New York State School Boards Association

Parting thoughts

by Timothy G. Kremer

On Board Online • December 16, 2019

Timothy G. Kremer
NYSSBA Executive Director

At the end of this month, I retire. I approach this change with a sense of nostalgia, because working with and for school boards has been very rewarding.

Throughout my 40 years in this business, I have never lost sight of the fact that school boards are principally decision-making bodies, and that what they need most from their association is information to assist them in making well-informed local decisions. My colleagues and I are committed to delivering relevant, accurate and timely information, when it is most needed, in a format that is easily accessible.

A second principle that has guided me is our members need to know NYSSBA cares about them. My colleagues and I work hard every day to build personal connections with as many members as possible. We are proud of the fact that so many of you rely on NYSSBA every day. And we never take your membership for granted.

Reflecting upon the things I have enjoyed most in my role as NYSSBA executive director, the opportunity to write this commentary is at the top of the list. Once a month, I am afforded 750 words and editorial support to analyze a topic that I deem to be relevant and timely. Not quite a bully pulpit, but a special perch nonetheless.

The Next on the Agenda (or NOTA) video series became my personal project in the hope that I could convince boards to use their meetings as discussion forums and planning tools. Once in a while, I'm told that a recent NOTA actually inspired an important board discussion. I like to hear that.

My countless media appearances on behalf of NYSSBA have been extraordinarily challenging and great fun. I have rarely missed an opportunity to be interviewed on TV or the radio, no matter when and where. Such appearances helped me explain why and how school boards do what they do so well, often under challenging conditions.

What we normally refer to as the Commissioner's Roundtable is a quarterly gathering of 20 to 25 school board members from across the state for a free-wheeling discussion about current education policy issues. Lately, Chancellor Betty Rosa has been our honored guest. I have greatly enjoyed putting these events together and experiencing board members' enthusiasm for being part of the conversation.

Obviously, school board members come from all walks of life, which means that I have been exposed to many fascinating and intelligent people as a function of my job. Every NYSSBA-related event I attend, be it the convention, a workshop, a board retreat or as a dinner guest, I have learned something new. My life is much richer for having spent quality time with so many of you.

I suppose what has motivated me most of all is simply being in the game. Few enterprises are more legislated, litigated, debated or essential than public education. I have had a front row seat during battles over state aid distribution formulas, Common Core Learning Standards, Annual Professional Performance Reviews, charter schools, 3020-a procedures, the tax cap, special education, graduation requirements, teacher qualifications, and an unending stream of proposed state mandates.

As the primary organization in the state devoted to preserving local control, NYSSBA has usually fought uphill battles. Yet, I loved being on the scrimmage line during all such state-level deliberations, knowing that our members expect us to protect and enhance a school board's authority to govern at the local level. I am confident that we have made a difference.

Not satisfied with just playing defense, I looked for ways NYSSBA can move the ball. By hosting summits and participating on statewide councils, NYSSBA has assumed the role of thought leader. By being original, open-minded and frank, we have explored practical solutions to some of our most pressing problems. We have taken our place, often at the head of the table, during discussions about school safety, mental health, staff shortages, special education, classroom technology and equity in education.

I take pride in the fact that school officials, legislators and the statewide media frequently reach out to NYSSBA when they are looking for answers regarding school governance and authority, state and federal aid, curriculum and instruction, school climate, employee relations, revenue and expenditure questions, and the pulse of local school communities. It is times like these when the strength of our staff - 58 experienced, highly trained, dedicated professionals - really comes to bear. Being a part of this fabulous team is what I will miss most of all.

Regrets? I can't think of any. If I had to do it over again, I wouldn't change a thing.

I'm signing off now, but you are all welcome to stay in touch. My new email address is timgkremer@gmail.com .Enjoy the holidays and Happy New Year.


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