Articles in the Governance category

Board training, development — an important part of your governance process

0710Cover_ASBJSchool’s out, summer’s on, and for many school board members the real work starts. I’m talking about board development, whether that means a board retreat to establish a mission statement and goals, a review to determine the district’s progress towards set goals, or workshops and courses to enhance and deepen knowledge on school governance and current issues.

Education is a dynamic and volatile field and the districts that navigate the changes best are the ones with leadership teams who understand the value of regular professional development and training, as I discovered in reporting for the July cover story for ASBJ.

“People aren’t born understanding the intricacies of school funding formulas, parliamentiary procedure, open meetings, and public records requirements,” Lisa Bartusek, NSBA’s associate executive director of state association services, told me. “Board training helps lay citizens get up to speed quickly with the practical knowledge to perform their role.”

In fact, this knowledge base is so important that 20 states currently mandate board training for newly elected board members and even ongoing training for sitting board members.
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Naomi Dillon|June 28th, 2010|Categories: American School Board Journal, Governance, Policy Formation|Tags: , |

The week in blogs

Today’s New York Times tells a story of qualified success in the turning around of troubled Locke High School in south central Los Angeles. It’s a success because school leaders have restored a sense of order and purpose to a huge high school in one of the city’s toughest neighborhoods. But it’s qualified, the Times says, because of the tremendous cost — $15 million, much of it from private foundations. How useful a model is it for districts that don’t have that kind of money to spend, even with federal turnaround funds?

However, in his This Week in Education blog, Alexander Russo makes two good points: Locke High has many more problems than the typical low-performing school; and, considering cash-strapped California’s meager support of schools (about 46th place among the states in per-pupils spending, according to one estimate), the high school had a lot of ground to make up.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Get Schooled blog covers a troubling development in Memphis, Tenn., where school officials are considering bringing back corporal punishment.

NSBA’s own EDifier blog describes an interesting study that shows states can have more meaningful tests – and have them at a fraction of the cost of the current bubble-in kind.

Finally, a “you be the judge” kind of post on Education Tech News about a Philadelphia area English teacher who was fired from her parochial school after writing a blog about a class assignment. A Philadelphia Inquirer poll found overwhelming support for the teacher, but after reading the paper’s story, which appeared some time ago, I have to believe she crossed the line in a couple of serious ways. What do you think?

Lawrence Hardy, Senior Editor

Lawrence Hardy|June 25th, 2010|Categories: American School Board Journal, Assessment, Budgeting, Curriculum, Governance, School Climate, School Security, Student Achievement, Teachers|

Education headlines: School libraries are casualty of budget cuts

School libraries and librarians are becoming mass casualties of major K-12 budget cuts in many districts, according to the Associated Press… South Hadley High School in Massachusetts, which gained notoriety after freshman Phoebe Prince was bullied and committed suicide earlier this year, has new plans to overhaul its bullying policies, including an electronic system to report incidents anonymously, the Boston Globe reports… A group of parents is suing Missouri, saying state officials owe its schools more money, according to the AP… And after the Provincetown, Mass., school board made national news for its decision to provide condoms to any student regardless of grade level, officials there will rethink the policy. An article in USA Today covers the decision, and AP covers the aftermath.

Joetta Sack-Min|June 25th, 2010|Categories: American School Board Journal, Governance|

Avoid the policy churn by having a succession plan for future board members

School board members devote precious years of their lives to improve their community schools. Yet some of them are going to retire from their boards—and their successors will undo much of their good work.Is that going to happen to you?

My crystal ball is a bit fussy on the answer. But I can offer some tips to make your tenure on the school board less likely to face that dreary fate.

Baton Passing Pictures, Images and Photos

All you have to do is read my article on school board succession planning in the July issue of ASBJ.
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Naomi Dillon|June 24th, 2010|Categories: American School Board Journal, Governance|Tags: , |

Line between church and state blurred as schools budgets stay flat

Feb_11th_2008_117It could be considered a lifeline in the midst of catastrophic budget cuts: a local community group “adopts” a school, stocking a closet with some $5,000 in supplies and going door-to-door to find out what teachers need. They send volunteers to serve as reading and math tutors, sponsor spaghetti dinners, and even buy shoes for students from impoverished families.

Is there a catch? Quite possibly, as this community group happens to be an evangelical Christian megachurch–and their pastors and members are on a mission to bring the parents and students at Combee Elementary School in Lakeland, Fla., to Jesus Christ.

What was even more astonishing about the article that first ran in the Wall Street Journal was that the principal of Combee didn’t seem to object—he and another school staff member even appeared in photos praying with Dave McClamma, an associate pastor at the 9,000-member First Baptist Church.

“We have inroads into public schools that we had not had before,” McClamma told the WSJ. “By befriending the students, we have the opportunity to visit homes to talk to parents about Jesus Christ.”
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Naomi Dillon|June 22nd, 2010|Categories: American School Board Journal, Budgeting, Governance, Policy Formation|Tags: , , |

Finding the silver (or gold) lining in cities

Urban centers are often the hub of creativity, innovation, and business development in most American cities, but the fact is, they can also be where some of the roughest neighborhoods and schools exist.  Poverty rates are high, community involvement can be low, and a combination of variables make it a difficult place for positive things to happen.  This morning, “The Today Show” took Al Roker on the road to San Francisco, where beyond the Golden Gate and the Wharf, a neighborhood exists that is doing something right.

A program called R.O.C.K. (Real Options for City Kids) has been very successful in an area of the city called Visitacion Valley, where success is sometimes hard to imagine.  The organization is not looking for quick fixes and focuses on long term solutions for students there, mostly working through the ability to utilze play as a tool.  By working both in school and after school, the group focuses not only on fitness, but also leadership training, and working through difficult challenges peacefully and respectfully.  “The Today Show’s” visit also brought along three truckloads of supplies for the schools and ROCK, and as you might imagine, organizations like this are particulary stretched thin in the budget times we’re experiencing in cities.  But the next time you’re looking for a success story about an urban district, remember that programs like this are in most American cities, it’s just a matter of finding them. 

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Kevin Scott|June 21st, 2010|Categories: Governance, Multimedia and Webinars, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Student Achievement|

The week in blogs

duck_soup_1933When I heard that the Alliance for Excellent Education has a new blog titled High School Soup, I couldn’t help but think of the classic Marx’s brothers comedy, Duck Soup, the irrepressible Professor Quincy Adams Wagstaff (Groucho), and the ridiculous football game between Darwin and Huxley colleges, during which Quarterback Chico gives the signal: “Hey diddle diddle, the cat with the fiddle, this time I think we go through the middle.”

Appropriate, too, because the film is about the absurdities of college life — and High School Soup is all about high school graduation rates, preparing students to succeed in college, etc.

Except that …. well, that movie was called Horsefeathers. (Duck Soup was great too!)

In one of its first posts, High School Soup has a more sobering story to tell: According to the latest issue of Education Week‘s Diplomas Count, the national graduation rate fell by nearly a half a percent – to 68.8 percent – for the class of 2007, the last year for which statistics are available. This is a “cohort” graduation rate, one that basically looked at the on-time graduation percentage of students who were ninth graders four years earlier. Like all graduation measures, it has its problems. Many students, especially ESL students, do indeed graduate, but take more than four years to do so. And, in some urban schools with high student mobility, defining an accurate “cohort” is difficult.
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Lawrence Hardy|June 18th, 2010|Categories: American School Board Journal, Assessment, Curriculum, Diversity, Dropout Prevention, Educational Research, Governance, Homeless People, Leadership, Policy Formation, School Climate, Student Achievement, Teachers|

Economy forces tough decisions, like increased class sizes

Times are tough for public school policymakers, and the latest evidence is a decision this week by the Chicago school board to raise the maximum class size in schools to 35 students.

sardines Pictures, Images and Photos

That’s not to say city school officials have decided to treat students as a land-based form of sardines. As schools CEO Ron Huberman was quick to note, what’s actually going to happen with the school system’s budget is “fluid and changes by the day.”

He just wants some flexibility. And, as a recent Chicago Sun-Times story made clear, the school board was more than willing to comply, unanimously approving “every emergency measure brought before them to help plug an estimated $427 million deficit.”
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Naomi Dillon|June 17th, 2010|Categories: American School Board Journal, Budgeting, Governance|Tags: , |

Annual list of top schools show STEM, college-prep courses popular push

0610Cover_ASBJIf you want your schools to be on Newsweek’s annual best high school rankings, you might want to take a look at an early college program.

As much as educators grumble about Newsweek’s annual list of the top-ranked high schools—which was released this week—it’s clear that the schools near the top are really pushing the college-level curriculum, beyond Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs. And the list of the 20 public high schools deemed “too elite” to even be ranked because of their highly selective admissions processes reads like a directory of expensive college preparatory schools.

Many of these schools focus exclusively on science and technology-related subjects, the type of careers economists believe will have the most potential for growth and income in the future. Many of the top-ranked schools work hand-in-hand with local colleges and universities, and students graduate with a significant amount of college credits.
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Naomi Dillon|June 14th, 2010|Categories: American School Board Journal, Governance, Student Achievement|Tags: , , , |

Celebrity chef goes to Congress, lobbies for improvement in child nutrition

Rachael Ray is famous for her perky personality and 30-minute meals on Food Network. But the issue of childhood hunger brought her to Capitol Hill today, and the affable TV talk-show host was optimistic but serious as she stood outside the Capitol to promote a new bill that requires schools to serve healthier foods.

Leaders of the House Education and Labor Committee invited Ray to D.C., where she spoke at a press conference to introduce the “Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act,” a bill to reauthorize the 1965 Child Nutrition Act. That law does not include the school lunch program but controls almost all other foods students eat at school and after-school programs.

“I really think that teaching a child good nutrition and the basics of cooking gives them the skills they need for self esteem and security for the rest of their lives,” Ray said. “Just being able to eat a nutritious meal really improves the quality of your life.”

Ray went on to say that good nutrition does more than keeping students focused in class, instilling healthy habits at an early age helps cut health-care costs and helps them learn to choose healthier options, particularly if they are short on money.
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Naomi Dillon|June 10th, 2010|Categories: American School Board Journal, Governance, Policy Formation, Wellness|Tags: , , , |
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