HIGHLANDS – Make no mistake about it. Dr. Tara Beams is an enthusiastic leader, highly experienced, has already fallen in love with her school district and all the people in it, and hit the ground running when she took over as superintendent for the Henry Hudson Regional School District in June.
“My first impressions are the two towns are very welcoming, they’re wonderful, “ the superintendent said. “And being able to work with Dr. Compton before her retirement gave me an even more thorough understanding and appreciation for all the talent and people here.” Dr. Susan Compton retired in June after serving as superintendent for 12 years.
The Oceanport resident said she is certainly been familiar with the area having come from the Monmouth Ocean Educational Services and Bayshore Juncture Commission in Tinton Falls where she has been COO and assistant superintendent, overseeing all aspects of educational services, programs and daily operations. Even so, it has been exhausting assuming her position here and keeping up with new regulations and needs in light of the Covid pandemic and what it means in education, together with orienting herself and planning for the upcoming school year. She has already set several goals to be accomplished this year, beginning with reviewing and learning about how social, emotional and learning among students have been impacted by Covid, whether intervention will be necessary, and the best way for all students to get back to the standards and academics which were so changed during school closures and at home classes.
The district also is addressing, as all public school districts are throughout the state, the introduction of studies on diversity and equity. While the books have not yet been released by the state Dept. of Education for inclusion in this year’s curriculum, Dr. Beams made it clear that in the schools in her district, “it’s really just about kindness and acceptance of people who may be different, and tolerance of those differences.” As an example, she cited young students who might not understand how coming from a single parent family, or a family that is not as wealthy as another and cannot provide for their child in the same way impacts the child. “The children are not going to be living in Highlands or Atlantic Highlands all their lives,” she explained, “so they have to understand and recognize the differences among people and simply be inclusive when they’re out in the world. It’s all about kindness, nothing more. It’s about ensuring that every child has equal opportunities and can be proud of who they are.”
That Dr. Beams is well qualified to take on every challenge is evident in her education, background, and experience. In her last position, she oversaw operating budgets upwards of $75 million in revenue and expenses and led the implementation of programs for more than 6,100 students, both general and special education students. She served as assistant superintendent in Edison Township, the 6th largest district in the state with more than 7400 students, and 585 staff members in 13 different buildings.
Over her years in education, Dr. Beams has also been uniquely diversified…she has led digital transformation of an entire curriculum for K through 5th grades, has designed an assessment system with quarterly benchmark assessments, promoted exploratory and application-based instructional practices to encourage creativity and promote reasonable risk-taking, redesigned programs for math and literacy to include primary grade interventions and more target instruction, and developed implementation of all curricula for all academic programs for both general education and special education students. She has even provided learning opportunities for parents to ensure their understanding of blended instruction.
A teacher who can’t quit and doesn’t know how to stop both teaching and learning to expand her own horizons, Dr. Beams has developed curriculum for upper-level courses for college juniors and seniors pursuing communications degrees, collaborated with supervisor of Hawk TV to revise writing curriculum and broadcast writing program within communications departments, produced and supervised original morning news and variety show programming and secured a partnership with MSG Varsity for external communications and to raise her school’s profile.
When she was with the Long Branch school district, she was named both the city and the Monmouth County Teacher of the Year, and redesigned reader and math workshop programs. The list of achievements goes on achievements, honors and awards are at every step of her educational career.
The new superintendent earned her Doctor of Education degree from Northcentral University after earning her master’s at the University of Phoenix and her undergraduate degree at Rutgers, where she majored in broadcast journalism. She holds certifications as a school administrator, principal, in audio/ visual broadcast production technology and elementary education. She has served as a member as well as president and vice president of the Long Branch Board of Education and chaired several committees and many other awards during a professional life that appears to not leave much time for her husband, Dan, who works in graphics, and their daughter Tess, a rising high school freshman.
That part isn’t true, the very animated and loquacious leader laughed. Her daughter is always uppermost in her mind and her husband understands her personality to a T, so family time together is also a must.
She does admit, however, ‘Sometimes I’m afraid of myself! I get an idea and have energy, and I want to get everything done. I am grateful for the opportunity to do great things.” Then, she adds quietly, “I take a great deal of comfort in my teachers and my board members here. I am still meeting them all, but already I understand how hard they work, how much they have done. I plan on splitting my time among all three schools, they’ll never know when I’m popping in. But I want to be a part of the entire district and do the best I can. I do feel I’m the right person for the job…work, creativity energy…. I’m ready to give all of that to Henry Hudson Regional District.”