State Board Moves Forward With Changes to Unsafe School Reporting, Makes Several Org Changes

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State Board Moves Forward With Changes to Unsafe School Reporting, Makes Several Org Changes

The New Jersey State Board, at their December meeting, made several organizational changes, moved forward with modifications to ESEA Unsafe School reporting and options, got an update on ESSA implementation and heard from Paymon Rouhanifard, Camden Superintendent on the status of Camden schools.   The Board also received a presentation on social, emotional and character development.

Social, Emotional & Character Development

The Board received a presentation from the New Jersey Alliance for Social, Emotional, and Character Development (NJASECD) on the groups work in New Jersey.  NJASECD assists

educators and all other stakeholders in their efforts to foster ethical, responsible and caring people as they model and teach the social emotional skills and ethical and performance values that lead to good character.  To provide the Board context of the work NJASECD is providing the Board heard from North Plainfield and what they’ve done related to character education.

ESSA Update

The Board also received an update from the Administration on implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), including a sense of how the Administration has engaged stakeholders, as well as what districts may be able to expect in the future in terms of support and flexibility.  These include:

  • A New Funding Stream ‒ Title IVA (Student Support and Academic Enrichment) will provide funds to districts receiving Title I funds that can be used to support a well rounded education, safe and healthy schools, and effective use of technology; and
  • Increased flexibility ‒ Title I, Part A Supplement, Not Supplant will be applied differently – focus on funds, not services, being supplemental ‒ Allowable uses of funds expanded in Title I, Part A, and Title II, Part A ‒ Transferability rules expanded

Additionally discussed was NJDOE support of districts during and after the implementation period.  This support includes live, as well as recorded, technical assistance sessions.  The Administration will provide another update in March of 2017.

Organizational Changes & Job Title Changes

Further, the Board approved several organizational and title changes.  These include the following changes:

Executive Services

  • The Chief Public Affairs Officer moved from the Division of Legal and External Affairs to Executive Services.

Office of the Deputy Commissioner

  • The Chief Intervention Officer was established and reports to the Deputy Commissioner.

Division of Finance

  • The Office of Interdistrict Choice and Nonpublic Schools moved from the Division of Legal and External Affairs to the Division of Finance.

Division of Teaching and Learning 

  • The Division of Early Childhood Education and the Office of Primary Education were merged to create the Division of Early Childhood Education and Family Engagement.
  • The Offices of Teaching and Learning Support and Academic Initiatives and Fiscal Accountability were merged to create the Office of Teaching and Learning Support and Fiscal Accountability.
  • The Office of Secondary Education was renamed the Office of Academics.

Division of Learning Supports & Specialized Services

  • The Office of Comprehensive Support and the Office of Tiered Support and Specialized Services moved directly under the Deputy Chief of Learning Supports & Specialized Services.


Division of Legal and External Affairs

  • The Office of Legislative & External Affairs and the Office of Charter & Renaissance Schools moved directly under the Director of Government Affairs.
  • The Office of Equity and Compliance moved from Executive Services and merged with the Office of School Ethics to create the Offices of School Ethics & Compliance.






Karin Garver Assistant Commissioner/Chief of Staff, Division of Executive Services Commissioner of Education
Christopher Huber Deputy Chief Legal Officer Chief Legal Officer, Division of Legal and External Affairs
Colleen Schulz-Eskow Director of Government Affairs, Division of Legal and External Affairs Chief Legal Officer, Division of Legal and External Affairs
Katherine Czehut Assistant Division Director, Office of Charter and Renaissance Schools, Division of Legal and External Affairs Director of Government Affairs, Division of Legal and External Affairs
Kathryn Whalen Director, Offices of School Ethics and Compliance Deputy Chief Legal Officer, Division of Legal and External Affairs
Vincent Costanza Co-Administrator, Division of Early Childhood Education and Family Engagement Acting Chief Academic Officer, Division of Teaching and Learning




Ellen Wolock Administrator, Division of Early Childhood Education Co-Administrator, Division of Early Childhood Education and Family Engagement

Unsafe School Choice Option

Additionally, the Board reviewed changes, at adoption, to reporting under ESEA as it relates to ‘persistently dangerous schools.’  ESEA,  as reauthorized under the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 requires States receiving funds to establish and implement a statewide policy requiring that students attending a persistently dangerous public elementary or secondary school (Provision I), or students who become victims of a violent criminal offense (Provision II) while in or on the grounds of a public school that they attend be allowed to attend a safe public school.

Recent federal guidance outlines the following requirements:

  • Develop objective criteria to use in identifying persistently dangerous schools
  • Use objective criteria which encompasses areas that students and parents would consider in determining a school’s level of safety
  • The measure should be both valid and reliable
  • Often-identified measures of danger include number of weapons seized, number of assaults reported by students, and number of homicides

NJDOE met with stakeholder groups, including NJPSA, in recent months to refine the current metric and process used to establish the New Jersey persistently dangerous school criteria.  Yesterday’s presentation provided additional specificity to Department recommended changes which must be adopted by the Board to become effective.  The following table outlines the changes between the 2003 and the proposed standard:


The proposal also updated language to refer to Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) rather than NCLB, established an “early notification” after one year, which is informational only, added language to encourage LEAs to seek arrangements for students to transfer to the nearest charter school or neighboring district, if available, and removed language regarding a victim “provoking” a crime.  A proposed timeline for implementation of the new standard, in light of the early notification process, was also reiterated.


Camden School District

The Board also heard from Camden Superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard on district strides toward improvement.  According to Rouhanifard, the percentage of students in K-8 that were in need of improvement dropped by 6 percentage points.  The district also plans to further reduce that rate through 2019, when it hopes no more than 15 percent of students are labeled underperforming or needing improvement.

Another set of data showed 4.3 percent of students in grades 3 through 8 were proficient in the PARCC math exams in 2014-15. A year later, 7.4 percent of students were proficient. English proficiency rates went up from 6.2 percent to 10.9 percent in the same period.

Since his arrival in Camden, the district’s graduation rate has improved from 49 percent to 64 percent, while the dropout rate has fallen about 15 percent, Rouhanifard said at one point during Wednesday’s meeting. He added that the district will share last year’s graduation rates in the coming days.

To help turn schools around, the district has taken actions ranging from hiring additional staff to expanding college-focused initiatives to expanding its “trauma-informed care” program, where school employees voluntarily make regular visits to the homes of chronically absent students.

Thirteen students were included in a pilot program last year, but the district plans to serve 200 students this year, officials said. The schools use a case-management approach to address the root causes of absenteeism. As a result, the district’s chronic absenteeism rate fell from 38 percent in 2014-15 to 31 percent last year, officials said.

In addition to the home visits, the district this year hired reading interventionists, deans to oversee school climate and culture – and to coordinate in-school suspensions and restorative justice efforts – and operations managers to handle non-academic issues while principals focus on instruction.

To encourage students to attend college, Camden high schools will administer the ACT and SAT to students during the school day, and the district will provide test-preparation courses. The district has also partnered with Camden County College to offer a dual-enrollment program where students earn college credit while in high school.

Rouhanifard also noted that the state recently approved a $133 million project to build a new high school.  Mayor Dana Redd, who attended the board meeting, reminded state officials that Camden was performing in the bottom 5 percent of districts in New Jersey when the state took over the school system.

State Special Education Advisory Council

The Board also approved several appointments – including two re-appointments to the State Special Education Advisory Council for a two year term:

  • Mary Ann Comparetto: is employed as the director of Parent Programs at the New Jersey Coalition for Inclusive Education (NJCIE) where she works with educators, legislators and parents to promote inclusive learning opportunities for students with disabilities.  Previous to that, she worked in various capacities for several chapters of the Arc in Maryland.  Ms. Comparetto is the parent of a child with autism.
  • Dorothy Van Horn: has 45 years of experience in public and private education as an educator in regular and special education. She has been the executive director/superintendent of the Brookfield Schools in Cherry Hill, New Jersey for the past 21 years.  Previous to that, she was the director of Special Education for 17 years at the Gloucester County Special Services School District.  She is the immediate past president of New Jersey ASAH and is also the past president of the National Association of Private Special Education Centers (NAPSEC).

State Board of Examiners

Further, the Board approved the appointment of Eileen Johnson, Superintendent, at Ventnor Public Schools     to the State Board of Examiners for a term to expire September 14, 2017.

The State Board of Examiners has the authority to issue, revoke and suspend educational certificates under rules prescribed by the State Board of Education.  Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:6-34, the membership of the State Board of Examiners must include an assistant commissioner, a county superintendent, two presidents of State colleges, two district superintendents, a high school principal, an elementary school principal, a school business administrator, a librarian, and four teaching staff members other than a superintendent, principal, school business administrator or librarian.  Members are appointed for a term of 2 years.  There are 14 positions on the board whose terms expire on a staggered schedule.  Members may be reappointed after expiration of their terms.

Certification of School Districts

The Board additionally approved 23 New Jersey Quality Single Accountability Continuum (NJQSAC) reviews (4 full and 19 interim reviews) as outlined in Appendix A.  Four districts scored 80 percent or above in all five QSAC areas and was certified for a three year period.  Nineteen districts scored below 80% in one or more QSAC areas and is required to implement a QSAC improvement plans to address deficient indicators.

Public Testimony & Department Response

Finally, the Board held at one code proposal related to Fiscal Accountability measures for Private Schools for Students With Disabilities (PSSD) to allow for more time to respond to constituent input.  The Board also announced the topics for public testimony in January.  These include: