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.


How hungry are you for a job?

Last night, the Board of Education hired an ELA teacher to focus on writing for my middle school program.  After the meeting, I called her, formally offering her the job. Hearing tears in her voice, she was beyond excited; while we were chatting about being hired, she spoke about how each step in my interviewing was more serious and intense.  She spoke about being more invested in each round, and how more effort and energy was brought forth in each phase.  It had me thinking on my ride home… was my process that difficult? Was it that  stressful? After each thought… it came down to one simple thought – just how hungry are people to get a job that you want?

My hiring process is five steps: 

  • You apply
  • A series of essay questions via google form
  • An interview
  • A Demo Lesson
  • A meet-n-greet with the BOE Personnel Committee, with the BOE voting on a candidate at the regular meeting

Sure, I could jut meet you and I can hire you.  But why do that?  At this time of year, I have a fresh amount of college graduates along with other teachers looking to switch districts. I’ll get scads upon scads of applications, many of which are generic and have no investment in the District (those immediately head to the circular file).  

After you apply (electronic only), I collect all email addresses and send out a google form with a series of questions pertaining to the subject they want to teach.  If you’re hungry, you’ll answer the questions.  If you’re not that hungry, you’ll pass.  This is one of my favorite parts of the application process; it naturally weeds out applications because folks simply don’t want to put in the time.

Based on your responses, I call in about a half dozen for interviews with a committee.  The committee is composed of Administrators and Teachers.  I listen mostly to the teacher feedback and look for the dynamics of the interview.  My job is to be there for resources and help when needed, and other than that, I’m out of the way.  

Based on the committee responses, I recommend two or three for the finalist panel on the Board of Education personnel committee.  The committee also asks questions and wants to get to know who they may potentially hire.  We conference together and select a candidate.

Lastly, The candidate gets approved at the Board Meeting.

It’s certainly an investment for the candidate, but again I ask, how hungry are you?



5 Educational Leaders I’m Thankful to Know & Follow on Twitter

As we gather around tables all across the US this to celebrate Thanksgiving, we are certainly reminded that there is much to be thankful for. While I personally am thankful for so much that has happened to me personally this year, I’m thankful for meeting / re-connecting with a whole new group of leaders within education. If you are an educator, but not on Twitter, I don’t know what you’re waiting for already. Sign up over the holiday break, go to this ‘cheat sheet’, and start poking around. Oh, and follow these 5 educational leaders:

  • Eric Sheninger (@NMHS_Principal ) – simply put, the man is a rock star on Twitter. With over 30,000 followers, Eric is a lightning bolt of information for technology, school administrators, and educators all over the world. The coolest part about it? He’s incredibly personable (most are on Twitter) and will respond to you with just about anything you ask. I met Eric at the 2012 NASSP Conference in Tampa this year after seeing him on the TV show “The Principal’s Office”. I saw the show while I was completing my educational administrative program, and was rather impressed with his style. Meeting him in person was awesome, and I’m thankful for his wealth of resources.
  • Scott Rocco (@ScottRRocco ) Before being known as the Co-Founder of the Saturday AM Twitter group known as #SATCHAT, Scott has arisen through the teaching & administrative ranks in Hillsborough, NJ. Scott was also one of my instructors in my administrative program. I’ve had the chance to re-connect with Scott over the past six months through Twitter and, like so many others on here, offers a plethora of information and insight. If you’re looking for information on safety, security, or operations, he is your go-to guy.
  • Brad Currie (@bcurrie5 ) – A co-founder & co-moderator of #SATCHAT with Scott Rocco, Brad is currently a Supervisor of Instruction in Chester, NJ. I finally met Brad face to face at the NJPSA Fall Conference, and was glad I did; he too has an arsenal of resources for teachers, administrators, and parents that are looking to utilize technology as both classroom tools and communication output. Have a question about how to use technology in your classroom or use 21st century technology for communication? Tweet & follow Brad.
  • Dr. Spike C. Cook (@drspikecook ) A Principal hailing from southern NJ, Dr. Cook has a great background, and uses all that he has learned in education and technology and applies it to his everyday life. His blog offers great insight on everything from how a school can give back to the community to funky videos he created using Apple software (now addicted, I’m trying to make my own) – the sky is the limit with Dr. Cook.
  • Nicholas A. Ferroni (@NicholasFerroni ) – Nick and I first met in 6th grade. All new to the school (all 6th graders use to go to one school together before breaking off into two middle schools), the class of 1997 merged for the first time in 1990. 6th grade, is well, 6th grade; everyone is trying to find themselves and see who they really are, what they really like etc. Nick was a leader; wearing such hot commodities as Z. Cavaricci pants & shirts and Ewing shoes (yea, I went there), Nick was determined to stand out and lead by example. While we went in different paths in high school, we eventually both ended up teaching history. Nick continues to be a leader in his own right; over 10,000 followers on Twitter and a national blog on The Huffington Post. I hope that one day Nick and I will reunite in some type of educational capacity (though I still think he hasn’t forgiven me for transcending to “the dark side” {school administration} like many other teachers) If you’re looking for some inspiration, some real-life classroom instances, or to smile, follow Nick.

If you haven’t picked up on the pattern, these fine folks above are all from the great state of New Jersey. Why did I choose all NJ leaders? Simple: I’m a Jersey boy, too.

I hope everyone in the US has a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!