What is your perspective on a four-day school week, pros and cons?
Kathleen Kapusta Independence (Ohio) Local Schools Board of Education
In the early 1970s, during the energy crisis, I had the opportunity to teach in a small school system in Maine that moved to a four-day week in order to save money. Even though in some ways the circumstances today are similar, they are also very different. For example, in the '70s we had a great deal of federal funds for professional development, so every Friday, teachers and administrators attended professional development. The four school days were lengthened for students by 45 minutes each, which made for a very long day that was followed by a long bus ride. One of the disadvantages was that even though we lengthened the day, it seemed to end for instructional purposes at the same time it always had, as the kids and teachers became tired. A big advantage was that we saved considerable money because it allowed us to set thermostats to a lower temperature in unoccupied schools as professional development was conduct in one building and resulted in a reduction in the number of miles that the buses had to travel in a week. From my experience, this experiment was not successful, and reducing the amount of productive school time that we provide students is not wise. We should be increasing the amount of days that our students are in school, not decreasing them. Randy
I would like to know what superintendents do in order to stay current with educational technology. How do you make sure you have a firm grasp on how to introduce technology into the instructional process in order to ensure that your district is creating an engaging curriculum that not only is current in the forms of technology use but also ensures that the technology chosen is in the best interest of students and staff in your district?
Greg Limperis, educational technology consultant, Technology Integration in Education
Some superintendents are more comfortable with technology than others. Although from my experience I must say that most understand the importance of making sure that purchases are wise, that they fit with the mission of the school system, and that they provide support to the instructional staff. So as with any area of responsibility, superintendents depend on their own experiences, training and, most importantly, staff that is competent and trustworthy. It would be impossible for superintendents to have the same knowledge and insight that professionals in the field do. However, it is incumbent on educational leaders to attend professional development events, read articles, and review proposals that companies submit. We may not be the experts, but we know intuitively when something will work and when it won't. Randy
What is your opinion of using experience as the criterion for step increases for teaching and nonteaching staff?
Martha E. Piekarski, executive director of financial services, El Paso Independent School District
With Race to the Top and the discussion that the Obama administration has begun, I suspect that the idea of pay schedules as we currently know them will come under scrutiny and substantial revision. No matter what you feel about the federal role in education, this administration has been masterful in getting states to change their laws, teacher unions to agree to modification, and local boards of education to adopt reforms that would not otherwise happen without the prospect of getting some money. While experience is a clean way to advance individuals on a pay scale, I think we are moving into a world where expertise and success are going to be the norm. Experience will not be enough for advancement. Randy
Send your questions regarding leadership situations/ difficulties you have encountered or any educational issue big or small, to rcollins@ districtadministration.com. Randall Collins served as superintendent of Waterford (Conn.) Public Schools for 19 years and was president of the American Association of School Administrators from 2008 to 2009. He is currently consulting on the development of a District Administration Leadership Institute for school administrators.