U.S. Secretary of Education visits Delran High School

Education leaders discuss collaboration on district’s challenges

MATTHEW SHINKLE/The Sun: U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona speaks in the gymnasium of Delran Township High School about positive practices in the district in recent years.

The Delran Township School District hosted U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and National Education Association President Becky Pringle earlier this month, along with other state and national educational leaders.

The reason for the visit, according to those who spoke during a roundtable discussion, was to further discuss collaboration that has taken place in the district in recent months and years,  enabling it to be proactive in addressing problems and challenges that may arise during the school year. 

Superintendent Brian Brotschul and the district looked jointly at New Jersey School Labor-Management Collaborative practices to better assist teachers, district officials and others in accomplishing goals and emphasizing student achievement. The collaborative has been in the district since 2014.   

Now just a few short years later, Cardona and Pringle visited Delran in an effort to see firsthand the way the district operates and bring that valuable information back to national partners, thus highlighting the township as a shining example of collaboration done right.

“Any time the secretary of education comes to visit a school district, it’s a historic event that underscores the great work that’s been done by the board, the entire faculty and the administration around student achievement,” Brotschul said. “So it is truly an honor and a pleasure to be able to host an event like this and really showcase our work.”

Noting the work being done in Delran, Cardona said he was impressed with the district’s ability to create what he believes is a well run district through collaboration in multiple key areas. 

“The work that you are doing to collaborate, to engage with partners to pursue success, is being noticed,” he said. “And we want to replicate it, because we know that that’s what works.”

During the district visit, Saul Rubinstein, a professor in the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations who also coordinates the state’s collaborative, presented positive correlations in student achievement, teacher retention, teacher satisfaction and teacher and principal efficiency, something that showed the uniqueness of the collaborative over time. 

The collaborative effort’s data, according to Rubinstein, shows that focusing on the ability to work together within a district gives the entire community a leg up in facing any challenge that may come its way, such as COVID. Delran Education Association Secretary Kathleen McHugh echoed that sentiment. 

“The structures were already there, the trust and relationships were already there, the transparency was already there, and that whole philosophy of being committed to each other’s success was there,” McHugh said.

Looking back at the visit, Brotschul said it was an opportunity for the district to get positive feedback on its operations, and that the schools are on the right path in growth moving forward. 

“Being able to share our experiences and successes, and even our challenges, has allowed us to grow even more as a school district,” Brotschul said. “So any opportunity to learn from others and to help others understand where we’ve done well is time well spent.”