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Articles: Board of Education

Many districts across the country struggle with increasing demographic homogeneity more than 60 years after the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education. 

BoardPaq eases management of board of  education agendas and minutes at Ohio district

Prior to summer 2015, the process of putting board meeting agendas in the hands of the board members of Mohawk Local Schools in Sycamore, Ohio, was entirely manual. Administrative Secretary Jackie Messersmith would type up agendas and file them in large binders, which also held agendas and minutes from previous meetings. The binders were then hand-delivered to each board member.

In Monroe County School District in Mississippi, the superintendent is elected. But the board, above, has a working document in place, which means whoever is elected immediately becomes familiar with the district’s past work and future direction—and is ready to lead.

In many school districts today, hiring practices for administrative leaders often consist of “replacement filling”—or, waiting for a position to open up before searching for candidates. But a successful succession often requires more proactive planning.

Superintendent Michael Kuzniewski has increased graduation, testing and proficiency rates.

For decades, the J. Sterling Morton High School District in the Chicago suburbs was in bad shape. In 2008, when Michael Kuzniewski became superintendent, he vowed to change all that, with help from a new school board.

Plan divides the schools into an “old” district—a legal entity which will pay down debt over time—and a new debt-free district known as the Detroit Public Schools Community District, which will be given a $150 million startup loan from the state.

Georgia’s Gwinnett County Public Schools board and Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks, on right, work together to gain trust.

Although a strong partnership between school board and superintendent is widely seen as crucial to district success, administrators and the non-educators filling board seats do not always receive training in how a disparate group of individuals becomes an effective team.

Today’s education system is facing a debilitating threat in the form of a “trust deficit” that is undermining school and district leadership. As trust in our education leaders declines, so does student learning due to delayed education reform, decreased student achievement and fractured communities.

The superintendent of the K12 school district where I first taught held a drive each September to encourage teachers to join state and national education associations beyond our local union. We knew that participation, at least in the NEA—which functioned as a professional association in some states and a labor union in others—was not really optional, especially because our enrollment level at 100 percent was announced each year as a matter of pride.

Michael Flanagan, superintendent of the Michigan Department of Education and chair of the state board of education

SERVICE AWARD
Michael Flanagan, superintendent of the Michigan Department of Education and chair of the state board of education, received the Distinguished Service Award from NASBE. Since taking the job in 2005, he has spearheaded a push for more rigorous high school graduation requirements.

School districts working to close budget gaps are increasingly requiring parents to pay fees for their children’s textbooks, lab materials, computers, and after-school activities.

It’s a regrettable but widespread trend, says Bruce Hunter, associate executive director of advocacy, policy and communications at the School Superintendents Association. “The recession lasted longer and cut deeper than anyone thought it would,” Hunter says. “Districts try to charge as little as possible, because it’s not popular. It’s a last resort.”

PTA PRESIDENT
Otha Thornton was elected president of the National Parent Teacher Association, making history as the first African-American male leader of the organization. He previously served on the Georgia PTA board of directors, and the PTA’s national board of directors.

Patrick Sweeney spoke at last spring’sTannersville’s Memorial Day Observance, where community and American Legion members gathered. Photo credit: Bob Mazon

Patrick Darfler Sweeney, superintendent of Hunter-Tannersville Central School District nestled in the Catskill Mountains just a couple of hours north of New York City, took the bull by the horns. While nearly half the district’s students receive free or reduced-price lunch, Sweeney was tired of seeing budget cuts that interfered with delivering an exceptional student experience. In February, he developed a bold master consolidation plan, presenting it to the New York State Education Department (NYSED) and other government and non-governmental organizations.

Students in the Los Angeles Unified School District will no longer face suspension for minor acts like not coming to class prepared or refusing to remove a hat.

A Nation at Risk: 30 Years Later

The National Commission on Excellence in Education published “A Nation at Risk” in 1983 during the Reagan administration. The report attacked the U.S. education system and called for immediate and extensive reform. Hugely influential, the report inspired much discussion regarding the effectiveness of public schools. Thirty years later, educators from District Administration held an interactive web seminar to debate the influence of the report, as well as what the state of education is today and what the future could hold.

Raymond Lauk at Paul Revere Primary School teaching Literacy Through Laughter.

Being fired as chief of the Lyons Elementary School District in Illinois a decade ago was the best thing to happen to Raymond Lauk, at least career-wise. It forced him down a path to the corporate world, specifically GE Security, as the education solutions manager, which taught him how to focus and to later create better school environments.

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