In Your Opinion: School District Does Not Need New Superintendent

Franklin-school-board-officeBy John Felix, Somerset

In a recent posting, the Community for Change (C4C) authors outlined their reasons for opposing the tenure of the Franklin Township BOE superintendent, as well as their ardent support for the non-renewal of the Superintendent’s contract. There are four reasons why families of school children should think twice about this.

According to the article, the stated purpose of C4C is to “provide the public with a conduit to gather information and to explore proper channels to bring about positive change for our community and our schools.” Though noble sounding, the organization’s “conduit” for gathering “information” is the realtor trade magazine New Jersey Monthly‚ and its annual “Top New Jersey High Schools” report, which is based on questionable analysis of raw data from the NJBOE. The C4C authors proudly cite the magazine’s proprietary formulated data‚ as evidence that our Superintendent is solely responsible for the district’s “steady decline in educational progress.” Nobody operates in a vacuum.

The reliance on the magazine’s ranking to denounce the tenure of our district educational leaders is unwise, spurious and malicious; it also belies the credibility and objectivity of those who choose to use dubious data as reasons for the dismissal of our Superintendent. The C4C authors claim that “numbers don’t lie,” however, they should be reminded that the methodology and data analysis by which numbers/rankings are derived can be flawed.

Second, the C4C, like other community members, must realize that test scores are not definitive or dynamic, and no one mathematical formula can account for the nuances that make a school district successful. In return to C4C invitation to “analyze the data,” I’ll ask that C4C members test the sensitivity and accuracy of the New Jersey Monthly magazine ranking data to determine whether or not incremental changes in its variables affect the ranking of individual schools.

Third, during the past several years our township schools have accommodated a wide range of socioeconomic families. Official census data show that 22 percent of Franklin’s school-age children are living below the state’s poverty level (Reference: http://www.lsnj.org/PDFs/budget/Benchmarks2013.pdf). The poverty rate for Franklin township public schools has doubled in the past two years; currently 44.8 percent of students in our nine schools are eligible for free and reduced-price lunches, which is a measurement of poverty. The challenge to central office personnel is providing adequate educational opportunities for a diverse student body with dwindling financial and human resources – and that problem will stand no matter who heads up the township’s school system.

Finally, there are other important factors that contribute to a successful school. These include responsible and sustained parent involvement, students‚ motivation to learn, the school climate and strong educational leadership with collaborative support from elected Board of Education officers. Though our school district has a strong, committed Superintendent, collaborative support from the current Board is lacking. The community should be aware that given the pervasive acrimony that hovers over our educational system, our township schools will never attract talented, qualified, independent educational leaders. We, as a multifaceted community, must bear some responsibility and demand more civility and responsible, constructive criticisms.

The Superintendent and his team have set the framework for future success for all students. The campaign to discount his achievements and orchestrate his ouster is simply wrong, short-sighted and without merit. Franklin Township Public Schools need the continued service of its current Superintendent for the following reasons:

  • Proven Strong Educational Leadership
  • Demonstrated success in our diverse school district and community
  • Marked improvement in students‚ academic achievement at FMS
  • Long term (seven years) sustained HSPA scores
  • Dramatic increase in PSAT and National Merit awardees
  • Transformation of a stagnant school district into a dynamic advancing school system
  • Committed to academic achievement for all students
  • Positive working relationship with parent groups, teaching staff and administrators
  • Independent leader, yet collaborative and open-minded to varying views
  • Implementation of sound forward-thinking and visionary educational policies

In conclusion, the unfair and biased portrayal of the Superintendent by C4C, and the undue influence of the organization on Board members have created an unwelcome and unnecessary toxic environment in our community whereby opinions and speculations are presented as “outlined facts” and reasons for “Lack of Educational Progress” are based on dubious data from a commercial trade journal magazine. It’s important to reiterate that the magazine’s data is meaningless and it certainly cannot be legitimately used to inform high-stake decisions such as school performance and contractual agreement of school district superintendents.

Unfortunately, the current state of education and public dissatisfaction with local district school leaders are not governed by disagreement of education polices, rather by political motivation and apparent personal vendetta. Even more daunting is the placating of elected Board officers to the demands of vocal detractors; the result could be the loss of seasoned, professional educational leaders with proven track records of success, and the subsequent return to the status quo – mediocrity, patronage and worst of all stagnant and/or diminishing student academic growth.

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