It was almost 20 years ago that my wife made a simple suggestion: “You should run for the school board. I think you would be good at that.”
In many ways, school board membership represented the next step on my public education journey. I have been involved in public schools from almost every role: as a student, a teacher, an administrator, a parent, and then, a school board member.
I didn’t dream then that I would someday become president of the New Jersey School Boards Association, but I feel deeply honored and humbled to have taken the oath of office at the Delegate Assembly on May 20.
In my remarks to the representatives at the Delegate Assembly, I shared my vision for some of the goals I think NJSBA should work towards. I’d like to review three main ideas with you now.
Member training is one of the most important things we do at NJSBA. A few years ago, thanks to the Educational Leadership Foundation of New Jersey, NJSBA’s fund-raising arm, and our work with corporate partners, we were able to bring back the weekend New Board Member Orientation program, at no cost to local boards. I can say, without qualification, that program is the best school board member orientation program in the U.S. Board members who have gone through the program invariably tell us how valuable the weekend was. They also tell us that in their small groups, they forged bonds and made lasting connections with members of their “freshman class,” creating a network of peers they can call on in the future.
It’s now time to extend our intensive training further by establishing a three-day leadership conference for current and prospective board presidents and vice-presidents. Veteran board members can benefit from the same concentrated training sessions and the opportunity to network with their peers.
Over the last several decades, financial constraints and other restrictions have greatly reduced or eliminated program options for the non-college bound learner. This issue affects a large number of students and must be addressed if our schools are to prepare all of our learners to prosper after graduation. Our programs will have to look much different than they did 30 years ago, in keeping with how the job market has changed. I believe NJSBA must form a committee to study this important issue.
The third imperative I want to focus on also involves one of our core responsibilities: advocacy on behalf of the state’s school boards and students. In the past few years, we have done much to improve our relationship with our legislative leaders. We need to continue that progress, and board members must step up to become more involved in reaching out to legislators.
Over the next two years, we will have many opportunities to work together as an Association to advance effective school board governance and student achievement. I invite board members who have ideas, suggestions, or feedback to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for the privilege of serving as NJSBA president.