Happy first day of school!

Happy first day of school!

I wanted to wish everyone a happy first day of school. The 2015-2016 school year is full of promise, and I know great things are in store for the entire district. As you prepare and transport your previous cargo to school today, please be extra cautious to ensure the safety of all of our students. Here’s to a great year!...
Ed-Data

Ed-Data

Ron Bennett, the gregarious president of School Services of California recently referred me to ed-data.k12.ca.us, an excellent resource that contains a wealth of publicly-accessible information about “student demographics and performance, staffing and teacher salaries, as well as information about financial reports for all districts, county offices of education, and state.” From their About page: Launched in 1996, the Ed-Data website is designed to offer educators, policy makers, the Legislature, parents, and the public quick access to timely and comprehensive data about K-12 education in California. It is operated through a partnership of the California Department of Education (CDE), EdSource, and the Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team (FCMAT). FCMAT’s California School Information Services (CSIS) hosts and maintains the site.   In addition to a wealth of data at multiple levels and over many years, Ed-Data also offers articles and explanations that provide important context for the data.   Click the link or image above, and you are granted instant access to all of the records the State of California requires of its public schools. I pulled a quick financial report comparing the per-student expenditures of all of the school districts in the state in the following categories: Certificated salaries (teachers) Classified salaries (these are positions like librarians, custodians, campus supervisors, instructional aides, health techs, etc.) Employee benefits Books and supplies Services and other expenditures A subtotal of the sum of the five categories listed above I’ve embedded a Google Spreadsheet with the data below (sorted from least to greatest by Column Q, the Subtotal Expenditures), but I really encourage you to pull your own information. If I’m being honest, these numbers paint a less-than-pretty...
What are kids capable of?

What are kids capable of?

Kids can be so adorable, silly, stubborn, and—well—just plain immature sometimes that it’s easy to sell their abilities short. However, it’s also important to remember what else they are capable of. Here’s a short list of some of the amazing things that kids have done, or are currently doing around the world: Famous inventions by children Earmuffs We might not have much use for these in California, but 15-year-old Chester Greenwood (a native of Maine) asked his grandmother to sew fur onto a two-loop wire he had made, thus inventing the ear-warmers. Braille Louis Braille was just three years old in 1812 when he was injured and lost his vision. Later on, as a 15 year-old studying in Paris, he designed a system using raised dots in specific patterns to aid in reading. Cancer detection In her project, “Development of a Urine Test for the Early Detection of Cancer,” 16 year-old Janet developed a urine test for the early detection of cancer. The use of a urine test for cancer screening would be less invasive, less unpleasant, and less expensive than current cancer screening methods, increasing compliance rates and allowing for the early detection of cancer. The toy truck Robert W. Patch became the youngest person to ever receive a U.S. patent when, at the ripe age of 6, he invented a toy truck. Meet two more amazing youngsters: Richard Turere Age: 13 From: Kenya Position: Inventor Richard’s invention saved his community’s livestock from lions—and it also saved the lions themselves Jaden Carlson Age: 12 From: Boulder, CO Position: Musician Jaden and her band continue to gain fans in Colorado and around the country, even headlining the historic Fox Theatre. Finally, if...
On Netflix: The Mighty

On Netflix: The Mighty

The Mighty is the 1998 film adaptation to Rodman Philbrick’s book Freak the Mighty, which tells the adventures of Max and Kevin, a pair of middle school outsiders who combine their strengths in order to overcome their weaknesses. It is currently showing on Netflix and is well worth the watch. Spoiler Alert: Sixth grade students may be reading Freak the Mighty in their English language arts class. Check with their teacher to see if the film adaptation will be shown as well. Rated: PG-13 Time: 101 minutes Trailer: Don’t have a Netflix account? Watch The Mighty on Amazon Instant...
Lessons from Temecula

Lessons from Temecula

In case you missed it, Temecula Valley Unified School District’s board recently called for a review in the district’s hiring practices after it was discovered that the Superintendent’s daughter was hired to a position—previously nonexistent—which would pay up to $4,165 a month and required only a high school diploma. While those details might be cause for suspicion, the real problem occurred when it was discovered that the daughter has a criminal record. While it’s certainly not my intention to further shame a local district during what is undoubtedly a sensitive time, I do think there is an opportunity to glean two important board governance lessons from this unfortunate development:   First, we should all be aware of the fact that public education is no less prone to instances of nepotism than the private sector. It is natural—and indeed should be anticipated—for Superintendents to want to bring in a team of leaders with whom they have a prior relationship. We see this all the time in the sporting world, where a recently-hired coach will bring in assistants he/she has previously worked with. However, when those people are offered jobs solely because of the existing relationship, beat out more qualified candidates during the interview process, receive compensation above what is being paid to similar positions, or have entirely new positions created just for them, major ethical questions arise. Board members should give the same level of deliberation to items on the consent agenda as to those items that are actionable. In meetings that follow Robert’s Rules of Order, the consent agenda allows the board to vote on a group of items en bloc (all together in one motion). This can speed up meetings by allowing for...

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