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...
Masters in Governance: course three

Masters in Governance: course three

Yesterday was Course Three of CSBA’s Masters in Governance (MIG) training. It covered only one topic, but it was a hefty one: School Finance. If you’re thinking to yourself “Hey, what happened Course Two? Don’t worry, you’re not losing your mind. I was scheduled to participate in Course Two on March 21 but woke up too ill to attend. I will reschedule to make sure I don’t miss out on the Student Learning and Achievement/Policy and Judicial Review trainings. UPDATE (July 15, 2015): Peggy was kind enough to re-schedule me for Course Two on Saturday, September 26, 2015. As I was saying, today was a difficult session to fully digest—even for a self-proclaimed “number junkie” like myself. There is just too much that goes into a school district’s budget that it becomes impossible to learn it all in one sitting. That isn’t to say the session lacked value, though. It was actually a great introduction into what will surely be a long-time study of the inner workings of school finance. A couple quick-yet-important takeaways: California, as a state, does not spend nearly enough on public education (unfortunately this may not come as a shock to many of you). Intentional deficit spending is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, investing extra funds strategically to high-need areas can be a great way to target weaknesses in a...
On Netflix: Brooklyn Castle

On Netflix: Brooklyn Castle

If you’d like to see a great film about the power of chess in our schools, check out this award-winning documentary currently showing on Netflix. Rated: PG Time: 102 minutes Description (from the film’s official site): BROOKLYN CASTLE tells the stories of five members of the chess team at a below-the-poverty-line inner city junior high school that has won more national championships than any other in the country. The film follows the challenges these kids face in their personal lives as well as on the chessboard, and is as much about the sting of their losses as it is about the anticipation of their victories. Trailer: Brooklyn Castle Trailer from Producers Distribution Agency on Vimeo. Don’t have a Netflix account? Watch Brooklyn Castle on Amazon Instant...
Masters in Governance: course one

Masters in Governance: course one

As part of their Governance U program, the California School Boards Association (CSBA) has created a five-course professional development series aimed at “equip[ping] board members and superintendents with the knowledge and skills to build and support an effective governance structure.” Yesterday was Course One for me, and it featured two presentations entitled Foundations of Effective Governance and Setting Direction. Here are my key takeaways from each session: Foundations of Effective Governance: A good portion of the morning session was a repeat from my primer at last December’s Annual Education Conference. However, three quotes stood out as particularly powerful: The first dealt with a topic very near and dear to all Americans, the concept of Government of the people. It’s a quote attributed to Henry M. Brickell and Regina H. Paul, from their book Time for Curriculum: How School Board Members Should Think About Curriculum, What School Board Members Should Do About Curriculum (which of course, I had to order). It states: The most remarkable thing about our country is this: ordinary citizens control almost every major institution, public and private…Does this make sense? What it makes is a democracy. We, the people, govern ourselves. The second quote came from Lillian Katz, an international leader in early childhood education: Each of us must come to care about everyone else’s children…The good life for our own children can be secured only if a good life is also secured for all other people’s children. The third quote is by Margaret Mead, a famed American cultural anthropologist who has become famous for these words: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is...
On Netflix: The Gruffalo

On Netflix: The Gruffalo

First published in 1999, The Gruffalo has become an instant picture book classic. The Academy Award-nominated adaptation of the book currently being featured on Netflix makes a great family night flick! Rated: G Time: 28 minutes Trailer: Don’t have a Netflix account? Watch The Gruffalo on Amazon Instant...

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