With the new school year already underway, the board of education reviewed its goals from the past year, and noted that they have, to a great extent, accomplished much of what they set out to do.
Superintendent of Schools Michael Schilder laid out the goals and the board’s response to them at the Sept. 24 meeting, citing examples of ways in which they have accomplished much of what they set out to do.
The first goal, Schilder said, was communication with the public and continuing to improve that communication over time.
Although Schilder said there have not been too many large initiatives, there have been instances over the past year when the board has attempted to increase its communication on changes, the biggest being the issue of the redistricting.
“I put that as an example where I think we followed this very well, took our time with it and walked through the phases,” he said, citing the fact that they had a redistricting committee which presented its proposed plans, then several meetings were spent discussing the individual plans and hearing from the public.
Other examples, Schilder said, include keeping the public informed on the energy savings improvement plan, calendar changes and the homework policy.
“It is the idea of making sure there is an identification of the problem, presentation of challenges and a decision, and that is followed pretty religiously by the board,” he said.
The second goal, Schilder said, concerned monitoring the progress of the district, and setting a schedule for the administration to report in to the board on the effectiveness of programs and surveys to determine school achievement.
“The administration has not really weighed in on this on a regularly scheduled basis because when information comes in, we share it with the board quickly,” he said. “I think we try to do that as much as possible.”
In terms of curriculum changes, Schilder said, that data comes out of the assistant superintendent’s—Cheryl Dyer, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction—office.
“There is a tremendous amount of data analysis, and it is given to principals, and they come to expect it,” he said. “I think that’s a real positive change.”
The third phase of this, Schilder said, are the presentations that are routinely made to the board about the district testing reports, climate surveys, EE4NJ, violence and vandalism reports and more.
Board member Jeffrey Brookner said he was unsure about this goal when it was first discussed.
“It’s extraordinarily difficult,” he said. “I think we are biting off more than a district with our size and resources can chew.”
“I think that this goal is utterly unattainable, but I think we’ve done a decent job with doing the best we can,” he added. “My issue is not with the progress, it’s with the goal itself.”
The third goal, Schilder said, concerned strategic planning, with action plans and implementation. The community relations committee, he said, is responsible for taking charge of that. The next step, he said, will be to make another strategic plan with items that were not completed this year and new regulations from the state.
The final goal, Schilder said, concerned engaging the community, including increasing senior citizen involvement, increasing municipal connections and increasing the connection to local corporate entities.
“With regard to the seniors, that is not something we’ve done anything with at the board level,” he said. “But I did reach out to the principals, and there is a list of second graders performing to grandparents, and they were invited for Read Across America.”
“That might be the area that the board feels more is needed, and something we should discuss,” he added.
As for municipal connections, Schilder said, they have met with members of the town councils in both Bridgewater and Raritan, and will continue to do so in the future.
The final aspect is corporate connections, and Schilder said he ties that in with the NASA shuttle flight at the high school and the Homes of Living Hope container project.
“There were a tremendous amount of donations and support from local corporations,” he said of the latter.
“And I know we have partnerships with courses in the high school with business departments, but those really aren’t new, we have been doing that for a long time,” he added.
Brookner said the board is also looking into advertising in the district.
“One motivation we talked about is giving local businesses an opportunity to be part of the school community,” he said.
The next step is to develop a new set of goals for the coming year, but the board said they would look into that after the elections. The goals will probably be set in March from now on, after a January reorganization meeting, with reviews in June, September and December.
“It is not right to obligate a new board to follow the goals of the current board,” said board of education vice president Patrick Breslin.