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Articles: Business & Finance

Though physical book collections are shrinking in many districts, the role of librarians or media specialists is expanding.

About one-third of public schools do not have a full-time, state-certified librarian.

Members of the American Library Association call it a national crisis, as colleges and careers increasingly require students to have expansive digital literacy skills. Some 20 percent of public school libraries do not have any full- or part-time state-certified librarians, according to a 2013 report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

Steve Green, maintenance supervisor at the New Albany-Floyd Consolidated School Corporation in Indiana, reviews a Grainger catalog looking for products to purchase online.

When Boles ISD needed a new science building in 2011 for its rapidly growing high school in rural Quinlan, Texas, district leaders realized they couldn’t afford to build the lab they wanted. Although the district, 35 miles east of Dallas, received a $410,000 grant from the Texas Education Agency, it wasn’t enough to build the project according to architects’ plans.

While co-op contracts save significant staff time, districts must still select contracts and manage interaction with vendors. In rural district Boles ISD, Superintendent Graham Sweeney manages vendor selection and purchasing. But in larger districts, multiple levels of personnel get involved.

When hiring teachers districts should identify their needs and fix only what is broken, says consultant Joel Sackett

It’s no secret that having great educators in the classroom is one of the keys to fostering successful students and an effective school—but finding top-tier educators can be difficult, time-consuming and expensive.

The hiring process is especially challenging in today’s landscape, as most states have made dramatic cuts to education funding since the start of the recession.

Nathan Levenson, senior managing director of the District Management Council, says school budgets will continue to be tight in coming years.

District budgets are likely to be tight for years to come, experts say—and a new report outlines strategies administrators can use to spend wisely during financially constrained times. “Spending Money Wisely: Getting the Most from School District Budgets,” published in May, compiles savings tips recommended by superintendents, think tanks and professors.

Jerri Lynn Lippert was named the first female superintendent of the West Allegheny School District in Pennsylvania in June.

Jerri Lynn Lippert was named the first female superintendent of the West Allegheny School District in Pennsylvania in June. She was the chief academic officer of Pittsburgh Public Schools, and started in West Allegheny in July.

Architects who built a new El Dorado High School in Arkansas in 2011 realized using wood, instead of steel, in the construction of the hallways could save the district millions of dollars.
Wood also was used in El Dorado High School's 450-seat theater.
Students and community members recently celebrate the groundbreaking of a new elementary school in the Northwest Community School District in Jackson, Mich., where no construction bonds had been passed for four decades.
Carmichaels Junior/Senior High School in Pennsylvania will have energy-efficient lighting and heating after this year’s renovations and expansion.
The Delmar Fieldhouse in Houston ISD was recently demolished to make way for new construction under a $1.89 billion school construction bond.
A crew at Worthing High School in Houston ISD begins work on a new school under a construction bond that covers 40 projects districtwide.

Safety, flexibility and energy efficiency are the forces driving new school construction as administrations create buildings to rival college facilities to prepare students for the technology-driven world they will find in college and the workforce.

A tornado safe room under construction in Moore, Oklahoma.

Tornadoes sweeping through parts of the nation and destroying schools are leading district leaders to create “safe rooms” for increased protection.

In May 2013, Moore, Okla., was hit by a tornado that destroyed two elementary schools and killed seven students. Moore Public Schools is rebuilding the schools with four safe rooms designed to meet Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) criteria to provide protection during tornadoes.

With new, smarter building technology to control energy use, school leaders can reduce their carbon footprint and use the money saved to fund projects that may have suffered from budget cuts. U.S. schools spend more on energy than they do “on computers and textbooks combined,” according to a past report by Energy Star.

“As much as 30 percent of a district’s total energy is used inefficiently or unnecessarily,” the report states.

Preschool students in the Granite School District receive Common Core-aligned instruction to prepare for kindergarten.

High-quality preschools in a Utah district began receiving funds from a first-of-its-kind, $4.6 million social impact bond from investment banking firm Goldman Sachs last fall. The goal is to improve instruction in order to prevent students from needing special education or remedial services.

Superintendent Garza speaks with an elementary student. Garza hopes to reduce achievement gaps between white students and minority students.

When Superintendent Karen Garza started her job at Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia last July, she had barely unpacked when she found a perfect storm of budget planning: increased enrollment, deferred retirement system contributions and a major uptick in students needing ESOL services.

Frank DeAngelis had been principal of Columbine High School in Colorado since 1996. After the shooting of April 1999, he promised the then-ninth grade class he would not leave until they graduated.

Frank DeAngelis, principal of Columbine High School in Colorado, retired in June. He had been the principal since 1996. After the shooting of April 1999, he promised the then-ninth grade class he would not leave until they graduated. In 2012, he graduated students who were in kindergarten at the time of the shooting.

A step for districts going paperless is to stop accepting cash or paper checks from parents. Many school systems have had vendors set up secure online portals where parents can pay for AP courses, lunches and field trips, among other items.

The documentary Go Public: A Day in the Life of an American School District moves between schools in Pasadena USD in California to give the public a glimpse of an average day for students and teachers.
The film is meant to give the public a glimpse of an average day for students and teachers.
"Go Public" is drawing national attention from communities that want to screen the film.

Go Public: A Day in the Life of an American School District is a recently-released documentary film about Pasadena USD that shows the challenges, triumphs and personalities of a moderate-sized public school system.

Above, the Metropolitan School District of Warren Township discusses union issues. Left to right, Chad Hunter, Uniserv director; Kate Miller, union president; Dena Cushenberry, superintendent; Brian Simkins, human resources director; and Tony Mendez, school board president.
The Central York School District administrators recently discussed union issues. From left to right, Shelly Eaton, teacher union president; Bobbi Billman, director of human resources; Kevin Youcheff, principal of North Hills Elementary School; and Robert Grove, assistant superintendent.

It was compromise that prevented a major teacher’s strike in February, as Portland Public Schools and the local union struck a bargain during an intense 24 hours of negotiating that ended months of deliberations.