Agenda: Hespe Makes His Swan Song as Commissioner

John Mooney | September 7, 2016 | Education
Back-to-school meeting dives into fiscal rules, puts off some other more controversial topics

Date: Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016

Time: 10 a.m.

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

Hespe departure: State Education Commissioner David Hespe is expected to attend his final State Board meeting in office, after announcing last week that he would be leaving by the end of the month. He is to be replaced by assistant commissioner Kimberley Harrington. Otherwise, the board is dealing with mostly procedural matters at its first meeting of the new school year, with new rules for charter schools and for superintendent pay put off for at least another month.

Commissioner’s durability: Hespe is leaving after 30 months on the job as Gov. Chris Christie’s appointee –- and that was just his latest stint. Hespe also served close to two years under former Gov. Christine Whitman, meaning he has held the job longer overall than any commissioner since Leo Klagholz’s five-year run in the late 1990s.

Takes its toll: “When you look back and see how difficult this job can be and what you have to put into it, I think anybody would realize the ability to sprint that long is difficult,” Hespe said in an interview after his announcement. “I don’t think any 30 months could have been more difficult.”

Fiscal accountability: The State Board will get a first look at new fiscal accountability regulations mandating how schools keep their books and manage their funds. By and large, most of the changes are small revisions and involve a tightening of language, officials said.

Not yet on superintendent pay: This is just the first chapter of new regulations to come before the board, with the next ones sure to get more attention in the coming months. Among them is a new set of accountability rules to address Christie’s controversial limits on superintendent pay, which expire in November. Christie in an Essex County press conference yesterday said he has yet to decide on whether to loosen, expand, or leave the current rules as-is.

Not yet on charter regulations: The same can be said for new charter school regulations that Christie announced with notable fanfare in the summer but has yet to detail what they will actually be. Expected is a significant loosening of rules on charter schools around such areas as facilities and teacher qualifications.

Open topic: The board will hear public testimony at 2 p.m. on any topic.