Cow weight-guessing and why community engagement matters

Cow weight-guessing and why community engagement matters

I heard the following program while driving to school this morning. You may wonder what a “guess-the-cow’s-weight” story could possibly have to do with the stock market—much less school board governance, but I actually see a pretty strong connection. Take a listen:   So why is this seemingly odd phenomenon so important to Romoland School District? Well, community engagement is more than just a feel-good idea. This clip is a great illustration of why community engagement matters so much. In fact, The Wisdom of Crowds would argue that: Large groups of people are smarter than an elite few, no matter how brilliant–better at solving problems, fostering innovation, coming to wise decisions, even predicting the future. Simply put, six parents attending an LCAP meeting isn’t as good for Romoland as 60 parents attending (which isn’t as good as 600, and so on). The more our community gets involved, the stronger we become as a school district. So what are we doing to stay engaged with our community’s schools? Are we trying to do it alone, or are we making the effort to bring others into the herd? That’s the challenge I place on myself, and it’s the same challenge I issue to anyone reading this post as well....
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...
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...

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