WARETOWN, NJ – School may be out for the summer, but the Township of Ocean’s School District and Board of Education were in full session last week. At the August Board meeting, a New Jersey School Boards Association (NJSBA) representative conducted a workshop on formulating goals.

“The Board’s self-evaluation is not mandatory,” said Mary Ann Friedman, NJSBA Field Service Representative. “However, we do recommend it as a best practice to check how individuals feel as far as themselves and the Board as an entity.”

Friedman explained that the process involves looking at nine different areas. Among them are planning policies, student achievement, Board operations and relationships between the Board and Superintendent, as well as the Board and the community.

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“Eight of the nine areas of the Board’s rating of the Board was greater or equal to individual ratings,” said Friedman. “We don’t see that very often.” 

According to Friedman, the correlation was “terrific” as it showed the Board was acting effectively together.

Moving forward, some of the same goals from last year were carried into the new year. The Township of Ocean School District will lose considerable state funding over the next five years, and the Board is taking steps to align its goals despite the loss.

One concern is ensuring students have up-to-date access to technology. Dr. Christopher Lommerin, District Superintendent said the district had a goal of fulfilling a one to one ratio for students to have laptops or computers.

“I think we got as far as third grade, “Lommerin shared. “The problem is that it costs money, and we had to rebuild that goal. Instead, last year, Pre-K through second graders had access to using technology in the library, rather than in the classroom.”

Board of Education President Shawn Denning, Jr. asked if the district had ever looked into “students bringing in their own technology.”

“I understand some students have lower socioeconomic status and may not have access,” he said. “Maybe if we had enough kids who bring technology in, IT could work to make sure their laptops are safe and school compatible.”

Board Member Brian D. Tart shared his experience with using cellphones at the high school level for various tasks, including use of the Quizlet application.

However, Denning expressed his concerns that younger children don’t necessarily have cellphones and he wouldn’t want to pressure parents to get them. “It’s one thing to ask them to bring in an iPad or laptop,” Denning said. “It’s another to force them to give their kid a phone.”

Friedman suggested the Board could investigate the concept of bringing in their own devices and develop a policy. Previously, a survey showed that most parents said they had technology available for their children at home.

For now, facilities appear to be a limited issue. However, in the event that they do come up, Board Member Kelly Zuzic suggested, “Budget restraints are going to force us to be creative with finance.”

Other concerns addressed during the presentation concerned student achievement. Denning brought up the fact that not all students attend the municipality’s Pre-K program, and there could, therefore, be gaps in achievement at the kindergarten level.

If the district receives funding for Pre-K students as young as three, the district could adopt a creative curriculum as one of those recommended by the state. The Board might then consider studying how starting children younger impacts them later in their education.

As the Board and the Superintendent developed goals, the focus was also directed to strengthening communications with parents and other members of the community.

Stephanie A. Faughnan is a local journalist and Director of Writefully Inspired, a professional writing and resume service. Feel free to contact her at sfaughnan@tapinto.net.