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Most of us are familiar with the damaging consequences of computer viruses such as freezing worms and Trojan horses. Another set of devious hacking forces, however, known as botnets, have caused districts to re-evaluate their online security measures. A botnet is a network of computers controlled remotely by hackers and infected with malware. Unlike other viruses, botnets do not run on autopilot once they gain access. They infiltrate computers, usually via e-mail, and they take advantage of the affected computers' Web browser vulnerabilities while spreading spam and viruses.

The 700 students that attend Mississinawa Valley (Ohio) Schools now have some work to do on their snow days. Only three "calamity days" are allowed, instead of the usual five, and two days will become "eDays," in which all K12 students will spend their time working on online lessons created by their teachers. This was made possible after the Ohio Department of Education in September allowed the district to adopt this change. On the fourth and fifth calamity days, students will log on to the district's Web site and follow their class's eDay lesson plans and assessments.

Having been raised in Maine and worked there for many years, I am sure I experienced snowier, icier, colder winters. I just can’t remember one. This winter has tried the souls of most superintendents. What child doesn’t enjoy hearing the “no school” announcement early on a cold winter’s day? It seems to me that we call school off more frequently than in years past. Why?

 

Kathy Bellew, technology director for a rural school district in Hillsboro, Missouri, was intrigued about refurbished computers but not ready to buy. So when equipment offers from a CDI sales representative kept popping up in her email inbox, did she get annoyed? Not exactly.

There is nothing new about the fact that school superintendents come and go. Some retire, and some are recruited into other school districts or opportunities. But let's face it, some are let go.

When I consider how rapidly 21st-century tools are transforming education, I think fondly of the legacy passed down from my mom, a retired educator. She was grateful to come from Austria to the United States as a high-school-aged student at a time when U.S. education was envied the world over. She earned her education degree, became a certified FLES teacher and then an elementary school reading specialist in Scarsdale, N.Y. She was a career educator as well as eventually a school board member and subsequently the president in our home district.

School librarians took notice when in 2009 Cushing Academy, a private secondary school in Massachusetts, transformed its library from a traditional facility to a digital media center. The library gave away most of its 20,000 books and bought 200 iRiver Story and Kindle e-readers. The school also sold to all of its 445 students a laptop to which the library could deliver databases and Web-based electronic books.

Odds are that your district already has some aspects of tomorrow’s school library, as today’s culture increasingly relies upon digital media.

As the incoming New York City schools chancellor was gearing up to take office, a state senator suggested in December that Chancellor Cathie Black consider establishing an immigrant school in Queens to solve overcrowding in nearby Newtown High School, which is also on the state’s persistently lowest-achieving school list. “With immigrant English-language learners who would otherwise attend Newtown receiving the intensive language- development help they need in a different setting, Newtown could provide more individualized and direct services to students,” Sen.

Some advice from ELL leaders in the Kent (Wash.) School District and Washington County (Md.) Public Schools:

Diane Lewis began building her popular virtual education program in a storage closet. The drab room, just big enough to squeeze in a tiny table, was her office at the headquarters of Seminole County (Fla.) Public Schools. She had a computer and a small staff of temporary workers. “We had pretty much no money, no people, no space,” recalls Lewis, director of instructional technology for the district. “One of the myths is, if you’re virtual, people don’t think you require anything.”

Diane Lewis has a loving nickname around Seminole County Public Schools. Her colleagues call her their “disruptive innovation.” As the district’s director of instructional technology, Lewis pushes teachers to break with tradition to meet the needs of today’s students who grew up on computers. “Today’s kid isn’t a 1950s kid,” Lewis says. “That’s why you get a lot of acting out. Kids aren’t engaged.”

More than 80 percent of El Paso's 700,000 residents identify themselves as Hispanic or Latino. The Texas city has a preponderance of schoolchildren with a command of both Spanish and English.

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