Margaret Dolan, Superintendent of the Westfield Public Schools, has been named Union County Superintendent of the Year. This distinction is given to a select group of superintendents in New Jersey by the county school administrator associations.
An educator for 35 years, Dr. Dolan was appointed Superintendent in 2007, having served in Westfield in previous administrative roles as Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction and Program; Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources; and Principal of Franklin School.
Dr. Dolan oversees 10 schools serving the town’s 6,300 students – the largest Westfield enrollment in 35 years.
A strong supporter of technology, Dr. Dolan has directed several recent initiatives, including a new wireless network in all schools and a faster internet connection, hundreds of new devices for student use, increased training of teachers and staff, and the addition of new positions, including Master Technology teachers. Recently one of these teachers was named a "20 to Watch" Leader in Advancing Education Technology by the National School Boards Association.
Leading a five-year Strategic Plan for the district, the Westfield Superintendent of Schools placed the incorporation of 21st century skills as a major goal to strengthen student engagement, global connections and multiple perspectives. As part of this effort, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) initiatives have been expanded – including a new course in Robotics – as well as the successful pilot of Mandarin Chinese, which Dr. Dolan had advocated for several years. This summer, the district launched its first STEM Camp to resounding response by the community.
Dr. Dolan continues to encourage conservation – which has saved the district more than $2 million in utility costs -- and works closely with the 9-member Board of Education to demonstrate fiscal responsibility to taxpayers and compliance to the ever growing number of state mandates for public schools.
State recognitions this year included praise from the Commissioner of Education for the many noteworthy student achievements in Westfield and to the staff for the important role they play in nurturing great students. In addition, the Commissioner and the State Board President recognized at a ceremony in Trenton the Westfield High School Community Service Club for its volunteer efforts throughout the state. The NJ Governor’s Award in Arts Education was presented to two Westfield High School seniors, and both the boys and girls swim teams captured state championships.
As a former teacher and principal, Dr. Dolan is fully aware of the importance of a safe, friendly, and effective school environment. She has developed an excellent rapport with town officials, police and fire departments, and has made safety implementations an important part of the district budget. With schools averaging 73 years in age, repairs and replacements are regular occurrences. To make roof replacements and repairs possible, she reached out to the public who supported a bond referendum in December 2012 for this project.
With safety and health of students a priority, Dr. Dolan fully endorsed the opening of a fitness center at Westfield High School in 2012, a portion of which was made possible by community funding.
A lifelong advocate for the arts, Dr. Dolan, who herself is a musician, recognized 28 Westfield secondary students who were accepted to the 2013 Central Jersey Music Educators Association Region II Ensembles or Eastern Region Ensembles. These students auditioned with hundreds of other student singers and musicians. Throughout the year, she ensures that the public feels welcomed to art shows, plays, and concerts, including special performances for senior citizens.
Dr. Dolan regularly communicates with the community through releases to the media, announcements on the district’s website, the online publication of Synopsis (her summary of Board meetings), and the availability of Board meetings on TV and the Web. Dr. Dolan also communicates directly to parents through e-mails and holds two meetings a month with PTO representatives of all 10 schools. A few years ago, she directed the revamping of the district website, and in 2014 a new and improved website is anticipated. The latest communication feature endorsed by Dr. Dolan is a Twitter feed, which has been operational since November 2012.
The Westfield Superintendent takes the hiring and cultivating of district staff very seriously. Once teachers are hired, they attend a two-year New Teacher Institute, a unique program in which a team of teachers with 1 to 8 years of experience in the classroom provide regularly scheduled group support for their newer colleagues. The program has been cited by the County for its innovation and was also featured in School Leader magazine, published by the New Jersey School Boards Association.