As any educator knows, what our future looks like depends on what we do today. That is true for students, for school districts, and for the New Jersey School Boards Association.

That concept — that we create our future through our current actions — was part of the philosophy behind the creation of Future Ready Schools – New Jersey.

For those who may not know, Future Ready Schools – NJ (FRS-NJ) is a voluntary certification program that helps schools plan and implement effective digital learning strategies. Digital learning technologies and strategies are some of the most powerful and transformational teaching tools I have seen in my long career as an educator.

The FRS-NJ certification program is a partnership among NJSBA, the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) and the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE). It was organized in 2016, and at our 2017 Workshop conference, the first schools to earn certification were honored.

The program has grown quickly, as school districts have embraced Future Ready Schools – NJ. That first year, 63 schools from 20 school districts were recognized with “Bronze” certification; at the 2018 Workshop program, 139 schools from 44 districts were awarded certification — including some of which gained “Silver” certification, the second level of recognition in the program. We are still early in the 2019 certification cycle, but already 325 schools in 109 districts have registered to participate. That’s more than double the participation from last year!

These schools are actively preparing their students for their future by making sure their technology infrastructure is robust, their teachers receive the best professional development available, and their district fosters a collaborative culture that involves students, families, staff, local business and other community stakeholders. In this issue of School Leader, we feature an in-depth look at FRS-NJ, and hear the story of one district’s future-ready journey.

At NJSBA, we are just as serious about future-building. One of the goal areas of the current NJSBA Strategic Plan is to make the Association a “future-ready” organization. We have made considerable progress toward this objective — including replacing hardware and infrastructure to provide reliable computer equipment, moving data to the cloud, increasing staff professional development and outfitting the Association with state-of-the-art videoconferencing facilities. Our WebEx videoconferencing capability, made possible by a donation from Cisco Systems, Inc. (the largest in-kind donation in NJSBA history), allows participants to take part in meetings and conferences from remote locations.

As part of our strategy, NJSBA’s Board of Directors recently approved the acquisition of a new association management software system which will enable NJSBA to seamlessly serve its members. The new system, which will be implemented over the next year, will facilitate program registration, Board Member Academy credit recordkeeping, board census activities, accounting and financial functions, vendor service, member contact, and the tasks NJSBA staff members perform on a daily basis.

There was a 1977 pop hit by the group Fleetwood Mac, that featured the lyrics “Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow…it’ll soon be here.” That catchphrase expresses the idea that FRS-NJ was built on, and that its participating schools — and the New Jersey School Boards Association — all live by.

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