For most of us, the conclusion of an activity, event or time period gives the opportunity for introspection and assessment of our efforts. Being no different, I am looking back over the 2008 – 2009 School Year in analytical fashion. The pertinent questions that I utilize are: How did our students perform? What did we achieve as a District? What did we do well? and Where can we improve?
While no column in a newsletter will adequately accommodate a comprehensive response to this retrospective examination, I would like to share several of my year-end reactions.
First, and certainly foremost, our students have performed admirably on the many academic, artistic and athletic fronts available to them. Statewide testing, juried art contests, athletic endeavors, National Merit competition, band shows, music festivals, debates and science competitions are but a few of the forums where our students regularly demonstrated their skills and talents. In every instance, they achieved exceedingly well.
None of these many successes just happened. On the contrary, these successes were created through the efforts of many. Committed and motivated students, dedicated teachers and exceptionally skilled administrators created the conditions in which success thrives. I couldn’t be more proud of our students and staff. Our School District enjoys an outstanding reputation because of these individuals.
When I consider what we did well this year, aside from our student and staff successes, my thoughts are immediately focused on our “operational behavior.” As an administrative team, we have been able to systematize our approaches to almost all that we do. For example, the planning for and construction of the 2009 – 2010 budget that yielded no tax increase required a very disciplined sense of accountability.
The budget process required all decision-makers to submit requests that reflected financial/personnel reductions without direct impact on instruction and students. Painful as it was, especially for those who lost jobs, the economic reality and the sense of fairness to our taxpayers required this approach.
Another area that has required a systematic style of operation is our budget deficit. As you no doubt recall from past reading here, the New Jersey Legislature, several years ago, created a bill that reduced General Fund balances of school districts to two percent of the budget. The manner in which this was done has created an annual $4 million budget deficit. In other words, we must always end each financial year with a balance of $4 million to be applied to the next year’s budget. Very prudent and disciplined spending has allowed the District to create this balance each year.
To the question, “Where can we improve,” I can speak for the Board of Education and myself by stating, “Every where.” Our plan is to continue our thorough analysis of all areas of our School District. Ongoing scrutiny of all costs will continue to be the practice. While the ever-upward moving benchmarks of NCLB will continue to challenge the District, we will do all that we can to assist our students in their quest to meet the standards. Student success and school success should never be narrowed by one measuring stick, so we will continue to prepare our students for the many opportunities that will allow for even greater successes beyond South Brunswick.
All things considered, as I look back over the 2008 – 2009 School Year, I know that our focused efforts and goal-driven approaches have made a difference. The power of careful and comprehensive analysis has been and will continue to be essential to our success. But analysis alone is never enough. The words of Einstein say it best:
“Everything that can be counted doesn’t necessarily count, and everything that counts cannot always be counted.”
Your support of the South Brunswick School District, both past and hopefully in the years to come, “counts” greatly and for that, we are all deeply grateful.