Articles in the Uncategorized category

Gentzel: School boards needed for strong American democracy

A strong public education system–governed by locally elected or appointed school boards–is necessary to continue our nation’s prosperity and our democratic society, National School Boards Association Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel told attendees at a symposium titled “Improving Schools through Board Governance.”

NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel speaks at the University of Georgia on October 22.

NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel speaks at the University of Georgia on October 22.

Gentzel was keynote speaker at the Oct. 22 event, which was sponsored by the University of Georgia and designed to bring together school board members, superintendents, community members and other educators to discuss school governance issues.

The nation’s 90,000 school board members are committed to student achievement and helping guide the next generation to fulfilling and productive lives, Gentzel said.

He also discussed NSBA’s framework, “The Key Work of School Boards,” which guides school boards toward better leadership skills and ways to improve student achievement through governance.

Gentzel also lauded the “Vision for Public Education Project,” which was created by the Georgia School Boards Association (GSBA) and the Georgia Superintendents Association. The project built a framework based on seven core principles for improving the educational experience for public school students. GSBA also has written standards for the state’s school boards, which have been adapted with some revisions by the state board of education.


Joetta Sack-Min|October 25th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Key Work of School Boards, Leadership, School Reform, State School Boards Associations, Uncategorized|Tags: , , , |

Registration opens for NSBA’s 2014 Annual Conference in New Orleans

Update: Due to the huge demand for Annual Conference registration, we are experiencing difficulties relating to high volume.  We apologize for the inconvenience.  Please continue to check back often.

Housing and registration opens on Oct. 23 at 9 a.m. EDT for the National School Boards Association (NSBA) 74th Annual Conference, April 5-7, 2014 in New Orleans. This year’s conference registration again features a streamlined process to make the registration experience easier than ever.

Join thousands of fellow board members and administrators in New Orleans, and gain valuable knowledge and information in five key areas — leadership, advocacy, technology + learning, urban school issues, and school law. The conference features more than 200 programming sessions, workshops, speakers, site visits and exhibitors with cutting-edge content, best practices, and the freshest ideas to support student achievement.

This year NSBA is pleased to have two distinguished keynote speakers, Thomas L. Friedman and Sir Ken Robinson. Friedman, author of “The World is Flat” and “That Used to be Us,” is a three-time Pulitzer Prize winner and a columnist for the New York Times.  Robinson is an internationally recognized leader in the development of creativity, innovation, and human resources in education and business. He works with government and education systems in Europe, Asia, and the U.S., as well as international agencies and Fortune 500 companies. He frequently speaks on the lessons he has learned through his work and research. A new April 7 morning session will include inspirational talks by author Nikhil Goyal and educator Angela Maiers.

Check the Annual Conference website frequently for more announcements and complete information on housing, registration, and schedules of events.


Joetta Sack-Min|October 23rd, 2013|Categories: Announcements, NSBA Annual Conference 2014, Uncategorized|Tags: , |

LSBA: U.S. Justice Dept. action in Louisiana vouchers shows weakness of law

The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against Louisiana to stop a voucher program spending millions in taxpayer funds to send low-income students to private and religious schools, saying that the vouchers have impeded long-standing desegregation orders in many of the state’s school districts.

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) joined the Louisiana School Boards Association (LSBA) in a lawsuit last year challenging the legality of the voucher plan, which was pushed by Gov. Bobby Jindal and GOP lawmakers. The LSBA lawsuit ultimately prevailed when the state’s Supreme Court found the funding mechanism to be unconstitutional but the GOP-led legislature is attempting to keep the program alive through alternative funding sources.

LSBA has closely monitored desegregation litigation in Louisiana for many years. LSBA Executive Director Scott Richard noted that many school boards have spent millions of dollars in order to attain unitary status and freedom from federal oversight due to past discriminatory practices—and this latest round of legal problems with the Louisiana voucher program only exacerbates the issues raised in the recent state Supreme Court ruling that struck down the law and highlighted the program’s illegal funding schemes.

“The fact that the U.S. Department of Justice has to get involved at this point again punches holes in the flawed legislation,” Richard said. “It is irresponsible that state government in Louisiana, with all of the legal resources available, would move forward with this effort fully knowing that many school districts continue to be under federal desegregation orders – basically ignoring federal law.”

Proponents for the voucher plan have decried the federal government’s move and argued that the vouchers help low-income students “escape failing schools.” However, LSBA and other education groups have countered that the plan actually allows kindergarteners zoned for high-achieving public schools—those graded A or B—to receive vouchers as well.

Thirty-four school districts, of which 22 send students to private schools using voucher funds, would be subject to the Justice Department’s ruling, according to the New Orleans Times Picayune.




Joetta Sack-Min|August 28th, 2013|Categories: Educational Finance, Governance, Privatization, School Boards, School Law, School Reform, School Vouchers, State School Boards Associations, Uncategorized|Tags: , , |

NSBA applauds Supreme Court’s school diversity ruling

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) lauded the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision today for upholding a 2003 case that finds schools have a compelling interest in pursuing the educational benefits of diversity.

In Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, the Supreme Court voted to uphold its decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, which permitted the use of race in university admissions if such policies were narrowly tailored. The Court remanded the case to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which previously had ruled in favor of the university, for further review.

“NSBA is glad that the Supreme Court recognizes the value of diversity in the role of public schools,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “While this is a case that specifically involves higher education admissions, elementary and secondary schools also need the ability to consider diversity to promote student achievement.”

NSBA, joined by the College Board and 11 other educational organizations, filed an amicus brief in support of the University of Texas at Austin’s (UT) admission policy promoting a diverse student body.

The case centers on Abigail Fisher, a student who was denied admission to UT’s 2008 freshman class. More than 80 percent of the university’s students are admitted through a formula that automatically accepts the top 10 percent of each Texas high schools’ graduating classes; however, the alternate formula that was challenged by Fisher allows the university to use special circumstances as criteria for admission, including the socioeconomic status of the applicant or her high school, the applicant’s family status and responsibilities, and race.

In the majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy reiterated the right of schools and universities to deference from the courts to educational decisions involving diversity. NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón, Jr., noted that NSBA’s amicus brief was designed in part to appeal to Justice Kennedy in its call to uphold Grutter.

“In upholding Grutter, the Court preserves an important framework available to schools to put into place diversity policies that advance the educational benefits of students,” Negrón said. “We are pleased that this decision does not erode the existing legal landscape for the K-12 diversity environment.”

For further analysis, read NSBA’s Legal Clips.

Alexis Rice|June 24th, 2013|Categories: Diversity, School Law, Uncategorized|Tags: , , |

New Mexico School Boards Association Executive Director receives the Abrazo Award

The National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) National Hispanic Caucus of School Board Members (NHC) awarded New Mexico School Boards Association (NMSBA) Executive Director Joe Guillen with the Abrazo Award, NHC’s highest honor. This award is given annually to honor individuals who have committed their time, energy, and resources to improving educational opportunities for all Latino children. The term “Abrazo” translates in English to “hug or embrace,” a gesture Latinos use to greet or say goodbye to each other. Guillen was selected as the Abrazo recipient for his leadership and dedication to the NHC and for his commitment in advancing Hispanic students academic achievement. The award was presented at the 2013 NSBA Annual Conference in San Diego in April.

Before becoming Executive Director of NMSBA, Guillen was a school board member for more than ten years on the
Española Public Schools Board of Directors and was the 2004-2006 Chair of NHC and an ex-officio member of the NSBA Board of Directors during his time as NHC Chair.

The NHC works to promote and advance equal educational opportunities for Hispanic children. NHC members are actively engaged in a national dialogue on educational problems, issues and concerns in conjunction with NSBA and other national organizations committed to the continued growth and development of minority youth.

Alexis Rice|May 7th, 2013|Categories: School Boards, State School Boards Associations, Student Achievement, Uncategorized|Tags: , , , |

Professor learns by labeling students ‘designers, artists, and writers’

When S. Craig Watkins, a professor of radio-television-film at the University of Texas at Austin, and his partners went into an Austin high school to help the students make an interactive iPad book in three weeks, they wanted to make changes based on the research they had done on how students learn best with technology.

Watkins told audience in a Sunday session at NSBA’s annual conference about how he and other researchers got the students, many from disadvantaged, non-English-speaking families, to create so quickly. “We flipped the environment, the norms and expectations,” said Watkins. “We called it a studio, not a classroom.”

Other changes they made: They created spaces where students could visualize their ideas. They didn’t call them students. “We called them designers, artists, and writers. They took on other learner roles.”

Another important aspect: They asked the students to consider each other resources, important sources of social capital.

The students decided to work on a book about student obesity, so they took a field trip to the local hospital to gather information and data and do interviews. “They met a community and made important connections,” said Watkins.

Watkins and the other researchers wanted learning to be hands-on. “We wanted kids to be makers, innovators, authors.” And they not only learned about the technical side, but also about the skills side. “We can’t get kids to do this if they can’t read,” he said.

The class was successful in getting the book done in three weeks, and Watkins showed some samples of the students’ work.

In putting this project together, he said, “We asked ourselves these questions:
• What skills do your kids need?
• What kind of dispositions do they need?
• What learning environments do they need?

Kathleen Vail|April 14th, 2013|Categories: Educational Technology, NSBA Annual Conference 2013, Uncategorized|

NSBA, AASA leaders: We’re stronger working together

Just as it’s essential for school boards and superintendents to work well together on behalf of their schoolchildren, it’s equally important for NSBA and the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) to partner successfully on behalf of public education.

That was the opening observation of NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel during an informal discussion with AASA Executive Director Dan Domenech at a Focus on Education session Saturday.

Both national organizations are committed to strengthening public education, which “is under attack right now in a lot of different ways,” Gentzel said. “The question is how do we defend against those attacks and promote quality education.”

One concern for both organizations is the accelerating erosion of local school control in the past decade, Domenech said. Although state policymakers can claim education is a state responsibility, federal officials can’t make the same argument when explaining their interference in local decision-making.

Yet, “we’ve seen just a growing involvement and intrusion” by federal officials who’ve used the promise of federal dollars to both encourage and coerce state and local officials to accept new federal initiatives, programs, and policies.

That’s one reason AASA gave its support to NSBA’s proposed legislation, the Local School Board Governance and Flexibility Act, Domenech said. The bill is designed to curb the power of the U.S. Department of Education to impose unnecessary rules and regulations.

“When you folks came up with your bill, we thought it was great, and we were more than happy to sign up,” he added.

Both men expressed similar attitudes about charter schools and school choice. Although not opposed to these reform models, they agreed that more deliberation should be put into their use. There are times, Gentzel said, when other strategies would likely prove more successful.

For example, he said, the enthusiasm of some state and federal policymakers for charter schools seems unwarranted. “If charter schools are not outperforming public schools, then why the push to create more and more of them?”

Similar concerns also were raised during the discussion about other reform models, such as state takeovers, the firing of principals or turnaround efforts at so-called failing schools, and recent experiments in teacher evaluation systems.

One concern in the rush to use these strategies is that state and federal policymakers seem to ignore the powerful impact of poverty on the academic performance of school districts that are identified as low performing, Domenech said. The reality, at times, is that policymakers aren’t willing to put the money and resources into helping a struggling school or district to improve.

“We don’t have the moral courage or the political courage to do the right thing by these kids.”

There may be a way that NSBA and AASA can provide a better alternative, Gentzel suggested.

“Where there have been failing school systems that have managed to turn themselves around, one of the things we can work on together is to identify those places as models [we can study] and transfer their lessons to others. I think it’s an important message to send to state policymakers before they consider other ideas … let’s consider what works.”

Del Stover|April 14th, 2013|Categories: Uncategorized|

Attorneys look at legal effect of transgender employee cases on districts

Many schools are dealing with transgendered students, but more and more are now faced with the legal ramifications of transgendered employees, according to two Council of School Attorneys’ (COSA) lawyers at a Friday morning session of COSA’s School Law Seminar.

Karla Schultz and Carol Helms, with Walsch, Anderson, Gallegos, Green, and Trevino, of Austin, Texas, revealed that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) had decided that transgender status and gender identity discrimination is included under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

“No federal law prohibits discrimination on the basis of transgender,” said Schultz. “That is why the EEOC ruling is significant.

Schultz talked about the EEOC ruling in the case of Mia Macy, a public employee who was employed as a male police officer in Phoenix. When he changed genders, she moved to San Francisco and was offered a job at a ballistics lab. But when the lab discovered that she was transgender, it rescinded the job offer and Macy sued. Macy won a settlement from the lab.

Helms discussed a case in New Mexico that involved an elementary school music teacher. The teacher, who was male, became a female while employed at the district. The district was supportive of the move, and did all the right things in an employment sense, said Helms. However, when a parent discovered that the teacher had YouTube videos of her cabaret act, she and several other parents asked that their children be removed from the class.

The school put the teacher on administrative leave to let the situation calm down. The teachers union and the media got involved, and the situation still hasn’t played out, said Helms.

In dealing with transgendered employees (or really any employees), Helms recommends that employees and managers must avoid discriminatory remarks. ‘“Just kidding,’ — that gets us sued. You may prevail on an EEOC clam but it costs school districts a lot.”

Kathleen Vail|April 12th, 2013|Categories: Council of School Attorneys, NSBA Annual Conference 2013, Uncategorized|

Author: Students are ‘rarely the problem’

After getting a doctoral degree in urban education at Temple University and creating a career teaching and writing about urban schools, Camika Royal realized something: “The children are rarely the problem.”

Rather, institutions and leaders of institutions – including school boards and school board members – let our children down, Royal told attendees at a luncheon session of the National School Boards Association’s Council of Urban Boards of Education.

“Despite our best efforts, we know all is not well on the education front,” she said. She cited “school closings in Philadelphia, the murder rate in Chicago, the massacre in Newtown, the horror in Steubenville.”

“A 40 percent graduation rate is pedagogical violence,” she said. “It is criminal.”

Educational leaders need to look at themselves and ask how they bear some degree of responsibility for our schools’ and communities’ shortcomings, she said. When nearly one in five African-American students are suspended each year, “ We are all at least partially complicit.”

She quoted Pedro Noguera, a noted author on urban school issues who teaches at New York University: “Those who manage public institutions often respond differently to different constituencies.”

At the same time, “treating all people equally is not an equitable response,” she said. Often, what’s needed are policies that reflect values of patience, forgiveness and give students a way out, she said.

School boards need to care about all students, “not just those who score well or whose parents are involved or are good at sports or know how to behave.”

For leaders, improvement must start with self-examination, she said. “Challenge the assumptions and biases you bring to your work … We have to search ourselves about what we believe about young men of color.”

Too often, board members “fail to see how our own biases interview with the district’s success,” she said. “What must change most is you.”

— Eric Randall

Erin Walsh|April 12th, 2013|Categories: NSBA Annual Conference 2013, School Climate, School Reform, School Security, Student Achievement, Uncategorized, Urban Schools|Tags: , |

School boards look for more ways to cut budgets as sequester becomes reality

With across-the-board federal cuts taking effect today through sequestration, school boards will need to make tough budget decisions to account for the decrease in federal education funding. As school boards begin to craft budgets for the 2013-14 school year, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) is calling for Washington leaders to work out a deal to ensure schools are able to continue programs and avoid teacher and staff layoffs.

“Congress and the Obama administration must act now to alleviate these cuts to education before school districts have to issue pink slips and inform parents that vital programs and resources are going to be cut,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, NSBA’s Executive Director. “These new federal cuts to education will push back the progress our school districts have made in student achievement. School districts are going to have to make difficult choices as they develop their budgets for the next school year, and for years to come as the cuts continue.”

More than 700 school boards have passed resolutions urging Congress to avoid the sequestration process, which will now impose across-the-board cuts of about 5 percent to education and other domestic programs beginning in FY2013. Nationwide, K-12 programs and Head Start would face almost a $3 billion reduction for Fiscal Year 2013, according to the White House. These new cuts are an additional reduction to federal funding for education, as K-12 education programs were already reduced on the federal level with cuts to education funding in Fiscal Year 2011.

According to Feb. 14 written testimony by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Title I federal grants for disadvantaged students would be cut by $726 million, reducing instructional support to almost 1.2 million educationally disadvantaged children and eliminating more than 10,000 teachers and aides, and special education funding would be reduced by $579 million, shifting those costs to states and school districts. These federal budget cuts are scheduled to continue through 2021 and will have a substantial effect on our schools, eroding the base of funding for key programs year after year.

Earlier this week, NSBA President C. Ed Massey, a school board member for the Boone County Schools in Florence, Ky., was featured on NPR discussing the impact to his school district from sequestration noting that he expects to see a significant hit — between $1.1 and $1.3 million to Boone County Schools which would be a loss of approximately 15 teachers.

Joetta Sack-Min|March 1st, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Budgeting, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Policy Formation, Student Achievement, Uncategorized|Tags: , , , , , , , |
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