Articles from April, 2006

Who gets to decide who serves as school board chairs?

Should voters decide who serves as leaders on local school boards? A Florida state Senate bill would ensure that voters could elect school board chairs to four-year terms, “providing accountability and a consistent leadership,” reads a supportive editorial in the Orlando Sentinel:

This proposal is much better than an idea floated in past years that would have given a chairman far too much power. This version would not replace the appointed superintendent in the day-to-day running of districts, but would provide voters a strong voice to shape the agenda of the school board — someone to be accountable to all voters.

The state House has passed a similar measure.

Also in Florida, 44 out of 67 counties elect their school superintendents. One county in that state is considering changing that. The Palatka Daily News reports that in addition to Florida, some school districts in Alabama and Mississippi elect superintendents. Good idea? What do you think?

Erin Walsh|April 28th, 2006|Categories: School Boards, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Check out these resources

School climate, free speech, 21st century skills, intelligent design, and on it goes.

These topics and others are part of BoardBuzz‘s growing Online Discussion and Podcast Archive. And look for additions in the future.

And while we are talking about valuable resources, here is the Arts Education Online Resource Center, a partnership between NSBA and Americans for the Arts. The site offers links and information on the nationwide campaign to increase the presence and quality of arts education in American public schools. Check it out.

Erin Walsh|April 27th, 2006|Categories: School Boards, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

One strong ‘no’ vote on school board recall

Convincing editorial here from the Detroit News opposing a recall effort in the Lakeview school district in St. Clair Shores, Mich.

Four school board members are facing recall for the sin of actually doing their jobs and trying to keep money in the classroom. To do this, they have taken tough but responsible measures to keep the district’s $25 million budget in the black.

They contracted out cleaning services to a private company, letting go of their custodians. They refinanced some of the district’s debt to save on interest costs. They cut school bus services for all but the special education students.

And they declared an impasse in their bargaining with the district’s teacher union, basically imposing the recommendations of a state fact-finder on pay and health insurance.

Total projected savings after this board’s brave moves? A whole bunch. But it may cost them their jobs. Remember: It’s all about the adults. Worthy reading.

Erin Walsh|April 26th, 2006|Categories: School Boards, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Voters wanted

With some states and localities holding school board elections next week, BoardBuzz pauses to reflect on why we all need to exercise our right to vote. Sadly, it is not unusual for school board elections to have low turnout at the polls. One of the hangovers of the Progressive Era was the desire to remove politics from education, thus, many school board elections are held at different times than national and state elections. Those districts that do hold their elections on the same day as national or state elections see a higher turnout, as would be expected.

Says Justin King, executive director of the Michigan Association of School Boards, in an article in the Battle Creek Enquirer:

“Either people have gotten too busy or too lazy. For most elections, people are not paying attention. We have a great right to vote, and people have lost sight of how important it is. I think, in general, that’s true.”

King believes that’s especially true in school elections.

“We’ve got an opportunity to direct the way things are going both by electing people and trying to advance money issues,” he said. “… If only incumbents are running and the community feels the school district is heading in the right direction, people will just say ‘The heck with it’ and won’t vote.”

So what to do? Vote!

Erin Walsh|April 25th, 2006|Categories: School Boards, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Teens serving on local boards becoming more common

Intriguing tale here about a trend in local governance: The teens are taking over. Well, not quite yet. But governing boards of all types, large and small, obscure and not, are inviting teens to take a seat. The article in the San Francisco Chronicle does not focus on school boards, but they are obviously part of this too, much more in recent years.

Cities leading the way here are Hampton, Va., Sarasota, Fla., as well as a number of California cities. There is also a concerted push by philanthropic groups such as the Pew Charitable Trusts and other foundations to treat youth as a distinct constituency and to get them involved in decision making, especially in towns where the population of children and teenagers is burgeoning, reports Chronicle.

School Board News has covered the issue of students on school boards here.

Education Commission of the States produced a useful policy brief in 2004 titled Involving Students in Governance (pdf). And here are two sample policies for students serving on school boards (all are pdf): Culver City, CA and Davenport, Iowa.

Erin Walsh|April 25th, 2006|Categories: School Boards, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Preventing tragedy by listening to kids

Twice in the last week, authorities say they prevented mass shootings in schools. The first is in Riverton, Kan., where five teenage boys fully intended to go on a shooting spree at their high school but were stopped after one of them discussed the plot on a Web site, law enforcement and school officials said.

The latest is in a small town near Anchorage, Alaska, where six seventh-graders suspected of plotting a deadly attack on a school were arrested this weekend. Nine other seventh-graders also were suspended in possible connection with the elaborate scheme to kill faculty and classmates using guns and knives at the school, where about 500 sixth- through eighth-graders have four weeks until summer vacation, AP reports. The name of the school (really) is North Pole Middle School, and is about 14 miles southeast of Fairbanks. The group wanted to seek revenge for being picked on, the town’s police chief said.

What led to these nick-of-time arrrests?

In Kansas, authorities were alerted to threats on the Web site That quickly led to the identification of the five suspects and the recovery of an undisclosed number of weapons at the home of one of the suspects. In Alaska, a student told a parent about threats overheard at school last Monday, the day before the shootings were to occur. USA Today has updated info here.

So something is working. Some kids are talking to parents, and some authorities are slowly waking up to the reality of how much of kids’ lives are now lived on the Internet. There likely are other examples of prevented tragedies like this across the country that have not made the news. Listening to kids is more important than ever.

Erin Walsh|April 24th, 2006|Categories: School Boards, School Security, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Git ‘cher online education how-tos here

Word has it that copies of Virtual Realities: A School Leader’s Guide to Online Education are still available. This handy how-to gives school board members, superintendents, and other administrators practical information about planning and operating online or virtual schools. Not a bad thought considering part of the president’s pandemic flu plan is to close schools. Get your copy here.

Erin Walsh|April 21st, 2006|Categories: Educational Technology, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

The textbook tango

Good series in the Chicago Tribune about textbooks that are either too old or too expensive.

A survey of 50 districts of varying wealth and size shows public schools are failing to provide the most basic tool of learning: a current book in good condition.

Nearly 80 percent of districts surveyed are using textbooks in a main academic area that are out-of-date–at least 8 years old. About 22 percent of districts have books at least 15 years old.

What is interesting is how this issue is a much larger topic on university campuses.

Also in Chicago: A CPS teacher is on the war path about t-shirts.

Erin Walsh|April 21st, 2006|Categories: School Boards, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

IDEA expert fees get Supreme attention

Attorneys for the Arlington, N.Y. school district and a LaGrangeville, N.Y. family debated before the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday whether special education law authorizes the awarding of expert and consultant fees to parents. Here’s what BoardBuzz had to say earlier on this case.

The arguments—and the questions from many of the justices—centered on what Congress intended in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which requires states to provide a free appropriate public education to children with disabilities, reports the Poughkeepsie Journal. Arguing on behalf of Arlington Central School District was NSBA Council of School Attorneys member Ray Kuntz of Kuntz, Spagnuolo, Scapoli & Schiro, P.C., who in 1982 won the very first IDEA case to reach the Supreme Court, Hendrick Hudson Central School District v. Rowley.

Here are further links to more information about the case, including NSBA’s amicus brief (pdf) submitted to the Supreme Court.

Erin Walsh|April 21st, 2006|Categories: School Law, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Technology Salute deadline extended to May 9

Now is the time for school districts that are Technology Leadership Network members to apply to be recognized as a 2006 Salute District for their education technology initiatives. As a Salute District, your superintendent will have an opportunity to share the district’s accomplishments with more than 2,000 attendees at the T+L Conference in Dallas, Nov. 8-10. Salute Districts receive a special display in the Education Excellence Fair as well as a panel discussion session. This is also a chance to gain national press coverage. So what are you waiting for? Simply complete the online submission form no later than May 9. Details here.

Erin Walsh|April 20th, 2006|Categories: Educational Technology, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|
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