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Jay Eitner |  @Jay_Eitner

Jay Eitner | @Jay_Eitner

Jay Eitner is a proud product of the New Jersey public schools. A graduate from Union High School in 1997, Jay attended The American University in Washington DC with a BA in interdisciplinary studies. He began his teaching career in Roselle, NJ teaching a variety of subjects including social studies, computers, and digital literacy. Known for being ‘outside of the box’ and for strong technology infusion, Eitner strived to make a learning environment that was student centered, data driven, and technology infused. Jay received his Masters Degree from Kean University in 2004 and was hired to teach 8th grade social studies in the nationally recognized East Brunswick Public Schools. During his time in East Brunswick, Eitner has written & received over $140,000 in grants for his students. Grants ranged from podcasting equipment to creating a fully-interactive gold-rush experience, where students dug for gold during their westward expansion unit. Jay obtained his supervisor, principal, and school administrator certificates from the NJPSA NJ-EXCEL program in 2009. Administratively, Eitner has served as a middle school Assistant Principal in the Washington Township Schools , a K-12 Supervisor of Social Studies in the Hopewell Valley Regional School District, and a Superintendent of the Lower Alloways Creek School District. Jay currently serves as a Superintendent of Schools for the Waterford Township School District. He has presented a series of workshops on digital leadership, technology infusion, and student achievement. Recent awards include the 2015 national Educators Voice Award in the category of Superintendent, the White House MakerSpace distinction, and named to the national Academy of Arts & Sciences as a 2016 Educator To Watch.

Jay currently resides in Mount Laurel, New Jersey and is a proud Dad of twin girls and his puppy Lola.

Posted by on in Leadership

It's been the first time in a long time where I start pressing the keys.  I blogged for a long time and took a hiatus.  Were my words and thoughts so important that I needed to share them with the masses? Hell no. My words and thoughts are just that...words and thoughts.  However, when issues arise, I have a platform to turn to.

The past 2 years have been a whirlwind for me. I've had the chance to crisscross the country, working with all walks of educational life in rural, suburban, and urban districts.  I've worked with districts that have had money to roll in and districts that are getting by paycheck to paycheck.  While I love doing what I do, being away from my family is painful.  My girls are 3 1/2... FaceTime is wonderful, but it only does so much. You can't kiss your kids goodnight, eat dinner with them, or snuggle up and read a story. Hence, I've been looking to get to work again in a close proximity.

Last month, I applied for a Superintendency that was close to home.  I interviewed and was offered the position. Out of 50 applicants and 10 colleagues who were interviewed, I was fortunate enough to be selected. While being the first pick is always an honor, it's just as much of an interview for me as it is for the Board. No words can describe a Board when you find the right one. It was a great fit. 

As contract negotiations began, the word got out that I was the guy. While it normally does, and small towns spread rumors super fast, this was nothing like I've ever seen.  In less than 48 hours, I was getting social media follows, emails, and phone calls from most of the community. Given my lightening-rod style, those who stalk my every keystroke and those who follow me online put 1 & 1 together, and the onslaught began.  Everyone knew it was just a question of when, and this Board was totally ready for it.  I loved that; a supportive Board who backs their pick in unison.  If you don't have that from day 1, you have nothing.

The following week, it was clear that I would not be able to start on the date that the Board wanted.  After reviewing and re-working my calendar to accommodate previous commitments and engagements, I would still be out 14 school days in October.  This, along with the annual NJ School Boards Convention, would put me at 18 calendar days of the district.  I could not move forward with a clear conscience knowing that I would be there for a modicum of time in the first month when the first month is one of THE most important months and knowing my absences would create a myriad of problems.  If I was a taxpayer, I would be livid.  Sadly, I declined the offer.  I am not the first, nor will I be the last Superintendent who had talks break down and conclude that this may not indeed be a good fit at this time.

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Posted by on in General

A lot of people give me grief when I tell them I don't watch MSNBC or Fox News.  Where do I most go?  Either NPR or the BBC.  I like NPR because of its neutrality (if there even is such a thing anymore), and I like the BBC because of the global perspective.

A few weeks ago on the BBC Radio 4 program, President Obama was on with Prince Harry.  While it was mostly a candid conversation on transitioning back to citizen Obama, I couldn't help but pay special attention to the dialogue exchanged about  irresponsible social media usage.

If you're reading this, you are well aware of the impact of a blog post, a website, and even the 280-character tweet. President Obama spoke at great length about social media and the power it has.  While you can download the entire episode here, the highlights that are alarming for educators include

President Obama stated that social media can leave people “cocooned” in alternate realities and urged world leaders to promote responsible use of the technology. You can see that clearly today, as a mere social media interactive platform leaves those that love or loathe someone or something on their toes 24/7.

President Obama also said that “all of us in leadership have to find ways in which we can recreate a common space on the internet."  While schools and educators are really pushing the  “think before you tweet” / digital citizenship behaviors, we are seeing that those who do not have any education in the topic are causing the most damage, almost as much as those who are simply uneducated or choose to demonstrate the deplorable behavior and cowardice of hiding behind a screen.

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Posted by on in Teens and Tweens

When I was first hired as an assistant principal back in 2010, my principal and I had a long lunch to break the ice.  I talked about my honeymoon, he talked about his history in the town, and then we started talking about bizarre things on the internet. We both were hysterical and just how much on the internet and both scratched our heads wondering what could possibly come next. We got into a strong debate at lunch one summer day about school discipline records and how they should or should not be sent to the next school (we were a sending district, so in this case, they would be sent to the high school). His stance was very strong - new school, new start.  My initial stance (2 weeks on the job) was all records go with the student. After all, I was the new assistant principal - and what do most middle school assistant principals do? Discipline.

Almost 8 years later as a write this post (and just using an app on my phone to have contractors on bid snow removal from my driveway and sidewalks - talk about things we would never imagine), I'm reading about a friend of mine who has a teenage son that made a bad choice.  He sent an inappropriate tweet to a fast food chain.  The fast-food chain responded back, a tad better in taste (forgive the pun) - but Mom was not happy.  Mom was trying to instill in her child that "congratulations - you will now forever have your name associated with this fast food chain and it will be archived on the internet for everyone to see in the future."

I don't know about all of you reading my blog, but I'll be the very first to admit that I was (and, well, currently) far from the perfect person, let alone star student in middle school and high school.  My grades weren't the best, I had a poor attitude on occasion towards certain teachers and academic subjects, and may or may not have been suspended a few times for doing what middle school boys have a strong knack for - drawing male anatomy on bathroom stalls and school signs and screaming new vocabulary words that you learn from your peers. I enjoyed a good prank call with a fake name to the local bar (Bart Simpson certainly set the standard) and might have even sent a dozen pizzas to my principal from the school payphone on the last day of middle school (sorry, Mr. Malles). Truth be told, I think being such a nudnick in middle and high school is what made me a great 8th-grade teacher and middle school assistant principal. I could easily relate to the knucklehead missteps and could easily differentiate a bonehead move and something that was serious (i.e. harm to yourself or others).

Were these middle school missteps my proudest moments? Certainly not. Was it there for the world to see and judge me? Well, now it is - but in 8th grade, it was not. For today's 8th grader, it's now etched in eternity. What are missteps are now mile-markers in one's life, all a click or google search away.

What's even more disturbing is that people that loathe you (for whatever reason it may be) can now hide behind a keyboard, go online, use their name or create several fictitious names, and say whatever they want. If you ticked someone off, look out.  You will be crucified online an entire group of people you don't know. Or maybe you do know them, but they won't say anything to your face.  Or maybe they like the attention of saying things to get people to raise comments. Whatever it may be, you can try to get out of it, try to defend yourself, or even own up to your mistakes, but it will do no good.  It will still forever be there, waiting for someone to see.

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Posted by on in School Culture

Ah, January.  The lovely time of year when the white stuff makes an appearance, along with wind, ice, sleet, and other trendy terms like "Cyclone-Bomb" "Thunder-Snow" and "Snowpocalypse". While it's always fun to see snowmen, sleigh riding, and images of serenity that would be worthy of your wallpaper, it brings a sense of mystery for those in charge of opening or closing places. For Superintendents, this is one of the more frustrating components of the job. I tweeted about it a few years ago and retweeted it the other day the night before a blizzard was expected:Screen Shot 2018-01-05 at 14.35.50

Besides not being able to correct a misspelling on twitter, I liked the overall message, and so did the 50 others (and 827 who engaged in the tweet, along with the 1927 people who saw the tweet). Twitter allows one to be blunt and get the message out, i.e. my reasoning for hating the calling of snow days.

People ask just what exactly happens when a Superintendent calls a day. There are three necessities I have followed:

  1. You have about 10 web browsers open looking at the weather.
  2. You are a part of a conference call system to see what other Superintendents in your area are planning on doing.
  3. You are in steady contact with the local police Chief and DPW Superintendent.

All three of the above should also rotate around one topic and one topic only: SAFETY. If safety is in play, there is no need to deliberate anything; you close and you're done.

If the buses can't run, you're done. School buses are modern marvels; very different from ten years ago. They are designed to run in all kinds of weather, snow included.  However, safety still has to be considered. AND - the bus drivers who drive the buses need to get to the bus garage.  No bus drivers, no buses.

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Posted by on in Miscellaneous

trolls

Warning: if you don’t have kids, much of this post won’t make sense.

They say that, when a woman becomes pregnant, she immediately becomes a mother, and the father doesn’t become one until he has the child in his arms. I’m certainly in that category.  There were certain concepts I just did not understand.  One of them was reading, watching, or doing the same activity, over and over and over. Then my twins came, and everything changed. Everything. I think this goes without saying, but things changed for the better.

Currently, my daughters are obsessed with the 2016 animated movie “Trolls.” Sometimes they watch the movie two, even three times a day. This is not the first movie they have been glued to; before this was Disney’s “Moana,” and before that was every episode of “Little Einstein’s,” “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse,” “PJ Masks,” “Goldie & Bear,” “The Wiggles,” and the 60’s version of “Batman.” There are books that go with us everywhere, and certain activities have to be done every day including long walks or wagon rides, coloring and singing at least three songs. When I introduce a new toy or a new show to them, they buck. Wanting nothing to do with it, they want to focus solely on what they already know.  It is habitual.

Back to the “Trolls” movie. If you haven’t seen it, I can tell you every line. I’ll spare you that; the gist of the story is that there is a group of happy trolls and a group of unhappy monsters called the Bergens. The Bergens believe that if they eat a troll once a year (called Trollstice), they will experience true happiness. Through a series of fun songs, dances, and goofiness, Trollstice is avoided and true happiness is discovered.

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