State Board Says Goodbye To Commissioner Hespe, Welcomes Kimberley Harrington As Org Changes Happen and Other Initiatives Announced

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The New Jersey State Board of Education recognized the accomplishments of Commissioner David Hespe, who is scheduled to leave the Department at the end of the month.  The Board also approved several organizational changes, got a birdseye view of a newly developed tiered support initiative for students and got a first glance at technical changes to fiscal and accountability regulations as well as changes to ‘Persistently Dangerous School’ reporting.

Saying Goodbye

Presiding over his last state board meeting, outgoing education commissioner David Hespe – who held the same title from 1999 to 2001 – noted in parting remarks Wednesday that this was his second time to step down from the post.


He spoke of becoming the first person to be confirmed twice as a commissioner and “this equally noble moment today where I’m the first commissioner ever to resign twice,” a comment which elicited some laughs.

A former college professor, superintendent, head of Liberty Science, among other career changes, Hespe spoke of how he’d tell students in his school leadership classes that they should strive to look themselves in the mirror every day and be able to say they did what was best for children each time.

“The good news is I’m very comfortable I can do that. And the good news is everyone around this table should be comfortable that they can do that,” Hespe told the board, as he reflected on the work they’ve done together.

Members of the Board of Education praised Hespe as a quick study and a “strong leader” who possessed not only the technical know-how but the courage to speak his mind.  He was presented with a resolution from the Board thanking him for his service.

The outgoing commissioner also addressed his staff, saying they will be left in good hands. Kimberley Harrington, the department’s assistant commissioner and chief academic officer, has been named acting commissioner last week when news of Hespe’s resignation was announced.


A former classroom teacher, Harrington said she was honored and “completely humbled” to be selected for the role.

“I came to the department four years ago to advocate not only for children but to be a voice for educators,” she said.

Hespe will continue in his role until the end of this month to allow for a smooth transition for the new Commissioner

Appointments & Changes In Title

That transition didn’t stop at the top of the pyramid, however, with the Board approving several staffing and title changes as outlined in the table below:




Joshua Koen Chief Innovation Officer
Anthony Fitzpatrick Director, Office of School Innovation
Amanda Schultz Director, Office of Budget
Joseph Vitelli Director, Office of Administration

Title Changes



Karin Garver Deputy Chief Academic Officer

This NJDOE Organization Chart reflects the new changes.

Launching A New System of Tiered Supports

Changes in NJDOE leadership was not the only action item during the multi-hour session.  The Department unveiled its new Tiered System of Supports.  The new initiative dubbed, NJTSS,  is an evidence-based framework for implementing academic and behavioral supports and interventions to improve achievement for ALL students.


The system is based upon the core components of the three-tier prevention logic of Response to Intervention (RTI) but then layers in additional components unique to New Jersey.  These include:

  • Positive School Culture and Climate
  • District and School Leadership
  • Family and Community Engagement

The work was informed by both the Department’s work related to Special Education as well as analysis provided by the New Jersey School Boards Association working group.  NJPSA has been a partner in the initiative, with the Connected Action Roadmap an integral part of the program.

The new initiative dovetails not only with current, NJ Administrative Code but also allows for integration of Intervention and Referral Services and School Climate Teams.  It is also consistent with the Turnaround Principles developed under the ESEA waiver and the new version of ESEA, the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Its intent is to increase placement of students with disabilities in the least restrictive environment, reduce disproportionality and suspensions while improving positive post school outcomes.  The initiative is also incredibly timely in light of the Governor’s signature on legislation encouraging districts to implement quality RTI systems.  The initiative is being funded by a small federal IDEA grant.  Under the grant, the NJDOE is partnering with NJPSA, Rutgers, State Parents Advocacy Network (SPAN), and the Dumont School District.

Yesterday’s presentation also included an overview of the program in action courtesy of the Old Bridge School District.

NASDTEC Interstate Reciprocity Compact

The Board additionally approved continued involvement in a compact between states as it relates to  licensure of education professional.  The Agreement provide a mechanism to inform the Membership and the public of Jurisdiction- Specific Requirements for educator licensure in each Member Jurisdiction.  While licensure criteria differ from State and an educator’s license from one Member Jurisdiction is not automatically “exchanged” for a license in another Member Jurisdiction, the compact allows for some ease in transfer between member jurisdictions as it establishes minimum core competencies.  The Board approved the agreement which runs from 2015 to 2020.

Regulatory Flexibility & Relief

In housekeeping news, the Board also had a first discussion on changes to several code provisions that the Department argues will create additional efficiencies for districts and the State.

Changes are proposed for the following titles:

  • N.J.A.C. 6A:3, Controversies and Disputes
  • N.J.A.C. 6A:9, Professional Standards
  • N.J.A.C. 6A:11, Charter Schools
  • N.J.A.C. 6A:32, School District Operations

The changes to N.J.A.C. 6A:9, Professional Standards, are particularly germane to school leaders as it updates the Professional Standards for Educational Leaders to the 2015 standards which:

  • Are set forth by the National Policy Board for Educational Administration; and
  • Are considered to be a complete “refresh” of the ISLLC 2008 standards

The change has long been recommended by the State Professional Learning Committee  (which includes school districts, universities, and NJPSA).

NJPSA is currently reviewing the proposal and is expected to weigh in with the Board at next month’s State Board meeting.

ESEA Unsafe School Choice Option

The Board also had an opportunity to take a first look at proposed changes 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 ti 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 was an unveiling of the Department’s 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 unveiled.


Fiscal Accountability, Efficiency & Budgeting Procedures

The Department also proposed technical changes to chapters 16-22 of the current Fiscal Accountability,  Efficiency and Budgeting regulations.   Chapter 23A is divided into 2 major sections:

  • Commissioner has purview over subchapters 1-15
  • State Board has purview over subchapters 16-22

The current chapter is set to expire November 25, 2016.  This proposal is a re-adoption with only  technical amendments.  It is the Department expectation that they will do a substantive review with future rulemaking of Subchapters 16-22 which include rules related to: GAAP accounting, tuition calculations, student residency, public school contracts, and charter financial operations.

It is also hoped that they will be able to simultaneously move the subchapters under Commissioner review (1-15).  These subchapters include rules related to: definitions, ECS duties, school district fiscal accountability, travel policies, budget development & review, and state aid for charter schools.

Student Transportation

Also approved at proposal level was changes to regulation as it relates to student transportation, N.J.A.C 6A:27, in light of the enactment of Abigail’s Law.  That law required school buses manufactured on or after July 17, 2016, to be equipped with a sensor system to detect the presence of a person(s) or object(s) in the front and rear of the bus.   The sensor system is to include an audible and visual alert signal placed in the driver’s compartment to alert the driver when a person(s) or object(s) is detected within the sensor’s designated range.

Board of Examiners Appointments

Further, the Board approved the reappointment of three individuals to the State Board of Examiners for terms that expire on September 14, 2018.  Re-appointees include:

  • Jonathan Dauber, High School Principal, West Windsor – Plainsboro Public Schools;
  • Timothy J. Purnell, Superintendent, Somerville Public Schools; and
  • Kristin Hennessy, Teacher, Brielle School District

N.J.S.A. 18A:6-38 provides the State Board of Examiners with authority for issuing, revoking and suspending 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 of the State Board of Examiners shall be appointed by the Commissioner of Education with the approval of the State Board of Education for a term of  two years.  There are 14 positions on the board whose terms expire on a staggered schedule.

National Superintendent of the Year

Interestingly, Dr. Timothy Purnell of Somerville who was re-appointed to the State Baord, was on hand for the Board meeting to provide an overview of the transformative work going on in his district to the board.  His work centers on 6 key initiatives:

  • Strong Parent-Community Connections
  • Mission-Centered (#VISION2020 & WIGs)
  • Student-Centered Culture
  • Shared Leadership
  • Stakeholder Recognition / Communication
  • Best Practices/Promoting NJ

Certification of School Districts

  • The Board also approved 27 New Jersey Quality Single Accountability Continuum (NJQSAC) reviews (16 full and 11 interim reviews) as outlined inAppendix A.  Eleven districts scored 80 percent or above in all five QSAC areas and was certified for a three year period.  Sixteen districts scored below 80% in one or more QSAC areas and is required to implement a QSAC improvement plans to address deficient indicators.

PTA Members Honored

Finally, the Board recognized the work of the National Parent Teacher Association Membership in local schools.


Public Testimony

Registration for Public testimony at the October 5 Board Meeting will open September 15 and run through September 29.  Topics will include much of what was discussed at today’s Board meeting as well as several other topics.