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District Administration, April 2013

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Cover Story

The glory days of high school sports are no longer reserved for dream team athletes, as athletic directors are increasingly opening up sports to all students, regardless of ability, and seeing winning results on the field and off. 


Jane L. Beyer Westerhold knows no boundaries. As superintendent of the Des Plaines (Ill.) Community Consolidated School District 62 in suburban Chicago, Westerhold has led a three-year master plan with a $109 million facilities upgrade, narrowed the achievement gap between low-income and other students, and kept a AA+ bond rating—the highest given by the Illinois State Board of Education.

English as a Second Language programs have historically focused on Spanish-speaking students, but the ESL map is undergoing a dramatic transformation that is challenging K12 schools to cope with a burgeoning number of different native languages—more than 100 in some locations—as new immigrants arrive in districts across the country.

The U.S. teacher pension system is in major financial trouble, with almost $390 billion in unfunded liabilities, according to a recent report from the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ). And funding shortfalls grew in all but seven states between 2009 and 2012, the nonprofit research and policy group found.

District CIO

On Feb. 6, over 25,000 teachers and millions of students in all 50 states participated in the second annual Digital Learning Day, a national campaign promoting digital learning and shining a spotlight on successful classroom technology initiatives. Though the event lasted one day, educators are encouraged to engage with technology year round, according to the Alliance for Excellent Education, a national policy and advocacy organization that hosted the event.

In the move to 1:1 computing, school district leaders are increasingly looking for alternatives to traditional PCs and laptops, and for many districts, the go-to device is the iPad. But now, for a growing roster of Apple competitors, the time has come to give the iPad a run for its money.


At the recent annual conference of the International Bullying Prevention Association, I co-facilitated a session with a panel of students who are leaders in preventing bullying in their school. I asked the 600 professionals in the room how many also rely on student leadership to prevent bullying, and barely 30 raised their hands. The students’ insightful and passionate presentation on confronting these real-world problems became the “buzz” of the conference.

There is a growing economic and educational imperative in the U.S. and elsewhere for new strategies, policies, and leadership to achieve a ubiquitous technology environment at school, at home and in the community.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most children and adolescents in the United States eat too much sugar, fat, and salt, but not enough fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Further, they consume about half their “empty calories” in the form of soda, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, grain desserts, pizza and whole milk (CDC, 2013).

Solanco Public Schools—short for “Southern Lancaster County”—is the fifth largest district in Pennsylvania, spanning 181 square miles. And it means long bus rides for students: 50 minutes for elementary students and an hour or more for middle and high school.


In February, U.S. Rep. George Miller of California introduced the Transforming Education Through Technology Act, a bill designed to help schools, districts and states improve teaching and learning through technology.


Oceanographer David L. Evans was appointed executive director of the National Science Teachers Association in February, and will work to promote STEM education and professional development for the Next Generation Science Standards.

A month after the Sandy Hook massacre, educators across the nation were asked: “Do you feel safe?” Most of them did.

Controversy over so-called “fat letters” mailed from district offices to parents, informing them if they have an overweight, healthy weight or underweight child, is erupting across the nation.

Since 2004, overall interest in STEM majors and careers among high school seniors has increased by more than 20 percent, according to a new report from STEMconnector, an online STEM news source. And the southern states of the U.S. have the highest concentration of students interested in STEM, at 36 percent, compared to other regions.

Released in February, the “Where are the STEM Students?” report revealed that mechanical engineering was the most popular major or career choice among STEM-interested students, at 20 percent, while biology was second at 12 percent.

Starting this April, 1,500 eighth graders across nine middle schools in the Ouachita Parish School System in Monroe, La., will learn the keys of character building and life skills through a new pilot program based on a fantasy fiction novel.

A new study found that female elementary students perform as well as their male counterparts in a series of math competitions, versus one-shot contests, refuting some previous studies that show females usually lag behind males.

In 2014, elementary students in 45 states must know how to type on a computer when the new Common Core State Standards are implemented, but some states are holding on to an old, basic skill—the art of cursive handwriting.

As Newtown, Conn. recovers from the December mass school shooting, the community is focusing on the future, and an updated plan for a new children’s museum.

“We’re more determined than ever to provide a positive place for our children and their families to spend their time.” says Kristin Chiriatti, a mother in Newtown, and the original organizer and president of the museum, to be called EverWonder.

President Barack Obama announced plans to provide universal preschool for American children. Public education has made few changes in the 30 years since the “A Nation at Risk” report was released, laying out the dire conditions of U.S.

Though professional athletes have access to top healthcare professionals and state of the art facilities, tightening budgets in U.S. school districts often leave high school sports participants without protective services or proper care after injury. To address this problem, the Youth Sports Safety Alliance, a group of more than 100 organizations committed to the safety of young athletes, released the first-ever “National Action Plan for Sports Safety,” a guide for districts to protect student athletes.

Teachers faced with Common Core implementation must shift their instructional methods to align with new models for literacy and mathematics. At Pinellas County Schools in Largo, Fla., administrators are moving to a systemic professional development approach to better support staff during the transition.

As Common Core implementation begins, education publishers are creating products that align with the standards and take advantage of technology that elicits student engagement.

“Technology, used effectively, can help all students meet and exceed the rigorous learning goals embedded in the Common Core by providing access to tools and resources that personalize instruction and creating rich, engaging and relevant learning environments,” according to a statement from the International Society for Technology in Education.

Here comes a plethora of online tools and instructional materials to help meet the Common Core standards, making for some overwhelming options for teachers and students. More than 7 in 10 educators search for instructional resources at least several times a week, but only one in four educators describes his or her searches as “usually successful,” according to a July survey report.

While the goal of the Common Core initiative is to establish clear, measurable standards for K12 students, an educational change is imminent. And speech and debate are considered the kinds of skills that will help students meet or master the standards.


myCreate iPad App
The myCreate app is based on Stop-Action Movie (SAM) Animation software. Students can edit videos by slowing down or speeding up the delivery of frames, duplicating frames to lengthen scenes and adding music or audio recordings to their videos. Completed videos can be saved to personal albums and/or shared with family members and friends via Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo, or HapYak.

Sandy Hook Reflections

I appreciate District Administration and gain much from your work. However, the comment made by Ken Trump in “Reflections on Sandy Hook” (February 2013) regarding the lack of “excitement” by school boards and administrators over school safety is not only inappropriate, but insulting on many levels.

I have been drawn to the power of satire and parody throughout my life and career, and learned early on that humor can make points more forcefully than other kinds of expression. As a child, I studied how the Jewish comics in New York used humor to emerge from poverty, and later followed black and Hispanic performers who carried on those traditions to triumph over prejudice and injustice.