Judy Savage possesses qualities that many of us could only describe as “superpowers.” She is seemingly everywhere at once, connecting with policymakers and educators across New Jersey, from Bergen to Cape May counties. And, she doesn’t just connect people, but she connects the news of the day, or even what’s in the pipeline, to everyone she works with, analyzing the potential impact on them and their organizations. Her mind seemingly never stops, and her intentions are always to find solutions to strengthen our state’s education and business landscapes, including more than 15 years as a government relations consultant for the NJ Joint Council of County Special Services School Districts.
Savage’s retirement was effective July 1, 2021, but the impact she made, both as a consultant to the Joint Council and as longtime executive director of the New Jersey Council of County Vocational-Technical Schools, will endure.
“Judy was committed to helping county special services school districts across the state obtain the resources they need to best serve students with special needs and help them reach their greatest potential,” said Dr. Howard Lerner, superintendent of Bergen County Special Services School District and chairman of the Joint Council. “Although she largely worked behind the scenes to influence policy and help districts adapt to new legislation and mandates, she also had the unique ability to anticipate and get out in front of issues that could impact our districts, staff members, and students.”
Most recently, Savage has advocated for New Jersey’s county special services districts to be considered for American Rescue Plan funding. She also has facilitated meetings with the New Jersey Department of Education to devise ways to meet the increased demand for teachers, therapists, and other professionals who are highly specialized to serve students with special needs.
“Judy’s expertise and attention to each and every issue that could impact our special services schools has been invaluable,” said Gloucester County Special Services School District Superintendent Michael Dicken. “As superintendents, we have appreciated her staying on top of legislative changes, and even potential changes, so we could focus on other aspects of running our districts. She gave us regular updates and was always on call when we had questions.”
Lerner emphasized how Savage not only connected the Joint Council member districts with key legislators and state departments, but also with peers at the state’s Educational Services Commissions and Jointures. “She knew our visibility was greater and our message stronger when we worked together, and that ultimately gave us a better chance at enacting each change we pursued,” he added.
Savage also worked to increase the visibility of county special services school districts by spearheading the launch of an informational, yet compelling website for the Joint Council. She has driven visitors to the site by investing in a communication program that includes proactive media relations and a newly established Twitter presence.
“Judy has helped us showcase the value of what we do and how we do it to stakeholders across the state,” said Lerner. “We have long known that county special services school districts have exceptional programs and people to provide a transformative educational experience to students with special needs. Now, everyone else knows this, too.”
Savage will relocate with her husband, Paul, and two four-legged best friends to Wellfleet in Cape Cod. She has two grown children, Caleb and Julia.
Michael Vrancik will take over as government relations consultant for the Joint Council. He is the former government relations director of New Jersey School Boards Association.