Articles in the Crisis Management category

Is your district prepared for a natural disaster?

Hurricane Isaac left floods and power outages across the Gulf Coast this week, but officials at the National School Boards Association (NSBA) say damage to schools remains minimal.

“We’ve reached out to our colleagues in the states that were affected by Hurricane Isaac,” said NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant. “Although many families and schools have been affected by the torrential rains and wind, at this point there have been no fatalities related to schools.”

Public school buildings are often used as safe havens during storms and other disasters, and schools canceled classes and activities in many parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida and Alabama this week.

American School Board Journal has a compilation of stories with advice on handling natural disasters in its topical archives.

Joetta Sack-Min|August 31st, 2012|Categories: Environmental Issues, Crisis Management, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , |

More flexibility needed in bill regulating use of restraints on students, NSBA tells Senate

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is asking for more flexibility for local school officials in a bill designed to prevent the improper use of restraints and seclusion to manage students with disabilities.

In testimony submitted in anticipation of a hearing on July 12, NSBA is asking the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions to reconsider portions of the Keeping All Students Safe Act (S. 2020). The bill, which is supported by many special education and disability rights advocates, would ban certain types of restraints and require school districts to report incidents to the U.S. Department of Education.

“Local school boards want to be assured that federal legislation addressing the use of restraints and seclusion provides maximum flexibility and authority to states and local school boards in its implementation,” reads NSBA’s testimony.

NSBA asks that any requirements for teacher and staff training and certification “be structured in a manner that is reasonable, affordable and effective,” and that Congress ensures that data collecting and reporting requirements are minimized, given the limited capacity of school districts and the U.S. Department of Education to collect and analyze such data.

The testimony asks for specific changes to the bill, including:

  • Remove or rewrite the threshold for restraints, based on the definition of serious bodily injury adopted by IDEA in 2004, which is not feasible in emergencies and takes away other opportunities to train staff and prepare for its use;
  • Modify the requirement for a debriefing session within five days, as this is burdensome and costly to schools and would create conditions well beyond the control of the school. NSBA recommends that personnel should be allowed to submit information verbally, in writing and electronically since all parties may not be able to physically participate;
  • Ensure that the bill allows flexibility to address unanticipated threats to students’ safety;
  • Remove a stipulation that prohibits any reference to the use of physical restraints into a student’s education plan; and
  • Allow states that have successfully created policies dealing with restraints and seclusion to be exempt from new federal mandates.

The bill was introduced in December but its chance of passage seems unlikely, given its lack of progress in the House and the lack of time remaining in Congress in an election year.

Joetta Sack-Min|June 27th, 2012|Categories: Special Education, Educational Legislation, Crisis Management, School Security, School Climate, Policy Formation, Discipline, Legislative advocacy|Tags: , , , |

Joplin’s ‘amazing’ year

You never know who you’re going to bump into at the NSBA Annual Conference. But after a couple of days, I usually have a pretty good idea.

Each year, I meet a board member or superintendent early on, either on the shuttle bus or in line at the hotel. And over the course of the next several days, I seem to see that person everywhere.

Last year, that person was Randy Steele.

Randy is a school board member in Joplin, Mo., and justifiably, he was proud of the Magna Award grand prize that his district was receiving for a program called “Bright Futures.” Over the course of the three-day meeting, I saw him everywhere—in the hallway, in sessions, at the Magna luncheon. By the end of the week, it had become something of a running joke.

What happened in Joplin just six weeks later was no joke.

An EF-5 tornado cut a three-quarter mile path through the middle of this Missouri community, ultimately claiming 161 lives, causing $3 billion in damage, and destroying several of Joplin’s school buildings. Immediately, ASBJ’s staff reached out—via Facebook—to Steele and Superintendent C.J. Huff, asking if there was anything we could do.

This month’s cover story is the result.

Over the past year, we have followed a remarkable tale of resilience and recovery, of looking ahead when it is more tempting to look back. It’s a fascinating study of how tireless leaders—board members and administrators—turn crisis into opportunity as they work to protect students and staff and prevent them from having a lost year.

The first few paragraphs of this essay were taken from my editor’s note that appears in the print edition. Since we wrapped up the issue, which was distributed at this year’s annual conference, there are a number of things to update:

• Just after the issue went to press, voters narrowly passed a $62 million bond issue that will help in the district’s rebuilding effort. Joplin High School is the centerpiece of that effort; all of the pictures in the print edition are from the devastated building that is still being razed. (You also can find more pictures from the high school and the Joplin community that I took last year on ASBJ’s Facebook page —

• A week after the construction referendum, former board chair Ashley Micklethwaite announced that she has accepted a job with Mercy Health Center in St. Louis and will leave Joplin later this year.

• The district has started working on plans for President Obama’s commencement speech on May 21 — the day before the first anniversary. The next day, ceremonial groundbreaking ceremonies will be held for the new schools.

C.J. Huff, who has done yeoman’s work in leading the district’s recovery efforts, told the Joplin Globe that he and other administrators know that May 22 will be a tough and emotional day for the community’s residents.

“Everybody is in a different place,” Huff said. “Those days will bring a lot of celebration and a lot of reflection. As we reflect on the past, we have to think about the future. It’s just another step in the healing process.”

The year has not been without its glitches. In fact, Joplin is facing a lawsuit from the out-of-state contractor hired to demolish the high school. People who remain unsettled by the storm were upset that their taxes would go up and voted against the referendum, which passed by a 57-43 margin.

But none of that should put a damper on the remarkable story that school leaders — anyone in a position of leadership really — can read in this month’s issue.

Just before the issue went to press, I asked Randy if I would see him at this year’s conference. The new board president said he wasn’t sure, and ultimately he did not go. The reason: The meeting conflicted with Joplin’s prom.

Two weeks ago, in Boston, I got onto a packed shuttle and headed toward the back. This time, I bumped into Ashley Mickelthwaite. She had been remarkably candid in our talks last November and again in March, talking about the loss of her home, the struggles of her community, the changes in her job — Joplin’s Mercy Hospital was destroyed in the storm — and the hard work going on in the district.

As we rode toward the convention center, she told me about her decision to resign from the board and leave her hometown (“It’s tough, but it’s time,” she said.) She also talked of the resilience — and the grind — that everyone continues to face.

“It’s been an amazing year,” she said.


— Glenn Cook, Editor-in-Chief

To read the story, go to

Glenn Cook|May 2nd, 2012|Categories: Crisis Management, Leadership, American School Board Journal, NSBA Annual Conference 2012|Tags: , , |

Concussion prevention laws, practices spreading

Recent news headlines have highlighted a proliferation of youth concussion prevention regulations and strategies across the country.

From Arizona, which apparently is the first state to require student athletes to pass a test based on a traumatic brain injury video they must watch, to Virginia, which became one of nearly two dozen states to write concussion prevention among students into law in the past six months.

In the August edition of ASBJ, I tackled the issue of youth concussions, which remains a largely misunderstood injury.  Among one of the more intriguiging revelations in the story: restricting physical exertion of injured student is only half the battle– in fact, it’s even less.

“We spend 90 percent of our time in the clinic, around how to return that kid to school,” Gerald Gioa, chief of neuropsychology at  Children’s National Medical Center in Washington D.C., told me. “The sports side is the easy part. I can easily restrict sports it’s not so easy to restrict the academic side.”

To learn more about this serious, yet highly preventable injury, read the August cover story, online for free for a limited time.

Naomi Dillon, Senior Editor


Naomi Dillon|August 17th, 2011|Categories: Wellness, Crisis Management, Athletics, American School Board Journal|

New on

As rhetoric heats up, parsing legitimate concerns from intractable political or philosophical positions is getting more challenging. Misinformation abounds, spread worldwide 24/7 by bloggers and social media savants, writes ASBJ communications columnist Nora Carr in her latest installment for the magazine. 

Traditional political wisdom counsels school officials to reinforce their supporters, engage those in the middle, and ignore the negative 2 percent to 10 percent whose opinions will never change, continues Carr.

Unfortunately, with more than 70 percent of U.S. voters no longer directly connected to their public schools through their children, ignoring media-savvy activist groups is likely to backfire.

Before school officials spend limited time and political capital, Carr offers some pointers from savvy public relations and communications professionals on how districts can get in front of an issue before it overwhelms them, and ultimately inflicts harmful political damage.

Read Carr’s column here, though hurry as it’s available free only for a limited time.

Naomi Dillon|July 20th, 2011|Categories: Governance, School Boards, Crisis Management, Leadership|Tags: , , , , , |

Be prepared

BoardBuzz is taking a page from the Boy Scouts and reminding our readers that it never hurts to be prepared.  And our friends at the Iowa Association of School Boards has shared a great resource to help us do that. 

IASB has compiled a resource called Lessons Learned: Natural Disasters Toolkit to help school districts prepare for the unexpected.  The toolkit, developed in the wake of diasters that hit that state last year (specifically tornadoes and floods), is designed to to get school board/superintendent teams thinking seriously about what they need to do to prepare for and recover from natural disasters.  And while some of the information is specific to Iowa, there are valuable resources that will be useful to school districts all over the country.

You can also check out a video resource by clicking here.  What has your district done to prepare for the worst?  Leave a comment and share your resources with BoardBuzz.

Christina Gordon|May 18th, 2009|Categories: School Boards, Announcements, Crisis Management, School Security, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

The Tale of Two Cities

Two articles in today’s Washington Post caught BoardBuzz’s attention on charter schools. We have discussed the matter here before, but today’s articles by Jay Matthews center themselves around two urban districts, New Orleans and Washington, DC. Neither district is unique in the struggle on charter schools, since many urban districts are facing the issue, but both have unconventional governance structures due to years of below-average performance.

In New Orleans, after Hurricane Katrina hit, Paul Vallas took over the district (Recovery School District) as superintendent and new teachers came from varying backgrounds all over the country to help re-build the district. Today’s Post points out that this has led to ruthless tactics at times to keep good teachers but parents seem indifferent on the issue, not really picking a side. Are charter schools the solution for New Orleans? According to Matthews they seem to be helping, but the “regular” schools are still struggling, despite being encouraged to innovate as they get more autonomy from the superintendent.

The charter schools in DC have a different story to tell. In the Post’s Metro section, Matthews discusses the charter school that is set to close due to low achievement. DC has had charter schools for 12 years with mixed results. Some charters have done well, others have not, some have closed due to poor academic scores, others have not. The ‘regular’ schools are in the same situation, if you’re keeping score. DC is unique because Mayor Fenty appointed Michelle Rhee as the chancellor last year and although there is a charter school board in DC, Ms. Rhee has the authority to act as the policy maker in the district as well as the superintendent.

Matthews points out that many studies have concluded, well, inconclusive data. “Nationally, research shows little difference between average test scores for charters and for regular public schools. Experts say the quality of charter schools varies as much as the quality of regular schools.”

So there you have it. Charters will solve all the problems in large, urban districts. We apologize for the sarcasm, but these articles are indicative of the debate at large. Charters don’t play by the same rules as the “regular” schools and are allowed to be more selective in their staff and the students they serve, yet they are often compared as if they are equals in the statistics and the media. Let’s imagine a system where everyone was trained to be innovative, thoughtful, and focused on the students and their successes and get away from the labels so we can work together on solutions–then we have a chance at helping our schools. After all, our future is depending on it.

Erin Walsh|June 9th, 2008|Categories: School Boards, Teachers, Crisis Management, Student Achievement, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

NSBA gives back

NSBA’s Secretary-Treasurer Sonny Savoie poses with
celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse at the event in New
NSBA joined the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau (CCTB), its hotel community, and two other organizations that relocated their conventions to Chicago to present nearly $900,000 to the New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity and the University of New Orleans’ Lester E. Kabacoff School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Administration.

When NSBA relocated its 2006 conference to Chicago, the Chicago hotel community offered to raise money to assist its colleagues in New Orleans affected by the storm as well as to help in the efforts to rebuild the New Orleans tourism industry. The money was raised when the Chicago hotels agreed to set aside a portion of each hotel room night sold from the relocated conventions of NSBA and the two other organizations.

“NSBA remains committed to the national effort to help rebuild and revitalize New Orleans,” said Anne Bryant, NSBA’s executive director. “When the CCTB and hotels offered us this opportunity to relocate our conference as well as to give back to the New Orleans community, we were thrilled. Being able to support the renewal of the city is something we couldn’t pass up.”

Of the $900,000 dollars raised, a total of $447,800 will go to the University to fund 48 four-year scholarships. The check was presented at celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse‘s restaurant, as he has been a constant supporter of the efforts to rebuild New Orleans.

Sonny Savoie, NSBA’s secretary-treasurer, who attended the event, noted, “As a resident of St. Charles Parish, so close to New Orleans, this gift from an organization that I represent to a city that I love, is especially touching. I’m proud that NSBA has made a commitment to the revival of this great city, and I hope that we’ll continue to support New Orleans as it recovers from Hurricane Katrina.”

The remaining balance of $447,800 was also presented to the New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity during a visit to Musicians Village. The funds will be used to build six homes for partner families from the hospitality industry that have been displaced by the storm. Construction on the homes is expected to begin within the next six months.

You can see additional photographs from this event by clicking here. For more of BoardBuzz‘s coverage of Hurricane Katrina, click here, here, here, here, and here.

Erin Walsh|May 17th, 2007|Categories: Crisis Management, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Katrina-affected schools still need help

And plenty of it. A U.S. Department of Education site offers plenty of ways to do so. The site includes application info about hurricane recovery act programs, and ways for organizations and individuals to help directly, and to find out what schools need.

And the time is now. “Without a last-minute bailout by the federal government, South Mississippi schools will soon be forced to lay off hundreds of teachers and administrators,” reports that state’s Sun Herald newspaper. “The Bay-Waveland School District usually receives about $5 million from the city’s annual tax revenue to help pay teachers, coaches, counselors and principals, and to buy textbooks.

“Katrina washed away about 85 percent of Bay St. Louis’ taxable income, and Mayor Eddie Favre said the school district would only receive about 15 percent – or $750,000 – of its usual $5 million next year.” And some Texas schools believe they are getting raw deals when it comes to Katrina funds.

Erin Walsh|February 22nd, 2006|Categories: Crisis Management, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Federal hurricane relief funds available

Important news from the U.S. Department of Education this week: the long-awaited relief funds for school districts that enrolled students displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita are now available. This is part of the $1.6 billion school relief package Congress passed in the waning days of 2005.

Congress appropriated $645 million for school districts (and private schools) that enrolled displaced students. The Department of Education has notified state departments of education, and provided guidance for how school districts, private schools and private school parents, and state departments are to apply for the funds. Go here for details. The DOE site also includes links to the Federal Register notice, sample applications that the states may wish to utilize for local school districts, and more.

School districts should note that their deadline to submit enrollment figures to their state departments is January 26th, and the states’ deadline to submit applications to the U.S. Department of Education is February 2nd. Federal relief funds will be distributed quarterly for this school year. Noting the very tight deadlines, the Department of Education has indicated that enrollment counts submitted by the local districts and states for the first two quarters of the year (suggested as an October 1 and December 1 count date) may amend their initial figures later if they collect “satisfactory data” not available when they submit their initial application.

Erin Walsh|January 13th, 2006|Categories: Crisis Management, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|
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