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District Administration, May 2016

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Cover Story

The number of districts and states rushing to stock an emergency antidote that can revive students suffering heroin overdoses shows the severe degree to which the nation’s latest drug epidemic has disrupted schools.

Features

Students will likely choose healthier meals if provided with more comfortable places to eat. Modern lighting and food-court style designs can draw students to dining areas while school gardens can provide learning experiences and also supply cafeterias with fresh, less expensive produce.

American history could be in trouble. Decades of reliance on contentious textbooks and rote memorization have driven students away from the subject, despite its influence on contemporary issues.

The number of districts and states rushing to stock an emergency antidote that can revive students suffering heroin overdoses shows the severe degree to which the nation’s latest drug epidemic has disrupted schools.

District CIO

Teachers at Southwest High School in Jacksonville, North Carolina, allowed students to bring their smartphones to class to watch short math videos. The ‘a-ha’ moment came when the students used the phones to record each other solving math problems, and then created a repository of problem-solving videos.

The education technology market might have become easier for district leaders to navigate, thanks in part to a new nonprofit group, Technology for Education Consortium. Leaders can share their spending limits on certain tech devices, and the consortium produces reports about pricing around the country.

Opinion

If you are a team leader—a department head, grade-level lead, coach or an administrator—chances are high that conflict makes you nervous. It makes most of us nervous, and when we’re in a position of leadership, there’s an implicit understanding that we’re supposed to do something about conflict.

The federal government, corporate reformers and state governments are engaged in a relentless attack against public schools. And our professional educators have not stepped up to acknowledge the deficiencies in our education process, deficiencies that only they are qualified to address.

Today’s climate of budget cuts and shortfalls has increased the importance of risk management in school districts. In the past, school safety has primarily focused on disaster preparation and security issues, but it has come to mean much more.

Solutions

Instead of one superintendent making all decisions, three leaders in Colorado Springs leverage areas of expertise—and save the district money. Peter Hilts, Jack Bay and Brett Ridgway divide roles of chief academic officer, chief of operations and chief financial officer.

Briefings

For Portland Public School students in Oregon involved in The Circus Project, tumbling, acrobatics, juggling and conditioning activities help them learn to trust each other and themselves more.

Urban districts struggling with budget cuts can increasingly look to foundations, nonprofits and private companies for support in driving district success efforts—from enhancing instruction to expanding healthcare to boosting college preparation.

In what appears to be an average classroom, students from Pullman School District 267 in Washington wear devices that measure their pulse, eye movements and brain waves as a teacher gives a lesson. The lab monitors neurological data to study how learning takes place.

The digital classroom is no longer a new concept—half of school districts nationwide believe they’ve completed their 1-to-1 initiatives and the infrastructure required, according to the annual Digital School Districts Survey from the Center for Digital Education, published in March.

Several Connecticut communities are training parents to take more active roles in the success of their districts. Parents Supporting Educational Excellence encourages parents to learn about how their districts work and to get involved to help solve problems.

The arts survive in American education, despite pressures placed on school leaders to focus on high-stakes tests in math and English: 27 states identify the arts as a core academic subject and 49 states have adopted elementary and secondary standards for the arts.

Los Angeles USD started using an app this semester to better connect students to free HIV and STD testing. The free app features an HIV and STD testing-site locator. It also allows students to make appointments and delivers test results.

A widespread belief that it’s illegal to give away extra or uneaten school food no longer has any basis in reality. The federal Good Samaritan Act allows schools to donate crackers, milk, fruits, vegetables and other items that would otherwise go to waste.

Many states and schools turn to online distance education to help students access postsecondary courses or even a degree. But students nationwide have varying access to adequate broadband speeds and the financial means to maintain a strong internet connection.

Harry “Doc” Ervin is the new superintendent for Bakersfield City School District, the largest elementary school district in California, effective July 1.

Ervin, who is fluent in Spanish and is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, has served in education for more than two decades as a classroom teacher and principal. He is currently superintendent of the Greenfield Union School District in South Bakersfield, where he reduced truancy rates.

The opt-out movement shows no signs of slowing in the midst of this year’s spring testing season. An estimated two-thirds to three-quarters of a million students could chose not to take state standardized tests this school year.

Departments

Burdened by demands to show outcomes and achievement, early education classrooms are often reduced to scripted lessons and meaningless craft work that imparts little learning, Yale early childhood education lecturer Erika Christakis says in her book The Importance of Being Little.

Platforms and apps that provide parents direct communication and unfiltered access to grades, schedules, school news and emergency announcements offer better access than ever before.