The notice said: The Association’s Delegate Assembly will convene virtually on Saturday, May 15, 2021. The meeting will be conducted remotely, per state requirements limiting the size of in-person gatherings. It was at that meeting that new officers were elected – and thus began my term as NJSBA president.
We faced many challenges amid the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath, but through it all, we provided training, continued our advocacy and supported members as they strove to advance public education during a time of transition and frequent turmoil in their local schools.
A few of the major transitions included:
- When the pandemic slowed, the order on the state level was clear: Schools were to provide full-day, in-person instruction and operations for the 2021-2022 school year. The NJSBA advocated for and supported local boards as they developed plans to implement the N.J. Department of Health’s “Road Forward” plan. Virtual meetings and training evolved into a wonderfully successful hybrid model. Our amazing NJSBA staff became technology experts to bring members together.
- After 10 successful years at the helm of leading NJSBA on a “Good to Great” journey, Dr. Larry Feinsod retired. So, we celebrated his successes, wished him well and started an extensive search process. We are thrilled to have Dr. Timothy Purnell as our new chief, who is excitement, energy and enthusiasm personified.
- We lived through virtual/hybrid/in-person; mask/no mask; school building security/online security; polarizing challenges to curricula mandates; increasing politicalization of school board elections; implementation of/removal of free lunch for all; changes to student testing requirements/protocols – and the list goes on.
Although the restrictions COVID-19 forced schools to operate under are largely over, the challenges continue: balancing budgets in the face of inflation, abiding by the 2% tax levy cap, navigating higher health care costs, PILOT development; overcoming teacher and essential personnel shortages; bridging COVID-related achievement gaps; mental health challenges, including increased suicide rates; addressing HIB issues; dual credit/advanced placement programs, expansion of Pre-K education; supporting our special needs students, including the increasing number of students with autism; expanding STEM programs, providing opportunities for our career oriented high schoolers; including programs in visual, fine, performing and practical arts for all our students; addressing equity concerns; maintaining aging facilities or building needed classrooms … every board member could add local concerns to this list.
What hasn’t and will not change is the support that NJSBA offers its more than 5,000 members! The Association stands ready to assist you with recurring responsibilities and guide you through the unforeseen challenges. You have the awesome, mind-boggling, most rewarding responsibility for advancing the education of 1.3 million New Jersey students from pre-K through graduation. You can call NJSBA anytime for assistance, clarification, or affirmation.
At the May 13 Delegate Assembly, you will elect the next team of eminently qualified officers who will lead us through unknown transitions that await us. I know I speak for all of the current officers when I say I can’t wait to welcome and support our new leaders.
Bring on the challenges. NJSBA is ready!