Articles in the School Boards category

Children need adults who care, says ‘Freedom Writer’ teacher and author


All that children need to be able to rise above poverty and abuse is the presence of adults in their lives who care and believe in them, according to Erin Gruwell, the California teacher whose unconventional teaching techniques were portrayed by Hilary Swank in the movie “Freedom Writers.”

School board members can be those adults, Gruwell told board members in a session entitled, “Becoming a Catalyst for Change,” on Monday at NSBA’s annual conference.

Gruwell was part of a three-speaker hour-long opening General Session on Monday, which included Angela Maiers and Nikhil Goyal. The speakers then continued in separate sessions that went more in-depth.

“You are all soldiers in an undeclared war … where children are afraid to dream,” Gruwell said. “You don’t wear capes, but you’re superheroes” for kids.

It means taking an interest in every child and how their unique history has shaped them. It also means never ignoring a swastika painted on a wall or “that word that denigrates others.”

She showed a video of sessions from the Freedom Writers Institute, where teachers practice games like one that involves peanuts, with the metaphorical lesson that “inside a hard shell, there’s something delicious.”

Also portrayed was the “line” game made famous in the movie. In the video, Gruwell asks her students to step to a line in the center of the room if various things are true…. “if you know someone who’s homeless … if you know someone who’s depressed.”

Gruwell believes students can profit from a classroom environment that has a combination of fun, sharing, and activities that some might characterize as shades of group therapy.

Education isn’t about standardized tests, Gruwell said. “It’s about connections.”


Eric D. Randall|April 7th, 2014|Categories: NSBA Annual Conference 2014, School Boards, Teachers|Tags: , , |

Pickler looks back on his presidency


David Pickler, NSBA’s 2013-14 President, gave an overview of his year at the Second General Session on Sunday at NSBA’s Annual Conference.

“We said, nearly a year ago, that if we did not have a seat at the table, we could find ourselves on the menu,” he said. “We realized the power of our board members and stakeholders to stand up for public education and proclaim the real truth about public schools and the essential role of school board governance.”

He recalled the beginning of the Army of Advocates, which started out with about 3,700 members a year ago and now has more than 1 million members. “We have built a foundation to be a leading advocate for public education in America,” he said. “We are just getting started.”

Part of that foundation is NSBA’s national public advocacy campaign, “Stand Up 4 Public Schools“. Celebrity spokespeople such as Sal Khan, Montel Williams, and most recently, Magic Johnson, have brought the campaign to national prominence.

“Together, we will show the world the real voice of public education,” he said. “The power of partnership will become the power of possible.”

He pointed to NSBA’s partnership with the filmmakers of “12 Years a Slave” to distribute the movie to 30,000 high schools nationally at no cost to the schools. This partnership led director Steve McQueen to wear the signature Stand Up 4 Public Education red wristband while receiving his Academy Award for Best Picture.

State school board associations are recruiting their own local celebrities to personalize the campaigns for their states.

Pickler told the audience that NSBA was the only K-12 education group invited to testify in front of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee on the 2015 federal budget.

“We were truly at the table, engaging in direct dialogue with elected leaders who determine the budget,” he said. “This invitation is recognition of NSBA growing in influence and importance. It established this federation as the leading advocate for public education in the U.S.”

He reaffirmed his belief that publication education is a civil for our children. “It is the great equalizer. It makes sure our children can make a living and lead a life of limitless potential.”

Pickler closed with his signature line: “Together we can. Together we must.”

Kathleen Vail|April 6th, 2014|Categories: Federal Advocacy, NSBA Annual Conference 2014, Public Advocacy, School Boards|Tags: , , , , , , , |

Video: NSBA’s President-Elect previews the final day at the 2014 Annual Conference

On the preview video for the last day of the National School Boards Association’s 2014 Annual Conference, NSBA President-Elect Anne M. Byrne introduces the “new and unconventional” morning General Session, which features three speakers: Bestselling author Nikhil Goyal will present the student’s perspective on transforming schools; education and technology consultant Angela Maiers will share how literacy changes lives; and former English teacher and author Erin Gruwell, will talk about how her teaching experience inspired the movie Freedom Writers.

At the final General Session, author, life coach, and leadership catalyst, Simon T. Bailey will present techniques formulated to bring out brilliance in yourself and your organization while getting actionable takeaways that produce sustainable results.

Byrne will assume leadership as President at the end of the conference, and she welcomed attendees to join her on the “journey toward leading children to excellence.”

Additionally, there will be a General Session from 11am with basketball legend, entrepreneur, and public school advocate, Earvin “Magic” Johnson.

Watch the video:

Alexis Rice|April 6th, 2014|Categories: Leadership, Multimedia and Webinars, NSBA Annual Conference 2014, School Boards|Tags: , |

NSBA highlights international student travel concerns

Mark Blom Senior Staff Attorney for National School Boards Association (NSBA) presented a preview of a comprehensive policy guide for school boards on International Student Travel (IST), during a session on “What School Boards Need to Know About Student Travel” held Sunday, April 6 at the NSBA’s 2014 Annual Conference in New Orleans.

It is estimated that over 100,000 U.S. students travel abroad each year in groups touring and learning about the various countries and cultures of the world. The session and corresponding guide are aimed at raising awareness of important legal concerns and ensure school board leaders can ask the right questions and spot potential problems before students reach the departure gate.

Although IST offers enriching experiences for participants, a lack of clarity about responsibility can create legitimate liability for the school district, no matter the district’s perceived involvement in the trip. If a parent of a student harmed on a trip has a legitimate expectation that the school sponsored the trip—through its employees—the school district faces the costs of litigation, possible settlement, and judgment, in addition to adverse publicity.

The report lists the three types of IST and provides guidance on the recommended district-led policies for each.

A. School sponsored and school district managed: The tour is school sponsored, and the school district manages the tour. The school district arranges all aspects of the trip—itinerary, travel arrangements, lodging, tours, restaurants, local guides, ground transportation, etc.

B. School sponsored and tour company managed: The tour is school sponsored, and the school district contracts with a tour company to manage the trip.

C. Non-school sponsored: A tour takes place involving students of the district, perhaps even with a teacher serving as the host, but the trip is not sponsored by the district. These are purely private trips.

In addition, the report promotes better understanding of outside tour companies, insurance policies, and academic credit programs.

Alexis Rice|April 6th, 2014|Categories: Leadership, NSBA Annual Conference 2014, School Boards, Student Engagement, Teachers|Tags: , , , |

Wrestling with difficult people

In a Sunday session entitled “Working with Difficult People is like Wrestling Gators in the Bayou!”, attendees at NSBA’s Annual Conference learned that when people move out of their comfort zone, they tend to become either more aggressive or more passive. Given the challenges in public education and the pace of change, it’s inevitable that conflict will occur at every level of school leadership, including board leadership.

It’s a fool’s errand to try to get anyone to change their style and their priorities, said speaker Winton I. Goodrich, a former Vermont School Boards Association official who was recently hired to be superintendent of Franklin Northwest Supervisory Union school district in Swanton, Vt.

More effective is to change your attitude toward the person and your behavior with the person. “This is the thesis of this presentation: Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you deal with it,” Goodrich said.

It’s easier said than done, because having a confrontation with a difficult person can fire the amygdala, the emotional center of the brain, Goodrich said.

Start by trying to understand what personal style a difficult person has. There four common styles:

1. Drivers who want to get things done.

2. Analyzers who want to get it right.

3. Amiable folks who want to get along.

4. Expressive types who want appreciation.

All types can be assets in board work. For instance, drivers will keep your meetings from getting bogged down, while the amiable will play a key role in consensus-building. Both are skills needed on school boards.

Equally valuable on school boards are analyzers, who want to ensure all data receives adequate attention and demand facts. For creative brainstorming, and comfort with change, turn your boards’ expressive member.

Conflict on boards and within districts is inevitable, but Goodrich said a good way to reduce it is to focus on what inspires and motivates each person to be a strong leader.

As management guru Peter Drucker wrote, “The task of leadership is to create an alignment of strengths … making a system’s weaknesses irrelevant.”



Eric D. Randall|April 6th, 2014|Categories: Governance, NSBA Annual Conference 2014, School Boards|Tags: , , |

Hispanic Caucus breakfast speaker urges school boards to ‘flip the narrative’


School boards have an opportunity to help “flip the narrative” about Hispanic Americans and create a healthier sense of identity for the 12.4 million Hispanic students attending public K-12 schools.

That was the message of journalist Maria Hinojosa at a Sunday breakfast meeting of the National Hispanic Caucus of School Board Members at NSBA’s Annual Conference in New Orleans.

“Latino teens have the highest attempted suicide rate in the country,” said Hinojosa, host of National Public Radio’s Latino USA show and winner of four Emmy awards. “Our Latino teenagers are depressed.”

She said she thinks it has a lot to do with a weak sense of identity among Hispanics. She cited comments she’s heard from Latino students at DePaul University, where she teaches. They have asked her, “Can I call myself American?”

Perhaps the cruelest identity issues involve students from “illegal” immigrant families. “There are no illegal people,” Hinojosa said, attributing the quotation to Elie Wiesel.

Such issues can be addressed by school board members because they have a unique role in society as advocates for all children, regardless of ethnicity or background.

She cited a school district that announced that it will address the fact that 65 percent of its Hispanic students drop out. She wondered aloud why the rate had to get that horrific before it got some attention, joking that 50 percent must have been considered okay.

After hearing reports by caucus leaders of projects including a scholarship program for Hispanic students who are admitted to colleges, Hinojosa praised such efforts.

She also urged board members to active as “democracy junkies.” For instance, she said it’s a national disgrace that those detained in immigration facilities have no legal right to challenge the conditions of their detention.

Hinojosa announced that she has received a “green light” from the Public Broadcasting System to host and executive produce a TV show called “America by the Numbers with Maria Hinojosa” that will tell stories of Latino issues that are “based on data.”

She urged school board members to send her story ideas at


Kathleen Vail|April 6th, 2014|Categories: Immigrants, NSBA Annual Conference 2014, School Boards|Tags: , , , , |

Minn. school board member connects with National Connection program

Your board colleagues are using the benefits of the National Connection program to help them do their jobs better.

Meet Lisa Wagner, the chair of Minnesota’s Minnetonka School Board. She was elected to the board in 2007. During her first term, she was elected to the positions of clerk and vice chair. She was elected chair during her second term.

“NSBA has had a long history of providing leading edge advice and insights into educational trends for school board members,” says Wagner. “We have especially appreciated articles and sessions addressing governance, leadership, and technology. We look forward to continued excellence with the National Connection program.”

Wagner also puts great value on NSBA’s Technology Site Visits, which, she says, “provide an excellent opportunity for networking with leading edge professionals and school board members from districts around the country.”

To find out about your National Connection benefits or how to enroll in National Connection, go to


Kathleen Vail|April 6th, 2014|Categories: NSBA Annual Conference 2014, School Boards, State School Boards Associations, Technology Leadership Network|Tags: , , , |

Author and speaker outlines the traits of a good leader

Leadership researcher and author John Spence’s Focus on Education session at NSBA’s Annual Conference Saturday offered several ways to figure out if you’re a good leader.

Spence based his information on his own research and others in the business world to define the qualities of good leaders.

* Character. People want leaders who are honest and forward-looking, he said. Be good at your job skills as well as being good at leadership skills. “If if you aren’t committed and engaged, no one else is either,” he said.

* Courage. People want leaders who have the courage to think big, to be bold, to speak the truth, to make great things happen, and to be vulnerable.

* Communications. People expect their leaders to be great communicators. More importantly, he said, leaders ask great questions and listens.” Authenticity is important — be the real you.

* Trust. Consistently communicate that you’re competent and you care, he said. “How long does it take to build up trust like this? A long time. How long does it take to lose it? Minutes.”

* Collaboration. “This is a big idea,” he said. “We have two things to compete with — the quality and talent of the people on the team and the relationships that they have with their customers.”

* Competency. Good leaders have a commitment to lifelong learning.

* Compassion. People feel safe – physically, psychologically, and emotionally. “If they don’t feelsafe, they don’t bring their full selves to their jobs,” he said.

* Contribution: Many people do what’s easy and convenient, he said, but leaders do what’s right and what is best.”

Spence asked audience members to write a list of what kind of leader they wanted to be, and to take those lists home and share them with their board colleagues and others.

“Our entire country is watching you,” he said. “You are one of the legs that holds up the entire country. We are focused on your leadership ability and your success. We are watching you and depending on you to be the best leaders you can be.”


Kathleen Vail|April 5th, 2014|Categories: Leadership, NSBA Annual Conference 2014, School Boards|Tags: , |

NSBA and coalition members preview pushout crisis policy guide

According to research, every student who leaves high school without a diploma costs society hundreds of thousands of dollars over the student’s lifetime in lost income. Despite impressive gains in U.S. graduation rates recently, far too many young people, mainly students of color from educationally and socioeconomically disadvantaged groups and communities, are leaving school without a high school diploma or severely underprepared for college level work.

During one Saturday’s sessions at the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) 2014 Annual Conference, entitled “Using Data and Community Partnerships to End the School Pushout Crisis,” speakers touched on the pushout crisis—when students leave school before graduation because of a system and community that is not committed to their success. In the session, experts previewed a policy guide for school board members on not only how to identify the warning signs for students at risk of dropping out but also how to engage various community partners in developing opportunities and support strategies.

The session is a joint endeavor of NSBA’s Council of Urban Boards of Education, National Black Caucus, National Hispanic Caucus, and National Caucus of American Indian/Alaska Native.

Presented by Patte Barth, Director of NSBA’s Center for Public Education; Judith Browne-Dianis, Co-Director of the Advancement Project; and Sandra Kwasa, Director of Board Development for the Illinois Association of School Boards, the session was aimed at explaining the evidence on the pushout crisis and illustrating the role of individualized learning plans, often called Personal Opportunity Plans (POPs), and community school designs as a way to deliver more personalized and tailored resources directly to students.

The guide, to be released later this month, will provide school board members with a blueprint for better-coordinated support and opportunity systems for children and families, in partnership with key stakeholders, so all children can benefit from a POP. School board members can help lead a policy vision for public schools, in partnership with community partners, school administrators, and teachers unions, placing student learning and growth at the center of communities, from cradle to career.

Alexis Rice|April 5th, 2014|Categories: Leadership, NSBA Annual Conference 2014, School Boards, Urban Schools|Tags: , , |

Friedman talks about ‘hyperconnected’ world at NSBA’s first General Session


In a “hyperconnected” world, public schools need to make Garrison Keillor’s whimsical idealization of America become reality, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman told the opening General Session of NSBA’s 74th Annual Conference Saturday. “All the children need to be above average.”

Being ordinary in any endeavor is no guarantee of being able to thrive, or even survive, in today’s economy, he said.

“Woody Allen’s line about 80 percent of life being about showing up? Not anymore,” he added.

“Every middle class job is being pulled in three directions at once,” Friedman explained:

* Up, as employers expect workers to update and improve their skills.

* Out, as jobs are threatened by outsourcing and replacement by robots and expert systems.

* Down, as jobs are being made obsolete faster.

Speaking without notes, the three-time Pulitzer Prize winner argued that the ability of anyone to make a living in the 21st century will depend in large part on being self-motivated and “innovation ready.”

That’s because no human endeavor is untouched by a “Gutenberg-level change” that is occurring amid the “flattening” of the world through the simultaneous effects of globalization, the Internet, and information technology.

He said that includes his job as a journalist, which often takes him to China. His goal used to be to find a morsel of information that would be interesting for a reader like his mom in Minnesota. But since 2011 The New York Times has had a Chinese-language edition, so “I have to tell my Chinese readers something new about China.”

For educators and school leaders, this means new challenges in preparing students for the globalized, hyperconnected world. “We had to find jobs; they will have to invent them.”

What to tell kids?

“I have five basic pieces of advice:

1. “Think like an immigrant.” Take nothing for granted; be a “paranoid optimist” in every endeavor.

2. “Think like an artisan.” Contribute something unique and be proud of it.

3. “Always be in beta.” Like makers of software, consider nothing finished. Always be working on a better version of your products and yourself.

4. “Think like a parent.” Realize the Internet is partly a sewer with misinformation, bias, hate, and pornography. That means modeling good judgment, because that’s the only way kids can learn it.

5. “Be like a waitress at Perkins Pancake House” by exploiting what you control to maximize customer satisfaction. Friedman said he came up with this suggestion after a waitress delivered a plate of pancakes and said, “I gave you extra fruit,” which prompted Friedman and a companion to leave a 50 percent tip. People who give others a little extra will get ahead.


Eric D. Randall|April 5th, 2014|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Computer Uses in Education, NSBA Annual Conference 2014, School Boards, Student Engagement|Tags: , , , |
Page 3 of 5312345...102030...Last »