Articles in the School Boards category

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: School Boards, Multimedia and Webinars, Leadership, NSBA Annual Conference 2014|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: School Boards, Teachers, Leadership, Student Engagement, NSBA Annual Conference 2014|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, School Boards, NSBA Annual Conference 2014|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: School Boards, Immigrants, NSBA Annual Conference 2014|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: School Boards, Technology Leadership Network, State School Boards Associations, NSBA Annual Conference 2014|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: School Boards, Leadership, NSBA Annual Conference 2014|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: School Boards, Urban Schools, Leadership, NSBA Annual Conference 2014|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: School Boards, 21st Century Skills, Student Engagement, Computer Uses in Education, NSBA Annual Conference 2014|Tags: , , , |

NSBA’s Council of School Attorneys elects new leadership

The National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Council of School Attorneys (COSA), the national network of attorneys representing K-12 public school districts whose mission is to support school attorneys and provide leadership in legal advocacy for public schools, elected new leaders and directors during its annual meeting in New Orleans. The 22-member Board of Directors oversees COSA’s continuing legal education programming and working groups for its 3,000+ members across the United States and Canada.

Gregory J. Guercio became Chair; he is founding partner of the Farmingdale, N.Y., law firm of Guercio & Guercio, LLP and received his law degree from St. John’s University, School of Law.

Justin D. Petrarca became Chair-elect; he is a partner with the Chicago, Ill. firm of Scariano, Himes and Petrarca, and received his J.D. from the John Marshall Law School.

Andrew M. Sanchez became Vice-Chair; he is a partner in the Albuquerque, N.M. office of Cuddy & McCarthy, and received his law degree from George Washington University Law School.

Pilar Sokol became Secretary.  She is the Deputy General Counsel of the New York State School Boards Association in Latham, N.Y.  Sokol is a graduate of Albany Law School.

“This is an exciting time for COSA and NSBA.  COSA’s new leadership represents the top education law attorneys across the country, ensuring that NSBA will continue to be the nation’s foremost legal advocate for public schools,” said Francisco M. Negrón, Jr., NSBA’s General Counsel.

COSA also elected four new directors to two-year terms: Joy Baskin is the Director of Legal Services of the Texas Association of School Boards; Kathleen S. Mehfoud is a partner at Reed Smith L.L.P. in Richmond, Virginia; W. Joseph Scholler is a member with Frost Brown Todd LLC in West Chester, Ohio; and Patricia J. Whitten is a partner at Franczek Radelet P.C. in Chicago, Ill.

In addition, COSA elected four directors to a second two-year term:  Séamus Boyce is a partner with Church, Church, Hittle & Antrim in Noblesville, Ind.; Danielle Haindfield is a partner in the Des Moines, Iowa firm of Ahlers & Cooney, P.C.; Phillip L. Hartley is managing partner of the Gainesville, Ga. law firm of Harben, Hartley & Hawkins, LLP, and General Counsel for the Georgia School Boards Association; and Anne H. Littlefield is a partner with the Hartford, Conn. firm of Shipman & Goodwin, LLP.

“The council’s new leaders are accomplished school law practitioners and dedicated advocates on behalf of public schools,” said Elizabeth Eynon-Kokrda, past COSA Chair and head of this year’s nominating committee. “Together, they bring deep and rich legal experience and tremendous energy to the organization.”

Formed in 1967, the NSBA Council of School Attorneys provides information and practical assistance to attorneys who represent public school districts. It offers legal education, specialized publications, and a forum for exchange of information, and it supports the legal advocacy efforts of the National School Boards Association. 

Alexis Rice|April 5th, 2014|Categories: School Boards, School Law, Leadership|Tags: , , |

NSBA provides FCC with recommendations to improve E-Rate

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel issued the following comments on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Public Notice on the Wireline Competition Bureau Seeks Focused Comment on E-rate Modernization to provide key recommendations to modernize the E-rate program and increase the quality and speed of Internet connectivity in our nation’s schools and libraries.  NSBA applauds the FCC’s proactive efforts to ensure efficient operation and integrity of E-rate; increase the quality and speed of connectivity in our nation’s schools; and address the technology gaps that remain.

Gentzel’s full comment are available and an excerpt of the recommendations are below:

“For nearly twenty years, NSBA has supported the goals of the E-rate program to increase Internet connectivity and provide digital learning opportunities to underserved students, schools and libraries. NSBA is steadfast in its support for the ConnectED initiative and applauds the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) focus on broadband deployment in education, so that students are prepared to be competitive and successful in the global marketplace.

“To successfully usher in a new future for E-rate, NSBA urges the FCC to ground modernization of E-Rate in the individual circumstances of the nation’s 14,000 school districts and 98,000 public schools. Put eloquently by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association: School entities across the nation are diverse in their composition and their needs. Local decision-making and local flexibility should be maximized in implementation of the E-rate program.

“Further, NSBA’s recommendations are predicated on the need for additional resources in the E-rate program. Simply repurposing or rearranging priorities for the $2.5 billion E-rate program is not sufficient to achieve the ambitious goals of the ConnectED initiative, and could impact school district finances and operations in ways that make it even more difficult for low-income and rural schools and libraries to meet the instructional needs of their students. Therefore, in addition to NSBA’s filings of September 16, 2013 and November 8, 2013, we recommend the following:

“1. Focus $2 billion in one-time funding for E-rate on Priority 2 services for broadband deployment, and assure that additional schools and libraries have access to the funds. The onetime funding described in paragraph 7 is best suited for initial and one-time investments in broadband deployment such as internal connections, as opposed to ongoing operating costs. Further, there has been a dearth of funding for Priority 2 in recent years, so that only a small number of schools benefit. NSBA recommends that affirmative steps be taken to assure that a one-time infusion of Priority 2 funds is disseminated to schools and libraries that have not had access to such funds in the last five years.

“2. Voice and other legacy services – Establish a menu of options for schools and libraries making transitions to broadband. NSBA supports refocusing E-rate on broadband connectivity, but cautions against eliminating eligible uses of E-rate funds without support for school districts during the transition. An across-the-board approach to elimination or phase down of support for legacy services as described in paragraphs 40 – 46 is not responsive to school districts, whose current equipment, hardware, connectivity, access to broadband, contracting obligations, and other circumstances will vary. NSBA recommends a case-by-case approach and flexible timeframes for transitioning E-rate eligibility to broadband.

“3. Demonstration and pilot programs – Eliminate demonstration programs, pilots, or other carve outs from E-Rate 2.0 unless they are resourced by other Universal Service or alternative funds. While there is great potential in the innovations described in paragraphs 55 – 61 to streamline E-rate and make the program more efficient and effective at meeting the needs of schools and libraries, they should not come at the expense of the School and Libraries Fund itself, which is severely oversubscribed.”

View NSBA’s Issue Brief on E-rate.


Alexis Rice|April 4th, 2014|Categories: School Boards, Rural Schools, Educational Technology, School Buildings, Federal Advocacy|Tags: , , , |
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