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Ken Donovan, facilities/security manager at Stonington Public Schools in Connecticut, shows off a school’s lockdown emergency button. When pushed, the button will lock the doors, bar access to other floors, issue an audible warning that an intruder is present and alert to local police cruisers.

School administrators across the country are turning to portable panic buttons, cloud-based crisis management systems and other technology in the search for new ways to keep students and staff safe. The price tag can run from a few thousand dollars to well into six figures, but administrators say the cost is worth it.

A staff member and students in the Upper Moreland Township School District in Pennsylvania take a walk as part of the intermediate school wellness initiative. The program keeps all staff motivated to be fit and healthy.

Districts are getting creative in how they address the need to rein in costs and still provide employees with good benefits. They can’t resolve some issues, such as the definition of a full-time employee (the Affordable Care Act uses 30 hours). But unconventional thinking is yielding ideas that other districts can learn from.

Brevard Public Schools changed principal PD in 2014-15 to focus intensively on building principals’ skills working with teachers in the modern classroom.

Some say that for principals, every day is their first day on the job. Alongside day-to-day building management issues such as hiring teachers, overseeing finances and student discipline, principals now guide teachers through new state standards and testing.

Environmental education is not just a walk in the woods anymore. It’s a project-based walk in the woods with an iPad. And the learning goals span the curriculum, from STEM to social studies to language arts.

At Columbus City Schools, Steve Simmons, director of pupil transportation, can see every move a school bus makes on its trip to picking up students at stops, and dropping them off.

GPS and automated route systems, among other advancements, make bus service more efficient and effective. Despite heightened demands on school transportation in recent years—such as safety and expanded bell times—district administrators and transportation managers can cut costs while creating safe and convenient routes.

Hiring and retaining talented teachers can be a challenge in any district. But finding recent teaching college graduates who are ready to excel in the classroom their very first year can be even more difficult.

At the Legacy Traditional School District in Arizona, Chief Academic Officer Bill Bressler is trying to bump up the number of computers for his students to just take the tests. Above, a teacher instructs a lesson including Common Core standards.

Given the lack of concrete data, savvy administrators are analyzing their districts’ experiences with the assessments to improve the testing process and communications next year.

By the time a 220-pound linebacker gets in his way, a high school running back has built significant momentum. The resulting collisions have been described with metaphors involving rams, brick walls and Mack trucks.

Des Moines Public Schools Superintendent Thomas Ahart strives to bring equity, pride and higher achievement to a once-struggling district that is far more diverse than the rest of Iowa. A garden of multicolored poles students have installed outside one low-income school taunt would-be vandals and represents Ahart's belief in the transformative power of education.

The average family spends $669 on clothing, electronics and other back-to-school supplies before classes begin each year. And in recent years, more school districts have received a share of the profits.

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