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Agenda: N.J. State Board of Education

On the docket for the Board of Education's monthly public meeting: superintendent certification, key department personnel and teacher evaluations.

Date: Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Time: 2 p.m.

Place: NJ Department of Education 1st floor conference room, 100 River View Plaza, Trenton.

People: Thirteen members appointed by Gov. Chris Christie for staggered six-year terms, including four new appointees who have already taken an active and vocal role on the board. The meeting is led by the board’s president, Arcelio Aponte, and the acting state education commissioner, Chris Cerf, also attends, as do his top assistants and staff.

Alternative certification for superintendents: The state board is weighing a proposal to loosen the rules on whether formal certification is required to lead a school district. The proposal specifically targets districts with low performance records and says they could hire, with state approval, non-traditional candidates from, say, business, military or other government sectors. Still, some have questioned the plan and said certification is now in place to help ensure school leaders have the needed experience and training.

The board has the proposed administrative code under consideration for vote later this year, and it holds a public hearing on Wednesday afternoon to take public comment and questions. The hearings, often lightly attended and late in the day, are one of the few opportunities for public input in the board’s deliberations.

Personnel: The state board has final say on many top department staff, and as it takes up personnel matters in closed executive session before its meeting this week, it has a bunch of key jobs on its plate. Cerf has yet to pick most of his top assistant commissioners and office directors. He says he’s conducting an internal review of the entire operation, both in Trenton and the county field offices. But many of the appointments will also require confirmation by the state board, and while each is usually approved, the executive sessions are typically where the questions get asked. In a change of routine, the executive session is being held this month on Tuesday afternoon at 4 p.m., due to a scheduling conflict, officials said.

The board must also give final approval to the imminent appointment of the Newark school superintendent, a closely watched choice not just in New Jersey but also nationwide. Press reports say there are two finalists for the job: New York City regional superintendent Cami Anderson, and former Seattle superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson. The administration has yet to show its hand, but Christie said in March that a decision will be made by early May.

Teacher evaluation: The head of a Christie task force charged with developing a new teacher evaluation system for the state will come before the board on Wednesday. The chairman, North Brunswick superintendent Brian Zychowski, will give an overview of the report that will become a central piece in Christie’s proposal for reforming teacher tenure and accountability. The state board doesn’t have direct say on the plan until it becomes law and comes back as administrative code and guidance for districts to implement. But the board often hosts such presentations on major education issues facing the state.

In other business: The board will also take up a number of routine matters, including the presentation of the New Jersey School Business Administrator of the Year, certifications of school districts, a public hearing on student transportation code, and a report on the national Common Core State Standards.

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