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To the more than 600 million members of Facebook and the expanding legions of Twitter users, you can add a growing number of schools and districts. Whether communicating with parents and the public, enhancing classroom instruction and staff development, or rallying school spirit, administrators and teachers are beginning to leverage the interactive and multimedia features of social networks that have the added advantage of being widely and easily accessible—and free.

Frank Costanzo

Frank Costanzo has proven his effectiveness and dedication given his latest test on April 27. Costanzo, superintendent of the Tuscaloosa County (Ala.) School System for seven years, had seen many storms and tornadoes hit his district, but this was by far the worst. On the evening of April 27, just minutes after an F4 tornado ripped through the Holt area of Tuscaloosa County, Costanzo partnered with emergency personnel and opened a shelter at Holt Elementary School, whose roof was damaged but not its gymnasium, and set up a communications center.

Failure Is Not an Option is not just the title of a best-selling book; it's a mantra for many high-performing districts. The Mansfield (Texas) Independent School District adopted this motto in 2007 and hasn't looked back.

The district—the second-largest in Texas with over 35,000 students—was far from low-achieving, although it was experiencing rapid change with the addition of over 2,000 students each year. Located outside Dallas, Mansfield has had to add a new school each year for the last 13 years to keep up with enrollment. It currently has 40 schools.

Boston schools are getting a little help for challenged students. In 2009, the latest year for which figures are available, 76 percent of all students qualified to receive free or reduced-price lunches. Although poverty is a proven factor in reducing student achievement, Boston Public Schools is seeing the results of City Connects (CCNX)—its intervention, prevention and enrichment program that, for a decade, has worked with teachers to pair students with community-based services to help students better engage and thrive in school.

Extensive media coverage of New York City's Harlem Children's Zone's cradle-to-career program over the past several years has served to focus mainstream attention on school reform in a way unprecedented in recent history.

It came as no surprise to the residents of Mankato, Minn. last fall when Forbes magazine called the city a great place for raising a family. The population in the area served by Mankato Area Public Schools, which straddles three counties in the southern part of the state, has reached more than 50,000, thanks to business and recreational opportunities, a low cost of living, state-of the-art health care, great schools, and a welcoming attitude toward newcomers.







 

 

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In 2003 when Pam Sloan was principal at Francis Howell High School in St. Charles, Mo., she began exploring different ways administrators and teachers could be more effective at delivering quality education.

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