Articles in the Board governance category

Marketplace Fairness Act could help schools gain sales tax revenues, NSBA says

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is urging lawmakers to pass the Marketplace Fairness Act, which would require all online or catalog companies collect taxes from internet purchases. The measure would allow states and local governments to collect an estimated $23 billion per year that could be used to address budget shortfalls in education and other priorities.

The U.S. Senate passed its version of the legislation on May 8. The bill is sponsored by Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), and would require online retailers to collect and remit sales and use taxes to states and local governments, commensurate to brick-and-mortar businesses. Overall, S. 743 seeks to level the playing field between online retailers and local “Main Street” retailers, thereby establishing a level of parity and addressing erosion of local and state tax systems.

The bipartisan bill would allow states and local governments to collect an estimated $23 billion per year that could be used to address budget shortfalls in education and other priorities. S. 743 would exclude small online retailers with annual revenues less than $1 million.

Under the legislation, each state that is a part of the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement would be authorized to collect remote sales and use taxes. Likewise, states that are not a member under the Agreement could collect remote sales and use taxes, provided they implement simplification requirements such as establishing a single entity responsible for tax administration, return processing and audits and establishing a uniform sales and use tax base among a state and its local taxing jurisdictions.

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|May 3rd, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Budgeting, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Policy Formation|Tags: , |

More lawmakers sign on to NSBA bill

The National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) legislative proposal which would establish a framework for improved recognition of local school board authority when the U.S. Department of Education acts on issues that impact local school districts unless specifically authorized in federal legislation, the Local School Board Governance and Flexibility Act (H.R. 1386), has now garnered 16 co-sponsors.

Introduced by Rep. Aaron Schock (R-lll.) on March 21, the bill had as original co-sponsors Reps. Schock, Rodney Davis of Illinois, Ron Kind of Wisconsin, Patrick Meehan of Pennsylvania, and David Valadao of California. Since then, 11 more members of the U.S. House of Representatives have signed on: Reps. Lou Barletta (PA), Jo Bonner (AL), Kevin Cramer (ND), Jim Gerlach (PA), Bob Gibbs (OH), Adam Kinzinger (IL), Cynthia Lummis (WY), Kenny Marchant (TX), Mick Mulvaney (SC), Stevan Pearce (NM.), Ted Poe (TX), and Marlin Stutzman (IN).

School board members are encouraged to contact their House members to become co-sponsors. Increased focus is now being directed to urge senators to introduce a companion bill in the U.S. Senate, and school board members also are encouraged to contact their senators and urge them to sponsor similar legislation.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|May 3rd, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Governance, Leadership, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation, School Boards, School Reform|Tags: , |

Not much data available on school turnaround models, new CPE report finds

Turnaround strategies for low-performing schools are getting a lot of attention from states and the federal government—which are spending billions of dollars on those efforts. But do these strategies work?

The National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Center for Public Education (CPE)  finds that while there have been some successes there’s not much evidence yet that many of these strategies will work on a larger scale.

The report, “Which Way Up?  What research says about school turnaround strategies,” reviews numerous methods of school improvement to determine which, if any, hold the most promise, but finds that in most cases it’s too early to tell.

“With the significant federal investment and mandated models to ‘turnaround’ low-performing schools, we have limited research to date on the effectiveness of these strategies and little guidance on what actually works,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel.  “We know that school improvement funding is extremely important, but it should encourage innovation, instead of mandating unnecessary federal restrictions.”

The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law has placed a larger focus on turnaround strategies by identifying schools with low performance and sizable achievement gaps. The main federal turnaround program, the School Improvement Grant (SIG), targets schools in the bottom 5 percent nationwide with four models of reform ranging from replacing staff to shutting down a school. These strategies are echoed in the federal Race to the Top grants and so-called Parent Trigger laws being introduced in a handful of states.

One federal study showed that two-thirds of SIG grant recipients posted gains with the infusion of federal funds, but because the report was based on only one year’s data, it was too early to draw conclusions.

“The focus on the nation’s lowest performing schools is vitally important so we can make sure all students have the benefit of a solid public education,” said Patte Barth, CPE’s Director. “In these efforts, education policymakers need to balance the need for evidence-based strategies while tapping the potential for local innovation, especially in cases like turnaround strategies where the data is limited.”

In examining research on the impact of school closure, restart, transformation, and turnaround models, the report concludes:

  • Research is limited. There is some evidence of success, primarily for schools undertaking more dramatic turnaround reforms, but data collected over a longer period of time is needed.
  • The vast majority of SIG schools — about three-quarters are choosing the “transformation model” which provides the most flexibility for local planners.
  • Replacing a majority of teachers—required in the turnaround model—presents challenges for some schools. Rural schools are particularly challenged to find enough teachers to meet the replacement requirements.
  • Rural schools also face difficulties with the restart model since they have limited access to private management organizations. The closure model also may not be feasible if they have no other schools in which to send students. Even in urban areas, a closure model seems to be promising only when students can transfer to schools with higher achievement rates.
  • Replacing a principal may show promise, as some studies indicate principals are second only to teachers in their impact on student learning.  But the strategy is new and again, the data is limited.

NSBA has repeatedly voiced concerns about the U.S. Department of Education’s mandates and overreach, which hinder school officials’ abilities to address their unique local needs. In response to NSBA concerns, the Local School Board Governance and Flexibility Act (HR 1386) has been introduced and now has 15 cosponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill would ensure that the agency engages local school boards much more to preclude federal requirements that are ineffective and beyond local school district capacity.

Joetta Sack-Min|May 1st, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Center for Public Education, Charter Schools, Educational Research, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Governance, Leadership, Legislative advocacy, Mayoral Control, School Reform, Student Achievement|Tags: , , , , , |

CPE Director sorts out facts and myths of the Common Core

Implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) has already started in 46 states and the District of Columbia—bringing major changes to public schools in those states. But such a large undertaking also brings many myths and misconceptions about the curricular changes.

Patte Barth, Director of the Center for Public Education (CPE) at the National School Boards Association, writes about what some of the changes will mean for public education in a column for the Huffington Post, “The Common Core Standards: Truths, Untruths and Ambiguities.”

“Despite their high-profile supporters, not everyone is feeling the common core love and a handful of early adopting states are experiencing second thoughts,” she writes. “These are legitimate debates for us to have. Indeed, something this central to public education demands it.”

Read more at the Huffington Post.

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|April 29th, 2013|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Board governance, Center for Public Education, Educational Finance, Educational Research, National Standards, Policy Formation, Student Achievement|Tags: , , |

New NSBA President David Pickler takes office in midst of change

David A. Pickler

David A. Pickler knows about change.

His career has evolved from business to law to financial planning and accounting.  As a member of the Shelby County, Tenn. school board, Pickler is in the midst of a massive merger with Memphis City Schools that will drastically change the demographics and operations of the school district.

So as Pickler becomes NSBA’s 2013-14 President at the Third General Session this afternoon, he has plans to help NSBA become a “change agent,” and a stronger, more responsive organization. Working with NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel, he wants NSBA to become a reform leader and an even greater proponent for public education.

“Our responsibility is to lead the conversation, forge the alliances with core stakeholders, and bring forward a powerful message,” Pickler says.

As a member of the organization’s board of directors, he has been lending his expertise as a financial planner and attorney to NSBA in recent years. C. Ed Massey, NSBA’s 2012-13 President, said he and Pickler have worked together very closely over the past year and he expects a seamless transition.

“David has the requisite communication skills and certainly the knowledge to make sure we keep NSBA on track as we continue to promote our advocacy about public education in multiple ways,” Massey says. Further, “at a time where finances are a consistent and constant challenge, his particular skill set will assist NSBA.”

After graduating from Arkansas State University and working for International Paper in Dallas for one year, Pickler joined the Xerox Corp. and began attending law school at night. He intended to specialize in corporate law, but two and a half years in was offered a promotion by Xerox that would have forced him to give up a legal career. Instead, he decided to look for a job in finance—and after a series of cold calls to brokerage firms, he took a job with PaineWebber.

By the time he graduated law school in December 1985, Pickler had already built a successful financial planning business. The next year, he passed the bar exam and began practicing law on the side.

The two careers finally merged in 2005, when Pickler opened his own wealth management firm, Pickler Wealth Advisors. Two years later, he opened The Pickler Law Firm, and in January, 2012, founded Pickler Accounting Advisors.

“Our motto is, we bring it all together,” Pickler says. “It’s a very holistic model of services for our clients, one of very few organizations in country.”

Pickler has been named to Barron’s Magazine’s list of the country’s top financial planners, and the trade magazine Registered Rep awarded Pickler its highest honor, the “Altruism Award,” in 2011 for his work with children, calling him “the children’s advocate.”

With his wife Beth, he became involved with the Shelby County district through the PTAs at his two children’s schools. He ran for the county’s first elected school board in 1998, and served as board chairman from 1999 to 2011.

“Our board has really strongly advocated for traditional values,” Pickler says. For instance, when he realized many classrooms did not have an American flag, he convinced FedEx Corp. and its founder Fred Smith to donate a flag for each of the district’s 50 schools and 1000 classrooms. The board also passed a policy to ensure each day begins with a moment of silence and the Pledge of Allegiance.

In 2001, Shelby County became the first large district to mandate every school have an active and empowered PTA.

“Districts like ours were significantly underfunded,” Pickler said. “We wanted to send a message to principals that parent engagement is an essential ingredient to student achievement.”

In 2011, the Shelby County board found itself in the midst of an unprecedented merger when the Memphis City board voted 5-4 to give up the city’s charter for a special school district. The move meant the suburban 47,000-student Shelby County district would be responsible for educating 103,000 new students, a population that was 85 percent African-American and with many living in poverty.

Logistically, the challenges have been enormous, and many more challenges remain, Pickler says. A merged school board now has 23 members to manage two systems. Both the Memphis and Shelby County superintendents have resigned in recent months and hundreds of teachers and staff have chosen to retire or leave. The merger will be completed at the start of the 2013-14 school year.

Most recently, the Tennessee legislature is expected to approve a measure that would allow all the incorporated towns in Shelby County to create their own school districts, and as many as six are expected to apply.

Throughout the difficult process, Pickler said he has tried to focus on student achievement and issues that will unite the many “wonderful, passionate people who really care about public education in our communities.” A lesson learned, he says, is that “monumental decisions should not be made by small majorities.”

Outside his school board work and professional career, Pickler loves sports. An avid racquetball player and huge St. Louis Cardinals baseball fan, he has been a Dallas Cowboys season ticket holder for over a quarter century. He also describes himself as a voracious reader, with a particular interest in American history.

He also chairs the board of directors for the Memphis Oral School for the Deaf, a school that teaches deaf children from birth to age 5 to “listen, learn and talk.”

“This miraculous place gives deaf and profound hearing loss children the gift of sound and speech, and empowers them to enter school as a non-special needs student and look forward to a life of limitless possibilities,” Pickler noted. His wife, Beth, is a longtime volunteer at the school.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|April 15th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Conferences and Events, Crisis Management, Governance, Leadership, Legislative advocacy, NSBA Annual Conference 2013, School Boards|Tags: , |

Making it work: The first 100 days of superintendent/board relationship

To start off on the right foot, school boards and a newly hired superintendent need to work both across the table and across the community, conference attendees learned in Saturday’s session at the National School Boards Association’s Annual Conference on The First 100 Days of the Superintendent/Board Relationship.

“A community will not invest in dysfunction,” said Shawn Joseph, superintendent of Delaware’s Seaford school district. “You have to be unified.”

It’s essential that board and the superintendent have a clear, mutual understanding of their respective roles and responsibilities, said co-presenter Sharon Cox, a search consultant who helped Seaford. State school boards associations typically have services to help boards and superintendents reach a common understanding, she noted.

In Seaford’s hiring process, the initial sentiment about thee superintendent finalists among five school board members was a 2-2-1 split, said board president Mike Smith. But that vote became 5-0 after the board sat down to consider the results of a public outreach process. That’s why it’s important to be deliberate about soliciting stakeholder input about the qualities desired in a superintendent, he said.

If your district lacks a strategic plan or it needs updating, that should be the first task assigned to a new superintendent, as was the case in Seaford, Cox said.

She said it’s critical to listen to people’s hopes and dreams for the district. Consider a parent survey that asks questions like:
• As you think about your school, please list the expectations you have for us.
• In your opinion, what should our school emphasize to improve students’ academic performance.
• What should our school emphasize to improve school culture?

The board and superintendent can use such information to craft a revised vision statement to guide the district. Following standard strategic planning protocols, the vision can help generate priorities and measurable goals.

— Eric Randall

Erin Walsh|April 13th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Leadership, NSBA Annual Conference 2013, School Boards|Tags: |

New executive team ushers in a “New NSBA”

The National School Boards Association’s 2013 Annual Conference is the debut for the association’s new leadership team — Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel and Chief Operating Officer Marie S. Bilik – that is overseeing plans to revamp the 73-year-old organization.

NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel and Chief Operating Officer Marie S. Bilik

Although Gentzel and Bilik boast new job titles, both are already intimately familiar with NSBA’s inner workings. Gentzel began his career at the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) in 1980, serving as PSBA’s executive director since 2001. From 2007 to 2012, Bilik was the executive director of the New Jersey School Boards Association, an organization where she had worked since 1993. Both have served on the NSBA Liaison Committee, which advises NSBA’s work with its state association members.

The duo will guide NSBA into a new era focusing on its core missions: increased legislative, legal, and public advocacy, and strengthening services to state association members. Gentzel will speak about NSBA’s new “lean-forward approach” that will elevate the organization’s messages in Washington, in the courts, and with the public at Saturday’s First General Session. He will also unveil a new NSBA logo.

“NSBA will become more assertive in our advocacy for school board governance and public education, and we will play both offense and defense,” he said. “We will promote our own vision of public education, while challenging those who would, in effect, put a ‘For Sale’ sign on schools to advance their own pecuniary interests.”

NSBA President C. Ed Massey noted the pair is uniquely qualified to manage the 90-member staff at NSBA’s headquarters in Alexandria, Va. Gentzel was chosen through a national search that brought dozens of job candidates to the NSBA Board of Director’s search committee.

“We needed someone who was astutely aware of association work and NSBA’s needs as well as the historical significance of the organization,” Massey said. “Having served at PSBA, we felt Tom was the right fit at the right time to lead NSBA in its new endeavor, and we were delighted when he chose Marie to become Chief Operating Officer. The synergy between them is excellent.”

Gentzel and Bilik took the reins from former Executive Director Anne L. Bryant, who retired in September 2012 after 16 years of service, and Deputy Executive Director Joseph S. Villani, who retired in December 2012.

Gentzel has extensive experience with government relations, beginning his career as a lobbyist with PSBA in 1980 and then leading its Office of Governmental and Member Relations. He was appointed by Gov. Tom Ridge and reappointed twice by Gov. Edward Rendell to the State Advisory Panel on Special Education. In 2009, he was named by Rendell to the Pennsylvania Early Learning Council. He previously chaired the Pennsylvania Coalition for Public Education and was founder and coordinator of the Alliance for a School Aid Partnership.

Bilik had announced her retirement from NJSBA last year, but was drawn to working for the national association. “We realize what the success of NSBA means to its state associations and their members,” she said.

In New Jersey, Bilik led NJSBA during a tumultuous period where the governor and legislature dealt with issues that had huge implications for school boards: the economic crisis, the creation of a new state school-funding formula, the implementation of a 2-percent tax levy cap, a move to November school board elections, and changes in New Jersey’s teacher tenure and evaluation systems.  She guided NJSBA’s establishment of the Educational Leadership Foundation of New Jersey (ELFNJ), an independent non-profit that advances public education governance through training, research, and attaining grants to further professional development. She is a member of the ELFNJ board of directors.

Bilik also has firsthand experience as a local elected official: As a resident of Sussex County, N.J., she served as a school board member from 1981 to 1988, a municipal council member in Green Township from 1988 to 1993, and the town’s first female mayor in 1993.

To learn more about the “New NSBA” and new services that the association will offer, stop by the NSBA booth, No. 943, at the Exhibit Hall during the Exhibit Hall hours, 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Bilik will be at the booth to meet attendees from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Joetta Sack-Min|April 12th, 2013|Categories: Announcements, Board governance, NSBA Annual Conference 2013|Tags: , , |

Gun lobby pushes to arm school personnel

School resource officers should receive more weapons training and “selected and designated school personnel” should also be trained and authorized to carry arms, according to a National Rifle Association (NRA) task force report, which was reported by Legal Clips, a publication of the National School Boards Association (NSBA).

The report was released last week as President Barack Obama urges Congress to consider several gun-control measures, which could include increased background  checks and bans on certain assault-style weapons. The Senate could announce compromise legislation as early as this week.

Public schools spend billions each year on school resource officers, according to a report on NPR’s Marketplace Morning Report. One officer could cost between $50,000 and $80,000 per year, depending on the district.

Responding to a gun emergency is a complex, multifaceted task that requires the coordination of trained law enforcement officers and other emergency response professionals, NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón, Jr. told NPR. “It’s not just simply about being able to defend,” Negrón said, “but about being able to address and respond quickly in the whole security scenario that law enforcement officers are trained to do.”

Lawrence Hardy|April 8th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy, School Climate, School Security|Tags: , |

NSBA board members find lessons in Finland’s schools

Three members of the National School Boards Association’s board of directors saw the well-regarded education system in Finland on a recent academic trip. And while the two countries have major differences, there are some important lessons school boards can take away from the Scandanavian schools, said NSBA President C. Ed Massey.

Massey joined a group of researchers and educators from Northern Kentucky University for a guided tour of Finnish schools, where they saw classrooms from early education to postsecondary and career training. He invited fellow NSBA board members David A. Pickler, NSBA’s President-Elect and a school board member from the Shelby County School Board in Memphis, and Kevin E. Ciak, a school board member from the Saylorsville School District in New Jersey, to join the tour.

Massey noted that the country emphasizes the importance of education by giving all children access to high-quality schools from age one through college—and the government pays for it all.

“The biggest thing that struck me was that they only hire the best teachers,” said Massey, a member of the Boone County, Ky., school district’s board of education. “A teacher cannot be hired unless they have a master’s degree, and then they are treated as consummate professionals, on the same rank as a doctor or lawyer.”

Members of NSBA's Board of Directors pose with Bruce J. Oreck, U.S. Ambassador to Finland, on their recent trip. From left, NSBA President-Elect David A. Pickler, Oreck, NBSA President C. Ed Massey, and Kevin E. Ciak.

Students in Finland also learn three languages through immersion by the time they leave elementary school. One thing that schools do not have is sports teams—popular pastimes such as hockey take place in clubs after school. And the schools provide a free lunch for all students, regardless of their families’ income level.

Each school is run by a “counsel” made up of administrators, teachers, and parents, Massey said. A school district is governed by a municipal education board, where members are appointed by the country’s Ministry of Education.

There are some important differences between Finland and the United States that make any comparisons unfair, Massey noted. For one, the country only has about 5.5 million people and 540,000 students—much smaller than even Kentucky, which has more than 670,000 students. The population is largely homogeneous with very little immigration, Massey said, noting that there are 59 different languages spoken within Boone County’s student population.

And—perhaps the most significant difference–Finland pays for all its educational services by taxing its residents at much higher rates than U.S. governments, he added.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|April 4th, 2013|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Board governance, Educational Research, Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Preschool Education, School District Reorganization, School Reform, Student Achievement, Teachers|Tags: , , , , , |

District inequities and school safety post-Newtown in the April issue of ASBJ

Uneven funding among affluent and poor school districts is well-documented, but you may not realize that it often occurs among schools in the same district, as well. Senior Editor Del Stover looks at how school leaders are uncovering these funding inequities and how they are fighting the often-difficult political battle to remedy the situation in his April American School Board Journal article, online now.

Also in April, national school safety expert Ronald Stephens weighs in on sensible and commonsense ways that school boards can and should react in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings last December.

Our school board success story series, Agents of Change, continues with a Massachusetts school board and superintendent who made a controversial decision to bring its special education program in-house.

Make sure to post your opinion to this month’s Adviser poll, also online at ASBJ’s website.

 

Kathleen Vail|April 2nd, 2013|Categories: American School Board Journal, Board governance, Budgeting, Diversity, Leadership, School Security, Special Education|Tags: |
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