A new year brings a mixture of new and old challenges for education in Livingston Public Schools. A superintendent search and possible school construction will likely be among the biggest issues tackled in 2013 by the Board of Education.

Here are five things to watch for in 2013:
1. School Construction: Livingston Public Schools is exploring additions and renovations at the elementary schools to increase future capacities for 2015 and beyond as the District prepares for as many as 300 new students.

The Board of Education has been discussing and analyzing the impact of four proposed housing developments in Livingston. Elementary schools already are operating at capacity, and the plan is to build enough classrooms to hold the additional students from these new developments.

In addition, LPS currently has more than 130 students in expensive out-of-district special education programs. If space was available, the Strategic Plan calls for our teachers and support staff to educate these children in the classrooms of Livingston Public Schools. It’s best for the students and their families that these students be educated within District classrooms. If the space is available and the special education programs can be housed in District, the minimum savings of $750,000 per year could be realized.
“LPS will face a serious and impactful classroom shortage in the very near future,” said Superintendent Dr. Brad Draeger. “If you don’t start now,” said Draeger referring to a possible referendum to approve funding for the construction, “you won’t be ready when the students start to enroll.”

As part of the process, preliminary plans have been sent to the state seeking approval for 14 new classrooms and three learning resource centers. The plans in preparation for a final LBOE referendum decision were approved unanimously by the Board in November, following presentations on the long-term facility needs.  

The Board of Education is scheduled to discuss and possibly decide on Wednesday, January 16 whether to hold a public referendum to seek approval of funding to improve school facilities (Learn more on the District’s website @ A First Step for School Construction).  The community is encouraged to attend this meeting of the Board of Education to learn firsthand the specifics of the needs on this critical issue affecting the future of Livingston Public Schools.

2. Superintendent Search: The Board of Education will also begin a search for a new Superintendent of Livingston Public Schools. Superintendent Dr. Brad Draeger has announced his retirement at the end of this school year. Draeger landed many accomplishments as head of the 5,800-student district. He spearheaded successful bond referendums that brought multi-million dollar expansions and renovation to district schools and also created the district’s first ever Strategic Plan.

 During his tenure, LPS improved student achievement, enhanced facilities, improved technology, and provided inclusionary programs for in-district special education students. (Learn more on the District’s website @ Livingston Superintendent to Retire).

3. Teacher Evaluations: New Jersey’s plans for having a teacher evaluation system in place by the next school year are in full swing, with districts, including Livingston Public Schools, putting key pieces in place.

On December 10, the Livingston Board of Education approved the models to evaluate the performance of teachers and principals. A teacher’s tenure protections will hinge on how they fare in their annual evaluations. Student test scores will also be included as part of the calculation in determining the final evaluation rating, mandated under the tenure reform legislation signed by Gov. Chris Christie. (Learn more on the District’s website @ Teacher Tenure Reform: LPS Moves Closer).

4. School Security: Since the senseless violence at Sandy Hook, extensive discussion about school safety has begun in Livingston and throughout the country. Livingston Public Schools has closely examined the strong security it has in place and steps have been taken to secure even further school entrances during and after the school day. Emergency plans at Livingston Public Schools have been in place for many years. In 2013, this comprehensive plan -- which covers a wide variety of emergencies and serves as a guide to help staff and our public safety partners respond swiftly should a crisis occur in our schools -- will be further reviewed. (Learn more on the District’s website @ School Safety & Security).

5. Academic Distinction: When Zach Lustbader, the 2012 Valedictorian, was named one of just 12 students in the world to earn a perfect score in Macroeconomics AP exam, it marked just one area where Livingston students are excelling. At Livingston High School, more students are taking AP – Advanced Placement – classes than ever before and most (95.5 percent) are also passing the tough AP exam. SAT scores continue to rise, and throughout the District we’re seeing the highest levels of student achievement.

Empowering all to learn, create, contribute, and grow. It’s not just a catchy saying at Livingston Public Schools. It’s a promise of great expectations, from our youngest learners to our high schoolers, nearly 6,000 in all.