Innovative programs in four New Jersey school districts have earned recognition in the New Jersey School Boards Association’s 35th annual School Leader Awards.

“This year, the School Leader Awards showcased creative and effective programs that New Jersey schools are using to meet the challenges of remote learning created by the COVID-19 school closure,” said Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod, NJSBA executive director. “Entries were judged on their level of innovation, and how well their programs met students’ needs in a remote learning environment. Congratulations to all involved for successfully serving their students during this difficult time.”

This year, the judges of the 2021 School Leader Award program selected one school district for exemplary program recognition and three recognized programs, out of 15 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:

Hamilton Township School District: Extracurricular Responses for Students, Families and the Community During Remote Learning

(Exemplary Program)

Under the leadership of the  Hamilton Township School District (Mercer County) superintendent and  administrative team, with the support of the board of education, district personnel designed and delivered a three-pronged, extracurricular response to address the needs of 11,600 students while they were physically out of school and learning remotely. The district committed to addressing food insecurity, health and safety issues, and internet connectivity. Many of these interventions remain in place.

Brick Township School District: BTPS Brick-n-Click Safe Restart Plan for Teaching & Learning & Summer SPARK

(Recognized Program)

The goal was to create a program of blended instruction to bridge the gap between face-to-face and virtual instruction, engaging learners and challenging them with relevant and rigorous tasks. The program kept students and staff healthy and safe while providing high-quality instruction in a flexible and fluid learning environment, which responded to ever-changing circumstances.

Brick Township School District — Special Education

(Recognized Program)

During the pandemic, the Brick Township School District Special Services Department used all available resources to best meet the needs of students who required extraordinary means to meet their disabilities. The Brick Township Special Education program assessed what students were missing and what needed to be provided. The district made plans for students to receive additional services, proactively sought opportunities to provide students with compensatory education services and reviewed student data, communicating with parents and actively fulfilling students’ needs.

Ocean Township School District — The History of Dating: A Theatrical Movie Production

(Recognized Program)

To successfully address the challenges of remote learning created by the COVID-29 school closure, the Ocean Township High School found new, creative ways to showcase high school theatre arts during a pandemic. The program involved finding a show that could be staged outdoors with minimal scenery and could easily translate to film. The students and their advisors spent four months putting together a movie adaptation of Brian D. Taylor’s comedy, The History of Dating. The movie was shown in a drive-in movie format in the parking lot of the Ocean Township Intermediate School in February 2021. The program displayed the ‘perfect way to pivot’ during virtual learning and in an uncertain environment.

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