ROSELLE, NJ — Roselle Public Schools recently announced that it is one of 37 school districts joining the League of Innovative Schools, which is a national coalition of forward-thinking K-12 school districts organized by Digital Promise, a nonprofit organization with the mission to accelerate innovation in education and improve the opportunity to learn through technology and research. As such, the school district will partner with leading educators, entrepreneurs and researchers from across the country.
“The Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools is a member-based, national network that connects and supports the most forward-thinking leaders in education,” Dewayne McClary, director of the League of Innovative Schools, said on Monday, Oct. 4. “League members represent 125 districts in 35 states serving more than 3.8 million students. Their diverse experiences reflect the advancements, challenges and vital work of public education in the United States. Digital Promise was authorized by Congress in 2008, signed into law by President George W. Bush, and formally launched by President Barack Obama in Sept. 2011. The League of Innovative Schools was launched the same year within the U.S. Department of Education.”
Superintendent of Schools Nathan L. Fisher said he believed the League of Innovative Schools invited Roselle Public Schools to become a member of the national network because of its commitment to equity for all students, along with its promising practices and policies, exceptional programs and models that have been recognized on local and national levels.
“Under my leadership, the school district continues to establish numerous unique partnerships with universities and organizations to strengthen professional development opportunities and educational experiences for our students,” said Fisher on Sunday, Oct. 3. “Our professional development offerings through these partnerships have strengthened teaching and learning while heightening access to resources throughout our schools.
“To highlight a student-focused partnership, Roselle Public Schools is one of only 10 districts that have partnered with Kean University for its Kean Scholar Academy,” he continued. “This dual-enrollment program offers incoming freshmen at Abraham Clark High School the opportunity to earn up to 24 college credits for free. Our district currently has six students enrolled in the program, with guidance counselors at Grace Wilday Junior High School already helping our scholars apply for next year. Additionally, we are acknowledged for our use of a variety of communication means, which addresses our efforts in working diligently to reach our entire school community and beyond, using traditional and nontraditional platforms. From digital media to print media, the Roselle Public Schools utilize a series of social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter; the ‘60 seconds with the Superintendent’ video series; and weekly/quarterly informational happenings of the district.
“Through ensuring that we prioritize closing the digital divide during the pandemic and through the future, numerous strategies were employed, he added. “Our district focused on addressing student and community Wi-Fi access across the entire borough. Our efforts were multitiered, by investing in mobile hotspot vehicles that are deployed daily across eight regions of town. In addition, access is available to all members of the community through Wi-Fi access points installed on the exterior of buildings. This district-elevated connectivity in the community has reached 100 percent and student 1:1 device access.”
According to a press release addressing the announcement, the district was selected from a competitive national pool of applicants based on its educational leadership, innovative vision for learning, key achievements and evidence of results, and demonstrated commitment to equity and excellence.
“I am extremely elated to have our school district be chosen through this competitive process,” Fisher said. “My leadership team and I are extremely optimistic that great things happen and continue to happen within the Roselle Public Schools district. As such, it is imperative for our entire school community to know we have a host of best practices and opportunities that are noteworthy. To be recognized and offer evidence of the happenings within our district by external reviewers is major and worthy of accolades for the staff across the district for allowing us to reach successes for the Roselle school community.”
According to the press release, league members are represented by their superintendent, who commits to attending biannual league meetings, which feature classroom visits, collaborative problem-solving and relationship-building with peers and partners; participating in league cohorts and challenge collaboratives on a broad range of topics relevant to the changing needs and priorities of school districts; supporting Digital Promise research and providing critical feedback.
“Participating in the League of Innovative Schools will afford my leadership team and me the opportunity to join and partner with educational thought leaders across the nation to address pertinent issues that impact teaching and learning,” said Fisher. “This network ideally will ensure that I, as superintendent, continue to garner greater research-driven practices to properly address equity issues in our schools and focus on increasing student achievement and closing the opportunity gap for all scholars.”
Fisher said that, through his district’s strategic planning process, his primary goal would be to work diligently with the school community to establish a five-year vision for his school district. Through these collaborative conversations with all community stakeholders, he said he hopes that he will be able to provide the district with a road map to strategically address systemic issues that have affected the schools. He said it is of paramount importance that district students have access to facilities that embrace 21st-century learning environments and future-forward design.
“We are focused on the social health of students and staff, ensuring equitable access to resources and services for every student/scholar, and embracing restorative practices across schools, just to name a few,” said the superintendent. “To focus on SEL, the district implemented the Rethink Ed SEL Program this fall, a platform that combines technology and research to deliver innovative, scalable and evidence-based tools and resources to support students, schools and communities. The program includes professional learning modules for adults, SEL assessments, behavior tracking and more.”
McClary said Roselle Public Schools fits the description of a district that is redefining what innovation means and looks like in its schools. Although the district admits to being hit hard by the pandemic, it has been utilizing innovative practices across all departments under new leadership. McClary said the League of Innovative Schools is intrigued by Roselle’s partnership with two universities — Kean University and Montclair State University — to support students and teachers. In addition, the district created student and community Wi-Fi access across the borough, which is aligned to one of the league’s goals, closing the digital divide.
“The League of Innovative Schools supports leadership development and district efforts to advance teaching and learning through technology and innovation through advocacy, where strategic partnerships and support spread ethos and influence policies,” said McClary.
Photos Courtesy of Liv Meier and the League of Innovative Schools