My two-year term as NJSBA president, which comes to an end with the May Delegate Assembly, has turned out a bit differently than I expected.
I didn’t expect a worldwide health crisis to shut down New Jersey’s schools and force educators to teach remotely. The COVID-19 pandemic turned our world upside down and challenged school boards, teachers, and administrators. But I am proud to say that school districts rose to the occasion and began providing virtual instruction. Throughout the year, teachers and administrators have alternated between remote, hybrid and full in-person learning, mastering new technologies and skills along the way.
NJSBA also met the moment. The Association pivoted to providing virtual training through an increased number of podcasts, videos, webinars and Facebook Live events — multiple times every week. County meetings went virtual — but kept connecting members to NJSBA and to each other. The Association produced a series of four research reports on education during the pandemic, providing members with information and resources on school reopenings, digital learning, best practices and social-emotional learning. In October 2020, our flagship training event, Workshop, went virtual and exceeded its programming, attendance and financial goals. It attracted more than 6,000 participants, who were able to access more than 100 sessions and nearly 140 exhibitors.
The innovative initiatives have continued. This winter, NJSBA debuted the virtual Comprehensive New Board Member Orientation — a six-week online course offered through the Association’s NJSBA Online University. Just recently, Executive Director Dr. Lawrence Feinsod and I had the privilege of congratulating the graduates of that program upon the conclusion of the program.
I can’t begin to adequately express my pride in both our boards of education and our Association throughout the past year. Through herculean efforts, NJSBA staff provided more services than ever to members. But I am equally proud of how our members embraced the resources they were offered, engaging with NJSBA in record numbers, and learning ways to help their districts and their students get through this trying time.
The true test of anyone — and any organization — is how they handle the tough times. NJSBA and New Jersey’s local boards passed that test with flying colors.
In ways that aren’t yet completely clear, education in New Jersey has changed permanently. It has also changed the New Jersey School Boards Association permanently. NJSBA understands that members will continue to want some amount of virtual programming, even though we all look forward to the day when we can gather in person again. The Association is planning for that day.
Although I will be leaving the position of NJSBA president, I look forward to continuing to serve the Association as immediate past president. I thank my officers, Dr. Feinsod, and the whole staff for their dedication and hard work during this challenging period. And I stand ready to help our new president and the officers in any way possible.
I am confident that, with the resilience, ingenuity and commitment that our members and staff have demonstrated in the past year, we are prepared for whatever the future brings.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your president. It has been an honor.