Articles in the Urban Schools category

Two federal meetings feature leadership and legislative advocacy for school boards

Over the next four days, School Board News Today will be covering the top events and sessions at NSBA’s annual Leadership Conference and its Federal Relations Network (FRN) Conference, held in Washington, D.C.

The NSBA Leadership Conference, held Jan. 26 to 27, is a two-day networking and professional development event designed to explore issues and opportunities related to state school board association leadership and management. The conference brings about 200 people to Washington, D.C., including the NSBA Board of Directors and state school boards association officers as identified by the executive director.

The annual FRN Conference, which runs from Jan. 27 to 29, brings more than 600 school board members, selected by their state associations, and state association staff to Washington to learn about the most current federal policies and issues that will impact their schools. This year, U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) are scheduled to speak at the conference.

Participants will spend a day meeting with their representatives on Capitol Hill to further discuss federal issues and pending legislation and advocate for the needs of their school districts.

In addition, NSBA’s Council of Urban Boards of Education members will meet concurrently on important issues for urban schools.

Keep reading School Board News Today for highlights from these activities.

Kathleen Vail|January 26th, 2013|Categories: Governance, School Boards, Federal Programs, Urban Schools, Board governance, Legislative advocacy, CUBE, Federal Advocacy, State School Boards Associations, Leadership Conference 2013, FRN Conference 2013|Tags: , |

North Carolina school board leader to serve as chair of the Council of Urban Boards of Education

The National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) has selected Minnie Forte-Brown of Durham, N.C. to serve as Chair of CUBE’s Steering Committee, completing the term of Sandra Jensen of Omaha, Neb. who has retired. Forte-Brown previously served as Vice Chair of CUBE’s Steering Committee.

The selection of Forte-Brown for Chair was made by CUBE’s Steering Committee. Forte-Brown’s term as Chair will last through April 2013 when CUBE elections will take place. As Chair of CUBE, Forte-Brown will serve on the Board of Directors of NSBA.

CUBE is an organization guided by Steering Committee members who represent a diverse group of urban school board members dedicated to the needs of children in urban centers. CUBE represents more than 100 urban school districts in 35 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The districts that comprise CUBE educate nearly 7.5 million students in over 12,000 schools, with a collective budget of approximately $99 billion. CUBE helps urban school boards find solutions to challenges at the local level and helps them to strengthen their policymaking effectiveness.

“It is an honor to serve as Chair of the Council of Urban Boards of Education, as I am strongly passionate about equity and excellence and believe effective, focused, and committed governance can aid in making those tenets of justice a reality for all students,” said Forte-Brown.

Forte-Brown is currently the Vice Chair of Durham Public Schools (DPS) Board of Education and has served on the board since 2004 and was the Chair from 2006-2012. Under her leadership, the DPS Board of Education participated in Reform Governance in Action training, a two-year program of the Center for Reform of School Systems. Forte-Brown is committed to engaging students, parents and the community. Forte-Brown was appointed by Gov. Bev Perdue to the North Carolina Council of the Status of Women and the Gang Advisory Task Force. She is the co-founder of the East Durham Children’s Initiative and serves on the Board of Directors of the North Carolina School Boards Association and National School Boards Action Center.

“Minnie Forte-Brown is a strong leader who will help CUBE advance its work supporting urban school boards as they find solutions to critical policy issues in urban education that enhances student and academic achievement,” said CUBE’s Director Deborah Keys.

Alexis Rice|October 26th, 2012|Categories: Announcements, Urban Schools, CUBE|Tags: , |

Magna Awards featured on Education Talk Radio

If you’re planning to nominate one of your school district’s programs for American School Board Journal’s (ASBJ) Magna Awards, be sure to listen to Pittsburgh Public Schools Board Member Mark Brentley talk about his district’s experiences as a Magna Awards grand prize winner. He joined by ASBJ Publisher Glenn Cook and Sodexo’s National Wellness Director Roxanne Moore on Education Talk Radio.

Pittsburgh Public Schools, was a 2012 Magna Awards grand prize winner in the more than 20,000 enrollment category for their “Take a Father to School Day” outreach program aimed at increasing the participation of fathers and other male role models in their schools.

Listen to Education Talk Radio on Blog Talk Radio

The Magna Awards is a national recognition program co-sponsored by ASBJ,  National School Boards Association, and Sodexo School Services that honors school board best practices and innovative programs that advance student learning. Magna nominations are judged according to three enrollment categories (under 5,000 enrollment; 5,000-20,000 enrollment; and over 20,000 enrollment). One Grand Prize Winner in each category receives a $4,000 contribution from Sodexo School Services. There are five additional winners and five honorable mention winners within each enrollment category.

Learn more about the Magna Awards and nominate your program on ASBJ’s website. The deadline is Oct. 31, 2012 for nominations for the 2013 Magna Awards.

Alexis Rice|October 12th, 2012|Categories: Urban Schools, Board governance, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , , , , , |

NSBA mourns the loss of former CUBE director

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is mourning the Oct. 9 passing of Katrina Kelley, who served as director of the Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) until earlier this year.

“She had tremendous passion, knowledge, and a strong commitment to helping urban school leaders find solutions to challenges at the local level and improve student achievement in their schools,” said Lisa Bartusek, NSBA’s associate executive director for State Association and School Board Leadership Services. “Guided by the leadership and counsel of the many dedicated CUBE Steering Committee members over the years, Katrina helped to shape the CUBE program as a critical component of NSBA.”

Kelley spent nearly 20 years at NSBA working on urban education issues. A graduate of Marycrest College with a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work, she served as legislative director for former Representative Charles A. Hayes (D-IL) of Chicago prior to joining NSBA. She joined NSBA in October 1992 as director of Urban School District Advocacy.

Under Kelley’s leadership, CUBE has grown to represent more than 100 urban school districts in 35 states and the Virgin Islands.



Joetta Sack-Min|October 10th, 2012|Categories: Announcements, Urban Schools, CUBE|Tags: , |

CUBE panel: School-level policies help minority male students

To make a difference in the lives of young men of color, urban school boards need to review the policies and priorities directed at the needs of this population—but they also need to make certain that these policies and priorities are reality at the school level.

That was the advice offered by a panel of educators speaking at the 45th Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) Annual Conference in Atlanta last weekend.

Discussing possible school board strategies to help these students, panelist Carl Harris, a one-time superintendent and former deputy assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Education, suggested conference attendees begin by taking a closer look at what was happening in their schools.

“In too many settings, we have a beautiful mission, a beautiful vision of where we want to take our schools, but when we look at how we operate day to day as a school or district, there’s a disconnect,” he said.

An example of this disconnect might be the difference between a school board’s academic hopes for minority male students and the disproportionate number of these students assigned to special education. The panel’s facilitator, Kendall Lee, a board services consultant with the Ohio School Boards Association, asked panelists how to address the issue.

Look at the data—and ask tough questions about why the district’s outcomes aren’t aligned with the district’s goals, Harris said. “My experiences working with school boards across the country is that, in many case, the data is not put directly in front of school boards as much as it should be.”

The answer is no different when examining a district’s disciplinary policies, panelists said. Statistics show that young black males are suspended or expelled at far greater rates than other students, a practice that forces students out of the classroom and discourages their interest in school.

“It’s an American shame,” said panelist Van Henri White, a school board member in Rochester, N.Y., and a member of the CUBE Steering Committee. “Our leaders aren’t treating our people right.”

Inappropriately assigning students to special education classes or disciplining them excessively undermines students’ hopes and risks putting them into the school-to-prison pipeline, panelists said. These are messages that only heighten the negative and hope-deflating experiences, such as police harassment, that these students face on the streets.

Indeed, talking to jailed young men, White said, he’s seen “the frustration of young men of color who do not believe they have an honest shot at the American Dream. They believe the deck is stacked against them, and they do not have a chance to succeed in the classroom, the courtroom, or in the boardroom.”

That reality puts school boards in the “business of saving and rescuing” these students, said panelist Ron Walker, executive director of the Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color said. “It’s non-negotiable to stand up and save our sons.”

It would help if schools had more black and Latino male role models in the schools—to show young students that academic success is possible, suggested Lee, and the panel talked of the challenges of recruiting and retaining such hard-to-find teachers.

Yet, Walker noted that the demographics are not in school boards’ favor, and, ultimately, there was no guarantee that simply having male teachers will allow schools to reach out successfully to students.

“It’s not a forgone conclusion that if, you have black male teachers, that they’ll be culturally proficient,” he said. “Some of us, who look like me, are as close to culturally proficient as I am to the moon.”

What’s needed, Walker suggested, is better recruitment and professional development to ensure that more teachers understand the needs of young men of color.

“We’re not going to get the influx of black and brown teachers we’re going to need,” he said. “So everyone needs to be culturally proficient.”


Del Stover|October 9th, 2012|Categories: Urban Schools, Student Achievement, Student Engagement, CUBE|Tags: |

Savannah school board president honored with national urban education award

This year’s winner of the Benjamin Elijah Mays Lifetime Achievement Award is Joseph A. Buck, III, president of Georgia’s  Savannah-Chatham County Board of Education.

Buck, a school board member since 2006, received the award during the 45th Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) Annual Conference in Atlanta. CUBE honored Buck for his efforts to improve student achievement and management in the school district as well as his efforts to increase community engagement in the district’s public schools.

The Benjamin Elijah Mays Lifetime Achievement Award is given to individuals who demonstrate a long-standing commitment to the educational needs of urban schoolchildren through school board service. Benjamin Elijah Mays, whom the award honors, was a teacher, minister, author, and civil rights activist who served as president of Morehouse College and the Atlanta school board from 1970 to 1981.

Buck spent nearly 40 years as an administrator at Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah, most recently as vice president of student affairs. During that time, he also built partnerships between the university, the school system, and key businesses. Two local programs that he has helped implement include Leadership Savannah and Leadership Georgia, which help local professionals gain leadership skills. Buck recruited many teachers and administrators to these programs and used his positions on the groups’ boards of trustees to build partnerships between schools and the business community.

When Buck became Savannah-Chatham’s school board president, the school district was on probation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and was facing declining enrollments and mistrust from the community. Working with a new superintendent, Buck helped expand a school choice system and bring back students to neighborhood public schools.

Buck has supported charter schools in his school district, and helped build a new charter facility using the education special purpose local option sales tax. He also is a member of Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal’s education advisory group, which meets quarterly to discuss issues facing schools in the state.

Del Stover|October 9th, 2012|Categories: School Boards, Charter Schools, Announcements, Urban Schools, NSBA Recognition Programs, CUBE|Tags: , , |

Nevada’s Washoe County Public Schools District receives national urban education excellence award

The Washoe County School District has been awarded the Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) Annual Award for Urban School Board Excellence for 2012.

The Nevada school system, which serves Reno and surrounding communities, was recognized for its school board’s resolve to improve student academic performance, engage parents and the community, and ensure that all students leave high school ready for college and careers.

Washoe County Public Schools District leaders

Washoe County Public Schools District leaders show off their CUBE Annual Award for Urban School Board Excellence

“It’s a great honor, and a confirmation of the hard work of principals, teachers, and staff members,” said Washoe County Superintendent Pedro Martinez. “This award shows what is possible when board members work in partnership with the leadership team to implement reforms that change the lives of children every day.”

“We are honored to receive this recognition on behalf of the staff, parents, and students of the … school district,” said Ken Grein, president of the board of trustees. “Our board has joined with the district to listen to members of our community, learn about their concerns, and build upon their support to help more of our students succeed in school.”

The award was presented this past weekend during a luncheon at the CUBE Conference in Atlanta.

Maryland’s Baltimore City Public Schools and Prince George’s County Public Schools also were finalists for this year’s top honor.

Washoe County is a 63,000-student school system that, only a few years ago, outperformed others in its state but was receiving negative reviews from county residents. In 2009, the school board told the community it would make changes and began an exhaustive review, with community input, of the school system’s performance.

That effort led to the development of a five-point reform initiative, Envision WCSD 2015, Investing In Our Future, that aimed to institute performance management systems; engage parents and the community; develop effective teachers and instructional leaders; instill a caring and positive school climate; and ensure all students leave ready for college and careers.

This initiative helped the school system make noticeable progress. Graduation rates rose from 56 percent in 2008 to 70 percent in 2011; the achievement gap closed as third-grade math and reading scores for African-American and Hispanic students jumped double digits. District officials now use a variety of communications tools to market their schools and foster two-way communications with parents and community members.

“Washoe County has made tremendous gains in increasing its graduation rate, increasing the achievement of low-income and minority students, and placing highly qualified teachers in its schools with the greatest needs,” said Joseph S. Villani, NSBA’s Interim Executive Director. “Working closely with its superintendent, the school board set high expectations for all students and staff and engaged its community as partners.”

“Washoe County is an example of excellence for our state and for urban school districts across the country,” added Dotty Merrill, executive director of the Nevada Association of School Boards. “The school board, working with the superintendent, has done an exceptional job at developing a strategic plan with community involvement, and has focused on implementing that plan and continuously improving student achievement.”

The Washoe County school system was selected for the CUBE award by an independent judging panel based on materials submitted by the school district, independent follow-up research, and information provided by the district’s state school boards association.

The judges selected the winner based on the following four criteria: Excellence in school board governance; building civic capacity; closing the achievement gap-equity in education; and demonstrated success of academic excellence.

CUBE represents a total of more than 100 urban school districts in 35 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The districts that comprise CUBE educate nearly 7.5 million students in over 12,000 schools, with a collective budget of approximately $99 billion. CUBE helps urban school boards find solutions to challenges at the local level and helps them to strengthen their policy making effectiveness.


Del Stover|October 9th, 2012|Categories: Governance, Conferences and Events, Announcements, Urban Schools, Board governance, Leadership, CUBE|Tags: , |

Won’t Back Down gets panned by critics, movie goers–and NSBA

Last week the National School Boards Association’s former Executive Director Anne L. Bryant gave a review dismissing the new film “Won’t Back Down,” which opened in theaters across the country this weekend.  She noted, “While we wouldn’t expect a Hollywood production about public schools to be grounded in research-based facts, there are many reasons to be concerned about the images of educators portrayed in the movie and the fanfare surrounding this type of law — which so far has only been used in one instance but has piqued the interest of legislatures in several states.”

“While ‘parent involvement’ always sounds agreeable, we have research showing that certain parental strategies work much better than others — and parent trigger laws are far from being a proven methodology,” Bryant writes.

The film, which conveys a fictional story of a mother who seeks to enact a parent-trigger law on her daughter’s underperforming school, seeks to elicit more discussion about that type of law.

Seems Bryant’s criticism was not alone. Leading movie critics bashed the film is their reviews.

The Washington Post’s Ann Hornaday noted, “it becomes clear that the movie has been designed as an anti-union, pro-charter screed, the fictional counterpart to the 2010 documentary “Waiting for ‘Superman.’”

Connie Ogle of The Miami Herald stated, “A story ‘inspired’ by real events, the film feels more like an anti-union screed than an inspiring story of educators and parents taking chances to improve a failing school. You can tell by the way the script carefully places token pro-union sentiments in the mouths of some of its characters, then sets up pro-union forces as the ultimate villains of the piece. Nothing wrong with a movie having a point of view, but watching people spout jargon or exposition doesn’t really make for riveting entertainment.”

Ella Taylor of NPR called the film, “a propaganda piece with blame on its mind.”

With all the negative reviews, seems movie goers didn’t care to see it either. The Los Angeles Times reported on the weekend box office numbers and highlighted the film’s dismal success by noting, “The only new wide release to be greeted with poor response this weekend was “Won’t Back Down,” the education drama starring Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal that tanked with $2.7 million.” The article continued by stating, “Though it sparked debate among the education community, “Won’t Back Down” failed to lure moviegoers to the box office this weekend.”

“Won’t Back Down” was produced by Walden Media, the company that also funded the 2010 pro-charters documentary Waiting for “Superman”. Walden Media is owned by Philip F. Anschutz, a strong supporter of conservative causes and former oil and gas baron who has an estimated net worth of $6 billion, according to Forbes. Anschutz operates the Anschutz Foundation and has a variety of media holdings including Anschutz Entertainment Group, Walden Media, and the Washington, D.C. conservative daily The Examiner.

Anschutz has ties to the far right—including the funding of anti-gay groups, anti-union organizations, and those who deny climate change and evolutionary science. His venture into education reform includes the Anschutz Foundation’s donation of $110,000 to the Alliance for Choice in Education between 1998 and 2008. Walden Media’s goal is to develop films to be “entertaining, but also to be life affirming and to carry a moral message.” With “Won’t Back Down”, Anschutz continued his education reform and anti-union agenda by underwriting a fictional film that misrepresents teachers unions, school boards, and highlights parent trigger efforts as the preferred way to improve a failing school.

So have you seen “Won’t Back Down,” or have you decided to skip it? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

Alexis Rice|October 2nd, 2012|Categories: School Boards, Urban Schools, School Reform, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|Tags: , , |

School districts in Maryland and Nevada named finalists for national urban education award

Three urban school districts: Maryland’s Baltimore City Public Schools and Prince George’s County Public Schools and Nevada’s Washoe County Public Schools have been named finalists for the 2012 National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) Annual Award for Urban School Board Excellence.

“This year’s CUBE award finalists clearly demonstrate effective board leadership driven by raising student achievement,” said Anne L. Bryant, executive director of NSBA. “These school boards have focused on policymaking, are driven by an accountability system which makes student learning and success their number one goal. They have demonstrated strong leadership—with the goal of improving the quality of education offered in their schools.”

CUBE showcases excellence in school board governance every year by presenting the Annual Award for Urban School Board Excellence. Award winners share their ideas and promote effective techniques at CUBE conferences and through CUBE publications. These districts serve as a resource for other CUBE districts, sharing best practices to help all urban districts improve.

The three finalists were selected by an independent judging panel based on materials submitted by the school district, independent follow-up research, and information provided by the district’s state school boards association. The judges selected the finalists based on the following four criteria: excellence in school board governance, building civic capacity, closing the achievement gap—equity in education, and demonstrated success of academic excellence.

About the Finalists:

Baltimore City Public Schools

For many schools to stay open in Baltimore, it is essential to have the support of students and families. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s a traditional school operated by the school district or a charter school run by an outside group. School choice is the mantra of the city school board, and under its new school funding formula, the money follows the child. This vision for the Baltimore City Public Schools makes it one of the most aggressive nationwide in restructuring itself for the 21st century.

Breaking with the top-down management model of the past, the school board and its CEO, Andrés Alonso, have chosen to dramatically decentralize decision-making. Individual schools now have a large degree of autonomy over budgeting and operations, and the central office’s role is being repositioned to one of providing guidance, support, and accountability.

The district’s success speaks for itself. High school graduation rates hit a record high in recent years, while dropout rates declined. In four years, the district boosted reading scores by 21.7 percent in grades three to eight, while math scores rose 28.4 percent. More students now enroll in Advanced Placement classes, and efforts to expand preschool programs increased the number of children arriving in kindergarten “ready to learn” by 15.5 percent.

Prince George’s County Public Schools

With 127,000 students, Prince George’s is among the Top 20 districts in nation in terms of enrollment size. No doubt, some students were getting a good education when the new board took over in 2006. But in a predominately minority district were more than half the students receive federally subsidized lunches, those students tended to live primarily in the wealthier sections of the county; a large portion of the others were being left behind.

The board and former superintendent focused on a “five-pronged vision” for high student achievement, highly effective teaching, safe and supporting schools, strong community partnerships, and effective and efficient operations. In order to better serve all students, the board in 2010 implemented “Student Based Budgeting,” a system that allocates money based not only on the number of students enrolled in a school but also on the particular needs of those students. Poverty would no longer be an excuse for not providing an equitable education for all.

The payoff has come in test results, with scores on the Maryland School Assessment rising in both reading and math. Between 2007 and 2011, for example, fifth-grade proficiency rates have increased from 61.8 percent to 83.9 percent in reading, and from 64.5 percent to 72.6 percent in math. Test scores are one thing. But equally important is a new spirit in the county and a sense of unity emanating from what a few years ago would have been a most unlikely place: the local school board.

Washoe County Public Schools

The academic gains at Washoe County School District are certainly impressive: graduation rates rose from 56 percent in 2008 to 70 percent in 2011; the achievement gap closed as third-grade math and reading scores for African-American and Hispanic students jumped double digits; and the classes at all Title I schools can now boast of being led by highly proficient teachers. Though the results deservedly get all the attention, they believe the careful planning and foundation it was built upon, which began with the board recognizing it could and should expect more from its students, its staff and itself.

The exhaustive research, data analyses, and community input served as the basis of a five-point reform initiative that aimed to institute performance management systems; engage parents and the community; develop effective teachers and instructional leaders; instill a caring and positive school climate; and ensure all students leave ready for college and careers.

“Envision WCSD 2015, Investing in Our Future,” their strategic plan was rolled out slowly, methodically among its staff, who worked in committees and groups to work toward the goals and internalize the message. With employees embracing the new mission, district officials could now turn to selling the value proposition to the public — developing key messages based on its mission, identifying and segmenting its target audience, using a variety of communication tools and channels, and most importantly, developing communications plans that foster two-way communications.

CUBE represents a total of more than 100 urban school districts in 35 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The districts that comprise CUBE educate nearly 7.5 million students in over 12,000 schools, with a collective budget of approximately $99 billion. CUBE helps urban school boards find solutions to challenges at the local level and helps them to strengthen their policy making effectiveness.

Alexis Rice|September 6th, 2012|Categories: Urban Schools, Student Achievement, CUBE|Tags: , |

Role play, real-life scenarios fortify training at CUBE conference

After a teacher learns that two students plan to fight after school—because he read the gossip on a student Facebook page—the school board is relieved when school officials intervene and prevent the altercation.

But shouldn’t the school board also be concerned that students and teachers are interacting on social media sites without supervision?

This real-life scenario—and the policy implications regarding employee use of social media sites shared with students—was one of several case studies debated yesterday by urban school leaders attending the CUBE Summer Issues Seminar at Columbia University’s Teachers College in New York City.

Yesterday’s discussions were part of a new CUBE Leadership Academy designed to strengthen board member leadership skills, led by Brian Perkins, a past chair of CUBE’s Steering Committee and currently director of the university’s Urban Education Leadership Program.

With help from a cadre of presenters, the Academy put urban leaders through the paces by posing a series of what-if scenarios and asking them to find potential solutions.

One of the more compelling case studies dealt with school board policies on social media sites—such as Facebook or Twitter—and potential communications between students and teachers. As noted by presenter Sharon Skyers-Jenkins, a former school board member and education attorney, this is a policy issue that school boards ignore at their risk.

“At least 40 school districts have approved social media policies,” she noted, adding that some school districts have required teachers to “unfriend” students on Facebook while others have banned all social networking efforts using school-owned computers.

Yet many school officials are playing catch-up on this issue, Skyers-Jenkins added. “Technology is moving at warp speed, and social media outlets are increasing. A district has to carefully craft their policy to be relevant. To ignore this issue now is probably not too wise.”

In their discussion, urban school leaders were asked how they would come to agreement if their board was divided in its views. For example, in the case study given them, one hypothetical board member wanted to ban all teacher and student interaction through social media services. Another wanted to regulate even private use of social media services by employees, and a third wanted to ignore the entire issue.

In the end, many board members decided that a combination of views would make an appropriate policy, with the main points being to ensure that communications between student and teacher was accessible to parents and school officials, teachers should only use online communications for education-related issues, and teachers must avoid any social interaction with students.

At its most basic level, one board member noted, the issue is that teachers cannot “friend” students online.

“Teachers are teachers 24 hours a day. They can never be a friend. They must never cross that boundary.”

Del Stover|July 27th, 2012|Categories: Urban Schools, CUBE|
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