SOMERSET, NJ - When the Board of Education meets Thursday night, it hopes to adopt goals that will help put students in touch with their passions and look to challenge themselves more academically.

Last week, New Jersey School Boards Association representative Gwen Thornton assisted the board in coming up with the new goals which follow the district’s strategic goals of better student achievement, better outreach to the community and ensuring a smooth and equitable transition through the new district alignment that came with building a new school and reorganizing the district.

“Our challenge is to increase the numbers and populations that are not typically enrolling in (advanced placement) courses, while not impacting our performance.” Superintendent Dr. John Ravally said during the special July 18 workshop meeting where board members worked for more than an hour to create proposed district goals for next year. “You just can’t open the door (to enroll in these courses) and not support (the students).”

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Ravally said that the students are best served when they determine that they want to challenge themselves and are supported so they are in a position to succeed, rather than forced into a situation where it’s more likely they could fail, and then no longer want to challenge themselves academically.

“We want the students to make the choice,” Board Member Dr. Michael Smith said.

Ravally said that when the students make that decision, with the help and mentoring of teachers and other staff, research shows they are more likely to succeed and push themselves further in the future.

The panel decided to take a holistic view of each student and offer them more opportunities to find out what areas they may be passionate about in order to develop a plan for their education that would be in line with what they may want to do after leaving school.

Some proposed initiatives included holding career days where members of the community from different industries and vocations could come in and meet with the interested student to give them an idea about what they do and the educational preparation required for that field.

Members also said that something similar should be held in the lower grades to start students thinking about the possibilities and their potential.

Another proposal would allow younger students to explore advanced courses by allowing them to see some of that work and how what they are learning falls into that area.

The next goal was to create a way to track graduating students for several years past high school to see how they fared and if they were ready for the demands of either work or college.

“From a quality control standpoint, did a child that graduated from our high school succeed in whatever they chose to do,” Board Member Richard Seamon said. “I think it’s more important than ever that in grades seven, eight, and nine, kids be exposed to as much as possible.”

Ravally said that there are existing databases with different reunion organizations that could help get information tracking students out maybe 10 years from graduation that could be gathered to study.

The other goals the district will consider and vote to adopt this Thursday include making the school environment as safe as possible and to continue an equitable transition under the district’s new configuration.

If adopted by the board, the district goals will be used as a base to create goals for Ravally to complete to get a merit bonus next year.

Thursday night’s meeting at the Franklin High School cafeteria, is scheduled to begin with an executive session at 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. for the public meeting, according to the district.

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