Numerous articles have appeared regarding the Sept. 30th Board of Education Meeting in Secaucus, which require clarification. At the outset, my role as the Chief School Administrator is to work collaboratively with the Board of Education to establish educational goals, both short and long-term for the district. To develop these goals, I engaged members of the school community through a committee process to make recommendations driven by a simple premise – to deliver the best possible education to our students, within the budget approved by the taxpayers.
Many “issues” were raised at this meeting. Since the “Open Public Meeting Act” permits virtually anyone to speak, it often becomes necessary to listen, and then filter out valid concerns from rumors, speculation, gossip or even misinformation, designed to provoke disharmony and confusion. The Board and I must confine our replies to information that is both factual and accurate as follows:
• The 2009 Budget contained Technology Committee recommendations to place interactive white Boards in all classrooms, with an added video streaming component. An on-line lesson plan tool developed in consultation with teachers was selected to promote teacher collaboration through professional learning communities, a requirement of the Department of Education. It is a paperless tool that will assist in preparing for the New Jersey Quality Single Accountability Continuum (NJQSAC) audit. Last school year, over 35 teachers, supervisors and administrators participated in its development, and trained colleagues. Technology based professional seminars were offered during the summer with over 70 teachers attending, as well as several professional half days in September and October. Additionally, there exists a 1 to 6 ratio of teacher trainers to teachers providing ongoing support. There was no element of surprise. Collaboration and communication was evident.
• In compliance with the Department of Education Five Year Plan requirements, budgeted textbooks were purchased, aligned with the revised Standards, through a teacher selection process initiated last spring, with principals bringing forth recommendations.
• The Board of Education recently appointed a part time coordinator for Safety, Security and Discipline, who will make recommendations regarding needs, along with our Safety Committee.
• Class size currently averages 21 students. Seventeen teachers have been added to our instructional staff as requested by principals.
• Two Directors were hired replacing six supervisory positions saving the district over $600,000.00. Enhanced opportunities for teacher leadership were provided through elementary coaches, and secondary facilitators who receive a stipend.
• Basic Skills Literacy and Math Coaches were hired to provide small group instruction offered for the first time during the school day, to assist teachers in using student data, to provide professional development, and to support the integration of technology. Coaches were hired from within, with teachers hired to replace them, as reflected in the Board Minutes. Using ARRA Funds, several consultants were hired to support students with special and economic needs, and to provide professional development.
• Three principals were reassigned based on individual school needs, as well as my assessment of how they could best serve the district. They have been reinvigorated by the new challenge, and have been welcomed and supported by their individual school communities. Parents have shared their enthusiasm.
Finally, I must compliment our Board Trustees for their ethical conduct during the meeting. The Board’s Code of Ethics mandates that they not discuss or respond to issues involving the day-to-day management of our schools, including personnel matters, referring these to the Superintendent. Therefore, any future concerns should be directed to me or the principals first, and will be addressed using the same criteria – what is best for our 2,143 students.
Cynthia M. Randina, Superintendent
Secaucus Public Schools