LIVINGSTON, NJ — During his first six months as Superintendent for Livingston Public Schools (LPS), Dr. Matthew Block has made it a priority to connect with students and their parents; and he has proven his commitment to doing so by hosting “Coffee with the Superintendent” meet-and-greet events and starring in his own Livingston Television (LTV) show “Around the Block,” which is set to premiere on Wednesday.
“My central goal for this year is to connect with our community by listening and learning with the hope to gain a firm understanding of ‘all things Livingston,’” said Block, adding that because the school district is doing so well, the administration has the ability to “be thoughtful, deliberate and inclusive” as it “determine[s] the path forward for the Livingston Public Schools.”
Following the most recent meet-and-greet event, held on Jan. 25 at Heritage Middle School, Block said he is looking forward to “continuing discussions about what ideas [the community] might see as ‘next steps’ in [the] district’s continued development.”
“I am honored to be in Livingston leading an outstanding school district in a supportive community,” said Block. “Raising and educating children is a partnership, and I look forward to doing great things together on behalf of the students of the Livingston Public Schools.”
Since taking over as the permanent superintendent on July 1, Block said he has enjoyed learning about the inner workings of the Livingston school system and has made it his “mantra for the year” to connect with parents and encourage community feedback.
During the January meet-and-greet, the superintendent shared words of praise regarding the first half of the 2019-2020 academic year.
“Our schools have done a great job building community, delivering excellent instruction for our students, and we have already seen so much success in academics, athletics and the arts,” he said. “I have been so impressed with the energy and focus of our teachers, who bring a highly student-centered approach to their instruction.”
He also mentioned that Livingston offers a “broad spectrum of educational opportunities and services to students that are second-to-none” and expressed pride in the amount of volunteerism he has seen among Livingston parents.
“The amount of volunteerism and willingness to get involved in education in so many ways truly makes a positive difference to our district,” he said.
Block invites public input during his meet-and-greet events and also regularly encourages parents to attend board of education meetings to keep up to date on district happenings and to address any concerns they might have.
As open conversation ensued between Block and those present at his January gathering, Block spoke about some of the biggest changes that have occurred at LPS over the last few months.
Following the recent Ransomware attack on the district’s servers, Block said one of the major changes has been altering “some of the security procedures for [the district’s] digital network and new protocols implemented for technology systems.”
In response to a parent’s inquiry about the cyber attack, Block noted that LPS “earned the designation of a ‘Future Ready’ school district from the New Jersey Department of Education last year because of [the district's] effective implementation of digital learning” and assured parents that LPS teachers continue to utilize technology for instruction as well as administrative functions despite the recent challenges.
“The compromise of our servers and network was a significant issue for us,” he said. “Losing just about all of our digital capabilities in an instant did present many challenges.”
He explained that some of those challenges have included implementing a new Email system and new security systems, altering some operational structures to improve communications and turning the Genesis Grade Portal offline during school hours.
However, Block was impressed that the LPS faculty members, teachers and administrators “immediately put in whatever extra time and effort it took to allow [the schools] to continue delivering instruction and other services for [the] students.”
“I am honored to be working with a great team of educators who respond to surprises with creativity, flexibility and professionalism,” said Block, adding that the situation “allowed [him] to see the dedication and ingenuity of our outstanding team.”
When another parent asked about how Block plans to make improvements throughout the district moving forward, the superintendent replied that he and the members of the Livingston Board of Education strive to be on the cutting edge of education developments and are always searching for the next innovation.
He also spoke about introducing students to real-world problem solving and cited the high school’s new Senior Internship Program as an example of how the district provides opportunities for students to gain post-academic experience.
Board members in attendance at Block's meet-and-greet event reiterated that there are 36 Advanced Placement (AP) “trade classes” offered at the high school across all program areas and about as many for those interested in vocational and technical subjects. Some programs, to name a few, include culinary, engineering, welding, robotics and television production courses.
The next “Coffee with the Superintendent” event will be held on March 12 at 7 p.m. at Harrison Elementary School. Another event will be held on April 23 at noon at the district office located at 11 Foxcroft Drive.
Block's new television program, "Around the Block," will premiere on LTV on Wednesday at 5 p.m. Filmed, produced and edited by Livingston High School TV Production students, the first episode features interviews with four new LPS principals, including Justin Toomey (Riker Hill), Bronawyn O'Leary (Mt. Pleasant Middle), Lorena Dolan (Mt. Pleasant Elementary) and Michelle Cebula (Collins).
Block also keeps the community up to date on important district news through his Twitter account (@DocBlockLPS).