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Lyle Rowland knows the name of each of the 238 students enrolled at Taneyville R-II School District, a K-8 district just east of Branson, Mo. What's more, he knows their parents, where they live and how some families earn their living.

Using private funds is nothing new to most school districts. Bake sales and student car washes have been funding activities for decades. Your district may already have a deal with a sporting goods company to subsidize its sports programs.

Hamilton Central School (New York)

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 Nine years ago, they had library media centers that were showing signs of age, full of outdated material, sometimes 20 years old, and very few library media specialists.

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.

Margaret Spellings/FAST FACTS

Date of birth: November 30, 1957

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

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.

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