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Agenda: State Board of Ed to Start Transition to New Commissioner

Meeting will include first steps toward David Hespe’s return to top post, action on renewed charter school code

state seal

Date: Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Time: 10 a.m.

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

What they are doing: The board meets for the first time since Gov. Chris Christie’s appointment of David Hespe as the next commissioner of education, succeeding Chris Cerf. The board is not required to confirm the appointment, but it does have oversight over the agency’s senior staff and will need to shuffle some seats so Hespe can start serving as acting commissioner within the month. The board will also take up the state’s charter school regulations, which the administration is proposing to keep unchanged for the time being. In addition, public testimony is planned for the afternoon.

Hespe in, Cerf out: For Hespe to take office this month, as planned, the State Board must first approve him as an assistant commissioner; he then can then be named as acting commissioner. There is little indication the board will not oblige. Hespe is not expected to become acting commissioner until March 20, with the acting position expected to be occupied by other assistant commissioners in the meantime. Once Hespe takes office, his final confirmation will come from the state Senate.

Charter regulations: The state board will be asked to renew the current charter school regulations, a move to keep the status quo that is sure to draw some protest. The state’s oversight of charter schools is a hot topic, and critics of state policies have sought significant changes to both the state’s charter school law and its regulations.

Religious holiday calendar: It’s that time of the year again, when the State Board must approve the calendar of religious holidays on which students are allowed to miss school with an excused absence. The list is exhaustive, with holidays continually updated based upon requests from the public and clergy.

Public testimony, delayed: Nearly 100 people signed up to testify before the board last month, many seeking to express concerns about reforms in the state-operated Newark school district. The meeting was postponed for a week due to a snow storm and the testimony was put off until this coming Wednesday. The public hearing is open for comment on all topics.

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