LIVINGSTON, NJ – The first summer session of the Livingston Board of Education (LBOE) tackled the topic of assessing how the board has hit and missed its marks on the goals it set for itself in February.

In the four major categories of focus—strategic planning, negotiations, finance, and board operations—the board said much was accomplished and only a few items remain that still need to be addressed. 

Working with the New Jersey School Board Association, which helped inform and guide the planning process, the LBOE adopted a five-year strategic plan that was completed in May and is currently being refined to create a companion action plan the LBOE can use to begin executing on the goals and objectives defined. The plan is aimed at incorporating feedback from all community stakeholder groups as well as fostering an environment, which would allow staff to support the various learning styles of a wide array of students and inspire those who work with them.

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By all accounts, the LBOE said it has met its intended goals in the strategic planning area.

One of the more robust and multi-tiered areas of the plan is the finance area. The primary aim of this area concentrates on using allocated funds both effectively and efficiently to achieve the goals outlined by the LBOE and the district while simultaneously promoting alternative revenue sources. 

Some of the designated activities have yet to take root—most notably the expansion of the Alternative Revenue Committee (ARC). To date, this committee is still in the nascent stages as old members are just now stepping off the committee and interim members were installed as recently as Friday, July 21. 

According to LBOE member Samantha Messer, who is spearheading this effort, the ARC and the Livingston Education Foundation (LEF) should be one in the same. 

“We held a meeting in May and several people showed up who were interested in joining the LEF in this regard,” said Messer.  “We have to determine now what we’d like to take on.”

Those interested in joining the ARC can still throw their hats in the ring at an upcoming meeting, the details of which will be announced in the next few weeks.   

“I think the education foundations that appear to be successful in other communities are ones that are able to integrate the work of the schools, the Parent Teacher Associations, the Home & School Association, and the educational foundations in a way that’s cooperative and not competitive,” said LBOE President Ronnie Konner. “Clearly everyone in Livingston is pulling together in this way.”

The area in which the LBOE exceeded its own expectations most was in Negotiations. 

“We were pleased to complete negotiations and have contract agreements in place for all three bargaining units before the start of the school year,” said LBOE Vice President, Pamela Chirls.

The final area, Board Operations, is dedicated to improving internal communications and communications with parents, students and community members. 

In the LBOE’s research of other five-member boards, it was discovered that those working with committees, which supply additional information on topics the boards are exploring before board members cast their votes on the issues, fared better.  Although the LBOE made a recent shift toward holding workshop meetings to discuss the issues they’re addressing in depth, followed by voting meetings in which the votes are actually cast, the addition of committees that directly support the goals of the strategic plan and would offer this added information was deemed by the LBOE to be a necessary enhancement going into the 2017-18 school year. 

Committees being considered include: curriculum, finance, health and wellness and human resources/personnel.

“The use of committees would allow us to study information a little bit differently and maybe streamline some of what our operational obstacles have been,” said Chirls. 

Committees would not meet as frequently as the LBOE meets, but would meet in advance of the workshop meetings. This change in structure may necessitate a parallel change to the LBOE’s meeting calendar so that it could accommodate the input from the committees, although the precise structure of these meetings is yet to be determined.

A policy around the committees and scheduling of meetings would be introduced in August with a follow up in September.