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News Update

In an effort both to fight the ever-rising costs of fuel and to go green, Lee’s Summit (Mo.) R-7 School District has become the first district in the United States to operate an all-electric distribution fleet. After beginning a discussion in 2008 on ways to reduce its dependency on oil, in August 2010 the district received four delivery trucks, one van, and one refrigerator truck—all powered by electricity. After converting the cost of electric power to the cost of diesel, the district spends roughly $ 0.11 per gallon compared to $2.25.

Whether or not to include religious holidays on the academic calendar has been a long-standing debate. However, some districts are finding that the solution lies not in a universal interpretation of the First Amendment, but simply in what works best for each individual district and community.


Leading America

John Danielson, former chief of staff to the U.S. Department of Education, has been appointed to LeadAmerica's executive advisory board. Danielson has said LeadAmerica is essentially a "Head Start program for college and career readiness."

Forty one states, to date, have jumped on the Common Core State Standards bandwagon, adopting common curriculum benchmarks for general education courses in language arts and mathematics. The standards, created by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, are raising the bar for special education students as well. According to the standards, students with disabilities— defined as students eligible under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA ) "must be challenged to excel within the general curriculum."

In December, the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools gave $50,000 each to three districts recovering from multiple student suicides. The grant, Project School Emergency Response to Violence (SER V), funds recovery projects in districts after a traumatic event has occurred that disrupts the learning environment.

When we hear about school shootings, we typically think of them occurring in schools—not at school board meetings. But that was not the case on Dec. 14, when 56-year-old Clay Duke fired multiple shots at Superintendent Bill Husfelt and board members during an afternoon meeting of the Bay County (Fla.) School District in Panama City.

Social networking has become a quick and efficient way for K12 administrators to gain professional development.

Lyn Hilt, principal of Brecknock Elementary School in the Eastern Lancaster County (Pa.) School District recently had to create a new acceptable use policy for elementary student computer use. She posted on Twitter that she was looking for ideas, and within minutes she had dozens of examples from other districts' administrators, including a video that had interviews with students and an administrator discussing the rights and responsibilities of students.

The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation—famous for its annual $1 million Broad Prize for Urban Education award to innovative districts—has awarded $1 million to Rocketship Education, a small nonprofit elementary charter school operator based in San Jose, Calif. The funding, in addition to $6 million recently awarded by the nonprofit venture capital firm Charter School Growth Fund, will help Rocketship expand from the three San Jose "hybrid" charter schools it now operates (with two more slated for fall 2011) to 30 nationwide by 2015.

Alfie Kohn, renowned author, speaker, and progressive education advocate, continues his fight against traditional classroom teaching in Feel-Bad Education. Kohn's 12th book is a collection of essays detailing—as its title suggests—how conventional teaching, testing, praise and punishment methods create an environment unsuitable for learning.

A recent move by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Postsecondary Education will soon relieve many of the financial mysteries involved in the college search. Under the Higher Education Act of 2008, all higher education institutions are required to post a net-price calculator on their Web site by October 2011.