LIVINGSTON, NJ – The first Livingston Board of Education meeting of the year kicked off on Tuesday as two newly elected board members were installed and two long-standing board members were voted in as officers.

Business Administrator Steven Robinson formally announced the Nov. 8 election results, noting that voters awarded first-time LBOE members Samantha Messer (who received 7,522 votes) and George Shen (with 4,338 votes) the two open board seats, which they will fill for the next three years. Messer and Shen were sworn in and received framed plaques from Essex County acknowledging them as LBOE members.

Charles “Buddy” August, a 17-year member of the LBOE, then nominated Ronnie Konner as board president, which was seconded and unanimously voted in by the remaining members.

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“It is a real pleasure for me to nominate a long-time colleague but an even longer friend who’s been a board member and also a teacher in our district for many years,” said August.  

August also nominated Pamela Chirls, a former LBOE president who has also served on the board for the past five years, as vice president—a proposal similarly approved by all board members. Konner and Chirls will fill the spots vacated by outgoing president Ronnie Spring and exiting vice president Al Altman. 

Together with August, the three senior board members bring nearly 30 years of board experience to the table. 

“Each of you lend your unique experiences and expertise that will certainly enrich the board as a whole, this year,” Konner said. “Sam and George, you will bring us a fresh look at the many challenges we will meet this year, with the assistance of an exemplary administrative team and an outstanding staff to provide all the children of Livingston with a comprehensive education that prepares them for their future.”

Konner also spoke about the successful five-on-five initiative that took place in 2016, which gave members of the LBOE and the town council an opportunity to sit down together to discuss issues that they could collectively and collaboratively work on to benefit the residents of Livingston. She announced her intention to continue the initiative into the new year.

“We recognize that it is our responsibility as elected board members not to run the schools, but to see that they are well run; to effectively communicate the school programs and to listen to all our stakeholders prior to adopting policies for the schools; to set district goals for our school community; to approve a strategic plan to move our district forward; to adopt curriculum that meets the needs of our diverse student body and prepares them to compete in the global marketplace; to not only meet the educational needs of our children but their social and emotional needs as well; to adopt a fiscally responsible budget to support these programs; to hire the best educational staff and to provide them with appropriate staff development,” said Konner.  “We cannot meet these needs alone—we are a team.”

Konner challenged the LBOE to start the year off strongly with two meetings that will set the stage for the year to come.

The first will be held on Jan. 18 and will focus on the development of a strategic plan that will be discussed with both the administration and the New Jersey School Boards Association’s field representative. The second meeting—a voting meeting to be held on Jan. 23—will define board goals for 2017 and assign board members to annual committees based on their interests and strengths.

In closing, Konner polled LBOE members on the question of whether or not the board should continue to support the programs of the Livingston Education Foundation (LEF). 

“LEF has been very active in our community,” said Chirls. “They have done a lot of work with the elementary schools in the area of our instructional programs and they’ve done this in a very hands-on way. They have also worked to bring the sciences together with a lot of other disciplinary areas that I think our students benefit from.”

Chirls spoke specifically about the LEF’s garden initiative, which was supported in a number of Livingston elementary schools. Chirls said these gardens have enabled “hands-on, interdisciplinary study for many of our students.”

Board members voted in favor of continued collaboration with the LEF.