Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Overcoming Bullying…Schools and Community Working Together

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

Nationally, as well as here in New Jersey, bullying has been in the news of late as a result of a number of tragic circumstances. In some respects, members of the general public hear of these incidents but continue with their busy lives. After all, hasn’t this despicable behavior been around since the beginning of time?  The serious nature of this topic only garners our attention when we are impacted. My purpose in writing on this topic is to illustrate how all of us are being impacted by this preventable phenomenon known as bullying.

For years, South Brunswick School District has taken great pride in providing “safe and caring” schools. One of the ways we have done so is through programs related to character education. Our elementary schools work with the Responsive Classroom Program, a national initiative that operates on the premise that children learn best when they are provided with both academic and social-emotional skills. The program seeks to emphasize the core values of cooperation, assertion, responsibility, empathy and self-control. Developmental Designs operates in similar fashion in both Middle Schools, while the High School utilizes a model gleaned from the Institute for Excellence and Ethics and embeds these lessons in all our courses. The key ingredient to each of these approaches is that of staff commitment.  As a District, we believe that our students benefit most when they learn about character education through the emphasis on core values and adult modeling. The inevitable “teachable moments” are best recognized by staff members that have been provided with strong and effective character education programs and the professional development training to best utilize them. As a District, we devote much time and many resources to character education. This is an important part of our commitment to educating the “whole” child.

In addition to these character education approaches, we have a student code of conduct that is age-appropriate in design and centered on logical consequences. By taking this avenue, we are doing more than correcting unacceptable behavior. The code of conduct embeds our core values into each student behavioral infraction so that the logical consequence reinforces the desired belief and behavior. In addition, every October, during Violence Awareness Week, we provide outreach to law enforcement to jointly plan and assist us in helping our students better understand the importance of appropriate behavior and self-control. I am sure that you can sense, through these descriptions, a more than passing commitment to teaching young people about acceptable behavior.

The District has had an anti-bullying policy for many years with the present iteration entitled, Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying.  This Board of Education policy mirrors the statutory and regulatory requirements that are mandated by the state. In ensuring this compliance, the District changed the policy three times in the past two years to match changes made by the state and the Prosecutor’s Office. A major reason for these changes is the impact that technology and social networking have had on promoting bullying. Facebook, texting and YouTube have provided tools for the bully. Known as cyber attacks, some young people have turned the power of the electronic world into a relentless assault on other youngsters. While these “attacks” routinely take place outside of school, the fall-out typically has implications for our schools and staff. In an effort to educate our students about responsible and acceptable use, we begin teaching cyber safety as early as second grade. Despite our best efforts, we regularly get involved in cyber offenses committed by students against students.

Hopefully, I have offered a clear and comprehensive view of a problem that the schools can’t solve alone. We need help. While many resources are committed to educating young people about the ills of bullying, some students persist in this hurtful behavior. Sometimes adults turn away when they see or hear of bullying occurring. Until we all get involved, the problem will continue. Let’s all lend support to ending this behavior because the next victim could be someone you love.

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Please Note: The South Brunswick Parent Academy plans an important workshop: Bullying & Your Child: What’s a Parent to do? This workshop will be presented Wednesday, February 9, 2011, 7:00 PM at Crossroads North Middle School. For more information about this workshop as well as others, please visit South Brunswick Parent Academy.

District Goals for 2010 – 2011 School Year

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

District Administration presented its goals for the 2010-2011 school year to the Board of Education during its September 20, 2010 meeting. These goals, which were approved by the Board, are accompanied by a list of objectives that District officials would like to accomplish in addition to the District’s daily operations.

The list of goals and objectives fall under the umbrella of eight key areas of focus which include: Supervision and Evaluation, Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment, Information Technology, Professional Development, Facilities, Cost Effectiveness and Cost Containment, School Safety, Health and Student Support and a category for miscellaneous items.

This is an ambitious operation that assures that all the work that we have is focused and directed according to our human and fiscal resources. It’s important to keep in mind that not only will these new endeavors be the key focus but all the goals that we have accomplished in the past become part of our operation.

The 2010 – 2011 Goals and Objectives are available as well as the PowerPoint presentation made to the Board of Education.

Goals for 2009-2010 School Year

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

At the South Brunswick Board of Education meeting of August 24, 2009, the District Goals and Objectives for the 2009 – 2010 school year were approved for dissemination and posting on the District Web site (www.sbschools.org). This annual action is among the most important in which the Board engages.

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Looking Back On The Year That Was

Friday, July 17th, 2009

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.

Offering thanks to a hard-working group of people

Monday, January 26th, 2009

            By Governor’s proclamation, January has been designated as School Board Recognition Month in New Jersey.  During the month of January, Board of Education members in South Brunswick School District will continue what they do every month of the year.  And while public meetings are held and televised throughout the community, most people know very little about the incredibly important volunteer service that is being provided to the community.

            In New Jersey, 4,800 men and women serve as members of local Boards of Education.  There are nine you should thank for their enormous commitment to children of our community:

Martin Abschutz

Harry J. Delgado

Robert F. Long

Barry Nathanson

Stephen F. Parker

Arthur L. Robinson

Matthew Speesler

Deborah Taylor

Anna Tupé

           
            Besides providing an incredible volunteer service, our Board Members provide first-hand role model examples for our youngsters.  Each member serves on several sub-committees of the Board and, inasmuch, study preparatory materials and attend meetings to discuss issues.  The outcome of these committee meetings typically frame recommendations for the entire Board to study and take action.

            Election to the South Brunswick Board of Education provides new members with the obligation for local orientation training and mandated State training.  Upon completion of this initial training, the new member joins incumbent members in an ongoing annual training cycle.

            The heart of the Board of Education experience is to shape a school district into a positive and productive place for children to learn.  Public evidence of Board of Education work is routinely reported in the media in the form of test results.  Likewise, Board members oversee the budget process that is placed, annually, on the ballot for voter action.

            If that sounds like tough, time-consuming work, you are understanding this message quite well.  I’m proud to report that, based upon South Brunswick’s student achievement results, your Board of Education is doing exemplary work.  In my twenty-three years as a public school superintendent, I have never worked with a better Board of Education.  I am proud to be a colleague with the members of the South Brunswick Board of Education and I hope you share in that pride.

            Often a thankless job, I hope you will seek out our Board of Education members and express your appreciation during the month of January.  Their contact information can  be found here.  

Sincerely,

Gary P. McCartney

District Announces Goals for ’08-’09 School Year

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

The  hallmark  of  a  successful organization is the commitment to “stretch”  itself  in  the pursuit of  its mission.  South  Brunswick  School District  is  no  exception. At  its August 18 meeting, the Board of Education approved  the 2008 – 2009 District Goals  and  Objectives  which  were designed  to  focus  and  extend  the efforts and  resources of our  schools.

Packaged  in eight areas, the goals included  the  following  major areas: Curriculum and Instruction; Professional Development; Information Technology; Facilities; Cost Effectiveness/Cost Containment; School Safety; Health and Student Support; and Miscellaneous.

Within each goal area, a host of behaviorally-stated objectives have been  framed  in  order  to  provide specific definition for the work. For instance,  under  the  Curriculum and  Instruction Goal,  objectives have  been  formulated  to  identify  the work being carried out within  the District’s Curriculum Review Cycle. As we  enter  the  fifth  year  of  the  cycle, every  content  area  of  our  curriculum will be in some stage of renewal. To allow  our  curriculum  to  be  in  a dynamic  state,  it  must  always  be involved  in  such a process.

Objectives will  be  pursued  to  create a  more  consistent  framework  for lesson planning, as required by New Jersey Quality Single Accountability Continuum  (NJQSAC). Likewise,  in the  Curriculum  and  Instruction Objectives, the District will finalize work  in  its  grades 6  –12 Character Education  Program,  study  and  create a Pre-school Program  for  eligible low socio-economic  children  and  develop a community presentation to share the  initiatives  that are being utilized to support our struggling and least-able  learners.

Continuing  in  the  Curriculum and  Instruction Goal  area,  one  of  our objectives  involves  placing  curriculum online  for  ease of  access. Parents  and community members will be able to  view  a  shortened  form of  the curriculum, while  the  full  document will be available to staff. As always, all  curriculum  documents  are  available in hard  copy  for  review  by  anyone.

The Professional Development Goal area has objectives  that  support all  curricular,  technology  and  training needs of our entire  staff. To enhance institutional  agility,  a  flexible  delivery system  for  professional  development will  be  developed  and  implemented. This  model  is  designed  to  create more  latitude for staff in gaining the insights needed to improve practice. Anther objective of Professional Development  involves  a  focus  on equity  and  exceptionality  needs within the District. This work area seeks to indentify and refresh time-honored  practices  through  exposure to  speakers and  study.

Information technology  objectives will focus on several key areas of instruction. We will begin  the  first of a three-year plan to create “powerful” workstations for classroom teachers. This model will serve to enhance the use of technology as a tool to support effective  teaching.  We  will  also continue  our  work  in  cyber  safety instruction,  adding  a  secondary component to the elementary work completed  last year.

In  addition,  we  will  conduct proficiency assessments  for Fourth and  Eighth Graders  to  better-evaluate student technology knowledge and skills. As well, we will  survey  staff  in order  to  ascertain  similar  insights about  classroom  technology  practices.

Under  theFacilities Goal,  a  critical objective involves the completion of an energy audit. With sky-rocketing
costs in all energy areas, the District will use  the audit results  to determine avenues  of  cost  containment.  In
addition,  another  objective  will have  us  continue  to  assess  the security measures in place in each of  our  buildings  in  light  of technological  advances. Another related  objective  will  have  the District develop  a new  (we  already have  one)  State-mandated work order procedure.

Several objectives  in  the goal area of  Cost  Effectiveness  and  Cost Containment relate to the implementation  of  our  budget.  One  in particular involves a shared service arrangement  that  will  result  in  a joint  paving  project  with  South Brunswick  Township  working  on one of our  school parking  lots.  In  the area  of School Safety,  the  objectives include the submission of a grant to acquire  security  cameras  and  the completion of the  installation of the proximity  building  access  cards for  staff.

Health and Student Support objectives are framed around Child Study Team training in the area of Functional  Behavior  Assessments, the establishment of a District-wide Medication policy and practices as well  as  refinement  of  our  District Intervention and Referral System.

In the Miscellaneous Goal area, objectives will  include  an  investigation of  the  International Baccalaureate Program,  the  acquisition of  software to  better  link  Human  Resources  and  Professional  Development and  further  analysis  of  both NJQSAC and the recently enacted Accountability regulations.

We  believe  that  this  ambitious undertaking  (complete  listing reviewable  on  the District Web  page) coupled with  our  daily operational  practices will truly “stretch” the District  but  allow  us  to  remain  focused  in our approach.  

Let’s Talk

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

I recently saw a cartoon that sought to capture a picture of a family dinner in this age of electronics. Mom and Dad were seated at the table with their two teenagers. The kids were wearing ear-pieces for their iPods and Mom and Dad both had Blue-tooth attachments in place. The adults were scrolling through E-mail on their Blackberrys and the kids were lip-synching songs. The first caption was in all capital letters and read, “SON, DON’T YELL AT THE TABLE.” The second caption responded, “But Dad, I ‘texted’ you to pass the potatoes.”

While this snapshot of the electronic age causes most of us to shudder, it rings true, in part, for some. The issue of communication has always been at the center of effective relationships, regardless of whether we are talking of personal ones or institutional ones. Actually, I believe that effective communication in a personal relationship is much easier to achieve than it is in institutional settings. With this thought in mind, I want to share some of the communication avenues that have been put in place to assist the community in its understanding of our School District.

First and foremost, each of the South Brunswick Schools has an active outreach through the Principal’s office. Frequent communications are sent home to parents through an electronic Friday Folder E-mail, hand-carried memos, PTO/PTA/Site Council flyers and First-class postal mailings. In addition, each school maintains an active Web site that provides news about building events and contact information regarding staff. The Principal’s newsletters provide another avenue for gleaning school news.

Most recently, the District has successfully completed a pilot and begun a project called Family Connect. This initiative provides parents of middle school and high school students with direct electronic access to their youngster’s academic progress (individual class grades) and attendance. As we monitor the use of this system, we have noted “high traffic” and tremendously positive parental feedback.

Another recently deployed communication tool is the District’s new Auto Dialer system. Through the use of this technology, we are able to contact parents at up to six different telephone numbers to advise them of school delays and emergency closings. This high-speed electronic tool can make thousands of calls in a matter of minutes. The expandable nature of this system will allow for many building-based uses. This system is in addition to our use of radio, television, and emergency E-mail to notify parents of emergency situations.

From a Board of Education level, two public meetings are conducted each month (except for July) that provide for public comment. These public comment opportunities allow for either immediate Board response or a promise to research the issue and provide a future answer. To enhance access to the larger community, Board meetings are televised on the locally-provided cable station (Channel 28). The District also uses it as an electronic bulletin board of upcoming events and as a means of re-broadcasting special school events. These special events are created by the District’s Viking Television Network (VTN), giving students valuable hands-on productionexperience while linking school activities to our community.

The Board of Education has sought to express the importance of community connection through the creation of several activities. Every August, the Board of Education receives recommendations for Goals in order to chart the District’s direction and focus of resources. Likewise, each June, the Board examines the outcomes of the Goal work to determine District progress. Both of these sessions occur at public meetings and are televised throughout the community.

The Education Summit is a Board-created event that is publicly held each February for the purpose of examining the State-of-the-District. The information that is presented at the Summit is posted on the District’s Web site so that the public can peruse the information with convenience. The program is designed to note District strengths and acknowledge District challenges.

Each year, the District adopts a budget after conducting several budget meetings and a hearing for Board approval. These forums are open to public participation.

Presently, the District is operating under the regulations developed around the Quality Assurance Annual Report (QAAR). This requirement is met at a public meeting each October, wherein the District shares testing results in response to Federal and State mandates. This presentation is provided to the community on VTN.

Obviously, this column is not exhaustive of the many ways the District communicates. The very forum for conveying this article,Spotlight on Schools, is published five times per year and mailed to the homes of all of our community members. We annually provide parent-teacher conferences, Back-to-School nights and special open house events. In addition, we participate in South Brunswick Township’s Community Unity Day and the South Brunswick Township Police Department’s “National Night Out” event.

I hope you find new avenues for communicating with the District that allow you to be more informed and to participate more fully in District initiatives. You can contact me by phone, mail, or E-mail.

Leaving no child behind in South Brunswick

Thursday, December 6th, 2007

Each year, during the month of October, public schools in New Jersey share important information about performance with community members. This accountability practice is part of a New Jersey requirement known as the Quality Assurance Annual Report (QAAR). The Report is comprised of multiple areas, but for the focus of this column, I will limit my commentary to achievement measures.

Statewide testing of students in grades 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 11 in both literacy and mathematics occurs annually. Tied tightly to New Jersey’s Federally-approved No Child Left Behind (NCLB) State Plan, student results are analyzed by State-hired testing companies for adherence to the State regulations that support Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). It is at this point that the first draft of the performance reports is released to school districts.

As you can imagine, especially if you have a very creative imagination, the reports are fairly complex and require a great deal of insight about some unusual facets of statistical analysis. Just so that you don’t think I am overstating the case, a comprehensive understanding of the report requires insight regarding “bundling” of scores, reportable “N” or group sizes, the mixing of multiple elements for individual students and the qualification provisions of “safe harbor” to name but a few.

Armed with these understandings, we are able to report that seven (7) of our ten (10) schools met each of the forty-one (41) required elements. By doing so, each of these schools are regarded as having met AYP. Our three (3) remaining schools each met forty (40) of the forty-one (41) Stateestablished elements. Greenbrook Elementary School fell short of meeting the literacy element for “students with disabilities.” Crossroads North Middle School fell short of meeting the mathematics element for “students with disabilities.” South Brunswick High School fell short of meeting the mathematics element for “students with disabilities.” In each of these instances, the schools in question met 97.5% of the State-required elements. Unfortunately, under the guidelines of NCLB, these three schools have failed to meet AYP.

No Child Left Behind, Chart 1

Moving from the “look” at each school, the data on the correlating charts illustrates the District’s spring 2007 results by grade level. Chart #1 reveals the percent of all our third, fourth and fifth grade students that were recognized as “proficient” or “advanced proficient” in literacy and mathematics. The State minimum expected level of performance for 2007 for literacy was 75% (and will be 82% for 2008). The State minimum expected level of performance for 2007 for mathematics was 62% (and will be 73% for 2008). In the aggregate, the number of South Brunswick third, fourth and fifth grade students scoring in the proficient and advanced proficient category far exceeded the minimum State performance level.

No Child Left Behind, Chart 2

As illustrated on Chart #2, the performance data of our sixth, seventh and eighth grade students in the content areas of literacy and mathematics for 2007 also exceeds State minimum expected levels of performance (literacy expected level 66%; math expected level 49%). In similar fashion, our grade 11 results (see Chart #3), when compared to State minimum expected levels of performance (literacy expected level 79%; math expected level 64%) reveal results well beyond State expectations.

No Child Left Behind, Chart 3

By way of comparison to State expectations, South Brunswick students, in the aggregate, perform very effectively on State-created exams. It needs to be noted here that the expectation/requirement of NCLB’s dictate that by 2014 all public schools must have all students (100%) performing at the proficient or advanced proficient level is completely unrealistic Presently, Congress is entertaining proposals for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that drives the No Child Left Behind initiative. Much attention is being focused on the issues that have been created by the law. As is so typical of the political process, those who created the law are offering a staunch defense for maintaining the status quo.

To be more specific, members of Congress need to balance several concerns. First of all, accountability is central to assisting organizations and individuals in the attainment of high levels of achievement. But it is important to understand that the “end all and be all” of accountability is far more than a standardized test score. If we are to truly prepare our students for success in a global society, we need to develop their sense of creativity and instill a curious nature that seeks to understand the unknown.

Our least able students, those who struggle with disabilities, are expected to perform to the same levels of achievement on the same paper and pencil tests in the same time frame as their non-disabled peers. To even the casual onlooker, this is an obvious flaw in the law. Making it all the more obvious to educators is the reality that federal legislators have created laws (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act [IDEA]) that serve to protect the individual educational interests of disabled students but then, seemingly forget these “special needs” in the construction of NCLB.

While there is a laundry list of issues that have been raised with legislators about the reauthorization of NCLB and its continuing punitive treatment of public schools, it is important for the South Brunswick community to know that we welcome accountability but hope that it is fairly designed and implemented in a positive manner that truly assists students and schools in achieving at the highest levels possible.

As always, your support is greatly appreciated. Should you wish to discuss this issue or any other, please contact me.

District sets goals for new school year

Thursday, September 20th, 2007

To the casual observer, the beginning of a new school year conjures up memories of students renewing old acquaintances and establishing new ones. We all remember the anticipation of “seeing” who was in your class and wondering if the teachers would be “nice.” Moving to the middle or high school always added some anxiety to that night before the first day. As I write this column, the indelible impressions are etched in my mind so much that I still remember my high school locker combination!

With the 2007 – 2008 school year fully engaged, I want to share a view of the South Brunswick School District that extends beyond that available to the casual observer. The simplistic glimpse of a new school year, while quite nostalgic, belies the incredible efforts that are put in place to begin anew. First and foremost, as a “student first,” goal-driven School District, much planning has occurred to prepare for this new school year. This planning has manifested itself into the District’s Goals and Objectives for 2007 – 2008.

Our first goal area deals with curriculum and instruction. We feel strongly that the heart and soul of a quality program needs to be reflected in this goal area and to that end much work is planned. Consistent with our South Brunswick Curriculum and Review Cycle, we will be finalizing our Mathematics implementations and working to refine those efforts through additional professional development with teachers and supervisors.

In the area of Health Education, we will be adding a Cyber safety unit in Fifth Grade, a harassment unit, also in Fifth Grade, and a research task for Twelfth Grade. We are revising our Social Studies curriculum with an in-depth review of our concepts and standards. A revision of our World Language areas of Spanish and French is just being finished and Latin will just begin. In addition, we are reviewing and revising our Library-Media Program, as well as working to update our High School Special Education course outlines.

We are entering our second year review of our K-8 Science courses, our Art curriculum, and we are looking to create a first draft of our English Language Learners (ELL) curriculum (for non-English speaking students).

A “first” year review of Language Arts, Music, Character Education and Business Education will be started. As with all of the other areas previously mentioned, this work will extend and be refined over the next several years.

A second goal area involves Professional Development. This area supports the curriculum by providing training opportunities for all staff so that they can become more effective in carrying out their job responsibilities. In addition to providing professional development opportunities in all of the curricular areas previously mentioned, this goal area will support training in National- and State-mandated areas such as preventing sexual harassment and bullying, Individualized Education Plans, Section 504 Plans and many others.

A third goal area deals with Information Technology. In this area, we will be emphasizing a new system for online grades, assignments and student attendance. Through this initiative, parents and students will be better able to track student progress and have closer contact with staff members. We will also be implementing our recently completed Three-Year Technology Plan that drives every use of technology in the District.

A fourth goal area deals with Facilities and reflects our Comprehensive Facility Plan. We will complete our referendum projects (December 2003 Referendum) this year with our concluding work at Crossroads North and South. In addition, we are exploring energy-saving sources that will allow for cost reductions. Another goal area deals with Cost Effectiveness and Cost Containment. We are studying a multitude of areas that have savings potential in order to reduce taxpayer increases.

School Safety represents the sixth goal area. We continue to work closely with the South Brunswick Police and the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office in designing practices that represent state-of-the-art safety behaviors. The final goal area includes a variety of important areas such as the revision of school policy, the creation of an Education Foundation and the conversion from the State-mandated Quality Assurance Annual Report to the new requirement, known as New Jersey Quality Single Accountability Continuum.

While this column is limited to providing a sampling of our ambitious goal areas and the supporting objectives, I hope you will review a complete listing of this initiative on our District Web site, www.sbschools.org.

As you read about our work, feel free to call me should you have any questions about South Brunswick School District. I welcome your inquiries.

Any reactions to a new national report?

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007

My column is always written with the intention of informing the readership of “happenings, issues or procedures” specific to South Brunswick Township Public Schools. Occasionally, my topic strikes a chord with an individual or two and a dialog ensues. For the most part though, I write and you read and the exercises remain apart.

This edition may change the norm. I want to reference a recently published study entitled, “Tough Choices or Tough Times,” with the hope that I might spark a reaction. To that end, I am including a Web site address that will provide access to an executive summary of the report and its supporting documentation: www.skillscommission.org.

The “Tough Choices or Tough Times” summary is a report of the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce and was funded by the combined support of the Annie Casey Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Hewlett Foundation and the Lumina Foundation.

Necessarily connecting the U.S. economy and our public school systems, the report states:
“The core problem is that our education and training systems were built for another era…It is not possible to get where we have to go by patching that system: We can get where we must go only by changing the system itself.”

For those of you who have read, “The World is Flat” by Thomas Friedman, you will sense a de ja vu with this report. The economic condition of our Nation is reported in the same language Friedman utilizes and is tied to the skills and abilities of the workforce. The report offers that the fate of our Nation is in a serious decli
ne economically and unless we redesign our public schools, “the American standard of living will steadily fall relative to those nations” that are doing a better job.

With this backdrop, the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce recommends, among many others, the following:

  • States, not districts, would take on the entire funding responsibility for schools;
  • States would administer rigorous board exams to students after the tenth grade. These tests would open the pathway to technical schools, colleges or other further school study;
  • Teachers would be hired, paid and trained by the state;
  • Many states would have private contractors operate the schools.

To accomplish much of the report, local school boards and districts would relinquish much of their control over the day-to-day operation of schools. The report calls for the hiring of more able teachers, the development of a universal, high quality early childhood program for all 3 and 4 year-olds, creating more rigorous assessments that measure, among other things, teamwork and creativity, and providing the necessary resources to assist our nation’s disadvantaged students in achieving high standards.

In addition to those aspirations already mentioned, the Commission recommends “parental choice” in the selection of schools, complete governance discretion by school contractors as long as they meet accountability requirements imposed by the state and opportunities for adult members of the workforce to pursue further education.

The report is the result of two years of intense study and field research and has been published by Jossey-Bass Publishers. My purpose in sharing this information is to inform you of the beginning of a serious debate that will ensue regarding how to improve the country’s education system.