My name is Bob Morrison and I am running for reelection to a fourth term serving on the Watchung Hills Regional High School Board of Education.
When I ran for office nine years ago I was very clear about what I hoped to contribute through my service to the community. These were my goals:
High Quality, Well Rounded Education for EVERY Student
Open Communication and Transparency
Fiscal Responsibility, Accountability, and Integrity
I will address these in reverse order:
Fiscal Responsibility, Accountability, and Integrity
In the area of Fiscal Responsibility, Accountability, and Integrity, my main point was we were operating a $38 million institution that did not have in place a strategic plan, and no one could recall the last time the district had one. As a businessman, I know that it is ill-advised to have this large of an operation without some sort of plan to be the guiding document for the organization’s direction. A plan is how you hold an organization accountable for the decisions being made. Without a plan, there is no lens through which to determine priorities. I made the execution of a valid process that would lead to the development and implementation of a multi-year strategic plan the major thrust for my first term. The WHRHS Board of Education adopted the strategic plans’ main goals and action plans to support each area in June 2016. The WHRHS Board of Education has made the implementation of the plan a top priority ever since, including the most recent revision of the plan that was adopted in 2020. In other fiscal areas, we passed a referendum that was at no cost to the taxpayers to allow the district to access up to 40% of the cost of the new turf field from the state and, most recently, funding to create a new learning center and upgrades to our electrical systems. Our referendum projects were completed on time and on budget. We have brought down the administrative overhead costs (another concern of mine when I first ran for office) through attrition, and I have successfully advocated for returning some of our increases in state funding back to the taxpayers.
Open Communication and Transparency
In the area of Open Communication and Transparency, I have hosted a series of coffees and meetings with residents outside the confines of the formal board of education meetings. I find that most of the time, residents are interested in having a conversation on a specific topic. The board of education meeting does not lend itself to this type of interaction. By hosting coffees and meetings outside the regular board meetings, I have heard directly from residents regarding their concerns, hopes, and frustrations. Often there are very valid issues discussed. Sometimes there is a misunderstanding of what the district is attempting to do. As a district, I believe we have a long way to go in improving our communication as a DISTRICT with the parents, students, faculty, elected leaders, and other community membres. This has been one of my big concerns during my tenure. I have seen how the administration could have done a much better job in communicating changes to policies, and curriculum changes or been more proactive in engaging groups impacted by a potential decision. I had hoped we would have made greater progress up to this point. While progress at the district level has been slow, I remain committed to being available to everyone and anyone throughout our community.
High Quality, Well Rounded Education for All
In the area of a High Quality, Well Rounded Education for EVERY Student, my focus has been on increasing educational opportunities for our students, protecting our students from the educational industrial complex as we face more intrusive testing of questionable validity and little value in providing feedback to our faculty (which had been the big promise of the new state assessments). The educational expectations for our students should not be driven by state testing requirements. We certainly need to comply with what the state requires but in a way that minimizes disruption to the important instructional work of our faculty members in preparing our students to be successful in life. Recognizing this tension, I championed the creation of the first set of Expected School-Wide Learning Results adopted by any school in the state. This document outlines the characteristics of a successful Watchung Hills graduate and allows us to focus more on the whole student. I have worked hard with my fellow board members and the administration to increase educational choices for students and to have areas of student interest drive course offerings and selection. This has led to more elective courses in a wide variety of interest areas in business, technology, engineering, and the visual and performing arts, among others. Our students must have the opportunity to find and develop their passions, whether in academics, co-curricular, or athletics. Making sure we have the broadest possible course offerings for a district of our size is critical to allowing our students to find their potential pathways for the future. “Well Rounded” education is not just a set of buzzwords to me. This is my personal commitment to our students and our community.
Additional Accomplishments include:
During COVID-19, Watchung Hills was one of the few districts in New Jersey to open our school to students in September 2020 following the state mandated closures in the spring of 2020.. Since that date, the school has remained open for students except for one 2-week period because of a COVID outbreak. We were committed to keeping the school open because we knew the importance of in-person learning and social engagement for our students. As we are now learning, getting and keeping schools open for students was critical to how they navigated the pandemic. I am very proud of the work of our faculty and staff, administration, and fellow board members for their incredible work during the last two and half years to keep our school open and our learning opportunities flourishing for our students. It is the accomplishment for which I am the proudest.
During COVID-19, I served on response task forces for he New Jersey Department of Education, New Jersey School Boards Associaiton, and the coalition of state education associations. I led state and national efforts to protect the visual and performing arts for our students, including funding the International Coalition of Performing Arts Organizations Aerosol Study that identified the proper mitigation strategies to allow the performing arts to continue in our schools.
Regionalization Feasibility Study
I have been leading efforts across the Watchung Hills communities to initiate a Regionalization Feasibility Study to explore primarily the educational benefits of a regionalized K-12 district as well as the potential for financial benefits for our taxpayers. For decades the idea and discussions about regionalization have come and gone with no real study to determine what, if any, benefits may be created through formal shared services up to, and including, a fully regionalized school district. I have personally been working with the state to secure a $140,000 grant to pay for the study, which will provide all stakeholders with the information needed to determine if regionalization has any educational and/or fiscal benefit to our communities. This is a determination that will ultimately be made by the voters of our communities.
Many residents have commented to me about the number of school districts in such a small area. The state is now providing us with an opportunity to find out if there are any real fiscal and educational benefits to consolidation… or not. Getting the answer to this question costs us nothing and ensures we are doing our “due diligence” on behalf of the residents.
My family and I have lived in Warren Township since February 2002. My wife is a teacher in a nearby school district. Both of our children have attended Warren Township Schools. My oldest graduated Watchung Hills Regional High School in 2013 and graduated from Ithaca College in 2017. My son graduated in 2017 and is in his senior year attending Montclair State University.
I am currently the CEO of a company I started 20 years ago, Quadrant Research – a national educational data management and analytics company. I recently retired as the Director/CEO for Arts Ed NJ – the statewide arts education advocacy organization.
What I Have Done
For the past nine years, I have had the privilege of representing Warren Township on the WHRHS Board of Education where I have served on the Education (including several years as chair), Strategic Planning, Operations and Personnel Committees, chaired the Policy Committee and most recently served as Vice President and am currently serving as President of the Board for the second time. During my tenure, we have brought forward several important improvements to the district. These include: the development of the district’s first-ever strategic plan, creation of Expected Schoolwide Learning Results, completion of the referendum-funded projects for replacing the aging heating system and roofing (on schedule and on budget), upgrades in technology including 1 to 1 Chromebooks, expansion and diversification of elective offerings to allow students to find their passion, replacement of the turf field through the acquisition of significant state funding, and supported returning funds to taxpayers from increased state education aid. I have been chosen by my peers as the President of the Somerset County Schools Boards Association and have been appointed to the board of directors for the New Jersey School Boards Association (NJSBA). Most recently, I was recognized by the NJSBA with their highest honor… Certified Board Leader one of only a handful of the more than 5,000 New Jersey school board members to achieve this distinction.
In addition to my service on the WHRHS Board of Education, I have been active in our community for nearly twenty years, including many years as a volunteer coach with Warren Baseball Softball, Inc. for both the recreational and travel baseball teams. During Hurricane Sandy, I helped organize and serve as an administrator of the Warren Township Community Forum on Facebook. As a result of our work with the forum after Superstorm Sandy, I volunteered to serve as co-chair of the Warren Township Utility Advisory Committee, where I led a community-wide review of the town’s electrical infrastructure, a project that earned the Sustainable New Jersey Creativity and Innovation Award. I currently serve as a business liaison to the Warren Township Office of Emergency Management, which is responsible for the community response to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
During COVID-19, we were one of the few districts in New Jersey to open our school to students in September 2020. Since that date, the school has remained open for students except for one 2-week period because of a COVID outbreak. We were committed to keeping the school open because we knew the importance of in-person learning and social engagement for our students. I am very proud of the work of our faculty and staff, administration, and fellow board members for their incredible work during the last two and half years to keep our school open and our learning community together.
Additionally, I served on COVID-19 Response Task Forces for the New Jersey Department of Education, New Jersey School Boards Association, and the coalition of state education associations. I led state and national efforts to protect the visual and performing arts for our students, including funding the International Coalition of Performing Arts Organizations Aerosol Study that identified the proper mitigation strategies to allow the performing arts to continue in our schools.
I have also been an outspoken advocate about the need to do a Regionalization Feasibility Study. We need to complete and present to the community the Regionalization Feasibility Study to provide the community with information and allow the community the chance to weigh in on any potential benefits consideration of regionalization may have for the benefit of our students and the taxpayers.
I have a long and successful history in business, philanthropy and education.
Visit my LinkedIn profile for my complete professional background regarding the businesses I have successfully created, built and led as well as the significant recognition and honors my work has received.
I have served on many non-profit, for-profit, and higher education boards. I have personally started several successful non-profits dedicated to education, music, and the arts. These experiences have provided me with direct experience with the proper role and function of board governance overseeing complex organizations.
For more than 35 years, my professional career has required my direct involvement with educational policy issues. This has included working with education officials in the administrations of George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. Much of my work has centered on issues related to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (also known as America 2000, Goals 2000, No Child Left Behind and now the Every Student Succeeds Act known as ESSA). I have also worked with the Departments of Education in more than thirty states, including New Jersey, and have provided policy guidance to several Governors and a presidential campaign. I served on the New Jersey Department of Education’s ESSA stakeholder taskforce to develop implementation plans for the new federal education legislation and have worked with every New Jersey education commissioner since 2005. In 2022, I was recognized by Governor Murphy with the Governor’s Award in Arts Education for Lifetime Contribution in Arts Education, the highest state honor, for my service to the state of New Jersey.
Issues involving accountability, evaluations, student achievement, funding, and the tension between a culture of testing versus the need for a well-rounded education are not just buzzwords to me. These are areas where I have spent a great deal of time and energy learning the issues to make informed decisions. I have called on this experience for my service to the community.
All of these experiences, combined with my dedication to our community, allowed me to become an effective advocate on the Watchung Hills Regional High School Board of Education for the citizens of our township. This demonstrates my keeping my promise to represent the interests of our community and our students.
I believe my record of service and accomplishment on behalf of the citizens of Warren speaks for itself.
Please Vote Bob Morrison on November 8th!