The Importance of Union & Superintendent Relationships

Chances are you’ve watched the cinema classic “The Godfather” before. If you haven’t, there is a great scene where  Marlon Brando is talking to Al Pacino and other “members of the family” about relationships. 

Before I go any further, no, education is not a correlation to mafia ties 🙂

It IS, however, based on relationships.

The scene above has several heads together talking about issues at hand and how to move forward. The relationships in this scene are crucial for the entire operation to work. The family in the educational setting is just as important. The stakeholders sitting at the educational table:

  • Superintendent / central office
  • Maintence / operations
  • Administrators
  • Business Administrator
  • Teachers
  • Parents
  • Students

But most importantly – the President of the Union.

Yes, the Union President and the Superintendent need to have a superb, open, honest relationship. Why? So many reasons, but my top three are:

  • The ability to fix issues as they arise (i.e. Before molehills turn into mountains).
  • The opportunity to alleviate that “us vs them” mentality.
  • The chance to collaborate and openly focus on a uniform message of positivity.

In my last District, the Union President and I had a great relationship. Sadly, it drove those that are angry, bitter, disenfranchised, or just plain useless crazy. They could not wrap their heads around people working together. We did, we did it well, and we accomplished a hell of a lot, despite what they naysayers (clearly not informed) thought of it.

In my new District, the officers of the new Union met and had a long lunch at a diner (remember, I’m in NJ, the diner epicenter). We laughed, we threw cards on the table, and we left excited. We have challenges ahead, and at some point we will probably disagree, but we’ve begun on a great foot. I hope those looking to move upward follow my lead. It will make your life much easier.


Three Takeaways from the NJASA Spring Conference 

Some in education think a “Superintendents Comference” and they think this:  

  Or they think this:  

It’s neither! It’s a group of professionals, young and old, together, collaborating to ensure what’s best for our students. 

The NJASA spring conference took place last week. A time for Superintendents and central office personnel to get together, collaborate, hear some great speakers, and “get off the island” to socialize with those in the same position.  Every conference is a little different — this one is much more laid back (no BOE members, teachers, no building level admin) and offers more opportunity to have those paramount face-to-face conversations. 

My takeaways: 

1) Great keynote speakers. There are smart people and there those who are so smart you try to understand how smart they are. Our first keynote was V.A. Shiva Ayyadyarri. Born in India, lived in NJ, and has done lots of things so far in life, like invent email. Seriously.  Never did I ever think I would get to meet the person who invented email. A fascinating lecture on innovation and what we need to do as school leaders.

2) I learned how to incorporate STEAM into a garden. Yes, you read that correctly. The admin team from Mount Laurel (perhaps I’m biased because I live here) presented a great workshop on not only the steps to create a sustainable garden for students to tend to, but how to archive it with student-centered activated from start to finish. Everything from the design to what was being grown was student lead. The garden eventually brought in parents and members of the community to show how they became “stewards of the environment”. Really cool stuff.

3) Conversations with NJASA officials and fellow Superintendents. Whether it was catching up with colleagues over a cup of coffee, or the side conversations in the halls showing people the benefits of social media, nothing is better than seeing everyone together. At one point, Rich Bozza, the NJASA Director, called me over to his table to discuss some current and future programming. This continued into the evening, as pacts of Superintendents showed up by county to discuss various issues. One of the best moments of the evening was to meet with Dr. Lamont Repollet, the Superintendent of Asbury Park. We had a fantastic conversation about Twitter and how to harness its power. I’m glad we connected face to face, and now our doors are open.

As for my presentation, I felt it bombed. The internet cut out, my projector blew a bulb, and my links were not working. BUT – since we were all educators in the room, we adapt, and we go. We still left energized and ready to bring back new apps and extensions to their districts.

All in all, a great conference. Looking forward to wrapping up the school year — and preparing for the next one.


#InnovateNJ video – Growing. Learning. Innovating.

innovateNJ is New Jersey’s initiative  to support innovation and practice by fostering sharing and collaboration, cultivating projects, and convening practitioners and partners. We hope that your active participation in innovateNJ will help facilitate next-generation instructional practices that will promote and heighten the college and career readiness levels of our students. Part of the admissions process was to submit a short video with an overview on how we innovate — thanks to WeVideo, lots of stock footage, and Jeff Bradbury (@Teachercast), we assembled a great video in a short amount of time.  Not knowing where to start, we began pitching some ideas back and forth, I wrote an audio script, and it went from there.

Once again, the power of the PLN.  Collaboration, drive, and dedication to the craft. Not ‘ripped off, not petty, not pathetic’ as one person attempted to put it; pure collaboration and innovation.  Seriously – who would sit and belittle a colleague? Some call it hyper-sensitive, most call it sad, all call it a last-ditch attempt to try to save face.  Too late for that.

Back to what’s important, back in April the Office of School Innovation inducted the members of Cohort 2 innovateNJ Community.  Seventeen Districts from the State of New Jersey became part of the ever-growing innovateNJ Community.  After a welcoming speech from Assistant Commissioner Evo Popoff and Director of School Innovation Takecia Saylor, the members were treated to amazing presentations from members of theinnovateNJ Community who are already partnering and collaborating with other districts to bring best innovative practices to all students in their districts.

The Office of School Innovation congratulates the Cohort 2 members of the innovateNJCommunity.  After a lengthy and rigorous application process, seventeen districts were selected to become part of this vibrant community leading the way in innovative practices throughout the state of New Jersey.  The members were selected based on their established innovative practices across all schools in their district.

The application process is held twice per year.  Applications were open to all districts in the state of New Jersey.  In March, selected applicants were informed of their acceptance. Cohort 2 members had the pleasure of meeting one another at the Department of Education in Trenton, New Jersey, where the first convening took place.  New members also had the opportunity to network and collaborate with other members along with establishing partnerships with other new members.

The Office of School Innovation welcomes the Cohort 2 innovateNJ Community members:

  • A Harry Moore School of New Jersey City University of Jersey City
  • Burlington County Special Services School District
  • Fair Haven Public Schools
  • Linden Public Schools
  • Manalapan Englishtown Regional Schools
  • Middletown Township School District
  • Montgomery Township  Public Schools


  • Morris County Vocational School
  • Mt. Holly Township Public Schools
  • Mt Laurel School District
  • River Vale Public Schools
  • Scotch Plains-Fanwood School District
  • The Lower Alloways Creek School District
  • Toms River Regional School District
  • Voorhees School District
  • Warren Township Schools

Needless to say, I’m beyond excited for this program. Finally – GOOD TEACHING and INNOVATION are UNITED – and the state of New Jersey benefits. LAC is ‘officially’ paired with Mt. Laurel and River Vale.  Truth be told – we will be collaborating with Montgomery quite a bit – -lots to share with them – and lot’s to learn!

Here’s something else I’m really excited over: a map. Not just any map, this map:
innovateNJ districts

Why so excited? Being the lone duck ain’t so bad sometimes. 🙂

I’m proud to show all that an itty-bitty school District in rural Salem County NJ is doing the same things, if not more, than big-pupil, big-budget districts.

Zipcodes don’t and won’t determine a child’s education.