My name is Bob Morrison, and I am running for reelection to the Watchung Hills Regional High School Board of Education.
My family and I have lived in Warren Township since February of 2002. My wife is a teacher in a nearby school district. Both of our children have attended Warren Township Schools. My oldest graduated Watchung Hills Regional High School in 2013 and graduated from Ithaca College in 2017. My son graduated in 2017 and is in his junior year attending West Chester University.
I am currently the CEO of Quadrant Research – a national educational data management and analytics company and the Director for Arts Ed NJ – the statewide arts education advocacy organization.
For the past six years, I have had the privilege of representing Warren Township on the WHRHS Board of Education where I have served on the Education (currently as chair), Strategic Planning, Operations and Personnel Committees, chaired the Policy Committee and most recently served as Vice President and then President of the Board. During my tenure, we have brought forward several important improvements to the district. These include: the development of the district’s first-ever strategic plan, creation of Expected Schoolwide Learning Results, completion of the referendum funded projects for replacing the aging heating system and roofing (on schedule and on budget), upgrades in technology including 1 to 1 Chromebooks, expansion and diversification of elective offerings to allow students to find their passion, replacement of the turf field through the acquisition of significant state funding, and supported returning funds to taxpayers from increased state education aid. I been chosen by my peers as the President of the Somerset County Schools Boards Association and have been appointed to the board of directors for the New Jersey School Boards Association (NJSBA). Most recently, I was recognized by the NJSBA with their highest honor… Certified Board Leader one of only a handful of the more than 5,000 New Jersey school board members to achieve this distinction.
In addition to my service on the WHRHS Board of Education, I have been active in our community for nearly twenty years including many years as a volunteer coach with Warren Baseball Softball, Inc. for both the recreational and travel baseball teams. During Hurricane Sandy, I helped organize and serve as an administrator of the Warren Township Community Forum on Facebook. As a result of our work with the forum after Superstorm Sandy, I volunteered to serve as co-chair of the Warren Township Utility Advisory Committee where I led a community-wide review of the town’s electrical infrastructure, a project that earned the Sustainable New Jersey Creativity and Innovation Award.
I have a long and successful history in business, philanthropy, and education.
Visit my LinkedIn profile for my complete professional background regarding the businesses I have successfully created, built and led as well as the significant recognition and honors my work has received.
I have served on many non-profit, for-profit, and higher education boards. I have personally started several successful non-profits dedicated to education, music, and the arts. These experiences have provided me direct experience with the proper role and function of board governance overseeing complex organizations.
For more than 30 years, my professional career has required my direct involvement with educational policy issues. This has included working with education officials in the administrations of George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. Much of my work has centered on issues related to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (also known as America 2000, Goals 2000, No Child Left Behind and now the Every Student Succeeds Act know as ESSA). I have also worked with the Departments of Education in more than a dozen states, including New Jersey and have provided policy guidance to several Governors and a presidential campaign. I served on the New Jersey Department of Education’s ESSA stakeholder taskforce to develop implementation plans for the new federal education legislation and have worked with every New Jersey commissioner of education since 2005. In 2016, I was recognized with the Governor’s Award in Arts Education for my service to the state of New Jersey.
Issues involving accountability, evaluations, student achievement, funding and the tension between a culture of testing versus the need for a well-rounded education are not just buzzwords to me. These are areas where I have spent a great deal of time and energy learning the issues to make informed decisions. I have called on this experience for my service to the community.
My focus for the next three years centers on these four areas:
- Revision of the Strategic Plan.
- Significantly improved communications with the community, faculty and sending districts.
- Fiscal Responsibility.
- Ensuring we maintain a well-rounded education based on student needs and not administrative wants.
1. Revision of the Strategic Plan: During my first term in office one of my major areas of emphasis was the development and approval of the district's first-ever strategic plan. The Board approved the strategic plan and underlying objectives in June of 2016. In addition, I championed the development and adoption of a set of "Expected Schoolwide Learning Results" (ESLRs) to identify the characteristics needed for our students to be successful in life. In my second term, the focus has been all about the implementation of the plan. It is now time to review the effectiveness of the strategic plan and engage the community in a revision process that includes all stakeholders. It will then be the board's job to oversee the implementation of the new plan and hold the administration accountable for progress in meeting the revised goals and objectives.
2. Improved Communications: One of the areas of greatest frustration for me has been in the area of communication. The Watchung Hills Regional School District has not been effective in communicating with our community, parents or other stakeholders. There have been too many instances where varying groups have felt blindsided or ignored. This must change. I have fought for our meeting to be broadcast (they now are!). For the past year I have been pushing for the implementation of an annual "climate survey" of all stakeholders including students, faculty, staff, parents and community members so we have the input we need to ensure we are providing the best educational experience for our community and we are truly serving the needs of the community. This will finally take place during this school year! Just as I have for the past six years, I will continue to host community coffees for residents to share their thoughts and concern. I pride myself on being completely accessible to all residents hosting informal coffees and welcoming all calls, emails or meetings with any individual or group.
3. Fiscal Responsibility: I have been an outspoken advocate for exploring ways to save money including pushing for a community-wide review with our sending districts to explore areas where we may share services. These meetings are finally taking place. In addition, the Governor just announced a $2 million funding pool for use by school districts to pay for feasibility studies for school district consolidation. While I personally do not know if district consolidation would be appropriate for our community at this time... I do believe we should take advantage of the state funding to determine what, if any, fiscal and educational benefits may occur through a formal shared services agreement or outright consolidation. Many residents have commented to me about the number of school districts in such a small area. The state is now providing us with an opportunity to find out if there are any real fiscal and educational benefits to consolidation... or not. Getting the answer to this question costs us nothing and ensures we are doing our "due diligence" on behalf of the residents.
4. A Well-Rounded Education:
"Many of the students entering Watchung Hills over the next four years will end up in jobs that do not exist today, in industries that have yet to be invented."
Scoring well on tests is one thing. Developing the skills to be successful in college and career is another. Success in language arts literacy and math is important. However, this should not be at the expense of providing a well-rounded education for all students. This is why I was such a firm believer in the development of our Expected Schoolwide Learning Results. We need to help our students develop skills needed so they may be applied to a wide variety of career paths… to be successful in these industries that have yet to be invented. Providing a robust curriculum with opportunities in the core content areas combined with rich extracurricular offerings is the pathway to educational success. I am proud of the work we have accomplished to increase course offerings driven by student interest. I have also been a watchdog to protect against the encroachment of a "testing mentality" into our schools. I will remain committed to both expanding offerings for our students and keeping the testing industrial complex from distorting our priorities so we may protect the integrity of our educational environment for students. I remain committed to continuing to work hard on behalf of the residents and our students to make this success possible.
Keeping My Promise
All of these experiences, combined with my dedication to our community, allowed me to become an effective advocate on the Watchung Hills Regional High School Board of Education for the citizens of our township. This is a demonstration of my keeping my promise to represent the interests of our community and our students.
I believe my record of service speaks for itself.