My BOE Orientation Experience

I spent most of this weekend participating in mandatory New Board Member Orientation in Princeton, NJ with ninety other recently elected Board of Education members. It was a great experience.

The conference, hosted by the New Jersey School Boards Association, was jam-packed with presentations on law, finance, policy, bullying, and student achievement, to name a few. Take a look at the schedule yourself.

We were given resources and points of contact for all sorts of issues we may face as board members, as well as the opportunity to ask questions to the New Jersey School Boards Association’s top experts. Our perspectives were broadened as these officials explained in great detail the entirety of the role of a Board of Education beyond what many of us had learned thus far. NJSBA presenters participated in funny small films of real-life scenarios, a nice touch that kept us engaged through their presentations.

Perhaps the most interesting part was meeting so many others who are embarking on the same journey towards improving their local schools. Attendees – all ninety of us – split regularly into small groups where engaging leaders facilitated discussions of ethical dilemmas, board responsibilities, negotiation strategies, and so forth. We even acted out different Board member personality types in mock meetings – a useful exercise that was a lot of fun.

In my small group, the other Board members hailed from Brick, Perth Amboy, Matawan-Aberdeen, Pleasantville, Newark, Barnegat, Wall, Atlantic City, Bordentown, West Windsor, and White Township. With school populations ranging from 300 students to nearly 40,000, we faced such different issues, from inability to fill a nine member school boards to 25% absenteeism – trouble filling classrooms. State monitors, budget shortfalls, and even a convicted superintendent – we all had unique challenges.

There were barely three years of total Board member experience between the twelve of us, but you wouldn’t know it from the experiences shared. We all gained great perspective from each other as we asked questions to our two group leaders, who combine for 27 years of BOE service.

Having never met a New Jersey Board of Education member from outside of Plainfield, this weekend made me feel part of a statewide community with so many resources. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have attended.

3 thoughts on “My BOE Orientation Experience

  1. I hope your meetings bring positive changes to Plainfield. It is wonderful to have the meetings, but it means nothing if things are not implemented. I hope you are able to do that and bring up the level of education in Plainfield. Much success to you!

  2. It’s nice to hear of the learning experience of one of our new board members. This open dialogue gives me self assurance of your journey on the BOE. Wishing you and our children the best.

  3. I knew you would enjoy the orientation and I am sure you collected phone numbers. Members from other districts can be a great resource. My suggestions to you, always remember your fiduciary oath, (read the check register) become a member of the National Black Caucus of BOE Members (Gary Ottoman can help with that), have Gary order you the “Annotated Laws of Education for NJ. Gary can be a wealth of knowledge, get to know him well. Anything I can do to help you, email me or message me (I don’t want to put my phone number on here but will gladly give it to you). You have the 4th generation of my fily in PPS now, so I take their education seriously. Good luck to you, remember you are there for the kids, not to become friends with anyone.

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