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Articles tagged with NSBA

Ravitch wants school boards to speak up for their rights

Diane Ravitch

Diane Ravitch

Education researcher Diane Ravitch has posted in a recent blog some provocative questions for U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and other federal officials when they speak at the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Federal Relations Network conference later today. Ravitch, who will be a keynote speaker at NSBA’s 73rd Annual Conference in San Diego in April, wants to query the leaders about their stands on local governance and school boards. She writes:

In the last few years, there has been an all-out attack on local control. Most of the attack comes from the privatization movement, which thinks that school boards debate too much, listen too much, move too slowly. The privatizers prefer mayoral control in cities to get fast action. And they push laws and constitutional amendments allowing the governor to create a commission to override local school boards that reject charters. This is the ALEC agenda.

Happily, leading members of NSBA will have a chance to ask Arne Duncan why he pushes mayoral control, which has done so little for Cleveland and Chicago–and is now approved in NYC by only 18 percent of the public.

And they can ask Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia what he thinks about that state’s recent drive to strip local school boards of control of their districts. They might also ask him what he thinks of the re segregation that charters are promoting.

Stay tuned for more coverage of the federal leaders’ speeches at the 2013 FRN Conference, taking place Jan. 27 to 29 in Washington.

Joetta Sack-Min|January 28th, 2013|Categories: Federal Advocacy, FRN Conference 2013, Leadership, NSBA Annual Conference 2013, Privatization, Public Advocacy, School Boards|Tags: , , , , , |

Facts on vouchers to counter National School Choice Week

As the National School Choice Week begins, the Voucher Strategy Center at the National School Boards Association (NSBA) recommends several resources to counter arguments for vouchers and the privatization of K-12 education.

Patte Barth, director of NSBA’s Center for Public Education (CPE), recently wrote an editorial for the Huffington Post outlining many of the problems with vouchers and other forms of choice that do not hold private and parochial schools accountable for their students’ learning. In  “School Choice Does Not Mean All Choices are Equal,” Barth  discusses recent research that shows many school options have not lived up to their promises, and instead merely drain resources and funds from each community’s public schools.

Barth also wrote a blog for CPE’s EDifier this week discussing recent allegations that a cybercharter school in Pennsylvania inflated enrollment numbers to gain taxpayer funds.

Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (AU) is promoting a Twitter hashtag, #Vouchersfail, to share stories where school vouchers have proven problematic.

The AU has also set up a website,, with research debunking propaganda being put forth by voucher proponents.

“No matter their motivation, these organizations share the same goal: shifting as many tax resources as possible from the public school system, which serves 90 percent of America’s schoolchildren, to private academies that play by their own rules and aren’t accountable to the taxpayer. Proponents of ‘School Choice Week’ would rather not talk about the many problems inherent in voucher programs,” the website states.

The Voucher Strategy Center also has resources and articles on the evolving field of school choice.

Joetta Sack-Min|January 26th, 2013|Categories: Budgeting, Center for Public Education, Charter Schools, Conferences and Events, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Educational Research, Federal Advocacy, Governance, Online learning, Policy Formation, Privatization, Public Advocacy, Religion, School Vouchers|Tags: , , , , |

Court rules private school student is not eligible for Section 504 services

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has ruled that a disabled student unilaterally placed in a private school is not entitled to special education services under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act if he remains in the private school.

The National School Boards Association (NSBA), joined by its Maryland and Virginia state associations, filed an amicus brief in the case, D.L. v. Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners, asking the court not to expand the law, commonly known as Section 504, to require public schools to fund the education of students in private schools beyond the parameters of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the nation’s main special education law. The January 16 ruling will impact public schools in the Fourth Circuit, which includes Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

“The court recognized that Section 504 does not obligate school districts to pay for special education and related services for students enrolled unilaterally in private schools by their parents,” said NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón, Jr. “This decision supports Congress’ intent that federal funds for special education and related services be reserved primarily for students enrolled in public schools.”

The case centered on a student with ADHD whose parents requested an evaluation for special education services from the Baltimore City school district. The school officials determined the student would be eligible for Section 504 services based on his disabilities but only if he attended a public school.

The three-judge panel also upheld the school district’s requirement that private school students must enroll in a public school to obtain Section 504 services. The decision stated that the district’s rule “does not violate the Free Exercise Clause merely because it causes economic disadvantage on individuals who choose to practice their religion in a specific manner,” according to NSBA’s Legal Clips.

For more details on the case, read the article in Legal Clips.


Joetta Sack-Min|January 23rd, 2013|Categories: Council of School Attorneys, School Law, Special Education|Tags: , , |

NSBA gives ideas for school boards to honor Digital Learning Day

What is your school district doing to celebrate Digital Learning Day on February 6?

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is a core partner in the event, which is designed to help showcase learning through technology, including successful instructional practices and effective use of technology in classrooms across the country.

“Digital Learning Day is an excellent opportunity for educators to organize student demonstrations for school board members and other community leaders so they can see how technology is used to support learning,” said NSBA’s Director of Educational Technology Ann Flynn. “Many of today’s 21st century classrooms are filled with digital tools that can engage and excite students, but may seem foreign to graduates of another era,” she added.

Even though the event is geared toward teachers and classroom instruction, there are several ways school board members can take advantage of the time to highlight their schools’ programs, Flynn said.

For instance, consider an open house invitation for the community and government leaders to see how digital tools are transforming education in classrooms firsthand. Or, have teachers and students give demonstrations of their projects at a school board meeting. Last year, several school boards across the country marked the day by hosting student presentations at their board meetings.

A school board also could issue its own proclamation in celebration of Digital Learning Day, Flynn added, to call attention to the important role these resources play in preparing students for the future and educate the community to build support for the district’s future technology initiatives.

Digital Learning Day, now in its second year, is a project of the Digital Learning Policy Center, a division of the Alliance for Excellent Education, which promotes the effective applications of technology in schools.

Also be sure to check out Flynn’s recent appearance on Comcast Newsmakers, where she discusses the potential of educational technology and student learning.



Joetta Sack-Min|January 23rd, 2013|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Board governance, Educational Technology, Online learning, Teachers, Technology Leadership Network|Tags: , , , , |

NSBA touts benefits of educational technologies on Comcast show

Ann Flynn, Director of Educational Technology at the National School Boards Association, is currently appearing on a Comcast Newsmakers segment on HLN across the country for Comcast subscribers. Flynn discusses ways school districts can use educational technology to improve student learning. Watch the segment:


Joetta Sack-Min|January 22nd, 2013|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Assessment, Board governance, Data Driven Decision Making, Educational Technology, Multimedia and Webinars, Online learning, Social Networking, Technology Leadership Network|Tags: , , , |

Experts show best practices for school safety plans in NSBA webinar

One week after the Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut, school officials again are asking whether they have enough measures in place to try to prevent a similar tragedy.

Two school safety experts showed best practices and answered urgent questions during a Dec. 21 webinar, “Planning For and Managing the School Crisis You Hope Never Comes,” sponsored by the National School Boards Association’s Office of General Counsel and the Council of School Attorneys (COSA). The webinar was designed to be an overview of tactics and resources to prevent and respond to a wide range of catastrophes, from natural disasters, shootings and other crimes, or technological and medical emergencies, such as a pandemic flu.

School safety practices have evolved tremendously since the Columbine High School shootings 13 years ago, said presenter Shamus O’Meara, a partner with the Minneapolis law firm Johnson Condon, Attorneys at Law P.A., who represented and advised the Red Lake and Rocori school districts, both in Minnesota, in their school shooting incidents. The second presenter, Rick Kaufman, was the communications director for Colorado’s Jefferson County School District during the Columbine shootings and is executive director of community relations and emergency management for the Bloomington Public Schools, also in Minnesota.

School safety plans no longer involve a simple grid that lives in a drawer—instead, they are comprehensive plans that address strategies for prevention and mitigation, preparedness, recovery, and response. The presenters encouraged school districts to build such a plan in partnership with other agencies, including law enforcement, local government, and public health. School climate and programs to deal with issues such as bullying are key to preventing incidents as well.

Out of more than 180 participants on the webinar, 86 percent reported having reviewed their school districts’ safety plan in the past year, which is a good sign, O’Meara said.

An important consideration is community involvement and recognizing the community’s values when making choices within a comprehensive plan, he added.

School officials should also practice those crisis plans regularly and ensure all new staff are adequately trained. An outside safety audit can correct weaknesses and a safety team can address ongoing needs and new issues that arise.

The speakers did not make any recommendations on the issue of allowing school administrators or teachers to carry guns. Another issue that surfaced on Friday was a proposal by the National Rifle Association (NRA) for a national school safety program that would pay for armed school safety officers at any school that wanted one. Major issues to consider include how to train school staff and how frequently, how the guns would be carried or stored, and whether the money could be better spent on other violence prevention programs, O’Meara said.

If a disaster does occur, Kaufman offered these–and many other–recommendations for communications with parents, school staff, and the media:

  • Mobilize a response team that shields the site, students, and staff from outside forces;
  • Make a call for assistance before it’s too late;
  • Understand it’s not “business as usual”;
  • Act in the short-term, but think in the long-term;
  • Know key messages and stick to them;
  • Don’t allow media to dominate school officials’ time, attention.

School districts looking for resources to update or revamp their existing school safety plans should first contact their state school boards association, COSA Director Sonja Trainor suggested.

An audio recording of the webinar is available on NSBA’s school safety resources website. Other resources that the speakers recommended include:

OSHA Statutory Requirement

National Fire Protection Association; NFPA 1600 Emergency Preparedness Standard: Voluntary standards for prevention, mitigation, preparation, response and recovery from emergencies for public, non-profit and private entities

National Incident Management System (NIMS)

The Final Report and Findings of The Safe School Initiative: Implications for the Prevention of School Attacks in the United States; U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Department of Education

Prior Knowledge of Potential School-Based Violence: Information Students Learn May Prevent a Targeted Attack U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Department of Education

 U.S. Department of Education guidance on FERPA, October 2007

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

U.S. Department of Education Office of Safe and Healthy Students


U.S. Department of Education Emergency Planning

Emergency Response and Crisis Management Technical Assistance (TA) Center

Practical Information on Crisis Planning

“Emergency Exercises: An Effective Way to Validate School Safety Plans,” ERCM Express Newsletter, U.S. Department of Education

 A Guide to Vulnerability Assessments: Key Principles for Safe Schools, U.S. Department of Education

Action Guide for Institutions of Higher Learning, U.S. Department of Education

School Safety: Lessons Learned, U.S. Attorneys Office, Minn.

Complete Crisis Communication and Management Manual, National School Public Relations Association, Rick Kaufman (2009)



Joetta Sack-Min|December 21st, 2012|Categories: Board governance, Bullying, Council of School Attorneys, School Security|Tags: , , , |

Schools safer in the wake of Columbine shootings and 9/11, say educators and security experts

Ronald D. Stephens has worked in school security for nearly 28 years. As executive director of the National School Safety Center in California, he’s consulted with school officials in places linked forever with school shootings — places like Red Lake, Minn.; Paducah, Ky., Broward County, Fla.; and Littleton, Colo.

But, in one sense, Newtown, Conn., is different, Stephens said.

“I have never seen a school shooting that has been so vicious, so heartless, so callous” as the one that killed 20 young children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Stephens said.

The majority of the victims, as much of the world now knows, were 6- and 7-year-olds. Six adults were also shot and killed at the school, including the gunman, Adam Lanza, who took his own life and that of his mother, whom he shot in their home before driving to the school.

Given the horrific nature of the crime, the next point Stephens made might be hard for the public to grasp: Children are safer in school than outside of it. About 100 times safer, if you do the math — and Stephens has.

Since the shootings at Columbine High School in 1999, districts have done many things to make schools safer. They’ve installed security systems and initiated better screening of visitors. Many have hired school resource officer. And they’ve adopted school safety plans, which anticipate threats and specify what adults and children will do in the event of everything from earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes, to a gunman on campus.

“After Columbine, there was a lot more emphasis placed on safe school plans,” said Eric Sparks, assistant director of the American School Counselor Association.

No longer simply a vague plan “sitting on a shelf,” the safe schools plan became a working document that addressed specific threats, including the threat of violence. Schools also took training for students and staff more seriously. They had lockdown drills and practiced the routines they would need to follow in case of emergency.

It’s perhaps hard to imagine anything worse than what happened at Sandy Hook. Yet without the kind of training staff members received — and the extraordinary degree of courage and composure they displayed — the Dec. 14 shootings might have claimed even more lives.

“As horrific as the tragedy was in Newtown, it could have been much worse had the teachers, the staff, the principal, the administrators not followed the lockdown procedures they had been trained to follow, had they not actually taken the children and secluded them, really depriving the killer of further targets,” NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón said on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal. “So it was their training to basically ferret out the children — keeping them safe, keeping them calm — that made this a less horrific tragedy than it could have been, in terms of numbers.”

In the days after the shooting, Negrón also spoke on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” where he said that the recent shooting by an external gunman represented “a turning point” in the discussion of school safety. He said this should elicit discussions between district officials and law enforcement about how to deal with a shooter from outside the school community. In the wake of Columbine and other school shootings, schools focused on internal issues, such as school climate and bullying, and on identifying students with mental problems. This kind of effort, while essential, does not address a threat posed from outside.

Negrón told C-SPAN that moves to arm teachers and administrators, which have been suggested by Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell and others, are not the answer because school staff members are not routinely trained in law enforcement.

“Teachers and administrators are hired to teach our children,” Negrón said. “That’s a very different skill set [from law enforcement].”

Sparks, of the American School Counselor Association, agreed.

“Having school staff with guns — that would be a challenging situation in terms of training and school safety,” Sparks said. “And it takes a whole different angle on the possibility of things going wrong.”

That could include gun accidents and other unintended consequences of adding firepower to some 120,000 places across the country that were designed for learning – what Stephens likened to creating “120,000 Fort Knoxes.” Is that the kind of climate we want for our children? he asked.

And even these actions would not ensure protection from a heavily armed intruder, unconcerned for his own life and bent on mass murder, Stephens said.

“I don’t know of a school district in America that is prepared to deal with assault-style attacks on their campuses.”

Lawrence Hardy|December 21st, 2012|Categories: American School Board Journal, Crisis Management, School Buildings, School Climate, School Security|Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Video: NSBA discusses school safety on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal”

Francisco M. Negrón Jr., General Counsel of the National School Boards Association, was featured on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal” on Dec. 19 discussing school safety and  how school boards across the U.S. develop and implement emergency plans.

Alexis Rice|December 19th, 2012|Categories: NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards, School Law, School Security, Teachers|Tags: , , , , , , |

NSBA expresses condolences on Newtown, Conn., school shooting

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) expresses its deep sympathies to those affected by the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on the morning of December 14.

“Tears are being shed in Connecticut and across the United States for the families of those killed or injured in the Newtown school shooting,” said C. Ed Massey, President of the National School Boards Association and member of Kentucky’s Boone County Board of Education. “It is a tragedy. Our hearts and our prayers go out to the students, schools staff, parents, and all of those affected.

NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel added: “Although details of this horrible tragedy are still emerging, we know that schools generally are the safest place children can be. NSBA will assist our colleagues in the Newtown Public Schools, their Board of Education, and our state association, the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, in any way that we can.”

Joetta Sack-Min|December 14th, 2012|Categories: School Security|Tags: , , , , , |

NSBA President writes about Louisiana voucher ruling

C. Ed Massey, president of the National School Boards Association, has written “Lessons Gleaned from the Louisiana School Voucher Ruling” for the Transforming Learning blog. The blog is a project of the Learning First Alliance, a partnership of 16 national level education organizations, and hosted by Education Week.

Massey wrote, “While this particular battle is far from over — Gov. Bobby Jindal and State Superintendent John White have vowed to appeal — this decision is a major victory for all school boards and public education advocates across the United States. (NSBA) supported our state affiliate, the Louisiana School Boards Association, because we saw the case as a direct threat to public education. The pro-school choice advocates were flooded with outside money and have put forth a sophisticated public relations operation.”

Massey is also a member of the Boone County (Ky.) Schools Board of Education. Read more at Transforming Learning.

Joetta Sack-Min|December 11th, 2012|Categories: Board governance, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Governance, Policy Formation, Privatization, Religion, School Law, School Vouchers|Tags: , , , , |
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