6-7-13 In the News - Resolution to Extend Evaluations Process...School Board Candidates Waning
NJ Spotlight – Two Tenure Law Sponsors Now Seek Delay in Tougher Teacher Evaluations…Resolution calls for one-year-wait before full implementation of new law’s requirements "State Assemblywoman Mila Jasey and Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan Jr., both Assembly sponsors of the new tenure law...are asking the state to extend the current ...[yet Senator Teresa Ruiz, prime Senate sponsor of TEACH NJ said] "I think the most important thing is to roll this out, and then come back and look and see if it is working. Still, Ruiz said she would still push for the state to provide greater resources, including funding, to help districts.."

South Jersey Times -Editorial: Where did all the N.J. school board candidates go?..."A move to November school elections by most districts has boosted voter participation, but seems to have done the opposite for candidates."

NJ Spotlight – Two Tenure Law Sponsors Now Seek Delay in Tougher Teacher Evaluations…Resolution calls for one-year-wait before full implementation of new law’s requirements

by John Mooney 

Concerns about the upcoming launch of a new teacher evaluation system in New Jersey have caught the attention of some high-ranking legislators, with two Assembly leaders offering up a resolution to delay some key pieces of the new requirements.

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State Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (D-Essex) and Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan Jr. (D-Middlesex), both Assembly sponsors of the new tenure law that brought the new rules, are asking the state to extend the current pilot program and postpone full implementation.

School districts would still be required to implement the new evaluations -- including some of its most controversial parts, which factor in student test scores -- but teachers’ jobs would not yet be on the line for another year.

“I think we do need to pause and take a breath,” Jasey said yesterday in a forum hosted by the New Jersey School Boards Association and the state PTA.

“It’s important to acknowledge the importance of teacher evaluation, but if really serious about making these changes, and the goal is really about improving education and making sure there is an excellent and effective teacher in every classroom, then we need to take the time to do it right,” she said.

“As a prime sponsor of that legislation, I want to see this work,” Jasey said. “I don’t want to see it go up in flames because we didn’t give it proper vetting.”

Even if approved by the Assembly, the nonbinding resolution’s impact would be limited, carrying no weight beyond the bully pulpit. The Christie administration has shown no signs of slowing down the process.

And, at the moment, there is no similar resolution in the Senate, where the chief architect of the new teacher-tenure law -- including the new evaluation rules -- was not showing much support herself.

State Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex) actually had such a one-year delay in her original tenure bill, but it was subsequently negotiated out of the legislation in a give-and-take with various stakeholders.

Yesterday, Ruiz said she was aware of the concerns about the capacity of districts to train their staffs and have the required pieces in place, but she said to pause now would be counter-productive.

“It has been over a year time frame and with some even longer,” Ruiz said in an interview. ”We have to have dates in place to roll this out. I don’t think any of this prohibits the department and the state board from revisiting, but I think the most important thing is to roll this out, and then come back and look and see if it is working.

Still, Ruiz said she would still push for the state to provide greater resources, including funding, to help districts prepare for the new system. Gov. Christie’s proposed state budget for fiscal 2014 does not include any new funds to help implement the law.

“There is a lot for districts to do to gear up,” Ruiz said. “Change is extraordinary, and until you know what it actually means, everybody feels uncomfortable.

“I think it is all of our responsibility to insure that when this process is moving forward, the most important things we have in place are the resources necessary to implement this bill in a responsible way,” she said. “That’s where the conversation should be.”

State Assemblyman Albert Coutinho (D-Essex), another key legislator behind the new tenure law and a participant in its final negotiations, said he supports resolution but thinks the various players involved last year in the tenure legislation should get together to try to address the new worries.

“That whole reform passed unanimously and had the support of every major educator group in the state, but we need to keep that coalition together,” he said. “Otherwise, what could be a very promising opportunity could end up stuck in the mud.”

South Jersey Times -Editorial: Where did all the N.J. school board candidates go?

South Jersey Times, on June 07, 2013 at 6:00 AM, updated June 07, 2013 at 6:09 AM

 

What does it say about an elected position if nobody wants to run for it? What does it say about hundreds of such posts statewide where the number of interested candidates has steadily declined over the years?

In South Jersey, the lack of candidates willing to run for seats on a municipal or regional school board mirrors the statewide decline — fewer than 1.25 candidates for each vacancy, down from 1.44 — although the dearth of interest is particularly acute in one-school elementary districts that lie within the bounds of a regional district.

In Gloucester County, nine open school board posts have no candidates at all; eight are in one-school elementary districts. Only eight of 25 local and regional districts have even a single contest for seats.

This pattern of disinterest is repeated throughout the region. In some municipalities, the lack of candidates is particularly acute — Elk Township’s one-school district has four open seats but only one candidate.

Following Tuesday’s deadline for filing to run in November, some officials expressed surprise at the sparse showing. “It’s disheartening,” said Delsea Regional’s Superintendent Piera Gravenor. Others, including Kingsway board president Mark Kehoe, say the post is not particularly appealing. “It’s a process that people don’t want to get involved with unless they have a vested interest,” Kehoe said.

A move to November school elections by most districts has boosted voter participation, but seems to have done the opposite for candidates.

The state school boards’ association blames the early filing deadline — June 4 for terms that won’t be voted on until Nov. 5 and won’t be filled until January. Sharing their view, state Sen. Jim Whelan, D-2, of Atlantic City, introduced a bill more than a year ago that would narrow the gap, moving the filing deadline to the last Monday in July. The bill finally cleared the Senate Education Committee on Thursday.

The Legislature should consider just how many school boards, and school board members, this state really needs. Do we need 601 boards and 5,609 board members if we can’t find people willing to serve?