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High Marks for BOE Relations With Schools Chief, Staff

Board identifies finance and its relationship with the community as challenge areas.

The Jefferson Township Board of Education is strong in the areas of operations, its relationship with the superintendent and its relationship with school staff, according to a report of the board’s self-evaluation.

Robyn Meehan, a field representative for the New Jersey School Boards Association, delivered the report, which is required for the New Jersey Quality Single Accountability Continuum (NJQSAC) monitoring and evaluation system for public school districts statewide, during the board’s Monday meeting.

Meehan gave kudos to the board for its relationship with both school staff and Superintendent Joseph Kraemer. She noted that although Kraemer has only served in the role for a year, he has been with the district for eight years.

“Everybody seems to see it as a really good relationship, which is wonderful,” she said.

In terms of board operations, the field representative said she particularly liked one member’s comment expressing interest in additional training.

Of the nine evaluated areas, Meehan said there were some discrepancies between how members thought they were doing individually and how they thought the whole board was doing. Individuals fared better than the group in five of the areas, including planning.

However, she said most of the comments given by board members contradicted this and gave the impression of a board that works well together. One comment recognized this, saying that the board had previously gone through a “period of disharmony” but has mostly resolved its issues.

Policy was one area where members graded themselves better as a group than individually.

Meehan also addressed the two major challenges reported—finance and the board’s relationship with the community. She said that Jefferson is the “umpteenth” district that to comment on not fully understanding the district’s financial reports and suggested members either go through training or pull Business Administrator Dora Zeno aside during meetings for extra assistance.

She said a board’s relationship with the community is usually a “contentious” part of the process.

“It’s a fine line you walk because there’s certain information that can’t go out until it’s ready to go out,” Meehan said. “But the community also wants to know what’s happening.”

The best the board can do, she said, is to keep inviting the public to its meetings and to “take it as a compliment” if huge groups of people don’t attend.

“In any board of education, if you have a huge room full of community members and stakeholders, there’s a problem,” Meehan said. “It’s sad to say this, but the only time we get trounced is when people are upset.”

Based on the evaluation, the field representative also gave a few suggestions to improve the board’s processes, such as instituting a goal for committees to release their agendas to all members two days before meetings. This way, she said, members will be able to ask questions of committee chairpersons before any decisions are made or action is taken.

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