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With a girlish belly laugh, she sounds half her age. But make no mistake: Colleen Wilcox draws from decades of experience in energizing Santa Clara County's 1,600-staff members in a system of 32 high- and low-income K-14 and community college districts.

Have you ever heard of an idea that sounded crazy at first, but within 10 minutes you're convinced it's the best new thought you've come across in years? That's what our fundraising article this month feels like to me ("Fundraising Grows Up").

First came the workshop. Then came a glimmer of an idea. Next came the goal, which changed everything.

It was Raymond Yeagley who set it all in motion. The Rochester (N.H.) Schools superintendent attended a Quality School Portfolio workshop a few years ago to learn about how the Web-based tool can help in collecting, analyzing and making sense of data. Using what he learned, he prepared a report on reading performance in Rochester's elementary schools.

Margaret Spellings/FAST FACTS

Date of birth: November 30, 1957

Education: University of Austin, bachelor's degree in political science and journalism

Last November, armed with only a computer, a microphone and free Audacity software, Will Richardson prepared his first online audio broadcast.

Have you ever had an idea so good that you know if you can just tell the right person, they'll agree and it will happen? That, more or less, was the script when the CEO of the School District of Philadelphia, Paul Vallas, met with Microsoft more than a year ago.

Students in Appoquinimink School District in Odessa, Del., were getting gypped for years. Nine years ago, they had library media centers that were showing signs of age, full of outdated material, sometimes 20 years old, and very few library media specialists.


Thanks for the Apology

I was one of your readers who protested some of the columns written by Gary Stager. Therefore, I understandably was attracted to your editor's letter in the November 2004 issue ("Mea Culpa"). Only rarely do I find editors with the courage and mortification you displayed in your remarks. Therefore, I applaud you highly, not only for your response to readers who find Mr. Stager's remarks to be belligerently inaccurate, but also for your promise to tone them down.

Patrick Groff

Professor of Education Emeritus

Writing has received less attention lately than the other two Rs, reading and 'rithmetic, but rumors of its death have been greatly exaggerated. Beginning in 2005, the SAT college entrance exam will require students to write an essay, and the ACT will include an optional essay component. Writing--sometimes called the neglected R--seems poised for a comeback.


ClassStation solutions, Hardware, $16,999 and up

Voters Send Mixed Messages On Funding Education

Voters who went to the polls in November sent mixed messages on referendums designed to increase education funding in several states.

In Washington, residents voted down a measure creating charter schools.

Did the Tail Wag the Dog?

The jury is still out as far as how much some state rule changes in accountability plans for No Child Left Behind affected schools' performances last year.