January 2018: Gratitude and Service

Gratitude and Service

Every year, the New Jersey School Boards Association identifies January as School Board Recognition Month.  I thought this would be a great opportunity to share a bit about the roles and responsibilities of a board member while taking the time to express our deep gratitude to our members for their service and devotion to the Robbinsville Schools Community.  

As you may know, each of our nine board members is elected to a three year term.  Many, however, may not be familiar with what happens after an election has taken place. As the lead governing body, the board of education is crucial to the success of our schools.  Collectively, the board advocates for our children by setting a clear, intentional direction for the district while upholding the values, beliefs, and priorities of the community.  The New Jersey School Boards Association defines the primary responsibilities of a Board of Education as follows:

  • reviewing and adopting policies to sustain safety and efficiency;
  • analyzing and approving the annual budget;
  • approving curriculum for classroom instruction;
  • representing the public in contract negotiations,
  • annually evaluating the superintendent , and
  • making certain that the schools are well run.

The board of education guarantees that the school district remains accountable to the community by ensuring that students receive a superior education while maintaining fiscal prudence and efficiency. The board of education acts as a single entity.  Authority is only granted to the board as a whole, rather than to individual members.  As such, in order for a board to be healthy and functional, it is critical that its members work together as a dynamic and productive governance team in order to make decisions that are ultimately in the best interest of our students.  We are fortunate in this regard.  The Robbinsville Board of Education has a long-standing reputation for putting the district first.

According to a survey conducted by the National School Boards Association, board members spend between 11 and 50 hours a month on board related duties.  Robbinsville board members are actively engaged on a variety of committees including policy, curriculum, facilities, personnel, community relations, security and negotiations. 

Based on experience, I can tell you that our board members devote countless hours to volunteer service every week. Much of this time is dedicated to reading policies, reviewing curriculum, evaluating various documents related to budget, facilities, transportation and security, just to name a few. Each of the nine members whom you elected offers a wealth of expertise and experience from the professional arena.  Many members have, or have had, children in our schools. This reinforces their understanding of how important it is to provide excellent opportunities and access for all students.  Other members are knowledgeable about finance and budget development and clearly see the challenges of optimizing public funds.

Did you know that one of our board members is a communications expert? Another served for many years in human resource management?  One is an attorney and one a special education advocate.  Because each member brings unique insight and personal perspective, the whole board can engage in robust and healthy debate while wrestling with complex issues, weighing consequences, and making thoughtful decisions for the district. As someone who has been a part of difficult deliberations involving budget cuts, new policy shifts, and personnel and student matters, I can say with complete confidence that each of our board members is committed to putting our students first. 

In his Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln extolls the sacrifices of those who died at Gettysburg in defense of the principles upon which our nation was built.  When he refers to our representative democracy as a “government of the people, by the people, for the people”, he is talking about the founding principles which empower ordinary citizens to actively participate and lead. A school district board of education represents the citizens of a community to help ensure high quality public education for all of its students.

It is an honor and privilege to work with each of our nine board members. Thank you Rich, Jane, Leslie, Sharon, Tom, Scott, Vito, Craig, and Lisa.  Our current members stand upon the shoulders of many before them whose service and selfless contributions led to new building facilities, new streams of sustainable revenue, coherent curriculum, and improved systems to strengthen the organization.

Thank you for your willingness to spend countless volunteer hours in order to serve the 3200 students of Robbinsville, New Jersey.  Thank you for bringing your passion, intellect, insight, and resources to the table.  Thank you for listening as well as speaking, for raising questions, wondering, and challenging your fellow board members and me.  This important back and forth enables us to make strong and well-reasoned decisions for the sake of our children and the Robbinsville Schools community.  We appreciate your abiding service, your loyalty, your leadership, and your guidance.  Thank you for always putting kids first!

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