The Katonah-Lewisboro (N.Y.) School District is my home district. It's about 45 miles north of New York City, and it's where my daughter will be starting high school this September. Since I joined the staff of DA, it has also become a case study for my perspective on what we write about. The district received national attention in March 2007 when the New York Civil Liberties Union turned on our school administrators, raising First Amendment concerns after they suspended three high school students for using the word "vagina" during their performance of a passage from Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues. The district's organic lunch program was modeled in Two Angry Moms, a documentary film about a parental war against the sale of highly processed, sugary foods in U.S. schools. I keep up with every detail about the district; the editorial staff most likely wants to roll their eyes every time I mention it at our weekly story meetings!
On July 1, Robert Roelle will become the new superintendent of the KLSD, after serving a one-year interim position. During the first few months in his role, Roelle helped negotiate a memorandum of agreement with the teachers, whose last contract had ended on June 30, 2006. The teachers dressed in black each Thursday to show their unhappiness working without a contract. As he told me when we met recently, he has been in the process of "framed reorganization." With the exception of guidance, technology and special ed, every directorship has been eliminated. The former director of special education is becoming the new principal of the high school, and the longtime principal is filling a new position telling of these new times - he will be in charge of both Project Safe, an initiative for both physical plant and student safety, and the districts cultural arts program. "Every district has a head of athletics; shouldn't there be a head of the cultural arts?" Roelle asked. The 2008-2009 budget increase was 3.89 percent, the seventh-lowest increase in 45 districts in the Westchester and Putnam County area. As a result of efficiencies, the school board is returning $2 million to the taxpayers in the form of tax relief. As a parent, I like what he's doing. As editor of this magazine, Roelle's actions serve as a barometer of the times, a story that continues to unfold on a daily basis. I add this to my tools of finding the best content to serve you, our readers.
Watching the Trends
But we watch noteworthy trends in districts nationwide everyday. In many, even the cost of school supplies has an impact on a school's budget. Kurt Dyrli writes this month in "School Supplies on a Budget" about how this cost is getting passed on to families and teachers and that seeing a student walk into school on day one with five boxes of tissues (per the class's supply list) is not uncommon. And Zach Miners, our news editor, dug deeply into a subject he's passionate about in "The Silent Issue." How will this presidential race impact your district? Cathleen Norris and Elliot Soloway, cofounders of GoKnow!, a company that develops K12 resources for mobile computing devices, write about the latest trends in handheld computers. Can your district afford to keep up with essential technologies needed for 21st century learners?
P.S. Our second annual X-Factor Student Achievement Grant competition has just kicked off. Here's an opportunity to receive $20,000 cash plus $30,000 in software and professional development training for your district. We are looking for descriptions of creative programs that focus on increasing reading and math achievement. See the home page for more details.
Judy Faust Hartnett, Editor firstname.lastname@example.org