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Articles tagged with New York State School Boards Association

Brand-building begins in the board room

Does your school district have an image problem? If so, it probably doesn’t need a new slogan, a new logo, or a new “look,” according to a trainer and a communications specialist from the New York State School Boards Association (NYSSBA). What’s commonly needed is improvement in what happens at board meetings, they said at Monday’s National School Boards Association’s Annual Conference session on “Building a Brand Image at Board Meetings.”

A brand is not a logo or tagline, said Eric D. Randall, NYSSBA’s editor-in-chief. “A brand is a mental and emotional association,” he said. “It’s what people expect from a product or organization.”

A good brand for a school board involves perceptions that the board really cares about students, listens to citizens, and has a rational decision-making process, he said.

What happens at board meetings can either reinforce or contradict such perceptions, said Darci D’Ercole, NYSSBA’s deputy director of leadership development. She said boards should work on improving processes, structures, and habits.

Good processes include using parliamentary procedure, holding well-organized public comment sessions, and having operating procedures that govern how to respond to poor behavior by board members.

Boards can improve performance through organizational structures such as having a board self-evaluation instrument. It’s also important to review the results in a relaxed forum such as an annual retreat.

Finally, boards will gain trust when they maintain a culture of good habits that allow for disagreement without being disagreeable. It’s important to minimize intentional interruptions of one another, use respectful body language, and make decisions based on data, not alliances, D’Ercole said. All of this fosters a better brand image and community support, she said.

The board’s brand and the district’s brand are linked, Randall said. The board’s professionalism and priorities should match the district’s messaging.

Can an individual board member enhance the district’s brand? Yes, he said. His advice:

• Be a braggart. Ask your superintendent for talking points.

• Motivate district PR staff by noticing their work.

• Wear a pin or district emblem.

• Participate in outreach and favor engagement in all forms.

• Turn at least one alienated critic into an engaged participant.

Erin Walsh|April 15th, 2013|Categories: School Boards, NSBA Annual Conference 2013|Tags: , |

NSBA and NYSSBA challenge unilateral placements in special education case

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is urging a federal appeals court to ensure that school districts are not required to reimburse parents who unilaterally choose educational placements for their children with disabilities if those placements are not appropriate under federal special education law.

NSBA joins the New York State School Boards Association (NYSSBA) in an amicus brief asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to uphold a lower court decision in C.L. v. Scarsdale Union Free School District. The case was brought by parents who unilaterally placed their child, who has learning disabilities, in a private school then asked the school district for tuition reimbursement. School officials had determined that the child’s disability did not qualify him for special education services under the nation’s main special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The law requires students with disabilities to be educated with non-disabled children in a regular classroom to the extent it is appropriate to their educational needs.

“IDEA is intended to promote collaboration between schools and families, and a school district should not be required to pay for an inappropriate private placement that was made without its input,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “A core tenet of IDEA is that students with disabilities should not be cut off from environments that include their non-disabled peers.”

The amicus brief written by NYSSBA responds to a U.S. Department of Justice position that the school district should pay for the restrictive placement unless it proves that there were other less restrictive private placements available to the parents but that those options were rejected without reason.

“School districts recognize the importance of working with families to determine appropriate placements for students with disabilities,” said NYSSBA Executive Director Timothy  G. Kremer. “However, a school district shouldn’t be required to pay for a restrictive  private school unilaterally chosen by a parent.  School officials and parents should be partners not adversaries in this process.”

NSBA’s Legal Clips also has written about the case.


Joetta Sack-Min|March 25th, 2013|Categories: School Boards, School Law, Special Education, Board governance|Tags: , , |

NYSSBA: “Let’s try a little bragging”

The following commentary is written by Rebecca Albright, a school board member in New York, and was originally published by the New York State School Boards Association.

In the beginning I had just two children. When my son and daughter were five and two, respectively, I adopted 1,200 others between the ages of 5 and 21.

Other school board members know the feeling. When I was first elected to the Wilson school board in Niagara County in 1986, I felt like I became “mom” in a much broader sense of the word. These were all my kids!

In 1994 I was elected to Orleans/Niagara BOCES and my brood grew to 37,000, give or take. I don’t remember their birthdays and they will never get my car keys, but they are mine nonetheless! I fret over them, I advocate for them, and I brag about them every chance I get.

I feel fully entitled to brag. It’s what moms and dads do.

There is a distinct difference between advocating and bragging. Advocating is speaking up for public education and the resources we need. I do a lot of that when I visit legislators, but bragging is bringing attention to what these kids are actually doing.

You don’t like the term “bragging”? How about “broadcasting success”? As school board members, we’re privy to lots of information that average community members don’t have. I think it’s our duty to share the good news. People rarely hear it anywhere else!

In the current economic and regulatory climate, I think we all find board work stressful. But when I brag, I light up. Bragging brings a thrill to these old bones. It’s exhilarating and energizing.

Is there anything better than seeing the faces of kids when you talk in a way that lets them know that you think they are special and that you are proud of them? Do you notice how they sit up straighter, maybe even smile a bit? Ever tried that with their parents? Have you tried that with community members who aren’t parents or whose children have grown?

One of the biggest contributions we can make as school leaders is expressing appreciation for the hard work and good results that occur every day in our schools despite all the issues that we grapple with in our boardrooms.

Recognizing accomplishments is not only good for kids, it’s good for you. When you see students, staff or community members puffed up with a sense of accomplishment, that feeling of well-being is infectious. It can easily outweigh all the other concerns that trouble us.

So here is Bragging 101: talk about students as if they are your own flesh and blood. In the same way parents are quick to open their wallets (or smart phones) and show photos of their kids, you ought to have something handy to show people or brag about. Ask your superintendent for a “cheat sheet” of facts – maybe in graphical form – on student achievements, graduation percentages, student athlete teams, the scholarship monies earned. When someone asks you how the kids are  doing, give them an answer that they’ll remember and repeat to others!

Of all the duties that come with being a school board member, this is one you will truly enjoy. And it will be good for the students and the district, too. So, brag a little. After all, they really are your kids.

Rebecca Albright is president of the Orleans/Niagara BOCES board and host of “Your Public Schools” on LCTV public access television in Lockport.

Joetta Sack-Min|August 24th, 2012|Categories: Uncategorized, School Boards, Board governance, Student Achievement, Student Engagement, State School Boards Associations, Public Advocacy|Tags: , , , |

NYSSBA director writes on leadership and student achievement

Timothy Kremer, the executive director of the New York State School Boards Association, writes about the need for school board leadership and the need to focus on student achievement in a blog for “Boards Eye View,” which is published by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Read the blog and add your comments at Boards Eye View.


Erin Walsh|June 11th, 2012|Categories: Board governance, Student Achievement|Tags: , |

Boards face federal and state bullying rules

The national media has been highlighting incidents of bullying and harassment in schools, and for good reason – statistics show that many children are being bullied, electronically or otherwise.

Federal and state policy and lawmakers are trying to stop bullying of children through policies and legislation, which was the topic of a National Issues session of the Federal Relations Network (FRN) Conference on Monday. NSBA’s General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón Jr. and Jay Worona, general counsel of the New York State School Boards Association, outlined to audience how those state and federal actions could affect school boards and districts.

At the federal level, the Obama administration has focused on the topic of bullying and harassment. President Obama “is using the bully pulpit to make connections that are not made under the law,” said Negrón. “That spells untested liability.”

The Office of Civil Rights (OCR), part of the U.S. Department of Education, sent out a “Dear Colleague” letter in October 2010. The letter had several problems, which NSBA responded to, saying it had “fuzzy standards of liability,” said Negron.

Those problems included:

# shifts the “actual knowledge standard” to “knows or should have reasonably known.”

# redefines Title IX requirements from responding to peer harassment in “a reasonable manner” to “eliminating harassment and a hostile environment.”

# requires school districts to publicly label incidents as “harassment,” which could violate students’ privacy rights if they are identified.

State legislatures also have been working in this area, including New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland, and Louisiana. Worona told the audience about his experience with what is now the Dignity for All Students Act. He said that NYSSBA’s lobbyists respond to all education legislation that includes unfunded mandates: “If it’s unfunded, we don’t like it.”

Worona realized that a more nuanced approach would be required after he met with the head of the New York Civil Liberties, who asked him why the association was opposing the bill. Worona told her the training requirements would cost money and “our districts are broke.” She answered: “But kids are killing themselves.”

That’s not where school boards should be in these types of conversations, he said. “You need to be thinking about what your reaction will be that kind of legislation. Take some steps back to see what it’s all about.”

The OCR held a briefing on the bullying issue in May 2011. NSBA submitted testimony stressing the common goal of preventing and addressing bullying and harassment but cautioned that OCR’s approach was too broad. Federal initiatives can overburden districts when state and local initiatives appear to be working well.

Last September, OCR issued its findings and sent them to the president and Congress. NSBA’s testimony was included in those finding. “People get to see your perspective and why it’s important,” said Negrón. “A one-size-fits all federal mandate is not the answer.”

Kathleen Vail|February 6th, 2012|Categories: Bullying, Federal Programs, Policy Formation, Legislative advocacy, FRN Conference 2012|Tags: , , , |

NYSSBA, Gardner receive NSBA’s Shannon Awards

The New York State School Boards Association (NYSSBA) and Greta Gardner, former Deputy Director of Policy Services for the Ohio School Boards Association (OSBA), received the 2012 Thomas A. Shannon Award for Excellence at a luncheon on Saturday at  NSBA’s Leadership Conference.

NSBA gives the award annually during its Leadership Conference to recognize extraordinary efforts performed on behalf of NSBA, local school board constituencies, and school communities.

The NYSSBA was honored for its “Be the Change for Kids” campaign, which raises awareness on the funding crisis facing New York’s public education system and encourages school leaders to consider ways to optimize resources and embrace new methods of teaching and learning.

“The work of the New York State School Boards Association’s ‘Be the Change for Kids’ campaign shows how a state school board association can do outreach in their state to promote investments in public education,” said NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant. “In a time when parents and taxpayers are demanding improvements in public education, ‘Be the Change for Kids’ has positioned New York’s school board members as change agents to advance student achievement.”

The campaign represents a multidisciplinary effort involving team members across many NYSSBA departments – marketing, communications, government relations, leadership development, information technology and executive – who took their ideas to new heights through their creativity and dedication to public education.  The team worked tirelessly to create and distribute a message that public schools can provide a globally competitive education at an affordable cost, improve efficiencies without sacrificing quality, and demonstrate to their communities the importance of advancing change for greater student achievement.

“’Be the Change for Kids’ symbolizes what school boards are about – moving forward and embracing change that leads to better opportunities and success for students,” said Timothy G. Kremer, NYSSBA’s Executive Director. “We’re proud to be recognized for our efforts and to share the campaign with our colleagues across the country.”

Gardner, who recently retired from OSBA, came to the organization in 1984 to create a policy service department. Through her efforts, OSBA’s policy service is respected throughout the state and is one of the largest in the country.

“Greta Gardner is a leader that exemplifies OSBA’s mission of leading the way to educational excellence by serving Ohio’s public school board members and the diverse districts they represent through superior service and creative solutions,” Bryant said. “Her willingness to go above and beyond is a model for all to emulate.”

Gardner worked with more than 300 school districts during her nearly 28-year career at OSBA. This work ranged from a customized rewrite of a district’s policy manual to distributing updates of individual policies. She also served as editor of Policy Development Quarterly, wrote articles for other OSBA publications, and spoke at countless training and informational sessions.

“I’m proud that I was able to be part of creating OSBA’s policy services and help the program grow into a valuable service for Ohio’s 718 school districts,” Gardner said. “It’s one of many important tools that OSBA offers to strengthen public schools around the state, and I am honored to be recognized for it.”

Erin Walsh|February 4th, 2012|Categories: Governance, Board governance, Leadership Conference 2012|Tags: , , , , |

NSBA in the News: board member muses on vital role of public education

This week, the Washington Post’s Answer Sheet blog features a piece written by Peggy Zugibe, a school board member of the Haverstraw-Stony Point School District, a member of the Rockland Board of Cooperative Educational Services, and a board of director for the New York State School Boards Association.

Though its an unpaid and largely thankless job, Zugibe writes, she loves being a board member for one of the most important public institution’s in America. Schools and school boards are the cornerstone of democracy and, as such, must be upheld, she notes.

The column is the latest in a series of entries by school board members from across the country, including:

How I was bullied at school” by Dana Smith, a school board member of the St. Lawrence-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services in New York.


The problem school boards have with the public”  by Michael Rochholz, board president of the Schoolcraft Community Schools in Schoolcraft, Mich. and member of the Michigan Association of School Boards.

Naomi Dillon|October 5th, 2011|Categories: School Boards|Tags: , , , , |
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