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Articles: Board of Education

Georgia’s Gwinnett County Public Schools board and Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks, on right, work together to gain trust.

Although a strong partnership between school board and superintendent is widely seen as crucial to district success, administrators and the non-educators filling board seats do not always receive training in how a disparate group of individuals becomes an effective team.

Today’s education system is facing a debilitating threat in the form of a “trust deficit” that is undermining school and district leadership. As trust in our education leaders declines, so does student learning due to delayed education reform, decreased student achievement and fractured communities.

The superintendent of the K12 school district where I first taught held a drive each September to encourage teachers to join state and national education associations beyond our local union. We knew that participation, at least in the NEA—which functioned as a professional association in some states and a labor union in others—was not really optional, especially because our enrollment level at 100 percent was announced each year as a matter of pride.

Michael Flanagan, superintendent of the Michigan Department of Education and chair of the state board of education

Michael Flanagan, superintendent of the Michigan Department of Education and chair of the state board of education, received the Distinguished Service Award from NASBE. Since taking the job in 2005, he has spearheaded a push for more rigorous high school graduation requirements.

School districts working to close budget gaps are increasingly requiring parents to pay fees for their children’s textbooks, lab materials, computers, and after-school activities.

It’s a regrettable but widespread trend, says Bruce Hunter, associate executive director of advocacy, policy and communications at the School Superintendents Association. “The recession lasted longer and cut deeper than anyone thought it would,” Hunter says. “Districts try to charge as little as possible, because it’s not popular. It’s a last resort.”

Otha Thornton was elected president of the National Parent Teacher Association, making history as the first African-American male leader of the organization. He previously served on the Georgia PTA board of directors, and the PTA’s national board of directors.

Patrick Sweeney spoke at last spring’sTannersville’s Memorial Day Observance, where community and American Legion members gathered. Photo credit: Bob Mazon

Patrick Darfler Sweeney, superintendent of Hunter-Tannersville Central School District nestled in the Catskill Mountains just a couple of hours north of New York City, took the bull by the horns. While nearly half the district’s students receive free or reduced-price lunch, Sweeney was tired of seeing budget cuts that interfered with delivering an exceptional student experience. In February, he developed a bold master consolidation plan, presenting it to the New York State Education Department (NYSED) and other government and non-governmental organizations.

Students in the Los Angeles Unified School District will no longer face suspension for minor acts like not coming to class prepared or refusing to remove a hat.

A Nation at Risk: 30 Years Later

The National Commission on Excellence in Education published “A Nation at Risk” in 1983 during the Reagan administration. The report attacked the U.S. education system and called for immediate and extensive reform. Hugely influential, the report inspired much discussion regarding the effectiveness of public schools. Thirty years later, educators from District Administration held an interactive web seminar to debate the influence of the report, as well as what the state of education is today and what the future could hold.

Raymond Lauk at Paul Revere Primary School teaching Literacy Through Laughter.

Being fired as chief of the Lyons Elementary School District in Illinois a decade ago was the best thing to happen to Raymond Lauk, at least career-wise. It forced him down a path to the corporate world, specifically GE Security, as the education solutions manager, which taught him how to focus and to later create better school environments.


Mary T. Barra, General Motors’ senior vice president of global product development and an active supporter of STEM, will be the first woman to receive the 2013 Industry Leadership Award from the SAE Foundation, a global charity supporting STEM learning.

Hot Springs School District intermediate students share with Superintendent Joyce Littleton Craft their latest literacy projects using iPads.

As a girl growing up in a small community in the east Arkansas town of Cotton Plant, Joyce Littleton Craft calls it a “privilege” to have learned about work ethics and the ideal that “your word is your bond” as she and her siblings tended the family’s cotton crop in what’s called the Delta. “[My parents] stressed the importance of education and reaching your goals, even if that meant working twice as hard,” says Craft.

School board members and superintendents typically focus their safety planning and preparedness measures on school campuses, but they often overlook security and emergency planning for administration centers, board meeting sites and support facilities.

Today’s climate of economic uncertainty, school budget cuts and the growing politicization of education issues create a new level of risk for the adults running districts. Failure to take reasonable preparedness measures can lead to increased risks and the potential for greater liability.

Diane Allen Who’s the Bully?
After Stuart Chaifetz posted a videotape of teachers bullying his autistic son in a school in the North Bergan (N.J.) School District, N.J. State Sen. Diane Allen proposed a bill that would streamline the dismissal process for teachers found to be bullies.