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In urban, suburban and rural districts alike, leaders inevitably come up against some formidable challenges when seeking and acquiring a new school site.

In December 1997, three students were shot dead and five were wounded by a 14-year-old student as they took part in a prayer circle in the first-floor lobby of their Kentucky high school, just minutes before classes started.

It put West Paducah's Heath High School on the map of school shootings.

How is ABC Elementary doing compared to XYZ Elementary across town, or JKL Elementary in that district across the river?

Schools, districts and even classrooms are stacked up against each other all the time. During meetings. In the media. At the supermarket. Yet, "very few comparisons are actually appropriate," says Richard J. Wenning, director of operations and accountability at the Colorado League of Charter Schools.

All the teachers in Cheltenham Township School District were clamoring for new desktop PCs, convinced that it was old, slow processors making their classroom computing crawl. But Gary Bixby, director of support services and facilities management, knew that new machines wouldn't solve their problems.

Would you pay someone to tell you what to do? This millennium, K-12 administrators are increasingly answering in the affirmative.

When parents come to hear Ruth Parker of Mathematics Education Collaborative speak on quality mathematics education, they're expecting some answers. But what they may well get is a heavy dose of confusion and frustration.

Quick--think special education. The typical district leader groans at high costs, paperwork and inefficiency. The assessment is frighteningly accurate, but a few districts are bucking the status quo by embracing technology.

Sitting in his one-story office in the town of Brandon, nestled among the Green Mountains of Vermont, William Mathis stares out his rain-splattered window as he contemplates education in the nation and his district, a few miles north of Rutland.

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