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Articles in the Conferences and Events category

Online BuyBoard program helps districts save money on purchases

Looking to buy a MUX box? How about several tubas for your music program or perhaps even a couple of buses in your fleet?

BuyBoard can help.

BuyBoard is a Web-based cooperative purchasing program developed and sponsored by NSBA and state school board associations.

Joe Villani, deputy executive director of NSBA, led T+L session attendees through the features of the online program for school districts. Advantages to joining the national purchasing cooperative, said Villani, include saving money through discounts and saving the time and efforts of district procurement staff. “You can redeploy your procurement staff to do other things,” he said.

Villani used an example from his days as an administrator at a large district. The district wanted schools to link in with a county optic fiber network. This could be done, he found out, but the district needed to purchase devices called MUX boxes to translate the fiber optic signal.

“It took us another four months to make those connections,” he said.”We had to learn about them, write the specs, evaluate the choices, and defend the bid. If I had had BuyBoard, I would have gone online, see what it costs, order it, and have it three days later.”

Districts that become members of the cooperative can buy products without having to put out the products for bid. The cooperative analyzes and makes award recommendations for products and services that have been submitted for competitive procurement. All awarded items or catalogs are posted on the secure BuyBoard website so that BuyBoard members can search for and select items and order.

BuyBoard has a request for quotes (RFQ) function, as well. Districts can ask for price quotes on certain products and vendors will respond in a set amount of time. School staff can compare prices and also see volume discounts for purchases. “You can award it to however you want, and all of these prices are legal,” said Villani. “All have been bid and awarded to the vendors in the cooperative already.”

Purchases can be made 24 hours a day and seven days a week – it works like other e-commerce sites like Amazon.

It does not cost money join the cooperative, but districts must be members in good standard with their state school boards associations. School board members also should find out from their district lawyer if state law allows them to purchase in a cooperative.

For more information, go to

Kathleen Vail|October 21st, 2010|Categories: Conferences and Events, School Board News|

Sexting, cyberbullying present thorny issues for educators, NSBA attorney says

Sexting, social media, and cyberbullying were the hottest of the hot education legal topics discussed by Sonja Trainor, an NSBA senior staff attorney, at a preconference session of the T+L conference Tuesday in Phoenix.

Several years ago, school leaders and educators asked why they needed to be concerned with cyberbullying, especially if it occurs off-campus, Trainor said. These days, no one asks that question. Cyberbullying lawsuits have resulted in school districts paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to plaintiffs and in legal fees.

Schools forming cyberbullying policies should look to their states’ anti-bullying laws. Forty-five states have such laws on the books, although many don’t have separate cyberbullying laws.

Cyberbullying is defined as bullying plus technology, said Trainor. It must be intentional, repeated, aggressive, or unwanted behavior with a power imbalance.”Your definition should start with state bullying policy, but your district policy must define bullying, taking in the state and federal laws and community input,” she said.

Many federal laws apply to bullying and cyberbullying as well, she said, including the Safe Schools Act, the Electronics Communication Privacy Act, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, and the First and Fourth Amendment — all of which need to be taken into account when considering policies.

Schools are in a particularly hard place legally with regard to cyberbullying: “You could be sued by the perpetrator or the victim,” said Trainor. “You can get it from either side.”

Sixteen states are considering some form of sexting laws. Sexting, which means to forward sexually explicit images of oneself or peers via text messaging, is considered normal among preteens and teens, said Trainor.

To prevent texting and the legal problems that come with it, it’s important to reach out to the community to get members involved with the procedures the district has in place to deal with such behavior. It’s also important to document prevention efforts, said Trainor.

“Make it clear to students that [inappropriate images] should be deleted immediately. Don’t hold it on your phone,” said Trainor. That also goes for the adults, too. She cited a recent case where an administrator was prosecuted because he was found with phone images that he had saved in a student case.

In social media cases, Trainor recommended that districts have staff members who are fluent in the different varieties of social media: Facebook, Myspace, Xanga, Twitter, etc.

Acceptable use policies can be the key to being on solid legal footing with technology use and the law. A good acceptable use policy, said Trainor:

• Provides notice of the extent the district will monitor technology and network use.
• Establishes a clear expectation of proper use.
• Makes clear that district will conduct and cooperate with investigations.
• Makes it understood that the district is not liable for improper use.
• Requires students and parents to sign the policy.

“You are on much better footing” with such a policy, said Trainor.

Trainor’s presentation, along with a list of resources and sample policies, is available at

Kathleen Vail|October 20th, 2010|Categories: Conferences and Events, School Board News|

T+L Conference opens with site visit to Vail, Ariz. schools

Today, NSBA kicks off its 2010 Technology + Learning Conference in Phoenix, bringing together hundreds of school technology leaders and company representatives to learn about a myriad of topics and best practices.

Already, a sold-out group of 115 administrators has traveled to the Tucson area to tour the Vail School District for pre-conference site visits. The school district has implemented a one-on-one laptop program, where students use digital textbooks, at its high schools. Vail school officials have created a “Beyond Textbooks Initiative” which seeks to eliminate textbooks and provide digital content aligned to state educational standards, an initiative that has proven so successful that the district has helped 20 other districts and charter schools across Arizona build similar programs.

It’s also built an “internet bus” that turned a traditional school bus into a rolling study hall.

The enthusiasm for the conference was also shared in a press release announcing the visit from the district’s Chief Information Officer.

“When we opened [Empire High School] five years ago, we thought it would be pretty cool, but I could not have imagined that we would be here today,” Matt Federoff wrote. “These visitors are high-powered district leaders from across the country, and they’re coming to Vail!”

If you’re not in Phoenix, School Board News will have coverage of the top sessions and events throughout the week, and be sure to check the December issue of ASBJ and School Board News for highlights.

Joetta Sack-Min|October 19th, 2010|Categories: Conferences and Events, School Board News|

NSBA, Center for Digital Education honor school districts for use of technology

NSBA and e.Republic’s Center for Digital Education announced the top school districts in the seventh annual Digital School Districts Survey. The survey recognizes school boards and districts use of technology to govern the district, communicate with students, parents and the community, and to improve district operations.

The school districts will be honored at NSBA’s T+L Conference, held this week in Phoenix.

All U.S. public school districts were eligible to participate in the survey, and were placed in three classifications based on size of enrollment.  The top 10 rankings reflect those who have the fullest implementation of technology benchmarks in the evolution of digital education, as represented in the survey questions.

Cathilea Robinett,  executive vice president of the Center for Digital Education, said, “One of the most critical areas of effective school leadership for America’s school boards today involves the wise use of technology to provide better communication, support student learning, and track district results.  The 2010 survey responses reflect how boards and districts are embracing digital technologies in their goals and strategic plans, resulting in improved services, skill sets and use of digital content in their curriculum and classrooms. Congratulations to this year’s winners!”

“With rising expectations and shrinking resources, these districts have utilized technology to effectively serve their students, educators, and community members,” said NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant. “School boards across the country should look to these districts for ideas about using technology to make their work as a board more transparent and their district operations more efficient.”

The top 10 winners for each category of the 2010 Digital School Districts Survey  are listed below:

Large Student Population Category – More than 15,000 students:

1st Clark County School District, Nev.

2nd Prince William County Public Schools, Va.

3rd Frederick County Public Schools, Md.

4th Cherokee County School District, Ga.

5th Cleveland County Schools, N.C.

5th Colorado Springs School District 11, Colo.

6th Gwinnett County Public Schools, Ga.

7th Fayette County Schools, Ga.

8th Las Cruces Public Schools, N.M.

9th Denton Independent School District, Texas

9th Loudoun County Public Schools, Va.

10th Blue Valley School District, Kan.

10th Richmond County School System, Ga.

Mid-sized Student Population Category – 2,500 up to 15,000 students:

1st Howell Township Public Schools, N.J.

2nd Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, N.C.

2nd Oconomowoc Area School District, Wis.

3rd Geneseo Community Unit School District 228, Ill.

4th Fayetteville Public Schools, Ark.

4th Township High School District 214, Ill.

5th Lowndes County Schools, Ga.

6th Andover Unified School District 385, Kan.

6th Barrow County Schools, Ga.

7th Jones County Schools, Ga.

8th Vineland School District, N.J.

9th Marietta City Schools, Ga.

9th Roanoke County Public Schools, Va.

10th Jefferson City Schools, Ga.

10th Madison County School District, Ky.

Small Student Population Category – Less than 2,500 students:

1st Springfield Public Schools, N.J.

2nd Springville-Griffith Institute CSD, N.Y.

3rd Hanson School District, S.D.

4th Maine Regional School Unit 21

5th Gooding Joint School District #231, Idaho

6th Tornillo Independent School District, Texas

7th North Mason School District, Wash.

8th Chickamauga City School System, Ga.

9th Orange City Schools, Ohio

10th Fremont County School District 24, Wyo.

Erin Walsh|October 19th, 2010|Categories: Conferences and Events, School Board News|

NSBA technology poll shows need to better assess 21st Century skills

School leaders are taking action against cyberbullying, as a new NSBA survey shows that more than half of district technology officials said that their districts have created specific policies to prevent or punish online threats and harassment. Another 34 percent said that cyberbullying is already covered under their existing policies.

Educators say they are using staff development, student awareness campaigns and parent education programs to address cyberbullying.

The survey results, which also covered topics ranging from digital textbooks to the federal role in assessing technology comprehension, will be announced at NSBA’s Technology and Learning (T+L) Conference, which starts Oct. 19 in Phoenix.

More than 35 percent of respondents named “assessing 21st century skills” as the top education technology priority that Congress and the Obama administration should address. More than 43 percent said their district already has created new assessment measures to incorporate such skills as problem-solving, teamwork, and critical thinking. But with the federal and state governments playing such a large role in standardized testing and school accountability, lawmakers need to be involved in finding solutions, respondents said.

“One of the most positive results we are seeing is the widespread use of technology tools to support collaboration and problem-based learning,” said NSBA’s Executive Director Anne L. Bryant. “But assessment models need to change to reflect these higher-level 21st century skills.”

Many educators appear ready to cut their ties with the traditional print textbooks in a move to more digital content if equity concerns about student access to devices can be resolved.  Thirty-five percent say textbooks are still necessary because all students do not have access while an equal number (35 percent) believe the money could be better spent on other instructional resources. Another 24 percent believe textbooks could be eliminated since students find them boring and prefer electronic resources. Only 7 percent felt the texts are necessary because educators do not have the time or skills to create their own materials.

In spite of their willingness to embrace digital content,  the survey found a continued need for professional development to assist teachers in better using technology in their classrooms. More than 47 percent of leaders responding identified “helping teachers effectively use technology” as the single biggest education technology challenge facing their district.

Other key findings of the survey include:

  • More than 70 percent rank the federal E-Rate program as either “very important” or “somewhat important” in helping their district reach its technology goals.
  • Nearly 96 percent say the use of classroom technology has increased learning opportunities for students in their district.
  • Ninety-three percent say technology has made students more engaged in learning.
  • More than 60 percent say classroom technology has improved opportunities for students in special education classes, while 50 percent say it has increased learning for English language learners.
  • A growing number of districts (37 percent) have launched 1:1 technology learning initiatives, and 35 percent of respondents said netbooks will likely be the device purchased in the greatest volume to implement those programs. Traditional laptops (28 percent) and the recently released iPad (16 percent) also are popular options. Only 22 percent say they are leveraging students’ personal devices by allowing them to access the school network, a trend that is likely to increase in the years to come.
  • Thirty percent of districts responding have an official Facebook page as a communication/outreach tool, while nearly that many, 26 percent, use Twitter.
Erin Walsh|October 18th, 2010|Categories: Conferences and Events, Educational Technology, School Board News|

Condoleezza Rice pens new memoir and promotes the value of education

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has just released a memoir, Extraordinary, Ordinary People.  Surprisingly, instead of focusing on her years on the world stage, Rice explores her childhood in segregated Birmingham, Ala. during the 1960s in this book.

BoardBuzz was interested to note that her mother was a teacher and her father a guidance counselor.  Rice highlights the fact that she lived in a community of teachers where education was very important and she credits this with helping her become a confident and successful adult.

The Booklist review, excerpted on, calls this book “a frank, poignant and lovely portrait of a family” living through “…turbulent changes in American society.”

BoardBuzz was pleased to see Rice also emphasize the importance of education in a recent interview on the Pittsburgh Urban Media website. Asked how she can put her education and experience to work for others, Rice replies, “…I think it is a part of public service to help young people find their way…I’ve been very involved in K-12 education issues. I started a program back in 1992 called the Center for a New Generation, an afterschool enrichment program. I really do fervently believe that every child deserves to have the kind of access to educational opportunities…that I had.”

Rice will be the General Session speaker on Saturday, April 9, at the 2011 NSBA Annual Conference in San Francisco, where she will share her thoughts with attendees on education and the world today.

Barbara Moody|October 18th, 2010|Categories: Teachers, Conferences and Events, Diversity, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Education technology leadership honored in this year’s “20 to Watch” list

From a school librarian who’s blog of book selections is read around the country to a kindergarten teacher turned top executive at a major digital education resources company who’s extolled the value of educational social networking along the way, this year’s “20 to Watch” list are movers and shakers in the education area who are as cutting edge as the technologies they utilize.

Check out these remarkable individuals and their impressive biographies.  They will be recognized at next week’s T+L Conference in Phoenix.

In the meantime, view Paul Andersen’s collection of instructional videos he posts on YouTube, called Bozeman Biology. No wonder he was also named the 2011 Montana Teacher of the Year.

Below is one of Anderson’s videos that has received 7,969 views. Clearly Anderson doesn’t have that many students, so it is great to know that so many other are watching!

Naomi Dillon|October 14th, 2010|Categories: Teachers, Conferences and Events, Educational Technology, Multimedia and Webinars, Student Achievement, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|Tags: , , , |

Technology is helping rural schools says Duncan

Yesterday, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said during a visit to a rural high school in North Dakota, “I think technology can be a huge vehicle, a huge strategy to leveling the playing field and giving children access to higher level classes and college level classes that I think are so important.”

BoardBuzz agrees and issues concerning how technology is advancing rural education will be discussed at this year’s T+L Conference that will be held in Phoenix from October 19-22.

Alexis Rice|October 13th, 2010|Categories: Conferences and Events, Rural Schools, Educational Technology, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

The benefits of professional school board development

BoardBuzz was pleased to hear that at least one school board has decided to lift the restriction on members attending their state conference. The School Board for Thornton Fractional Township High Schools voted to give their members the option to attend the Illinois Association of School Boards Annual Conference in November. 

In a recent article in Times of Northwest Indiana, Board Member Donald Swibes said that “the benefits that board members derive from meeting with educational colleagues make it worth the cost,” adding “We all need to hear what is going on.”

It seems that when budgets are tight, professional development is one of the first items to be cut, which BoardBuzz thinks is unfortunate and short-sighted.  Getting ideas and strategies from your colleagues – both within your own state and from across the country – can often reap huge benefits for your district — benefits that in many cases will offset the cost of attendance.

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) has put together a list of tips for getting real value out of the conference experience, as well as a sample editorial article that you can customize to educate your community on this subject.  And, we hope you will make plans to attend the NSBA Annual Conference in San Francisco, April 9-11, 2011.

Barbara Moody|October 6th, 2010|Categories: School Boards, Conferences and Events, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

When a charter isn’t working, school boards need to speak up

Think all urban school board members hate charter schools because they sap off their best students and take money away from traditional public schools? Think again.

A sometimes-spirited discussion at NSBA’s Council of Urban Boards of Education annual conference yesterday showed that board members have quite an array of experiences and opinions with charters in their cities. (School Board News is reporting on the major events and panels at the CUBE conference in Baltimore Sept. 30-Oct. 2, read more at

Some board members from Maryland noted that they were proud of some of their charters for offering quality, focused programs, such as health and fitness or a Montessori curricula. Perhaps their positive experience has a lot to do with the fact that local school boards are the primary charter authorizers under the state’s law.

Others reported less positive experiences, noting that they had no control to shut down charters that were clearly underperforming  (only 17 percent of charters have significantly increased student achievement compared to traditional public schools, according to this report.)

Board Buzz liked the advice given by Ursula Wright, chief operating officer of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, who said school boards have every right to insist on that accountability, even where the school board is not responsible for the school’s charter.

Go to the authorizer body with the appropriate information, she said. “If a school is not serving its students, not living up to its charter . . . it needs to be shut down.”

Joetta Sack-Min|October 1st, 2010|Categories: Charter Schools, Conferences and Events, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|
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