In two weeks the residents of Warren will have the opportunity to bring new, experienced and proven leadership to Watchung Hills Regional High School Board (WHRHS) of Education. This is what I intend to do with your support and your vote on November 5th.

In order for the citizens to make an informed decision regarding which candidate to support I have committed to posting a new position statement each week leading up to the election.

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My priorities include:

  • High Quality, Well Rounded Education for EVERY Student
  • Open Communication and Transparency
  • Fiscal Responsibility, Accountability and Integrity

This week’s topic: Fiscal Responsibility, Accountability and Integrity.

Excellent stewardship of the resources provided by the taxpayers to support education is one of the hallmarks of a great board, and as a result, a great school and district.

Being fiscally responsible is one goal. For me it is much more just being responsible. We need to be fiscally effective.

Here is one example:

According to the financial information available from the Taxpayers’ Guide to Education Spending from the NJ State Department of Education, Watchung Hills ranks 7th out of the 47 regional districts (as categorized by the NJ Department of Education) for the percentage of budget going to administration. We have a higher percentage of our budget going to administration than any of our “peer” institutions (the six schools included in the District budget presentation for per-pupil spending comparisons). Looking at the same measure for extracurricular expenditures Watchung Hills ranks 30th out of the 47 regional districts and next to last in our comparison peer group. For me the question is: shouldn’t this be the other way around?

I believe a board should establish budget priorities based on the overall educational goals. We fund what we value. It is not enough to say something is important. We have to support areas of priority with funding, faculty and appropriate resources for success. Being too weighted toward administration is a concern to me. It raises some important questions regarding our educational priorities.

This brings us to the issue of accountability. The WHRHS Board of Education is responsible for setting the overall vision and direction for the school. In business, this is referred to as a strategic plan. A strategic plan creates the vision for “where we want to go” setting the overall direction of a business (or in this case, the district) with some key strategic objectives to help get there. A strategic plan creates a clear list of priorities establishing those that are valued by the board and the community. These priorities determine where time, energy and resources should be directed to ensure everyone is working together toward a set of common goals. Decisions are made based on how any item moves the organization toward the goals of the plan. A plan provides transparency. Transparency is the cornerstone of integrity.

For Watchung Hills, this plan does not exist.

As a former chairman of a publicly held company, having served as chairman of the board for many non-profit or trade association boards and being the CEO of my own businesses, I know from experience how important a clear strategic plan is to the success of any enterprise… including a school district. A strategic plan helps communicate the priorities of the district. It holds the board and administration accountable for their actions (or lack thereof) in working to achieve the goals of the plan.

It is one thing to be fiscally responsible in managing the budget and working to keep costs down. It is another to be fiscally effective where the public will be certain the funding made available is being invested to achieve a set of common goals on behalf of our students. We cannot be fiscally effective without a plan.

The best way to balance the educational needs of the community with the tax burden on our residents is by having a very strong plan that outlines the educational and institutional goals for the district.

The board needs to take control on setting the direction and developing a strategic plan for our district. A plan will help inform how we invest taxpayer funds so we are achieving the educational goals outlined in the plan.

Great schools do not become great by accident. Great schools have a plan.

This is being fiscally responsible.

This is being fiscally effective.

This is being accountable.

This is being transparent.

This is acting with integrity.

This is why I am running for the Watchung Hills Regional High School Board of Education.

Vote Bob Morrison on November 5th


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