The increasing presence of homeless families has been called the invisible problem and Senior Editor Larry Hardy, who reported on the issue for the current edition of ASBJ, reveals just how appropros the moniker is. Meanwhile, Associate Editor Joetta Sack-Min predicted the recent failure of a slate of referendums in California meant its education system was in for more trouble in the future. If that’s not enough reading, check what other education blogs have posted this week in a new feature to the Leading Source. Enjoy the weekend and we’ll see you Monday.
School Board News Today, an online publication of NSBA, provides timely and relevant stories and analysis from NSBA and other news outlets to school board members, administrators, and all others interested in K-12 education.
Articles from May, 2009
We’re starting a new feature on the Leading Source by presenting a few of the most interesting entries from the education blogosphere each week. We know you can’t read it all (and frankly, we can’t either) but here’s a start. ASCD’s “In-Service” notes technology’s impact on that most enduring of high school tradition’s: the yearbook. Meanwhile , Education Sector’s “The Quick and the ED” serves up a provocative argument against college savings plans, particularly for low-income families. And lastly, guest blogger Diana Senechal looks at education’s love affair with change. Come back each Friday for a new roundup of the best of the blogs.
Many schools use police-trained German shepherds to keep drugs and weapons out of schools, but the Lafayette School Board in Indiana hopes to introduce a canine companion with a friendlier face. BoardBuzz was pleased to read in Layfayette-West Lafayette Journal & Courier that a session at NSBA’s 2009 Annual Conference inspired these school officials in Indiana to consider a more amiable alternative to traditional police K9s.
During a session entitled “Use Your Four-Legged Friends to Help Your Kids- You Will Be Glad You Did,” officials from DeKalb High School spoke about a unique program in their school that uses Labrador retrievers specifically trained to detect drugs and weapons but not attack. These gentle dogs have become a part of the DeKalb community and mingle with the students while off-duty. They even visit with elementary students during the school day. When it’s time to get down to business, the nonviolent dogs simply sit down in front of the locker or parking lot in which they detect a banned item. An aggressive response is just not a part of their training.
Lafayette Board member Kay Walton told the Journal & Courier that she was impressed with how quickly the dogs reduced the number of drugs and weapons in the DeKalb school. In the course of just one year, the dogs dropped from detecting dozens of hits first semester to finding only one during the second semester.
The Lafayette board hopes to also add a Labrador retriever to its roster and will likely share the cost of the dog with neighboring high schools. Other school officials who hope to purchase a furry friend should note that the initial training and purchase of a non-aggressive drug-sniffing dog totals only about $2,800- less than the cost of a traditional police dog.
To learn more about the DeKalb program, check out NSBA’s website for the April 2009 Annual Conference. Please click on “Available Handout Material” and scroll to find “Use Your Four-Legged Friends to Help Your Kids- They Will Be Glad You Did.”
And for additional learning opportunities, consider attending NSBA’s Annual Conference in Chicago next April. Like the Lafayette Board, you can take tools back to your district that really work!
Should newly elected or appointed school board members speak up confidently at their very first board meeting? Or does the old adage, “silence is golden,” apply?
That’s one of the questions I’ve been asking spanking-new board members, wizened veterans, and wise sages at state school boards associations across the nation. It’s all part of my research for an August ASBJ article on how to maximize your effectiveness during your “first 90 days” in office.
So far, opinions are pretty divided on this question. Certainly a new school board member will need, on occasion, to ask questions at board meetings-but some suggest taking a cautious approach to speaking out at first.
“I was smart enough to keep my mouth shut until I knew the facts,” one board member told ASBJ in a previous article on boardsmanship. “I opened my mouth to learn and to ask questions I didn’t know the answers to.”
Others suggest board members, by the very nature of their duties, have an obligation to voice their views. As one state association official put it, “When we’re sworn in, we hit the ground running.”
Every year, BoardBuzz looks forward to bee week — when hundreds of students compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. And this year is no exception — especially with the snazzy commercial ABC is running (as a side note, BoardBuzz was tickled to hear the old Cameo song “Word Up” used in the promo). This year, 293 students from the United States, the Bahamas, Canada, China, Ghana, Jamaica, New Zealand and South Korea will compete to become speller extraordinaire.
Yesterday, students competed in Round One, a written exam. The score from the written exam will be combined with their stage scores from Rounds Two and Three today to determine who qualifies for the semi-finals on Thursday. ESPN will cover the preliminary rounds and semi-finals, and ABC will broadcast the final round on Thursday evening. Check out the schedule.
BoardBuzz wants to wish a heartfelt good luck to all of the students competing! Check back here later this week for an update.
When ASBJ wrote about the plight of California school districts that had operated on bare-bones budgets for years in its April issue, the mid-year cuts had just begun. A bond referendum that would have stabilized K-12 funding next year, albeit while increasing taxes and borrowing heavily, failed by large margins last week.
So now that these districts know that their worst-case-scenario budgets are going to be cut again the next school year, what happens?
In the short term, district officials are looking at some painful cuts-perhaps even insolvency in a few cases. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to reduce education spending by nearly $1,000 per pupil: from $8,503 last year to $7,527 this coming year, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Without the prospect of even flat-lined funding, classrooms will be affected, administrators say.
Many districts are planning to lay off dozens of teachers, administrators, and other staff, and many of those already have cut out extracurricular activities. Some are looking at entirely eliminating athletics programs or transportation. Others still have arts and music classes or librarians and guidance counselors that can be cut. The state may go so far as to allow districts to snip days off the 180-day school calendar.
“These programs being cut are emblematic of our students being robbed of a quality education – all the things that give them promise,” Robin Swanson, spokeswoman for the Education Coalition, told the Chronicle this week.
Students in the Los Angeles Unified district protested a plan to lay off about 2,250 teachers there by cutting classes on Friday. Some threatened to boycott the state assessments this month, according to the Los Angeles Times. State law prohibits the district from laying off more instructors, so without some relief next year, LAUSD Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines told the newspaper that he was worried about the district’s ability to stay solvent.
Nobody knows the exact impact these cuts will have long term, but educators do know that without a decent education for the next generation, the already troubled state will further its decline. There have been some rumblings of a federal bailout akin to the General Motors plan, allowing the White House to take over the state’s finances. That may be the best hope for schools in California at this point.
Joetta Sack-Min, Associate Editor
BoardBuzz came across a new examination of childhood health conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health that shows that promoting the health of young children, before five years of age, could save society up to $65 billion in future health care costs. The results, published in the May 15, 2009, issue of Academic Pediatrics reveal clear evidence that the four health problems researchers studied — early life tobacco exposure, unintentional injury, obesity and mental health problems — constitute significant burdens on the health of preschool-age children and are antecedents of health problems across the life span. Moreover, the study shows that these health problems affect approximately one-third to one-half of children born in the U.S.
The study shows, for instance, that while obesity among preschoolers has recently been recognized as a major health problem, age-appropriate prevention and intervention strategies are still lacking. According to study authors, this research justifies targeted investments in early childhood health promotion as a means to averting future health costs and improving overall health during their life span.
But BoardBuzz believes the study outcomes also justify investing in health promotion for older children and teenagers. Study results show, for instance, that injuries are the leading cause of death, disabilities and health care utilization for U.S. children and teenagers between the ages of one and 19. BoardBuzz knows that health problems can affect the well-being of children of any age and can hinder their academic achievement – and that can ultimately lead to huge economic and societal costs as well!
NSBA has been working on many health fronts to help keep our nation’s children healthy and help them achieve their academic and personal goals. Check out NSBA’s School Health Programs website to find out more about our projects and programs. And let us know what your schools are doing to keep children healthy. Leave us a comment!