In just a few short months as executive director and CEO of the New Jersey School Boards Association, I’ve gained a better appreciation for the hard work that board members undertake each and every day to promote the achievement of students and the efficient operation of school districts.

It’s not an easy job.

Over these last few years in particular, board members have had to respond to tough questions from the public as we’ve navigated the COVID-19 pandemic and confronted political divisions. Many times, board members have had to resist the urge to become distracted by nonessential issues and focus on moving their district forward in their role as a board member.

In this latest issue of School Leader, you’ll find articles that will help you navigate these challenging times, including an issue I’m particularly passionate about: easing the teacher shortage. 

While certainly a heavy lift, one way to increase interest in the profession is by promoting how rewarding it is to make a positive impact in the lives of children. One of my favorite speakers, the late Dr. Rita F. Pierson, noted in her TED Talk, “Every Kid Needs a Champion,” how incredibly important human connection is in helping children learn. 

We can all call attention to the rewards that go along with being at the front of the classroom by recognizing the impact teachers make at the local level. Let’s join together to promote a positive image of the teaching profession and shine a spotlight on how they help students succeed. 

In another article, David B. Rubin and Ellen S. Bass of the Busch Law Group analyze the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, which involved a football coach who sued a school district in federal court, alleging that his firing for leading a prayer at the 50-yard line violated his rights under both the free exercise and free speech clauses of the First Amendment. Clearly, the court’s ruling holds implications beyond the football field.

Our field services staff also answer questions from the field, including an impressive response to a board member wanting to know why a board would want to become an NJSBA Certified Board.

We’re also celebrating a very special birthday with this issue: School Leader made its official debut 50 years ago. You’ll be amazed by how the challenges schools face have changed over the years – and even more amazed at how some of them have remained the same.

And of course, we also highlight our annual Workshop, which will be held in person at the Atlantic City Convention Center from Oct. 24 to Oct 26. I look forward to personally welcoming you at our in-person event!

Very truly yours,
Dr. Timothy J. Purnell