year’s School Leader Awards showcase creative and effective programs that New Jersey schools are implementing to enhance student achievement. Entries are judged on their level of innovation, and how well their programs met students’ needs in an ever-changing learning environment. Congratulations to all involved for successfully serving their students.

This year, the judges of the 2022 School Leader Award program selected one school district for exemplary program recognition and five recognized programs, out of 19 entries.

Award winners will be honored at a ceremony during one of their respective county school boards association meetings later this year. The winners are:

Jersey City School District: Fun Friday

(Exemplary Program)

The goals of FUN FRIDAY are many and varied. The program is unique in that it provides innovative, inclusive activities for special education students, introduces them to community resources and activities, forms community partnerships, improves academic learning aligned to the New Jersey Student Learning Standards, fosters social and emotional learning and provides joy and fun via virtual monthly field trips.

Bound Brook High School: Career Technical Education/Work-Based Learning

(Recognized Program)

The Bound Brook High School innovative Career Technical Education and Work Based Learning program increases high school and post-secondary graduation attainment, fosters a sense of self-efficacy and encourages a desire for lifelong learning with a prospect for achieving a college education and simultaneous career pathway in science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics (STEAM) related areas.

Hamilton Township School District (Mercer): Learning Life and Career Skills in the Gladiator Café

(Recognized Program)

The program provides students identified with multiple disabilities with life and career skills by operating an in-school café – providing real-world experiences, while aligning those experiences with curricular goals from New Jersey’s Career Readiness, Life Skills and Key Skills standards. The idea behind the program is that students could best learn skills by actually running a café at Grice Middle School. Called the Gladiator Café – an homage to the school’s mascot – students soon learned the ins-and-outs of running a small business.

Mendham Township Elementary School: Mission to Create a Positive School Culture & Climate

(Recognized Program)

The goal of the program is twofold, to improve the students’ abilities to shape their environment by engaging in a variety of opportunities to develop their “student voice,” interpersonal skills, problem-solving, conflict resolution and improve the school environment through citizenship and school culture and for students to develop positive relationships with grade-level and cross- grade-level peers PK-4. The MTES school community believes that developing skills to foster positive relationships and interactions are essential for student growth.

Passaic Public School District: STEM Career and Technical Pathways Early College Program

(Recognized Program)

At the Passaic Academy for Science & Engineering, students in grades 6-12 can explore science, technology, engineering, and mathematics pathways, providing every student the opportunity to graduate from high school with an associate degree or career certification. Passaic Academy for Science & Engineering offers five in-depth career pathways: data analytics, biotechnology, computer science, aerospace engineering and biomedical science. The district funds 100% of the tuition and cost.

South Bergen Jointure Commission – No Barriers: Empowering Special Education Students to Live Full and Independent Lives

(Recognized Program)

The SBJC has researched and implemented a new program to help students with IEPs mitigate their disabilities, which has resulted in developing learning strategies that challenge their students to live full and independent lives. This new program has dramatically increased social opportunities that reinforce life skills that promote independence. The SBJC partnered with the nonprofit organization No Barriers USA and its founder Erik Weihenmayer (the first blind person to climb Mount Everest) in formalizing a theoretical framework that engages students in exploring new activities, showing them that “what’s within them is stronger than what’s in their way.”

School Leader Award entries were judged by representatives of the New Jersey School Boards Association, the New Jersey Association of School Administrators and the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association.