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District Profile

Some Jennings School District students play the violin and viola—using music to help them make connections in core subjects of math, science and language arts. The students above rehearse for their district gala recently.

When students in music class at Jennings School District in Missouri started taking violin lessons, they would show when they were frustrated. After a year of playing beautiful music, the students wait a beat, and calm down, instead of acting out. With troubled schools where standardized test scores are abysmal, absenteeism runs rampant and aspirations of breaking out of poverty feel like a pipe dream, the district in urban St. Louis County has the look and attitude of a feisty kid that wants to overcome the long odds for success.

Since 2011, Superintendent Elizabeth Celania Fagen has helped shift Douglas County Schools from a good district to a great one.

In the last year, the Douglas County School District in suburban Denver has been called a national model by former U.S. secretary of education William J. Bennett and “the most interesting school district in America” by the American Enterprise Institute.

Superintendent Art Fessler pursued creating the 21st Century Leadership Academy for his Illinois district administrators when he started working last summer. 

An instructor in a classroom addresses the students. “We’re going to discuss how to ask questions in a way that doesn’t sound threatening, but instead builds trust. Let’s look at some of the vocabulary we’re using now to interact with teachers and how, through word substitution, we can reshape those conversations to foster better outcomes.”

The Kent School District in Washington has more diversity in its student body, greater achievement and better technology, in major part due to Superintendent Edward Lee Vargas.

Every day, students whose families speak among 138 different languages learn together in the classrooms at Kent School District in Washington. To address the linguistic and economic challenges for the 27,000 K12 students—the majority of whom receive free or reduced price lunch—administrators have worked hard to build innovative language and technology programs.

The new Taft Information Technology High School was among the buildings in the Cincinnati Public Schools that was renovated or newly built under the master plan.

It’s not little and it’s not red, but the schoolhouse remains the center of Cincinnati Public Schools’ neighborhoods. The schools are where students and residents alike have access to free health care, civic programs, and mentoring provided through partnerships with social service agencies.

These partnerships have transformed schools into Community Learning Centers and are central to the district’s nearly completed $1 billion construction project, Superintendent Mary Ronan says.

Freshmen at Merrillville High School receive extra academic attention in the school’s Freshman Wing.

Today, the Merrillville Community Schools Corporation, located in a suburban town outside Gary, Ind., is an award-winning district, having achieved a 90 percent graduation rate in 2012 with 78 percent of its students demonstrating proficiency in English, math, and science.

1. Communicate. Try to head off any concerns before they escalate to a lawsuit by communicating with everyone involved. Where children are concerned, use ‘kid friendly’ language in the classrooms.

2. Involve insurance. Call your insurance carrier, informing the company of a problem. You can lose coverage if you don’t tell them the lawsuit is coming. Then determine whether your insurance company will retain counsel for you or if you need to retain your own.

3. Hire counsel. If needed, hire counsel and work out a legal strategy for handling the matter.

Updated July 1, 2013:

“Do a triangle pose,” a teacher says to her third-grade students during one of their bi-weekly yoga classes. “Good. Now a gorilla pose. Now you’re a mountain.”

This is yoga at Encinitas USD’s nine K6 schools. The poses’ names have been changed to be less religious. They are part of a complete physical education program designed to help students stay calm, focused and physically active throughout their day, says Encinitas USD Superintendent Timothy Baird.

Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis observes students and educators participating in the Open Campus PA program.

This past school year has been a little less hectic for busy juniors and seniors at Hempfield High School, thanks to a new, unique online course-sharing initiative.

The Hempfield School District is in a suburban-rural community outside Lancaster, Pa., and is one of three local districts that have implemented Open Campus PA, a program that unites its high school with the nearby Penn Manor and Manheim Township districts’ high schools. The goal is to share teachers and selected online courses, allowing participating students to take online classes on their own time.

Just 20 miles from Manhattan sits the community of Roslyn Heights, N.Y., where its 3,300 students are among the best and brightest, consistently scoring above county, state, and national averages on standardized tests and College Board exams. In the last few years, the Roslyn (N.Y.) Public Schools implemented the latest technology and exposed students to world culture.