Thursday, April 26, 2007

Keeping Kids in School

...has become a real problem according to the Center for Public Education. In this report they take a look at the lessons from research about preventing dropouts.

In recent years, states have focused much attention on student achievement, but little on how many students ultimately leave school with a diploma in hand. This is changing: Nearly every governor has pledged to develop tougher ways to measure graduation rates at the same time that the No Child Left Behind Act has begun requiring states to hold schools and districts accountable for the results.

Read more HERE.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

March of Dimes WalkAmerica - Sunday, 4/29/07

WHAT: WalkAmerica is the walk that saves babies. It began in 1970 as the first and best-loved walking event in the nation. It is now the March of Dimes biggest fund-raiser and supports top-level research and programs to find the causes and how to prevent premature births and other serious threats to infant health. To date WalkAmerica has raised more than $1.7 billion. It takes place in more than 1,100 communities across the country, with half a million walkers expected this year.

WHEN: Sunday, April 29, 2007

WHERE: Charles County Government Building

WHO: WalkAmerica Chair Candice Quinn Kelly, over 55 teams from local businesses and organizations in Southern Maryland including: Chaney, Civista, Dept. of Social Services, Century 21, ACPT, Sheriff's Office College of Southern Maryland, Jazzercise, and a number of local middle and high schools; and hundreds of Charles County residents. The Williams ambassador family will also be available for photos and interviews.

WHY: Babies are in serious need of help. More than half a million babies are born too soon every year. Many die. More than 120,000 babies are born with serious birth defects that can mean a lifetime of disability. WalkAmerica helps save babies and give hope to families.

HOW: Register by visiting, calling 1-800-525-WALK or picking up your sponsor forms at Kmart or Famous Footwear.

The March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. For more information, ccontact your local March of Dimes at 301-934-2235; via email or visit ( for Spanish).

What's Next for NCLB

In the April issue of the American School Board Journal

As talk swirls around Washing­ton over the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind law, a bipartisan commission has weighed in with a 230-page blueprint for expanding the controversial legislation. And if you read between the lines of the report and the reaction to it, some interesting -- though ultimately not surprising -- trends start to emerge.

  • Trend #1: NCLB -- and testing -- isn’t going away
  • Trend #2: Teachers don’t like the report
  • Trend #3: National standards are on the table
  • Trend #4: Unlike others, these recommendations carry weight

Read more HERE.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Bored High School Students

Students are bored, many skip school, lack adult support...
according to a survey of 81,000 students from 100 schools in 26 states. The annual survey, led by Indiana University researchers shows over two-thirds of high school sudents complain of boredom, usually because the subject matter was irrelevant or their teachers didn't seem to care about them.

Today's high school students say they are bored in class because they dislike the material and experience inadequate teacher interaction, according to a special report from Indiana University's High School Survey of Student Engagement (HSSSE). The findings, released today (Feb. 28), show that 2 out of 3 students are bored in class every day, while 17 percent say they are bored in every class.

More than 81,000 students responded to the annual survey. HSSSE was administered in 110 high schools, ranging in size from 37 students to nearly 4,000, across 26 states.

According to the director of the project, the reasons high school students claim they are bored are as significant as the boredom itself. Ethan Yazzie-Mintz, HSSSE project director for the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy (CEEP), says the finding that nearly one in three respondents (31 percent) indicate he or she is bored in class due to "no interaction with teacher" is a troubling result.

To view the press release and download the complete survey results, click HERE.

Notes From Board Work Session, 4/23/07

The below notes are my personal notes and are not intended to be all-inclusive or official minutes for the Board of Education meetings and are provided as a request from my supporters and the general public in a personal effort to be more transparent. Although I have diligently tried to make these notes as unbiased and accurate as possible, I am only human and do make mistakes. Please follow-up for official minutes upon approval. For copies of printed reports presented visit Board Docs.

Public Forum

  • Male - 3 children in CCPS. Visitation policy makes hm feel isolated and shut out. Thanks for revisiting. Research shows NCLB requires systems to get parents involved.
  • Male - Principal at North Point. Virginia Tech, safety & security issues. In the past has had parents confronting other students; parents confronting teachers regarding grades, parents using the school as a weapon in a divorce. Able to use policy. Wants this policy.
  • Female - Special Education teacher at North Point. Believed in open door policy in the past. Times have changed. Security, safety & parents who won't leave. Life skills trips and parents following and interacting with other studetnds. Privacy os other students is an issue.
  • Female - Principal at Stoddert. Responsible for safety and security of all students. Parental limitations are a necessity. Students will suffer from unlimited parental visitation.
  • Female - 3 children in CCPS. Supports current visitation policy. Principals should retain authority on parental visits.
  • Female - Principal at Wade. Policy has decreased interruptions and strangers in buildings. Responsibility of educating children; parents are welcome at events. Formal observations need to be planned to limit distractions. Parents should not feel that teachers are putting on an act just because observations are scheduled.
  • Female - Principal at Jenifer. Committed to involving parents but certain parameters must be in place to allow for a limited number of distractions.
  • Female - School Psychologist. Therapeutic behavior counseling and modification necessary in some IEP's. Visitors cause distractions in some and distress in others. Risk of private student diagnosis, treatments and records confidentiality breaches. Lack of trust doesn't get resolved by numerous visits but open communication and collaboration can.
  • Female - CCPS Life Skills Coordinator. Encourage parental involvement in developing and implementing IEP's. Distractions cause severe set backs in treatment.
  • Male - School Psychologist in State program. Unannounced parent visits cause severe distraction, distress, and delay in therapeautic process. Encourage parental involvement but it must be structured and limited.
  • Male - President of the EACC. Agrees with current policy. Agrees with parental involvement in events and volunteering when asked. Asked for an increase in security protocols.
  • Female - Child with autism in CCPS. 500 signature petition. Charles County used to have an open door policy. St, Mary's, PG, Montgomery, King George all have open door policies. No other county has restrictive guidelines like Charles. Inability to communicate with school to continue similar treatment at home. Parental involvement is an asset.
  • Male - 4 Children in CCPS. 2 in Special Education with IEP's. Sites goals of Policy 1240. Rules are counterproductive to visitors and these goals. Cannot observe the different behaviors between home and school. Wants to see children in their academic environment in order to assist and reinforce behavior modification processes at home.
  • Female - Child(ren) in CCPS and Employee. Supports visitation policy. Scheduling is a necessity. Work with the school community. Principals know who has a hidden agenda and who doesn't and should have authority to deny access.
  • Female - Child(ren) and an educator in a neighboring system. Thaks to Abell for bringing this matter forward again. Insulted by comments from teachers and administrators in the paper. Not all parents are dangerous. Her system has asked all teachers to NOT give parents busy work and send them to the copy room but have them work with students in small groups. Should change policy to truely invite parents to get involved.
  • Female - Grandchild in CCPS. Appalled at the policy. Policy discourages parental involvement. Getting a masters in Special Education. Worked in NY, VA, MD, DC school systems and has never encountered a policy as negative as CCPS.
  • Female - 2 Children in CCPS. School is a public facility. Children we acting differently at school than at home. Denied observation of children. Wanted to observe interactions with teachers and other students in order to reinforce and implement at home. Child told her after she finally got to ovbserve, "that wasn't what we normally do." Teacher had modified the lesson and interaction based on the observation appointment.

Redistricting (S. DiSabantino, G. Barrett, D. Evans)

  • Cook - Hawkins Gate Road issue. Explain to audience the bigger picture.
  • DiSabantino - Pinefield Elementary in pllannng. Will affect 9-10 other elementary schools. Domino affect. Has to have foresight for the future.
  • Wise - Hawkins Gate will not be redistricted again in the near future.
  • DiSabantino - No.
  • Wise - Will they come back to middle school and high school in LaPlata?
  • DiSabantino - Yes.
  • Pedersen - Questions regarding safety and transportation issues.
  • DiSabantino - Accident on Middletown Road with student car two years ago. Student at fault.
  • Wise - Buses travel Piney Church Road daily. No accidents. New section of Piney Church Road...will it be developed when this school opens.
  • DiSabantino - Hawkins Gate to Matula 3.4 miles; to Neal 3.6 miles.
  • Wineland - Billingley to stadium will be four lanes. 2 lanes to Rt. 488 will be straightened.
  • Pedersen - Prior student movements. Dentsville to Piccowaxen over 20 years ago. Acton Lane to McDonough. Asks for rationale to include Hawkins Gate.
  • Evans - Described procedure of redistricting committee.
  • Wise - Reiterated process. DiSabantino did not lead the group or direct the committee.
  • Abell - Why not wait until Pinefield is complete for the massive redistricting.
  • Wineland - Need to releave some of the schools now.
  • Abell - Possibilty of development near Neal filling the school by opening day.
  • DiSabantino - Could help fill but not to capacity.
  • Carrington - Redistricting a fact of life with a school a year
  • Pedersen - LaPlata growth and numberof allocations compare to Charles growth and number of allocations
  • Wineland - LaPlata and Indian Head do not have to follow county allocations because they are their own municipalites. LaPlata allows a higher number of allocations because they say their housing doesn't produce as many students. Overcrowded schools is not their problem.
  • Bailey - Redistricting committee did a great job compared to charts he reviewed 12 years ago. Wouldn't it be easier for rezoning for the bigger picture, all nine schools at once, rather than one school at a time.
  • DiSabantino - Able to have foresighte enough to know whats coming down the pike. There's only so many options available once everything is laid out on the drawing board.

New Business

  • Heidelberg USA Day Resolution

* Vote - Wise motioned and seconded by Carrington for resolution.

Yes – All


Executive (Closed) Session

Monday, April 23, 2007

Block Scheduling

A reader sent me some research and links on block scheduling. Thank you.

  • Goodrich, Kathlene J. An investigation of block scheduling in high school string ensembles: Student performance, attentiveness, and attrition. Dissertation Abstracts International. Volume: 62-06, Section: A, page: 2063. (This is an abbreviated review of the study. Consult the reference for full details.)

Alternative school scheduling patterns were examined to determine whether they have an impact on string music education and student performance levels in two A/B block, two 4 x 4 block, and two traditional-scheduled high schools.

Findings indicated that regional festival ratings were highest in schools maintaining a traditional schedule and lowest in schools using a 4 x 4 block schedule. Performance levels over time remained fairly consistent at each school. Difficulty grade level of repertoire fluctuated slightly for some of the block schools. When student performance achievement was measured, a statistical significance was found between type of schedule pattern. Performance achievement also revealed a significant difference between schools and between schedule patterns. No difference existed for student attentiveness between schools or schedule patterns. The 4 x 4 block schools had the greatest number of students unable to maintain consistent membership in the string program. Enrollment figures for the past eight years indicated: traditional schools string programs have had consistent growth, 4 x 4 block schools remained fairly consistent, and A/B block schools had a large increase in enrollment for the first two years after switching to block and thereafter maintained steady growth

  • Carpenter, David Karl. Block scheduling implementation in secondary school music programs in Louisiana. Dissertation Abstracts International. Volume: 62-05, Section: A, page: 1645. (This is an abbreviated review of the study. Consult the reference for full details.)

The general purpose of this study was to determine the perceptions of music educators in Louisiana regarding the block schedule and its effect on music education.

Questionnaires were mailed to 77 high schools using the block schedule in Louisiana. An equal number of mail-outs (for a total of 154) were sent to schools subscribing to the traditional schedule to provide comparative characteristics. Using a variety of Likert-type scales, the respondents rated various characteristics of music program enrollment, scheduling problems, and individual student musical proficiency

The analysis of data reported higher enrollment means for performing arts classes in schools with the Traditional schedule. This is attributed to the smaller amount of schedule conflicts. The enrollment means of choirs and bands in schools subscribing to the Full Block were also reported higher than the same type of programs in the Modified Block schools. Subjects also reported problems with student drop-outs as a result of schedule conflicts; however, the proficiency level of the student musicians
increased under the Full Block schedule.

Additional Sites

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Unstuck in the Middle

The tricky years between elementary and high school don't have to be a nightmare or a loss. Jay Mathews from the Washington Post recently solicited nominations for the region's most successful middle schools.

Congratulations Charles County...Piccowaxen Middle School, Milton Somers Middle School and Benjamin Stoddert Middle School all received a slot in the top 30 for the region.

Read more HERE.

Friday, April 20, 2007

REMINDER: Public Hearing on the Parent Visitation Policy

Here's your chance parents, teachers, students and staff.

The Board of Education is accepting comment on the Charles County Public Schools parent visitation policy at a public hearing on Monday, April 23, 7 p.m., at the Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building on Radio Station Road in La Plata. Sign up will begin at 6:30 p.m. and end at the start of the hearing at 7 p.m. Speakers will have three minutes to express their views. Following the public hearing, the Board will hold a public work session on elementary school redistricting issues.

Call 301-934-7724 for directions or more information.

To view the current parent visitation policy.

The Search for True Grit

According to an article in the April issue of the American School Board Journal, a number of schools are removing unruly an unmotivated students from the classroom and teaching them in alternative settings. Is this how districts should encourage self-control?

Teachers agree that kids -- from kindergarteners playing in the block corner to 12th graders conducting chemistry experiments -- who have learned to cooperate and exert self-control are likely to succeed in school.

In a 2003 study, Vanderbilt University’s Kathleen Lane found that teachers in all grades and subjects, with little exception, ranked cooperation and self-control as the top two social skills “critical for success.” Lane says teachers give students credit for self-control when they listen attentively, follow directions, complete assignments, and manage their temper. Some teachers think it’s OK for students to be assertive as long as they don’t bully others and disrupt their classrooms.

Read more HERE.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Costs of Improving Instruction

The American School Board Journal takes a look at how much school districts are spending to improve instruction and student achievement.

"Instructional coaching is an encouraging, reasonably priced way to improve classroom teaching and student learning."

Click HERE for the complete article.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

NSBA Conference Update


Good morning! Today I'll be taking a tour of Alcatraz and visiting the Aquarium. I'll post on that tomorrow. My plane leaves late tonight and lands me back in Maryland early tomorrow morning! I like San Francisco but I'm ready to come HOME!!

The amount of information at these conferences is enormous! I thought I would list some of the titles to other threads on the NSBA website that other attendees posted with their notes/comments on some of the sessions they attended. Unfortunately, each post isn't a separate link so you'll need to go to the main site and scroll through the entries.

Enter HERE.

  • Nat'l Advocacy Networks Mtg (FRN & NAAN)
  • F.W. de Klerk: President and Change Manager
  • Leadership means answering the question: Why are we here?
  • A School Law Primer: Part I Student Discipline
  • A Scarcity of Leadership...and What to Do About It
  • Good Questions are the Job of the Board
  • Supt.-School Board Relations
  • Math, Science, & Technology (MST): Theories, Laws and Moving Forward
  • Leading When You're Not In Charge
  • National Association of Superintendent Searchers (NASS) Meet
  • The Child's Right NOT to Read
  • NCLB, IDEA, & the Law of Unfunded Mandates
  • 2nd General Session Speaker - Bill Clinton
  • Its the Thought that Counts
  • The Power of a Single Goal
  • My Eyes Are Still Damp
  • Failure is NOT an Option
  • LIVE with Anne Bryant and Francisco Negrón
  • Exhibitors: Quality conversations about schools

Monday, April 16, 2007

A Future Envisioned by Improving College & Workforce Readiness & Success for All Students


Bright and early Monday morning, I attended this session presented by Ernest Valdez with ACT.

According to research, the level of skills needed for workforce readiness is statistically related and comparable to college readiness skills. Worforce readiness jobs are defined as those requiring a high school diploma, has room for advancement, annual income starting at $39,000 and support a 4 person family.


  • # of skilled jobs have increased
  • # of unskilled jobs have decreased
  • U.S. ranks 9th in high school degrees
  • U.S. ranks 7th in college degrees
  • U.S. ranks 16th in high school graduation rate
  • U.S. ranks below average in PISA math and science
  • one out of every two U.S. college freshman need remediation in English and/or Math


  • Readiness levels for students preparing for college and workforce training programs are comparable.
  • All students should be educated to a common expectation that prepares them for college and workforce training programs.
  • All high school graduates should be guaranteed the opportunity to become ready for college and work.

In conclusion, educating all students to the same standard is essential and we as citizens have an economic vested interest in ALL of our students and future tax payers.

Out and About in San Francisco


On Sunday evening I got a look at some of the best views and ate at what I consider one of the Bay area's best kept secrets, so I just had to share. Better pictures will be coming upon my return to Maryland, (forgot the USB cable for my camera) these were just taken with my camera phone but it gives you an idea.

If you take a short ride over the Golden Gate Bridge, there are wonderful little areas to stop on both sides and take breathtaking views of the bridge and surrounding area.

If you continue on Rt. 101 North after crossing the bridge, take the Sausalito exit. Turn right at the bottom of the ramp and continue on Bridgeway. You will take a nice leisurely ride through a a charming waterfront town. There is metered parking, a great little park, and wonderful little shops to stroll.

If you continue towards the point there is a fantastic restaurant called Horizon's. You can dine outside, which we did of course, and enjoy the beautiful San Francisco weather and scenery. This view from their outdoor dining area is breathtaking. The service was outstanding (our waiter was Luis), the food was magnificent, light music was playing faintly in the background, I just can't tell you enough. Horizon's difinitely has it going on!
If you enjoy the landscape and housing views, you continue on Rt. 101 North and take the Muir Woods exit.This is a nice scenic drive through Muir Woods, which is a windy road with absolutely gorgeous houses.
In conclusion, I love San Francisco and all it's offerings but I look forward to returning to Maryland and if you are ever in the SF area, make sure to eat at Horizon's.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Engaging the Community in a School-wide Wellness Plan


This was my first session on Sunday and was presented by Joseph Santos, Massachussetts Association of Schools Council President, Dr. Edward Costa III, Superintendent, and Tom McGowan, Committee Past Chair.


  • 58 Million Americans living with serious health risks from obesity
  • 22 Million Americans with heart diesease
  • 16 Million Americans with diabetes
  • 8 Million Americans with cancer
  • 800,000 Americans with HIV/AIDS
  • 61% of Americans are overweight
  • 40% of American children are overweight
  • 1 0ut of every 4 children are overweight
  • 35-40% of family food budgets are spent on fast foods
  • the rate of obesity in children has doubled in 20 years
  • 1 out of every 4 adolescents has high blood pressure
  • Type II diabetes (adult) is now common in school aged children
  • Medicine, doctors and hospital expenses for children due to lack of exercise was $76 billion in 2000
  • 61.5% of all children do NOT participate in physical activity during non-school hours
  • Overweight impacts student academic achievement and emotional-social development of students


Section 204 of Public Law 108-265 of the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act requires all schools to develop and adopt written Wellness Policies by July 1, 2006. Policies must be implemented in the 2006-2007 school year.


  1. Community Involvement and the Health Advisory Council
  2. Nutritional Guidelines and Standards for Schools (including staff)
  3. Nutrition Education
  4. Physical Activity Guidelines
  5. Monitoring and Policy Review
  6. Guidelines for Reimbursable Meals

For the complete power point presentation, click HERE.

For a copy East Longmeadow School Wellness Policy, click HERE.

Conflicts over Sexual Orientation in Public Schools: How to find Common Ground


I attended this session on Saturday afternoon and NSBA Attorney Tom Hutton introduced the participants Finn Lawson from the Christian Educators Association International, Eliza Byard from the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Educational Network (GLSEN) and the moderator was Charles Haynes from the First Amendment Center. My initial thoughts after viewing the organizations these people were representing as this is going to be a doozey of a debate. However I was pleasantly surprised and relieved to learn that although their core belief systems were vastly different, they had been able to find “common ground” without relinquishing those core beliefs.

The handout was a brochure recently printed by a collaboration of the following organizations. (I’ve tried to provide links where possible)
American Association of School Administrators (AASA)
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD)
Bridge BuildersChristian Educators Association International
First Amendment Center
Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN)

The brochure, "Public Schools and Sexual Orientation”, gives a gentle reminder on the core mission of public schools, “to prepare young people for citizenship in a democratic society” and it is our job, as board members, to “maintain a school environment that respects the rights of students to free speech and free exercise of religion while simultaneously ensuring that student speech does not degenerate into name-calling, bullying, or attempts to silence other views.”

The brochure provided us with

  • The three R’s: Rights, Responsibilities, and Respect.
  • Principles and practices of successful school and community leaders
  • Tips for school officials
  • Tips for parents and students

Overall, a very informative session.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

How to Open Doors & Get Parents Involved in Your Schools


I attended this NSBA Conference session this morning and it was presented by Marlin B. Creasy, PhD, Superintendent of Schools and Robert E. Kellems, President of the Board of School Trustees for the Muncie, Indiana school district.

Wow! What a session!!

Research shows parent involvement has a positive impact on the academic achievement of children - the more parents are involved, the better children do in school. While most boards and superintendents know their school system lacks parental involvement, most struggle with the question, "How do we get parents into the schools and involved in their child's education?"

After implementing a Parent Center in each of their elementary schools, Muncie Community Schools increased parent involvement by 45%. Implementation in the secondary schools saw an even greater increase. Fantastic! How did they do it? The Board of Trustees gave the direction to the superintendent to provide a parent center in each school. The superintendent took it from there.

Each school now has a Parent Center (some have a whole room, some have a cozy corner) staffed by a PAID (yes, I said PAID!) Parent Volunteer Coordinator. (PVC). The PVC works 5-15 hours a week as a coordinator and liasion between the school, principal, parents and parent organization. Initially this position was paid for by security funds and later moved to general funding budget item. The PVC recruits, welcomes and directs parent volunteers at the school in a variety of tasks ranging from events, clerical, instruction assistance, and student observation.

WOW!! How did they afford this? Background checks cost big bucks, especially for all volunteers in the district. They have a secret they let us in on. They lobbied their legislature and now all volunteers in the school system in the the state of Indiana receive FREE, yes I said FREE, background checks. SWEET!

To find our more about Muncie Community Schools Parent Centers, including a PVC job description, please visit their site

Getting the Max from the Media


I attended this session on Friday and it was a fascinating, informative program presented by Barbara Hunter, NSBA Communication Director and David R. Voss, President of Voss and Associates. Ms. Hunter and Mr. Voss offered a very professional, interactive, and enlightening presentation on how to handle the media. Whether you are a board member from a small district or a large district, they taught you how to be in control and confidant when dealing with the local newspaper, radio, television and much more.

One of the most important recommendations, in my opinion, was P-A-M. Prepare A Message. The media knows what message they want to portray but you can counteract their tactic by preparing a message of your own. What message do you want to get across? Here is four basic steps to prepare your message.

  1. What is your goal?
  2. Who is your target audience? (narrow, not just parents)
  3. What is the format? (print, radio, TV, meeting)
  4. What is your theme or message (soundbite)

In addition we learned the 10 B’s of getting the max from your media…

  1. Be Realistic
  2. Be Aware
  3. Be Prepared
  4. Be Accessible
  5. Be Honest
  6. Be Quotable
  7. Be in Control
  8. Be Liked
  9. Be Innovative
  10. Be Assertive

And one final piece of advice…
Never screw up on a slow news day :)

Blogging from San Francisco

Good morning everyone. I will be blogging from the National School Board Conference in San Francisco for the next few days. I arrived here Thursday afternoon after a 14-hour trip from LaPlata. This is my first time in California and must say it is very interesting. Upon first entering the city, I was in total awe at how they build and stack all these colorful, shoebox looking houses on the side of a hill. (I forgot my USB cable but I’ll try to post some pictures when I return.) I
finally arrived at my hotel in the South Market District, which is the Artsy section of town, and especially intriguing.

After settling in, I went for a walk and checked out the Yerba Buena Gardens and Center for the Arts. The weather was absolutely gorgeous and everyone was outside in the gardens enjoying the fresh air and sunshine.

On Friday I checked in at the conference and attended an all day session called Getting the Max from the Media. You can check out my notes in the next post (You can also check out my notes, as well as other board members at the conference blog site. In the late afternoon, I took a cable car to Fisherman’s Wharf. Needless to say the cable car ride was my first and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I got to view Lombard Street, the “crookedest street in the world”, and look forward to trying to ride down it another day. I enjoyed a leisurely stroll down by the piers with views of Alcatraz, Treasure Island, and the Golden Gate Bridge. (Sorry no pictures yet).

All in all, I like San Francisco and I’m looking forward to the rest of the week.

Friday, April 13, 2007

A Moment of Truth

A generation after white flight, districts continue to face awkward discussions and painful choices in an attempt to achieve diversity. The American School Board Journal addesses this issue in it's April issue.

A 37-year veteran of the Senate, Chambers has views that could hold sway in the final outcome of this debate. And, unlike many lawmakers, he’s doesn’t sugarcoat his opinions. For instance, he dismisses outright the arguments of the NAACP and other civil rights groups that condemn LB 1024 as segregationist. He says he’s not interested in talk of segregation -- or integration.

"I’m interested in quality education,” he says.

That message strikes a chord with more people than education policymakers sometimes like to admit. Despite polls showing strong support for school diversity efforts, the decisions parents make about where to enroll their children suggest otherwise. Many white and affluent minority families aren’t interested in integration, Orfield says. Their interest is simply in the best educational opportunities for their children. That opinion also holds sway in minority communities, where black parents remember that their peers were usually the ones bused across town in the name of integration. Today’s rallying cry is neighborhood schools.

Read more HERE.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Maryland Receives Grant for Student Board Member

Maryland is one of three states to receive a grant awarded by the National Association of Boards of Education through the Student Leadership Initiative, funded by the MetLife Foundation. The other states also receiving grants are Massachusetts, Montana and Tennessee.

The $2,000 grant will assist the state Board of Education student member, Brian Frazee, to communicate with county and local student leaders.

Childhood Obesity & School

According to the American School Board Journal, the childhood obesity battle faces hurdles, hiccups.

"Walk into any fast-food restaurant these days and you are confronted with a host of healthy choice alternatives, a sign that the “Super Size Me” era is finally coming to an end. But how are efforts to curtail childhood obesity coming along, and what are the dangers and risks ahead?
It depends on whom you ask. But based on the flurry of reports and news articles during a one-week period in January, it’s obvious schools remain at the center of the food chain. And that comes as no surprise, given that about 17 percent of U.S. youngsters are obese and millions more are overweight. "

Click HERE for the complete article.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

"Chocolate War" Creates a War of it's Own

According to the Examiner, the ‘Chocolate War’ will be cut from Harford County schools’ curriculum due to parents protesting the book's language, depictions of violence and references to sex. Have any of you read this book?

“The Chocolate War” will no longer be required reading for Harford County freshmen, after numerous parents took issue with its violence and strong language.

Superintendent Jacqueline Haas will go before the Board of Education on Tuesday to announce that Robert Cormier’s 1974 novel will be pulled from the mandatory ninth-grade “living in a contemporary world” class, despite a review committee’s unanimous ruling that it should be kept.

“The controversy that has occurred over ‘The Chocolate War’ has left it unusable at this time,” Haas wrote in her decision, released on the schools’ Web site this week. “While the Superintendent would want to make the decision … on the merits of the book, the divergent views of this work make it difficult to continue its use at this time.”

Read more HERE.

Teacher Takes a Long View of Sex-Ed

A Montgomery County pilot program is a part of the movement towards greater openness in the sex education curriculum. An article in the Washington Post today takes a look at the issue from a teachers perspective.

Susan Soule was a sex education teacher for decades before she ever had a student identify herself as gay in front of the class.
It was in the late 1990s, and by then the subject that Soule began teaching in 1973 as little more than a guarded anatomy lesson had been buffeted by the emergence of AIDS, test tube fertilization, the gay pride movement and other earthquakes of the sexuality landscape. A few days into a class discussion that Soule had led countless times before, a sophomore at Montgomery Blair High School raised her hand and matter-of-factly declared that she was a lesbian.

Read more HERE.

Monday, April 09, 2007

College Acceptance Eludes Some of the Best Students

According to an article in the Washington Post on April 6th, the battle to win the nod of a top college is escalating. Will it get better when the current bulge of baby-boomer children gets out of high school at the end of this decade?
The U.S. Education Department's National Center for Education Statistics says the number of graduating high school seniors will peak at 3.3 million in 2011 and decline only slightly to 3.2 million by 2016. Most educators predict that the percentage of those students going to college -- now about 67 percent -- will increase and make the application process even more stressful. Undergraduate enrollment, for instance, is projected conservatively to increase from 15.2 million this year to 16.6 million in 2015, the center says.
Read the complete article HERE.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

UPDATE - Education Legislation

Below is some of the education legislation and their current status.

  • GEOGRAPHIC COST OF EDUCATION INDEX FOR SCHOOLS (Require that future budgets provide additional money for schools in areas with high cost of living) Stalled
  • TUITION FREEZE (Freeze tuition at public universities) Approved by both chambers and included in budget
  • SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION (Provide $400 million for school construction) Approved in House and Senate capital budgets
  • TUITION FOR ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS (Provide in-state tuition at public universities to immigrants who graduate from Maryland high schools) Approved in House
  • APOLOGY FOR SLAVERY (Express "profound regret" for Maryland's role in the slave trade) Approved by both chambers
  • TRUANCY (Prevent habitual truants from getting a learner's permit to drive) Different versions pass in House and Senate

Friday, April 06, 2007

Redistricting - Someone is Going to Be Upset

From my experience on the Board, no matter where you draw the redistricting lines, someone, or a group of someone's, will not be happy.

The redistricting proposals and recommendations (links below) for Neal Elementary are an item of contention for a group of parents living on Hawkins Gate Road. The next Public Forum will take place on Thursday, April 19th at Thomas Stone High School 7:00 pm. The Board is set to discuss at it's next work session on April 23 at 7:00 pm, which also includes a public forum prior to the start of the meeting.

The BayNet wrote an article on this subject on Wednesday.

In addition to all the objections received via email, fifteen speakers from those three neighborhoods spent an hour making certain that Superintendent James Richmond understood why they didn’t want to leave their current school district. To Richmond’s credit, participators told The Bay Net they felt like the school administrators were actually listening.

The McConnell family summed up a number of points the objectors have in common. They are concerned about the safety of the main road to the school with all the construction traffic in that area. They love the quality of education at Matula Elementary; some of the affected families recently moved to their La Plata homes specifically to attend Matula Elementary.

Study Shows Fancy Tools Don't Raise Test Scores

According to a study by the U.S. Department of Education, technological tools really aren't significant in raising test scores.

An article in the Washington Post reports on the study...

Educational software, a $2 billion-a-year industry that has become the darling of school systems across the country, has no significant impact on student performance, according to a study by the U.S. Department of Education.
The long-awaited report amounts to a rebuke of educational technology, a business whose growth has been spurred by schools desperate for ways to meet the testing mandates of President Bush's No Child Left Behind law.

Do You Know A Special SECAC Teacher?

The Charles County Special Education Citizens Advisory Committee is seeking nominations for the second annual CHarles Count SECAC Teacher and Staff Appreciation Awards.

The committee is looking for people who have contributed to the success of a child who has special needs.

The awards ceremony will be held at 7 p.m. May 16th at the Waldorf Jaycees.

Nomination forms are available at the Charles County Parents Center located at the F. B. Gwynn Center on Radio Station Road. For more information, call 301-934-7456, fax 301-934-6839 or email All nominations are due by April 25.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

NSBA National Conference

The 2007 National School Board Association Conference will take place in San Francisco April 12th - 17th. Many of your Board of Education members will be attending to learn from their peers, share their own successes, and get re-energized for the upcoming year. The NSBA Conference enables us to reach higher, with innovations and proven approaches to inspire student success.
The 2007 conference promises fresh perspectives with practical, applicable sessions and workshops. Not to mention the opportunity to network and share solutions with colleagues from school districts across the nation.

Please feel free to visit the site above to find out more about the conference.

Here is a list of some of the seminars I will be trying to attend and of course reporting back my findings via this site and the NSBA Blog. All topics are clickable for a brief synopsis.

UPDATE: It was brought to my attention that the links below are not working. I am currently at the conference and have limited internet time. To view the program descriptions, please click on the conference link above and search the workshops. Sorry for the inconvenience.

P.S. If you know of any must see places in San Francisco, please forward :)

Student Offenses...Concealed from the Public?

According to an article in the Washington Post Montgomery County schools are working to report student offenses in more detail aimed at a tendency to conceal cases from the public.

"Starting with the 2008-09 school year, Montgomery County parents can expect a clearer picture of the kind and amount of crimes and other suspension-worthy offenses committed by students in and around schools.
Officials have started work on a comprehensive School Safety Report, a document that should offer the public a running tally of student offenses involving weapons, drugs, sexual misconduct and violence, among other categories, at every school. No such report exists now; the nearest equivalent is an annual report from the state that lists offenses by school across several broad categories but without enough detail to render it very meaningful to parents or policy makers."

No Blogging Allowed

Yep. That is the title of a wonderful article from the BayNet on Tuesday.

CCBoE Attorney Eric Schwartz, at one moment, advised the board that the First Amendment protects Ms. Abell’s freedom of speech. In the next moment however, Schwartz advised Chairman Wade that one method of punishment would be to “overlook a board member during meetings by not calling on them for comments.”

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Notes from Board Meeting 4/3/07

The below notes are my personal notes and are not intended to be all-inclusive or official minutes for the Board of Education meetings and are provided as a request from my supporters and the general public in a personal effort to be more transparent. Although I have diligently tried to make these notes as unbiased and accurate as possible, I am only human and do make mistakes. Please follow-up for official minutes upon approval. For copies of printed reports presented visit Board Docs.

Public Forum
· Gentleman spoke about the school system in New York. “figures don’t lie, but liars figure.”
· Woman loves the school system. Upset by comment heard at the DI competition. Programs had to be reprinted because Mr. Richmonds name was before the Board members names. Someone on staff demanded they be reprinted. What a waste.
· Gentleman upset over redistricting plan. Referenced Policy 1910 re: transportation, enhancement of feeder school, impact on community, natural boundaries, limiting redistricting. No reason LaPlata residents need to attend Waldorf schools.
· Gentleman upset over redistricting. Against Hawkins Gate going to Neal. Wants children to remain at Matula.
· Woman upset over redistricting. Against Hawkins Gate being moved. Begging for reconsideration.
· Woman concerned over redistricting. Against Hawkins Gate being moved. Would choose Matula with trailers over new school.
· Gentleman thanked the Board for moving the meetings to the evening. Spoe about report cards and how they should contain percentages not just letter grades. Requests the Board consider new report cards for Fall 2007. Offers to volunteer to assists implementation.

Action - Approval of Minutes
*Vote to approve minutes

Correspondence/Board Member Updates
· Abell – Informed fellow members she has been notified by Christina Gordon, Director of Communications for the National School Board Association and invited to be a contributor to the National Conference Blog this April. She was also contacted by Craig Colgan of Potomac Planet who presented the seminar on Blogging at the 2006 National Conference and invited to participate as a panel member for the Blogging Seminar at the 2008 National Conference. She has accepted both invitations.

Report – EACC – Bill Fisher & Meg MacDonald
· Negotiations are underway. Focusing on extra-pay, workload and insurance.
· Mr. Fisher was elected to the Maryland State Teachers Assoc.
· Local elections are upcoming for the EACC Board

Report - Student Board Member – Andrew VanWoerken
· Senior Citizens Prom was fabulous
· MASC Convention. Charles County was third largest in attendance behind PG & Montgomery Counties.
· Elections for CCASC is this month. 4/27

Report – Superintendent – Jim Richmond
· Anxious for spring break
· 3rd quarter report cards are this week
· MSA went well with no major incidents
· Moving forward on space partnership
· Walldorf Germany/ Heildelberg Printing Press Dedication 4/27 10:30 am at North Point
· Diggs Dedication 5/4 at 6:30 pm
· Jenifer 20 years celebration 5/20 at 2:00 pm
· Grasmick will present at Education Day sponsored by CISCO 5/23 8-5 at North Point
· BOE televised by Sept hopefully on Channel 96

Report – Redistricting Committee Neal Elementary (S. DiSabantino; G. Barrett)
· Staff recommends Alternative A
· Wise – Possible future development on Hawkins Gate?
· DiSabantino – Yes on LaPlata side
· Wise – Willets Crossing needs 2 buses
· DiSabantino – No
· Wise – has a grandfather clause ever been considered
· DiSabantino – No
· Pedersen – Piney Church Road Upgrades
· Wineland – Only from stadium site to Billingsley Road will go to 4 lanes. Complete the remainder with 2 lanes by next year
· Pedersen – Any representation on subcommittee from LaPlata area
· DiSabantino – Explained process of selecting committee
· Bailey – Doesn’t see where any modifications have been made to the plans since the last public forum. Requests the Board consider Proposal A as a transportation zone and allow Matula enrollment to be on a first come first serve basis from that transportation zone.
· Board discussion to continue at work session on 4/23

Report – CIP – C. Wineland (S. Hagis; B. Law; G. Barrett)
· Davis MS –finish in June
· Smallwood Boiler replacement
· Neal – site is cleared
· New High School – Letters of interest have been received and reviewed. Board will receive proposal next month
· Craik roof. Should have answers next week.

Report – Technology Update (B. Devkota)
· Demonstration of electronic response system. 30 “clickers” cost $2,000
· Wade – Televising Board meetings; wants consensus. UNANIMOUS

Report – Curriculum – Autism - Judy Estep (M. Charbonnet; T. Robinson)
· Very informative slide show presentation on statistics and generalities regarding autism.
· Cook – Do we refer families to physicians for diagnosis?
· Cook – Mercury in vaccines and autism related?
· Robinson – Depends on which group of scientists you ask. No final decisions as of yet.
· Abell – 1 out of every 150 children have autism and one out of every 94 boys. Are we meeting their needs currently and what is our plans to keep up with this growth.
· Robinson – Partnership with the health department. Cross training professionals. Implementing the Hannan Method. Training for day care providers and families. More teachers being certified through Hopkins. Summer program is available.
· Carrington – Reason for the increase
· Robinson – Again depends on the scientist group you ask. Overall hypothesis is that we are just able to diagnosis autism better now than previously.

Report – Human Resources – Keith Hettel
· Calendar for 08-09
· Pedersen – Do you foresee any possibility of losing Fair Day in the future?
· Hettel – The last Superintendent was ran out of town for suggesting this J
· Pedersen – New people to the county are astounded we take a day off for the fair.
· Abell – Not all learning takes place in a school building. We have a number of students in 4-H, sewing, cooking, etc that participate in the Fair. It is a county tradition and it is good timing to utilize as an in-service for teachers.
· Pedersen Agrees to table discussion for now because it is a political hot button but requests the Board consider the option of doing away with it in the future.

Action – Personnel
· * Vote to accept staff recommendations

Unfinished Business
· Pedersen – Dates for What Counts? And invitees. Needs responses from Board members
· Abell – from experience of organizing large events we need more time. Consider having the event mid to late August.
· Board to discuss at work session 4/23

New Business & Future Agenda Items
· Wade – Arrange meeting with CSM Board
· Carrington – ROTC Drill this weekend at LaPlata HS was outstanding
· Abell – Tri-County Board meeting – Richmond will handle arrange
· Bailey – Didn’t hink the other counties were as advanced as we are. Doesn’t feel as though we got much out of the meeting last year.
· Abell – Disagrees. Enjoyed the meeting. We may be more advanced but it was a great time to get to know one another and bounce ideas around.
· Abell – thanked communication department for implementing the email system to announce the board meeting.


Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The State Will Decide...

...on the sex education curriculum for Montgomery County according to an article in the Examiner.

"Field testing has come and gone for the sex education curriculum that’s sparked so much division in Montgomery County.
And now the decision about whether the teachings will make it to all of the school district’s classrooms lies in the hands of Maryland State Board of Education members."

Deal or No Deal?

According to the American School Board Journal, labor-management contracts are the quintessential local issue, and often a complicated legal maze for everyone involved in the negotiations.

"It seems that collective bargaining between school boards and employees has become an accusatory event.
Every few years each side puts up its dukes, points a blaming finger, and claims the high ground. Attorneys conducting negotiations for the school district have a professional and ethical duty to zealously represent their client. Lawyers for the employees have the same obligation in representing the union."

Click HERE for the complete article.

Monday, April 02, 2007

The Issues of IDEA

This month in the American School Board Journal...

From funding to teaching to litigation, a look at what prevents the landmark special education law from meeting its core principles.

In its 31-year history, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act has pushed the complicated realm of special education into the mainstream of K-12 education. The benefits have been tremendous: Countless students with disabilities have reached a potential that even their greatest advocates did not think was possible.
But as with any law, there were unforeseen consequences and pitfalls, and the emotional aspect of special education has no doubt affected the way these have played out.
Here, we take a brief look at some of the pervasive issues that, despite the law’s multiple reauthorizations, threaten the full implementation of IDEA and its core principles.

Click HERE for the complete article.

REMINDER: Board Meeting, Tuesday 4/3/07

Just wanted to remind everyone there is a Board Meeting Tuesday, April 3rd. The Board meeting is a week earlier this month due to Spring Break AND the new times go into effect.

4:30 - Student and Staff Recognition
5:30 - Closed Session (Board and staff only)
6:30 - Public Forum (Must sign-up prior to 6:30)
The remainder of the meeting immediately follows Public Forum

To view the full agenda and the various reports, please visit Board Docs.

Reports include:

  • Redistricting Committee's Recommendation for Mary Burgess Neal Elementary School
  • Curriculum Report on Autism
  • Technology Update
  • 2008 - 2009 School Calendar