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District Administration, February 2014

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Cover Story

As secondary school principals guide their schools and teachers through a myriad of changes, it’s becoming necessary for these leaders to reinvent themselves. No longer can principals succeed by operating only as a manager—the evolving school environment requires a more extensive approach.


As secondary school principals guide their schools and teachers through a myriad of changes, it’s becoming necessary for these leaders to reinvent themselves. No longer can principals succeed by operating only as a manager—the evolving school environment requires a more extensive approach.

Whether school administrators are braving a hard winter, cheering on their school basketball teams or focusing on end-of-year assessments, summer vacation could seem like a long way off. But for many districts planning for summer school, the months of June and July are closer than they seem.

Changing state laws and the rise of evaluations have given administrators more flexibility in removing tenured teachers, a task that had long been nearly impossible. More states are tying student achievement to teacher evaluations and renegotiating contracts.

Personalized learning is beginning to produce positive results in student achievement as it becomes more established in districts nationwide. These success stories are encouraging more districts to adopt the tech-heavy learning model that’s designed to customize education for each student.

District CIO

Implementing technology upgrades required for Common Core assessments can be more opportunity than burden for districts seeking the most academic achievement from their IT spending.

Before purchasing tablets or creating BYOD policies, district leaders need to ensure that outdated school networks can handle the heavy lifting required to provide digital content for all students.

Most school networks are designed to support one computer per five students—the goal set by the U.S. Department of Education in the mid-1990s. But as most know, that is no longer sufficient given the rapid increase in popularity of the 1-to-1 model, says Denise Atkinson-Shorey, senior project director at CoSN.


Medical emergencies can happen in any school at any time. They can be the result of pre-existing health problems, accidents, violence, unintentional actions, natural disasters and toxins. Premature deaths in schools from sudden cardiac arrest, blunt trauma to the chest, gunshot wounds, asthma, head injuries, drug overdose, allergic reactions and heat stroke have been reported.

Greenbrier Public Schools in Arkansas has always had a strong focus on using classroom observation to encourage positive growth within our schools. When I joined Greenbrier Schools about 12 years ago as the deputy superintendent, I had spent almost 20 years as a classroom teacher and district administrator.

Do we know why third graders in America are not reading at grade level? More than 50 percent of children in affluent homes and 80 percent of children growing up in less affluent homes are not reading proficiently. Reading drops off significantly after age nine. Meanwhile, hundreds of millions of dollars are spent focusing on the act of reading, but little progress is being made when it comes to identifying the root of the problem.

The Board’s role in governance is vital to be successful in leading the school district. Although governance models claim to discuss the full role of the board, many provide only half of the board’s responsibilities. In the traditional method of describing a typical school board, the community elects trustees to represent them in running the schools. An organization chart shows the community at the top with elected representatives sitting on a board. They would hire a superintendent who operates the schools.

What is our true work as K-12 HR Leaders? Is it to process I-9s? To ensure compliance with FLSA? To attend job fairs, manage position control, and ensure there’s a substitute in every classroom every day?


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 American public school system’s focus on struggling students leaves high-achievers without a challenging enough education—a detriment to the country in a time of concerns over international competitiveness, says a new guidebook.

The suburban Pewaukee School District in Wisconsin has won the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the highest presidential honor given to U.S. organizations for high performance. It is the seventh public school district to earn the award for using results-driven business tactics to raise student achievement.

Students from around the world have been traveling virtually to the White House, the Antarctic and the International Space Station thanks to a Google+ program that helps classrooms confined by budget cuts explore the world outside of school.

Once again, the United States has landed in the middle of the pack on an international assessment, leading education experts to question what top-performing nations are doing that our schools are not.

The national fight for later high school start times is gaining traction, as districts and activists join together to push for new policies that will allow students to get more rest.

Former principal and superintendent Carmen Fariña is the new chancellor of New York City Public Schools, appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio in December. Fariña helped develop de Blasio’s education platform to include proposals for universal pre-K and more after-school programs for middle schoolers.

Richmond administrator

Dana T. Bedden became superintendent of Richmond Public Schools in Virginia in January. As former superintendent of Irving ISD in Texas, Bedden earned recognition from the state for financial management, academic progress and expanded AP course offerings.

The 100-year-old Webster Groves High School, part of the Webster Groves School District in a St. Louis, Mo. suburb, is an important civic landmark. However, its antiquated infrastructure and classrooms ill-equipped for educational media were preventing administrators from fully implementing 21st-century learning models, including blended learning.


School administrators know they need to try to stop violence before it happens. Having the proper surveillance equipment can help district leaders keep a watchful eye over students and prevent the wrong people from entering a building.

Last June, President Obama unveiled ConnectED, a five-year initiative designed to connect 99 percent of America’s students to the internet through high-speed broadband and high-speed wireless—and also equip public schools with the tools to make the most of the enhanced connectivity.

I Got Schooled: The Unlikely Story of How a Moonlighting Movie Maker Learned the Five Keys to Closing America’s Education Gap

Simon & Schuster