Welcome to your Somerville Board of Education
Frequently Asked Questions and Answers
Somerville Board of Education members are responsible for setting the course of the school district and strive to make informed decisions. Board of Education meetings provide an opportunity for the community to witness Board members discuss and act on matters directly affecting the Somerville Public Schools. What follows are some Frequently Asked Questions and Answers to help residents better understand the role and responsibilities of the Somerville Board of Education.
The stated mission is “to provide quality education through an environment which promotes individual excellence” for all of ourPreK-12 grade students. To that end, the Somerville Board of Education sets district policy which is then implemented by thesuperintendent of schools and administrators. The Board also develops the annual school budget, sets student and districtachievement goals, and reviews curriculum changes.
- What are the primary responsibilities of the Somerville Board of Education?
Board meetings begin at 7:00 p.m. on designated Tuesday evenings at the Board of Education Headquarters at 51 West CliffStreet. All regularly scheduled meetings are noted in the district calendar, district website, and published on the Courier Newswebsite. You may also call 908-218-4101 for the meeting schedule and updates.
- When and where are Board meetings held?
The Board consists of ten community members elected for three-year terms. The Board includes nine Somerville residents electedby the Somerville community, and one Branchburg resident, appointed by the Branchburg Board of Education from among itsmembers.
- What is the composition of the Board?
The member represents Branchburg and is a voting member on all issues affecting Somerville High School students. Branchburgsends its 9-12 grade students to Somerville High School and, as a result, is entitled to one voting member on the Somerville Boardof Education.
- What is the role of the Branchburg member?
There are two types of meetings: Workshop/Regular Sessions and Regular Sessions. At Workshop/Regular Sessions, the Boardoften reviews reports from school administrators and staff and discusses general school district matters. At Regular Sessions andWorkshop/Regular Sessions, the Board has an opportunity to formally vote on and/or resolve issues.
- What transpires at Board meetings?
The public is able to witness what takes place at Board of Education meetings since all meetings are open to the public as requiredby the New Jersey Open Public Meetings Act of 1975. The public also has two opportunities to raise issues at meetings as well.The first opportunity is at the beginning of the meeting, when public comment is generally restricted to those agenda items forthat meeting (agendas are available to the public in the meeting room). There is another public comment period at the end of themeeting during which time citizens may comment on any general school issue.
- What role does the public play at Board meetings?
When addressing the Board, individuals are asked to state their name and address, and, if representing a group or organization,identify it by name. Speakers are also asked to focus their discussion on school programs, be brief and to the point so others canaddress the Board, and refrain from commenting on individuals and school personnel.
- Are there any guidelines for addressing the Board?
There is a chain of command within the district that helps ensure that all concerns, requests, and questions are handled efficiently.The chain begins with the classroom teacher, moves to the building principal, and then to the superintendent of schools. If theissue is still not resolved to your satisfaction, the Board of Education is a last resort. This chain enables concerns to be solved bythe person closest to the situation who can generally provide the quickest and most accurate answer.
- Can I bring concerns about a classroom situation to the Board of Education?
The Board has a variety of standing committees to deal with such issues as buildings and grounds, curriculum, finance, athletic,and student activities. The Board also creates Ad Hoc Committees to consider new initiatives. Ad Hoc Committees generallyinclude Board members, faculty, staff, and district residents. Previous Ad Hoc Committees have resulted in improvements to thehigh school grading policy and better school facilities for the entire district.
- Does the Board ever meet in smaller committees?
There are occasions when the full Board meets privately in Executive Session. Scheduled Executive Sessions are indicated in theBoard Agenda. Board members are “honor bound” not to disclose Executive Session information. Among the topics that ExecutiveSession discussions usually entail are: personnel issues, labor negotiations, legal matters, and items of a confidential nature.
- Is the Board permitted to meet privately?
Board members serve overlapping three-year terms. As a result, three members are typically elected each year on the same date asthe annual school budget election in April. The Branchburg Board member is appointed by the Branchburg Board of Educationeach April and serves a one-year term.
- How long do Board members serve?
In the event of a mid-term vacancy, the public is invited to apply to fill the opening. The existing Board members interview thecandidates and then appoint one to the open seat.
- What happens if a member moves away or decides to step down from the Board?
Board candidates must meet specific legal qualifications. Candidates must also submit a notarized nominating petition endorsedand signed by ten (10) registered Somerville voters. For additional information, the New Jersey School Boards Associationpublishes a “School Board Candidate Kit,” which is available by contacting the NJSBA at (888) 886-5722.
- What are the requirements necessary to run for the Board of Education?
Board members can anticipate attending at least two Board meetings a month, several committee meetings, and various schoolfunctions. A significant amount of time for reviewing written materials is also required.
- What kind of time commitment should Board members anticipate?
For further information, please contact the Somerville Board of Education directly by calling (908) 218-4101, or writing theBoard of Education at 51 West Cliff Street, Somerville, New Jersey 08876.
- Where can I get further information about the Somerville Board of Education?