Dear School Community,
As the school year wraps up, I reflect on the many great things that happened this year. The most important thing was having the opportunity to listen and learn from a cross-section of people within the community. These conversations consisted of meetings with Board of Education members, district leadership, teachers, students, parents, union leadership, community organizations and city leaders. These actions were intended to gather information about the school system; to establish a climate of collective efficacy and community partnership; to assess the district’s strengths and challenges; and to identify a network of resources that will assist us in improving New Brunswick Public Schools. My Listening and Learning Tour included more than 170 school visits, to go along with attendance at approximately 50 community events and sessions. In addition, I participated in more than 200 separate district meetings, either at the main office or in one of the schools. And, I estimate I’ve spoken to more than a thousand individual people this past year during these various meetings.
One particular discussion stands out in my mind. I met with a group of New Brunswick Middle School seventh and eighth graders, and asked them what I could do to enhance their educational experience. One girl said to me, “When I tell people where I go to school, sometimes they are negative. If people already have an opinion of your school district, they have an opinion of you and that makes me feel like I can’t do well.”
I replied by asking the student what I could do to make things better. Her answer was: “I really like my school, but I don’t know what to say when people say negative things. If we had more things and information about the good things our school district does, it would help.’”
This was an eye-opening moment for me, and it brought tears to my eyes. I have heard such comments before … but it’s different when you hear it from a young seventh grade student. And it’s worrisome to realize that some students may be accepting a self-defeating mindset. The comments spoken by our students provided me clarity, purpose and focus and I quickly realized that a strong dose of positivity was in order. And this seemed fine to me, because there is much to be positive about.
During these meetings my intent was to listen and learn about the issues, activities and efforts throughout the district and not to evaluate. I have learned that our district’s faculty and administrators, more than half of whom hold advanced degrees, are passionate about what they do. They are excited, creative, and looking to improve their practice. It is terrific that they are so upbeat and are eager to teach, so I know our students will improve with some tweaking here and there. I have learned that our students are great and looking for the challenge that will engage them to be the best they can be.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to listen and learn from you. You have provided me meaningful information to assess the district’s strengths and challenges, identify critical issues and opportunities for improvement, while honoring the great work already in place. We will be able to formulate meaningful strategies that will allow us to work collaboratively and ensure higher achievement for all of New Brunswick Public School students.
Together we will Prepare, Empower and Inspire our students to be lifelong learners and leaders!
Thank you for a great year!