Articles in the School Boards category

NSBA president Sonny Savoie shows Senate savoir-faire

BoardBuzz thanks NSBA president Sonny Savioe for delivering NSBA’s message to the U. S. Senate!  Savoie was invited to speak on behalf of school boards at a roundtable convened by Senator Blanche Lincoln (AR), chair of the Senate Rural Outreach Program and chair of the Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry Committee.  Also attending the roundtable were Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV) and Senators Kay Hagen (NC), Amy Klobuchar (MN), Jeff Merkley (OR) and Jon Tester (MT).  About a dozen organizational leaders were invited to discuss such topics as funding equity, transportation, after school education and teacher quality as they effect rural states and districts. Savoie spoke powerfully to the need to improve NCLB and recognize that the economic conditions in each community impact educational needs and decisions locally.  

NSBA president Sonny Savoie speaks with U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln (right) and Betsy Landers, NPTA.

NSBA president Sonny Savoie speaks with U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln (right) and Betsy Landers, NPTA.

Lucy Gettman|October 5th, 2009|Categories: Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards|

Combating H1N1 in schools: parents as partners

BoardBuzz was pleased to see this op-ed from president of the New Jersey School Boards Association and member of the South Brunswick Board of Education, Harry J. Delgado, on the role parents need to play in preventing the spread of H1N1 in schools.    

According to Delgado, the health and welfare of schoolchildren is the paramount concern of school officials who have been preparing for the onset of the H1N1 flu, and have been working with teachers, doctors, school nurses and health experts at the state, county, and local levels.  For BoardBuzz, all of that is essential given that young people have been one of the groups worst hit by this virus. 

But for Delgado, to combat this flu effectively, schools will need a key partner: parents.  As a parent himself, he says that the flexibility and understanding of parents will play a crucial role during these difficult times.  BoardBuzz agrees  – parents are those who teach basic health concepts and they are the ones who can support and reinforce any health habits children acquire at school. 

Some of the messages Delgado thinks parents can reinforce: wash your hands; cover your mouth when coughing; and limit social contact, and stay at home if you’re sick.  BoardBuzz goes beyond these recommendations to say that it is also important to follow the new “on the sleeve” coughing and sneezing fad as seen in this video we posted awhile back. 

Yes, folks, H1N1 is here and experts think that the cold weather might prompt it to spread easily and quickly.  In combating this virus, all of us will have a role to play.

Do your schools need an easy-to-access resource on H1N1?  Check out NSBA’s School Health Programs H1N1 webpage.  It includes relevant resources, tools, and information that are essential for schools to: prevent the spread of the H1N1 virus and track its incidence; plan for and manage a flu outbreak; report school closings; better understand the role of schools serving as H1N1 vaccination sites; and stay abreast of the latest news and guidance related to the virus.

Daniela Espinosa|September 28th, 2009|Categories: NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards, Wellness|

What does being a school board member mean to me?

BoardBuzz read this essay by Urbana City School Board  president Warren Stevens (OH) and thinks it is just the kind of message to share as we begin a new academic year.  After reading the essay, how would you answer the question “What does being a school board member mean to me?”   

“For the last 6 years I have had one of the greatest experiences of my life serving as Urbana City School Board Member.  I have had the opportunity to see 6 senior classes receive their diplomas as I shook their hands and wished them well as they prepared to go forward into the world to pursue their dreams.  This year’s seniors were 7th graders when I first was elected to the Urbana Board.  It has been a joy to watch these young students grow and learn over the last 6 years.  What makes the school board experience so rewarding is the fact that I believe in what I am doing.  Education, without a doubt, is the most important issue facing our local, state and national communities today.  I have also had the opportunity get to know and work with the administration, teachers and staff here within the Urbana City School District.  They are a total reflection of the Excellent State Grade Card Rating that the Urbana district has received for the last 2 years. 

The Ohio Hi-Point Board Member experience has been one that I have cherished over the last 6 years also.  I have watched enrollment grow from approximately 430 students to almost 700 this fall.  Satellite program enrollment has grown from zero when I first joined the Ohio Hi-Point Board 6 years ago to 1331 students as of Aug. 2009.  At the beginning of this school year Ohio Hi-Point Career Center opened up its Urbana Campus. 

 Being an Urbana University Board of Trustee Member has added another level to my education these past 6 years.  I have had the opportunity to see a new student Center and Football field build.  I have witnessed the expansion of the universities’ graduate programs.  I have been given the opportunity to learn the education system from top to bottom (K-12 to Higher Education).

I have had the opportunity to make quite a few new friends as a result of my involvement with the Ohio School Boards Association, the National Schools Boards Association and the Conference of Urban Boards of Education.  Jennifer Economus, Legislative Specialist for the Ohio School Boards Association has presented Legislative Updates right here in our community 3 times over the past 6 years.  Richard Lewis, CAE Executive Director of the OSBA and Tawana Keels, President of the Ohio School Boards Association has spoken to the members of our community which were gathered at the River of Life Christian Center and followed the speech with a presentation award to the River of Life Christian Center for the many years of honoring our teachers within the community by organizing the Teacher Appreciation Day.  The award presentation was the first of its type that was ever presented by the OSBA in the entire history of the Ohio School Boards Association.  That is quite a compliment to our community.

I have had the opportunity to participate in an Ohio School Boards Association Video which allowed me to share some of my views with respect to being a school board member.  This opportunity was another experience that I feel was very valuable to me.  The entire video can be viewed on the Ohio School Boards Association web site.

My experience has helped me learn, grow and meet people from all walks of life from all over the country.  Life is about people and their attempt to improve the quality of their everyday life.  I hope that I have played a small part in helping to improve the lives of young people within our community these past 6 years.   I look forward to many more years of service to the community as your school board member.”

Warren Stevens, president, Urbana City School Board, Ohio

Lucy Gettman|September 15th, 2009|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards|

Another interesting poll

Last week, we talked about some new information courtesy of a Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll, titled “America Speaks Out,” which included how the public feels about NCLB, charter schools, and teacher pay, just to name a few of the findings.  A new study from Education Next was released today, and it turns out that the American public still has a lot of questions about education.

The Persuadable Public study reveals that when it comes to school governance, mayoral control, and school board elections, there’s quite a bit of uncertainty.  Regarding charter schools, they asked:

“Many states permit the formation of charter schools, which are publicly funded but are not managed by the local school board. These schools are expected to meet promised objectives, but are exempt from many state regulations. Do you support or oppose the formation of charter schools?”  Nationally, 44% said they neither supported or opposed, with 25% saying they somewhat supported.

Mayoral control was another issue.  They asked:
“In some communities that have a large percentage of low-performing public school students, the mayors have taken control over the entire public school system to attempt to correct the situation. If the public schools in your community had a large percentage of low-performing students, would you favor or oppose having the mayor take control over the schools?”  The highest percentage response was “neither favor or oppose” with 32% of the responses.

The final example we’ll cherry pick was,
“Many school board elections are held at a time different from other elections; and very little information is easily available about the candidates in most school board elections. As a result, only a small fraction of the American public tends to vote in these elections. Do you remember for sure whether you voted in the last school board election?”  Nationally 38% said they voted for school board election, which was the highest response, but 35% said they did not vote, and 24% said they did not know or couldn’t remember.

We pulled a few examples that are near and dear to our hearts here at BoardBuzz, but we know you’re curious.  To see how America is easily persuaded, check out the nine page full report.

Kevin Scott|September 1st, 2009|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards|

Urban districts recognized

Five urban districts will be recognized by the Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) in October in Austin.  The CUBE Annual Award for School Board Excellence is given out every year to a CUBE district that is working toward closing the achievement gap, has strong governance structure, a good community engagement strategy, and raising academic achievement.  This year, CUBE is recognizing Atlanta, Georgia and Broward County, Florida as finalists for the award, and giving special recognition to Wake County, North Carolina, Jefferson County, Kentucky, and Baltimore City, Maryland for demonstrating and dedication to diversity and progressive leadership, respectively (press release).

CUBE’s award is in its sixth year and prior winners include Boston, Norfolk, Hillsborough County, Florida, Houston, Miami-Dade, and Brownsville, Texas.  The award is a chance for districts to highlight the programs that are working well and the strides they governance team have made to serve the students in their community.  For more information on CUBE and the award, check out the web site.

Kevin Scott|August 14th, 2009|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards|

Don’t Tweet me, bro…

We can’t avoid it, it’s everywhere.  Social media, AKA Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other ways to tell the masses what you’re doing, where you are, and what you’re thinking.  Teachers and school districts have been using it to send messages out, replacing robo-calls and mass emails about closings or up to the minute happenings.  This posting from uber-blogger Alexander Russo over the weekend got our attention (and many other bloggers as well), mostly because it comes from the district that is recently being looked at as the national model.  Chicago is, like it or not, where much of the new federal policies are coming from because of the close ties to the city in the education world-perhaps that’s why this policy has us a bit befuddled.  Add to the mix that CPS recently praised an R&B singer with more than 75,000 Twitter followers and steamy lyrics as a role model who is helping get kids back to school this September, “He’s agreeing to help twitter many of our students back to school,” said Ron Huberman, Chicago Public Schools CEO.

The policy that caught Russo’s (and our) eye states that teachers in the district may not contact students in any way outside of the CPS email system or phone.  No Facebook or Twitter, and no sharing of cell phone numbers with students.  But what if the way to guide kids into making the right decisions is leading by example?  We all know that teachers, staff members, and others that tweet make mistakes and there’s a risk to putting something out there that you may regret later.  In other words, if you wouldn’t say it to their face, you probably shouldn’t make it your status on Facebook.  That’s just common sense, right?  It’s not like this is an entirely new issue, in fact BoardBuzz talked about this same topic almost exactly a year ago.

What other professions would squash innovation?  Can you think of other areas of the workforce where the boss would say, “reject new technology, embrace the past?”  Okay, maybe there are some areas out there that should reject new media, especially when it comes to safety.  Nobody wants their pilot or train operator on a cell phone tweeting about what’s for dinner, but there has to be some direction here.  It reeks of distrust.  In a way, school systems have to protect their employees and themselves by putting in policies like this one, but it also sends a message that says, “young teachers, we can’t trust you to do the right thing and not tweet with students.”  There has to be some middle ground, and we’re sure there are districts out there that are giving teachers some latitude to use Facebook and Twitter with students effectively.  Because if we reject these new technologies and ways of communicating, how will we ever embrace all the buzzworthy terms like “21st century learning?”

What’s your district doing in the face of new technology?  Leave a comment and tell us about it.

Kevin Scott|August 10th, 2009|Categories: Educational Technology, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards, Student Achievement, Teachers|

The naked news

Warning:  the following blog may contain references to partially-clothed school supporters with strategically placed props to cover personal areas. 

 The Vashon Beachcomber, which covers community happenings in Vashon-Maury Island, Wash., features several school board stories today including high school makeovers, the passage of the $15M school board budget and the new all male nude calendar to raise money for the school district. Yep, you read that right.

According to VBC, it seems 12 islands fathers and residents are wearing their birthday suits in a new 2010 calendar dubbed “the DreamBoats” that will be sold for $20 each to benefit the Vashon Island School District.  But, lest it be accused of pandering smut, the calendar reportedly strategically hides each islander’s “personal area.”  The effort aims at raising $10,000 “for a school system that has struggled mightily to forego layoffs this year and even put out a plea to parents to help keep a few teachers on staff.”  That sure does bring resourcefulness to a new level, doesn’t it?

It seems, too, the participants are motivated by the beneficence of the fund drive, although the chance of stardom may have sparked a glimmer of possibilities in some.  “It’s nice to have this as a fun way to support the schools in an otherwise dreary financial environment for the district,” said Benner, 43, a financial planner and lawyer. “It was a lot of fun, actually… I haven’t done something like that before, and probably won’t again.”  Probably?

Of course, the school district itself is staying far away from the idea, according to organizers who simply wanted to help the districts financials woes with their creative, er, assets.  According to the districts new superintendent, the calendar exhibits, “Island creativity.  If it benefits our schools and our instructional programs, without necessarily an endorsement of a particular funding strategy, I think it’s great.”

But, others, including “School board vice chair Laura Wishik [say] she’s concerned the calendar could send the wrong message to Island children.”  Children, she says, should “make good choices, including not judging others based on appearance, not obsessing about their own bodies and not taking sex lightly.”   Even though one model is described as a “a 6-foot-2, blue-eyed German-Irish-Norweigan DreamBoat,” Wishik’s concerns about appropriateness may strike some of the men on the board as Victorian.

The school board chair, a man and father of three,  disagrees with Wishik, claiming, ‘ “The objectification of middle-aged men is not a problem in our society.” ‘ The chair takes a lighthearted view of it all, saying ‘ “The only message I perceive here is that we have a group of people who care about our schools and don’t take themselves too seriously.” ‘

Another Board member, ‘John “Oz” Osborne,’ agreed with the Board Chair.  ‘ “It’s not a full monty kind of thing,” he said. “I just find the whole thing so funny, and if they want to donate us money based on the proceeds from that, I don’t have a problem with it.” Likewise, ‘ “Board member Dan Chasan… said he’d gladly accept the money.”"

The whole thing will probably come to a head when the calendar people actually try to give the money to the school district.  What?  Someone’s giving away free money?  Say it ain’t so!  Wishik says she may “vote against the school board taking funds raised by the effort.”

In BoardBuzz‘s view it’s all much ado about nothing.  Student achievement, racial isolation, school financing, teacher salaries.  Those are the issues about which parents and communities care.  The real issue isn’t that someone made a beefcake calendar to raise money for public schools.  It’s that somebody had to. As one local photographer who helped with the project said “[I]t’s a sad commentary on our society – that we have to have bake sales and car washes and beefcake calendars to raise money for our children.  We shouldn’t have to do that.”  Hear, hear.

Christina Gordon|July 29th, 2009|Categories: Educational Finance, Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards|

Sounding like a broken record . . .

Or perhaps BoardBuzz sounds like a skipping CD, perhaps a bad mp3 file?  Earlier today the Huffington Post chimed in on the mayoral control issue and discusses whether school boards are better at running an urban school system or is the mayor of the city better suited for the job.  Gerald Bracey points out what others have also said–the data doesn’t back up the idea that the mayor running schools is better off for students, and after you put away all the grownups in this fight, it’s supposed to be about what is best for the students of America.  He says that Secretary Duncan‘s “listening tour” is more accurately described as a talking tour, and we need to hear more from the communities around the country who are facing tough educational times.  Bracey states:

But do mayors do better? Depends on how you feel about democracy. The Spring 2009 issue of Rethinking Schools, said that, as [Mayor] Daley’s man, Duncan “has shown himself to be the central messenger, manager and staunch defender of corporate involvement in, and privatization of, public schools, closing schools in low-income neighborhoods of color with little community input, limiting local democratic control, undermining the teachers union and promoting competitive merit pay for teachers.”

He continues on to discuss the situation in New York City, Mayor Bloomberg’s steamrolling of the New York legislature to pass a bill to keep him in control of the schools, and how that is playing out for the children.  The verdict is still out on who wins in these debates.  BoardBuzz hopes that while the back and forth between what’s best for urban schools continues, we (as adults) realize that the more time that we waste on arguing, more students are getting caught in the rheorical crossfire.  There is no silver bullet–what works some places may not work in others.  It’s more than just a public relations game, it’s our future.

Kevin Scott|July 20th, 2009|Categories: Educational Legislation, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards, Student Achievement, Teachers|

Don’t forget school leaders, Mr. President

According to the Washington Post, this week will be an important one for urban leaders and the White House.  The president will be holding a day long conference today to discuss its urban policy and is expected to announce a national tour of cities to discuss the issues they face (sounds a lot like the Arne Duncan tour).  While campaigning, President Obama mentioned his desire to focus attention on cities, especially since prior administrations haven’t spent the time or money that he thought they deserved.  We can only hope that this is the beginning of a longer conversation, that includes school leaders.

Adolfo Carrión, the director of Urban Affairs says:

“For too long government has operated from the top down…we’ve always heard why does the national government send down these unfunded mandates, under funded mandates, mandates that are not necessarily universally applicable. The bottom-up approach speaks to the need for this to be flexible.”

We agree, and if cities are truly looking at issues from a bottom-up approach, schools need to be at the table and included in these conversations.  After all, where else do you have such a critical piece to your future than in urban schools?  School leaders are often the most connected to what the community is doing, saying, and feeling about their neighborhoods, and they know what’s important locally.  While business development, crime, and real estate values may drive what a city council or mayor’s office is doing, the school board and superintendent are just as aware and important to what’s happening around any city in the U.S.  If we are looking at urban issues from the bottom up, let’s not forget the students in urban schools.

Kevin Scott|July 13th, 2009|Categories: Educational Legislation, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards, Student Achievement|

A step towards a student welfare standard

After the new decisions that were released during  June’s big school law week, BoardBuzz has had the Supreme Court on our minds.  As a result, we were doubly interested in NSBA General Counsel Francisco Negron, Jr.’s article recently published in American University Law Review.  The article titled “A Foot in the Door? The Unwitting Move Towards a ‘New’ Student Welfare Standard in Student Speech After Morse v. Frederick” discusses an emerging legal trend that may expand schools’ abilities to protect their students. 

The article focuses on Morse v. Frederick, a 2007 decision popularly known as the “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” case in which the court held that a school principal may restrict student speech that can be reasonably viewed as promoting illegal drug use.  Negron argues that when read together, the majority opinion and Justice Alito and Justice Kennedy’s concurring opinion, permit schools to regulate student expression that may threaten student welfare.  Justices Alito and Kennedy sought to limit the majority’s holding to speech involving illegal drug use, but in doing accepted the premise that schools may limit speech that encourages dangerous conduct, Negron points out.  Ironically, some lower courts have interpreted this opinion to carve out an exception to students’ First Amendment rights, thereby expanding Morse rather than containing it.

As Negron concludes:

“…Morse appears to have unwittingly created a new standard-not yet fully expressed as such, but found amongst its fractured opinions- that is premised on the underlying notion that schools may generally regulate student speech where student welfare is at stake.”

If this trend continues, school districts will be better able to keep students safe from potentially dangerous expression.  Now that’s a decision BoardBuzz can get behind!

After the new decisions that were released during June’s school law week, BoardBuzz has had the Supreme Court on our minds. As a result, we were doubly interested to read NSBA General Counsel Francisco Negron, Jr.’s article recently published in American University Law Review. The article titled “A Foot in the Door? The Unwitting Move Towards a ‘New’ Student Welfare Standard in Student Speech After Morse v. Frederick” discusses an emerging legal trend that may expand schools’ abilities to protect their students.

The article focuses on Morse v. Frederick, a 2007 decision popularly known as the “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” case in which the court held that a school principal may restrict student speech that can be reasonably viewed as promoting illegal drug use. Negron argues that when read together, the majority opinion and Justice Alito and Justice Kennedy’s concurring opinion, permit schools to regular student expression that may threaten student welfare.

Justices Alito and Kennedy sought to limit the majority’s holding to speech involving illegal drug use, but in doing accepted the premise that schools may limit speech that encourages dangerous conduct, Negron points out. Ironically, some lower courts have interpreted this concurrence as carving out an exception to students’ First Amendment rights, thereby expanding Morse rather than containing it.

As Negron concludes:

“…Morse appears to have unwittingly created a new standard-not yet fully expressed as such, but found amongst its fractured opinions- that is premised on the underlying notion that schools may generally regulate student speech where student welfare is at stake.”

If this trend continues, school districts will be better able to keep students safe from potentially dangerous expression. Now that’s a trend BoardBuzz can get behind!

nvitale|July 7th, 2009|Categories: Announcements, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards, School Law, Student Achievement|
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