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IASB JOINT ANNUAL CONFERENCE


2004 JOINT ANNUAL CONFERENCE

Special Report of the 2004 Joint Annual Conference

Below is a list, by title, of the 17 panel reports that make up the Special Report of the 2001 Joint Annual Conference. Among the reporters who drafted these session summaries were conference "interns," education administration students from several Illinois universities. Each was assigned to cover a panel selected for its lasting value to school leaders.

The aim is to make some of the most vital information presented at the conference available to a wider audience of school board members and administrators. After all, with more than a hundred panel sessions scheduled at the conference each year, no individual can hope to attend all of them.

In navigating this document, you may click on any of the panel titles to read the contents of the report on that particular session or you can simply scroll down to read all of the reports.

The panels described here were presented as part of the Joint Annual Conference of the Illinois Association of School Boards, Illinois Association of School Administrators and Illinois Association of School Business Officials. The annual conference is the state's largest annual meeting of public school leaders. It features speakers, panel presentations, exhibits and informal discussions about a wide array of school leadership topics. The 2004 conference, held November 19-21 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, attracted nearly 6,000 school leaders.

Panel Reports

Board President's Roundtable

Building a Process to Evaluate Programs in your Schools

Conducting a Communication Audit to Determine if Your Message is Reaching all Constituents

District 65 Curriculum-based Assessment Plan - What Gets Measured Gets Done

What Defines a Quality School District?

How to Engage Stakeholders to Reduce District Expenditures

Focusing on the Real Work of Boards

The Future of Education Technology

Healthy Food, Healthy Finances: Creating a Win-Win for Your School District

How to Handle Malcontents and Protest Groups

Introducing IASB's Online Learning Campus

Overtime Pay and Practice - Time's Up

Safety For All: Violence, Bullying and Suicide Prevention

Board-Savvy Superintendent/Superintendent-Savvy Board

Special Ed Cooperatives - Communication and Collaboration

Changing the Conversation: How New Technologies Helped Improve Communication in Our Learning Community

Who Needs Data to Make a Decision?


Board President's Roundtable

Moderator/Presenter: Dawn E. Miller, Director of Field Services, Illinois Association of School Boards

Reporter: Jasmin Bloom-Ortiz, education administration intern

The topics discussed at this panel were: Hiring a new superintendent; negotiations with the new union president; and monitoring administrators. Here is a summary of the tips pertaining to each topic that the participants at this roundtable viewed as important and relative.

When hiring a new superintendent:

  • The president's role is to keep the board focused
  • Use ISAB services. This is beneficial for screening and recruiting
  • Keep close contact with consultants
  • Focus board on process. Create a timeline and stick to it
  • Contracts include discussion of benefits, insurance, annuities, bonuses for performance; rights to end contract on performance; if they quit and break the contract have them pay money for the new search
  • Start searching in August instead of January
  • Use the school attorney for advice on the contract
  • Try to give them something, i.e. travel per diem, vacation days
  • Don't be afraid to hire out of state (value experience and knowledge)
  • Involve teachers when the choices get down to three or four finalists. Ask for their opinion and you will value it (not necessarily go with their choice)
  • Hire the best person for the job and what is in the best interest of the district
  • Have a good search firm. Some just give candidates and then drop out of site. You want a firm that you can check back with.
  • Use Dave Lane — helped a lot with advice
  • Hiring is the board's responsibility, not the focus groups
  • Site visits are very important
  • Always check references

In an unrelated topic, a few tips emerged for negotiating with a new union president:

  • Try interest-based bargaining
  • Use your attorney for negotiations and set parameters
  • Use a facilitator and law firm for advice
  • Sidebar (one-on-one with board president and union president)
  • Pay for courses that are relative to teacher's position
  • Bump up the teacher when reaches a Masters degree
  • Take steps out
  • Shorten lanes

And when monitoring administrators, the following tips were shared:

  • Board monitors the superintendent
  • Does the superintendent monitor the principal?
  • Set goals for all principals
  • Evaluate the superintendent
  • Set goals/annual evaluation
  • Principal goals/expectations set by principal and superintendent
  • Don't make site visits unannounced
  • Superintendent gets annual Executive Summary for principals and staff
  • Superintendent reports to the board with updates
  • Plan a retreat with superintendent and all administrators in the beginning of each school year so that they all are on the same page
  • Set goals for all: principals, superintendent, and board. Evaluate all.
  • Exit interview/form used for all

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Building a Process to Evaluate Programs in your Schools

Moderator: William Jordan, Superintendent

Panelists: Charles Erickson, President, Board of Education; Michael Heggerty, Assistant Superintendent, Instructional Services; Andy Salski, Finance Committee Chairman; Jim Stelter, Assistant Superintendent, Business Services, Bensenville SD 2

Reporter: Jeremie R. Smith, education administration intern

There comes a point when school districts must question the effectiveness of the existing programs that their district uses to obtain the desired outcomes of its students. When the data proves that certain programs are, in fact, not meeting the needs of the students or the goals of the district, then it clearly becomes time to make changes.

Bensenville Elementary School in District 2 did just that with a strategic action plan that was designed to evaluate existing programs, provide greater accountability, and improve student achievement, all while being financially wary in a time of limited resources.

With the hiring of a consultant and the assembly of a team to address these concerns, focus groups of more than 100 people were immediately created who identified the beliefs and strengths of District 2, the improvements needed, as well as considerations for the future.

The subjects addressed by the team included: curriculum, assessments, instruction, staff development, articulation/communication, technology, finance, facilities, and continued improvement. All of these areas emphasized student achievement and it was decided that they could only be met when a necessary accountability was attached to sustainable goals.

In order for the success of any program to be evaluated effectively, there were several issues that needed to be addressed. First, it became imperative that the language or terms were uniform throughout. Next, the goals and efforts needed to be aligned across the district so that all students would be reached throughout their career at District 2. The team wanted to change the mentality in problem solving and agreed as part of its philosophy that courage is needed for continuous improvements, and that no deadline should deter it.

Finally, the process needed a concrete evaluation tool that was easy for all stakeholders to understand and allow for specific responsibilities to be assigned to individuals with strategies, actions, timelines, costs and effectiveness to be checked. The team created a chart containing each piece of this process and submitted it to the board as a guideline.

The team also offered several tips for implementing the process:

  • Step one is to plan. Let the goals be the guide, and celebrate small victories along the way
  • Step Two is to do. Implement an action plan, build consensus and establish a feedback process
  • Step Three is to check. Know the process, maintain the vision, keep information organized, and follow through with recommendations

The final step is to act. Align resources and make it happen.

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Conducting a Communication Audit to Determine if Your Message is Reaching all Constituents

Moderator: Karen Roloff, President, Board of Education

Panelists: Kat Matassarin, Communication Task Force Member; Steve Waitz, Principal; Linda Weinstein, Communication Task Force Member, Northbrook-Glenview SD 30

Reporter: James Russell, Director of Publications, IASB

Helping a district in the north Chicago suburbs that has to reach a booming population of English Language Learners and their families, many of whom are also non-English speaking, was the goal for a special Communications Task Force.

With two communities and enrollment of 1,100 children, SD 30 takes seriously its mission that it is "responsible for all children," including those who are non-English speaking. So it set out to examine its messages and their vehicles with special emphasis on this segment of the population.

District demographics showed that more than 30 different languages are spoken, with the largest number being Korean. Other major languages include Russian, Japanese, Polish, Greek and Spanish.

The task force consisted of 17 people from administration, faculty, staff, the board and parents. Their dual purpose was to examine each medium used and to explore new ways of reaching the ELL population. The timeline for the group was six months. They held seven meetings and finished their report in early 2004.

They reviewed traditional messages and media, such as school and district newsletters, annual letters to parents, brochures describing programs, etc. It was overwhelming at first, to get up to speed, especially for the citizen parents of the group.

Questions considered in their examination of materials and messages were:

  • What is the information that has to get out?
  • What is the best vehicle?
  • What are the reasons for the communication?
  • Does it reach everyone who needs to get it?

It was concluded that to reach such a diverse audience that they would have to develop consistent messages that were child-centered, inclusive, and gave the feeling of being "welcome," especially for new families and students.

Although they attempted to find a way to translate district information into the various language groups, they decided that it was not feasible or practical. One of the biggest concerns was that literal translations couldn't account for cultural differences and perceptions, especially involving parental involvement. Some cultures, they learned, have no history of parental involvement in the schools, while others faced major gender obstacles.

One question that emerged that was not immediately apparent was to ask district graduates and non-English speaking parents what they wish they had known before or when they enrolled.

They decided that the district's supplemental groups were vital in enlarging the message to a larger audience. These groups included the PTO/PTA, the task force, the district citizen advisory board, and other parental advisory groups.

Among the task force recommendations was to adapt the parent handbook, create "Friday flyers," create a standing district communication committee, increase ELL parent meetings, build a pool of translators, develop a needs assessment survey, and review the district mission statement, criteria for ELL services, and review all ELL programs and staff.

While it has been difficult to find translators, they are attempting to make some of the district's basic materials for parents easier to understand and to be used.

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District 65 Curriculum-based Assessment Plan — What Gets Measured Gets Done

Panelists: Paul Brinson, Chief Information Officer, Evanston-Skokie CCSD 65; Mary Rita Luecke, President, Evanston-Skokie CCSD 65 Board of Education; Hardy Murphy, Superintendent, Evanston-Skokie CCSD 65, Phil Pritzker, Board Member, Wheeling CCSD 21 Board of Education

Reported by: Amna Latif, education administration intern

Evanston-Skokie CCSD 65 uses a curriculum-based assessment system to improve instruction to ensure that students meet the district's learning standards. The district believes that all students have the potential to learn rigorous content and achieve high standards. In other words, District 65 designed and implemented the curriculum-based assessment system to bring all students to high levels of achievement, to support teachers, and to meet and exceed the expectations of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the District 65 board and the community.

Assessments and reports have been found to make a difference in the instructional process and help teachers in identifying areas for enhancing the learning process. Furthermore, assessments can assist teachers in identifying student's weaknesses and help them differentiate learning needs. Assessments provide data and information necessary for improvement, help in aligning with state and district standards, and reflect the progression of instruction in the class.

The panelists highlighted critical factors for success that can facilitate the system and plan. These include:

  1. Vertical team organization: team consisting of teachers, administrators and instructional support.
  2. Well-designed and aligned curriculum: scientifically-researched curriculum, aligned with state standards, teaching objectives, textbooks and other material.
  3. Careful use of instructional time: additional instructional time for students having difficulty in mastering concepts.
  4. Knowledge of content: teachers must understand and be proficient in content in order to address student needs.
  5. Instructional materials/strategies: materials, strategies and practices should have a scientific research base.
  6. Diagnostic assessment: students who require intensive instruction should be identified in a timely manner.
  7. Continuous curriculum-based assessment: learning should be assessed on a continuous basis to improve and enhance student achievement.
  8. Differentiated instruction: students with similar needs receive effective instruction.
  9. Focused professional development: professional development opportunities should be based on data and an analysis of student and teacher performance.
  10. Analysis of student achievement: measuring student achievement through state and national testing.
  11. Fiscal responsiveness: development of an instructional plan and resources for funding by analyzing student achievement data.

Sample mathematics assessments for grades 3, 6, 7 and 8, and curriculum assessment reports were distributed and shared with all participants. The report included the following: (1) table containing a roster of students who took the test and their achievement on each of the district-established benchmarks, results are reported as secure, developing and beginning; (2) graph representing the percentage of students who achieved secure, developing, and beginning levels for each of the district established standards and benchmarks; (3) a roster of students indicating who took the test and the response for each of the test item; and (4) tables and graphs representing the number and percentage of students who selected each answer choice.

The Web site at http://www.education.com/ was referred for support in developing assessments. Microsoft Excel was used for graphs and tables. The district superintendent, board president and information officer also explained how successful this system was in identifying student weaknesses and improving upon them before the state testing. Furthermore, they stated that the system helps identify professional development needs, improve instructional practices and provide feedback to the community. They were willing to provide support and assistance to other school districts that would like to implement the system.

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What Defines a Quality School District?

Moderator/Presenter: Paul Kuchuris, Jr., President and Chief Operating Office, Lincoln Foundation for Excellence, Naperville

Panelists: Alida Graham, President, Decatur Education Association; Bradley J. Hawk, Superintendent, Central CUSD 301, Burlington; Robert A. McKanna, Superintendent, Palatine CCSD 15; Louis A. Sands, President, Palatine CCSD 15 Board of Education; Donald White, Superintendent, Pekin Public SD 108

Reporter: Jasmin Bloom-Ortiz, education administration intern

What is the definition of quality? Why the Baldrige approach? What is our purpose? Why change? What are the initial steps to take?

Why use the Baldrige approach and why change? Student performance and student learning is the bottom line. Schools are no different than other organizations. Working smarter is the key to improving student performance and assessment. The panel agreed that the first step to district improvement is conducting a self-assessment. Data collection provides the district with root causes to problems. The panel looked at what their district was currently doing and looked for a better way to improve on their efforts. The approach is not just for teachers and the classroom but also for the entire district. The problem that they noticed in their own districts was that people were working in silos and not systemically.

The approach is data-driven. A district needs to measure what it is currently doing and see where they want to go and assess along the way. The panel acknowledges the fact that data collection takes time and effort to collect, but it is crucial in finding out why things aren't working.

The panel had to improve a lot of areas in their districts so that their district ran smoothly. A shared view or goal among all parties in the district including a systemic approach is the key to improvement. The Lincoln Foundation does an initial assessment. This assessment helped the panel with their goals and provided a common framework for each of their districts. The decision making for each district also changed. Decisions were made with the core values of the Baldrige/Lincoln criteria in mind.

What about buy-in? Everybody needs to be on board in able for the district to achieve goals. The first steps are to have the organization organized systemically instead of into silos and to have buy-in. This alignment and "buy-in" is crucial because it fosters ownership. In the panel's experience if you don't have people buy-in, people become frustrated and the goals are not achieved.

The goals for the district need to be clear. There needs to be an understanding of what the key items are and what district needs to look for in able to bring awareness and continuity to the district in a systemic approach. The panel advises to let go of things that don't support the goals of the district and look at the long-term goals of the district. When the district starts to see results there will be more buy-in. Keep in mind that your district is perfectly aligned to get the results that it is getting.

Finally, the panel said that passionate supportive leadership is crucial. All stakeholders need to have buy-in. The principal has to be visible and not just delegate. McKanna, for example, requires that the principals visit five different classrooms, five times a day. The panel advises that it is crucial that all administrators of the district know the model and get involved in all areas. Employing people who have buy-in is also a must.

So, why Baldrige? There are three basic reasons:

  1. Get an understanding of what is going on it your district. Bring key stakeholders together and discuss what is going on in the district and what it means (what's the impact).
  2. Where does my organization stand? Assessment and data collection. Get feedback from the organization? What does the data say about the district?
  3. The data will present red flags of where you need to start. Call a district session and debrief to get a plan together.

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How to Engage Stakeholders to Reduce District Expenditures

Presenters: Dennis R. Conti, Superintendent, Woodland CCSD 50, Gurnee; Bob Leonard, Assistant Superintendent of Business Services, Woodland CSD 50; Tom F. Morris, President, Woodland CCSD 50 Board of Education; Joy Swoboda, Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services, Woodland CCSD 50

Reporter: Jeremie R. Smith, education administration intern

If troubles with limited funds, tax caps, NCLB mandates and demands for salary and benefit increases sound familiar, consider yourself to be part of one of many schools across Illinois that face the task of having to drastically reduce expenditures.

So often this task sends school boards into unchartered waters and, while the expenses are in fact generally reduced, the effects of such cuts often leave many stakeholders discontented. Woodland CCSD 50 in Gurnee faced these very issues and responded by creating a collaborative plan that not only saved the district the money it needed to restore effective functions, but it also managed to maintain the credibility that is often lost by district leaders among its various organizations and special interests.

The plan Woodland used is called the Modified Program Systems Analysis (MPSA), and it serves as the model for expenditure reduction by engaging stakeholders and identifying and attributing value to existing school programs. The goal of District 50 was to reduce expenses by $3 million, all while dealing with a failed referendum, and having to ensure that the decision made would suit the interests of all that would be affected.

The MPSA committee was created with equity in membership in mind. The team was designed to maintain 25 to 50 people (depending on district size) who are completely committed to the goals set forth by the team and who would serve as conduits of information by sharing with representatives of other groups. This allows for the data created by the committee to be evenly spread throughout the district and guarantees that the members of the solution-finding team are committed to attaining those goals.

Having identified the team and its goals, the next step was to identify solutions for making the necessary cuts. With that, the MPSA team identified two potential solutions: increase revenues within the community (which had already failed with the rejection of a referendum), or decrease programs.

Programs were ranked on a number of criteria, such as: need, history of success and effectiveness. Programs and costs vital to the necessary functions of the district (such as core curriculum) received a ranking of "1," meaning they were not susceptible to cuts. Items receiving a "2" rating were viewed as programs that should be examined more closely and may be cut. Programs receiving "3" ratings were found to already be in trouble and should be considered primary cuts.

It was here that the MPSA team stated that once the rankings were revealed, hidden agendas, special interests and vocal opponents began to surface, and cautioned all to maintain the vision of the team and the success of children foremost.

Such items recommended for cuts included but were not limited to: supplies and materials for art, band, music and exploratory classes; the number of teaching faculty; extending the curriculum cycle; expenditures in buildings and grounds; and the number of supplemental staff. The proposed cuts were not assured of board approval, and the team feared that their efforts might end up well short of the goal. But the recommendations were accepted. As a result of early budget cuts, the board eventually found sufficient funds to restore several programs, while meeting their goal of cutting the budget by $3.15 million.

This district's advice for reducing budget with collaborative efforts starts with the MPSA approach for its advantages of organization, efficiency and effectiveness. Next, don't shoot for the bull's eye for fear of hitting directly the programs that the district cannot afford to cut such as math, science or reading. Third, preach the maintenance of equity by living by the facts, avoiding bias when making cuts, and having an evenly but highly informed cast of workers so that questions are handled honestly and effectively. Finally, they cautioned to be ready for rejection.

The process, while effective, cannot predict the outcome nor cannot guarantee board approval. However, with financial instability becoming a more common thread among Illinois schools, the MPSA approach appears to be a viable option. It is truly collaborative in nature, data-driven by design, and highly stringent in the evaluation required for each program or cost. Long-term effects also give the district an idea of where it is with its programs and services, how effective they are, and where the district is heading.

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Focusing on the Real Work of Boards

Panelists: Sandy Gundlach, IASB Field Services Director (sgundlach@iasb.com ; Cathy Talbert, IASB Policy Services Associate Executive Director (ctalbert@iasb.com); Jan Putbress, President Board of Education Lake Zurich CUSD 95 (jan.putbress@lz95.org)

Reported by: Amna Latif, education administration intern

Gundlach and Talbert explained that the "Real Work of School Boards" was undertaken as a policy project by the Illinois Association of School Boards, California School Boards Association, Maine School Boards Association, Pennsylvania School Boards Association and Washington State School Directors' Association. Putbress, meanwhile, shared her experience in adopting the framework and process for the board.

So what is the real work of school boards? School boards clarify district purpose, connect with the community, employ a superintendent, delegate authority, monitor district performance, and take responsibility for its work and itself. In other words, boards focus on policymaking, while administrators and teachers implement or put those policies into action in the building. What are these policies and how they should be designed was discussed and a process was provided for it.

Gundlach discussed research findings about boards in high-achieving districts. These findings relate how school boards can affect student learning. They state that boards:

  • Consistently express that all students can learn and school could teach all students
  • Were knowledgeable about teaching and learning issues
  • Made student-centered and data-driven decisions.
  • Created a supportive workplace for staff.
  • Involved their communities

Furthermore, she explained that adopting a clear mission, vision and goals is important for focusing on student learning. Board work essentially includes developing, updating, reviewing, monitoring and communicating the policy to the school stakeholders. To accomplish the practices of high-achieving school districts, she proposed a process/framework for policymaking that includes four steps:

  • Discuss the topic
  • Assess existing policy
  • Gather information and involve others
  • Decide what you want and develop a plan and timelines

Policy categories that were identified as most directly related to student learning were also reviewed. These include: governance and planning, academic standards, education program, curriculum, instruction, learning environment, professional standards and parent/community involvement. Each of these categories has policy topics.

Talbert went through each step of the process using the policy topic parent involvement. Sample policies and an evaluation tool were provided to all participants, who were asked to assess whether policies under parent involvement were linked to student learning. Participants also discussed what can be done to modify the existing policy and that school stakeholders should be involved to ensure informed board decision making. Talbert said boards should allow the staff flexibility to achieve their goals.

Putbress explained how Lake Zurich school board was able to implement and apply the process in policymaking last year. Training workshops were held to explain the process to all school stakeholders, and had a positive effect on everyone. They also learned how important it was to involve the community in the process and that policies should highlight goals defined by the board. Bringing the policies to a living document and practice by continuously monitoring it is also a vital step in policymaking.

In order to create lifelong learners, it is essential for school boards to consider and target student learning in policy making. All policies should directly or indirectly link to student learning because that is the basic and primary focus of public education. The group concluded that public education would only be successful if students are made the center of learning and instruction in all aspects. Further details can be obtained from: http://www.iasb.com/tsl/menu.htm

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The Future of Education Technology

Panelists: Thomas Long, Superintendent, Burbank SD 111; Rehman Ali, District Technology Director, Burbank SD 111; Terry Tamblyn, Vice President Educational Services, Tera Byte, Ltd., Downers Grove; Craig Williams, Chief Information Officer, Naperville CUSD 203; Thomas Zelek, Sr., Business Manager, Elmwood Park CUSD 322, former superintendent, Burr Ridge CCSD 180

Reporter: Ellen Murray, Manager Information Services, IASB

The panelists discussed their positive experiences with converting to wireless Wide Area Networks (WANs). But before making such a decision, or a statement such as: "we want four computers in every classroom," officials need to take many things into consideration.

On the classroom level they are: use; home resource; students; education; teacher beliefs; resources; and teacher preparedness. On the school level they are: school culture; principal preparedness; school leadership; and principal beliefs. On the district level they are: curriculum and instructional model; policies and standards; support/personnel; physical infrastructure; resources; professional development; community; vision; and leadership.

"Community and conversations are what is driving technology development."

Nationally, 60 to 65 percent of the computers in classrooms are off or not used. "It's really all about use if we're going to spend all that money — how do we get people to use them?" one panelist asked.

The key factors affecting elementary classroom use are: home use, skills and beliefs about technology; teacher's pedagogical beliefs and practices; mean student technology skill level; teacher's beliefs about technology ("unless teachers believe in it they will never use it"); principal's beliefs about technology; and principal's emphasis on technology and pressure to use technology.

What technology leaders do is to showcase to the community and school board with vision and expectations, pockets of innovation ("make sure it will work on your system and show others"), and by professional development — teams and extended time.

What does the computer of future look like? It has a useable input interface and display, all-day battery life, lower prices and a wireless connection to the school network.

Wireless Wide Area Networks (WANs) offer a viable alternative to T1 lines. "In order to communicate between or among buildings, the buildings must be connected by some type of ‘data transfer medium,'" the panel stated. The slowest to fastest of these are: dial-up connection — speed 56 kBs; DSL (Digital Service Line) — 128 kBs; cable modem (coaxial cable) — 128 kBs; T1 Line — 1.54 Mbps; and point-to-point wireless — 54 Mbps.

The nightly backup was taking Burbank too long using a T1 line. Their WAN is much faster. Estimated costs for a point-to-point wireless WAN are: $3,500 per set of radios radio; $400-$7,000 for main tower (10 to 100 feet); mounts, ground and cabling; labor for radio mounts; and other equipment, similar to conventional wired network. Cooperative agreements for use of existing water towers, cell-phone towers, etc. for the district towers may eliminate or greatly reduce tower costs. Burbank was able to pay off all costs in one year, in part because their district technology director Ali was capable of climbing towers to install radio mounts.

Considerations for a wireless WAN are: initial capital outlay (E-rate approvable); rapid return on investment, i.e., one-time cost; need for speed; federal (FAA and FCC) and local bandwidth and tower restrictions; and line of sight, i.e., distance point-to-point and Fresnel Zone. Special network requirements are: quality of service available over network switches, redundant telephone servers preferred, UPS or generator for phone server and switches in closets, and backup phone lines.

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Healthy Food, Healthy Finances: Creating a Win-Win for Your School District

Moderator: Linda Dawson, Interim Vice Chairman, Action For Healthy Kids, and Director of Editorial Services, IASB

Panelists: Sandra Brown, Secretary, Action For Healthy Kids, and Program Manager, Nutrition Marketing, Midwest Dairy Council, Chicago; Joan Love, Chairman, Action For Healthy Kids, and Principal Operations Consultant Nutrition Program/Support Services, Illinois State Board of Education, Springfield; Cheryl Metcalf, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning, Woodstock CUSD 200

Reporter: Linda Dawson, Director of Editorial Services, IASB

Action For Healthy Kids is a nationwide public/private partnership that seeks to provide guidance for school districts to improve student health, nutrition and physical activity and to find solutions to combat rising childhood obesity numbers. AFHK has been active in Illinois for two years and has adopted two goals: ensuring that school food service provides food options that are low in fat, calories and added sugars, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat or nonfat dairy foods; and that school districts provide all children, from pre-kindergarten through grade 12, with quality daily physical education that helps develop the knowledge, attitudes, skills, behaviors and confidence needed to be physically active for life.

Student health will continue to be an important topic for schools because every school will be required to have a local wellness policy by July 2006 under the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004.

One focus in healthier food options is to provide milk, water and juice in school vending machines. Many schools are reluctant to eliminate sodas from vending machines for fear they will lose revenue. However, some schools have shown that by changing milk packaging and providing additional flavors, milk consumption can increase by at least 20 percent.

Only 2 percent of youth meet the nutritional guidelines of the USDA's food pyramid and at least 16 percent don't meet any of the guidelines. An alarming 35 percent of teenagers quit drinking milk altogether. But by improving their diet, nearly 2.6 million youth could be expected to reduce their health risks in later life.

Woodstock CUSD 200 researched its vending machine options, analyzing costs and suppliers before it purchased milk vending machines for two middle schools and the high school and contracted to special order milk chugs and shakes from an area supplier. The district promoted the new machines through a school newsletter to parents, a media release to the local newspaper (complete with pictures), posters and flyers, and a coordinated food service/food class program to promote and educate students about the importance of dairy product consumption.

The Midwest and St. Louis Dairy Councils, which serve Illinois, as well as the Illinois State Board of Education, have information about grant opportunities to help with a variety of school nutrition and vending programs.

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How to Handle Malcontents and Protest Groups

Moderator: Kris Houser, Assistant Director of Community Relations, School District U-46, Elgin; Panelists: Julie Armantrout, Consultant, Educational Services Associates, Glen Ellyn; Stacy Holland, Director of Community Relations, Lincoln-Way CHSD 210

Reporter: Kathy Massey, education administration intern

Consider the difference between malcontents and protest groups. Julie Armantrout distinguishes them as, "malcontents want something changed and protest groups want control," while protest groups, often begin as a few "disgruntled people who get organized, focused and political." Boards need to continually build relationships with their public and have policies in place that prevent the escalation of issues to a critical mass. In the event there is an organized active protest effort, the district should have policies that guide their actions through troubling times. All board members should be familiar with policies and know how to use them.

Every day districts and boards have opportunities to connect with their constituents and build relationships with open dialogue that can deter proliferation of rumors and misinformation. According to Armantrout, "an informed public is the best defense."

Holland suggested districts establish a pro-active approach to serve as a deterrent for unfounded issues. Her recommendations were:

  • Build a network with the community 365 days a year
  • Maintain a referendum mode mindset
  • When issues arrive deal with them and move on. Take time to meet with people and listen to their issue; they may have valid concerns
  • Work with the community so they view their relationship with the district as "us" not "them"
  • Respond to malcontents, e.g. letters to the editor with a call to offer correct information. Let them know they will get responses and information by contacting the district directly
  • Decorum of board with each other, the superintendent and the community sets the stage for how they are perceived

Both presenters cited the importance of the board conducting business in a formal and ceremonial manner. Facilities for holding meetings should reflect the seriousness of their work. It can be advantageous to rotate meetings to various district sites. Attendees should be welcomed and they should receive a board meeting brochure that explains the public participation policy.

When unfortunate events occur that dismantle relationships, Armantrout advises the district to be first to get the story out and tell the entire story at one time. "Don't let it be in the news day after day." Make sure information is consistent by identifying district and board spokespersons. Individuals should differ comments from the board or district to these individuals.

Houser also shared the following resources:

  • Illinois Chapter of the National School Public Relations Association (INSPRA). The $50 annual fee provides access to 180 members that may be able to assist with your issue.
  • National School Board Association's "Telling your story: a Toolkit for Marketing Urban Education." The article contains good ideas and information whether or not your district is urban.

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Introducing IASB's Online Learning Campus

Presenters: Rachel Kliewer, Manager, Online Learning Center, National School Boards Association, Alexandria, VA; Angie Peifer, Director of Board Development, Illinois Association of School Boards

Reporter: Ellen Murray, Manager, Information Services, IASB

NSBA has researched, developed and established rigorous procedures for acceptance of classes before offering online learning opportunities to school board members. To date, 750 board members in Texas, Minnesota and Iowa have taken courses. Thirty-three states are members of the Online Learning Center (OLC). These courses are not Web sites, but real learning opportunities and experiences. IASB is offering some of the same courses and some new ones. The courses will be totally self-paced, with participants having up to six months to complete them.

Being a "life-long learner" who is comfortable with computers, and has ready access to one, are among the few requirements for participation. Advantages of OLC courses include: convenient wherever and whenever you have time, 24/7 availability; opportunities to practice; embedded job aids; sharing and asking questions on a class discussion board; well-written tests; activity checklists to keep track of progress; ability to print out the entire text of the course and read it away from the computer; no time spent traveling to classes; comparable costs to many IASB workshops — without the travel time or cost, and you can go to class in your pajamas.

IASB's Online Learning Center will open in January 2005 with four courses: Robert's Rules of Order for School Boards; School District Labor Relations: What Illinois Law Requires; Constructive Superintendent Evaluations; and Lighthouse Learning: the Board's Role in Increasing Student Achievement.

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Overtime Pay and Practice – Time's Up

Moderator: Frank Evans, Vice President of Marketing, Public Entity Division, The Hinz Company, Chicago

Panelists: Melinda Selbee, General Council and Editor, Policy Reference Subscription Service (PRESS), Illinois Association of School Boards, Lombard; Enrique Rodriguez, District Director of the ESA Wage and Hour Division, U.S. Department of Labor, Springfield; Maree F. Sneed, Partner Hogan & Harston L.L.P., Washington, D.C.

Reporter: Joel Estes, education administration intern

This panel discussion examined an issue that moderator Frank Evans called, "the Number One risk management issue" for school districts nationwide. In brief, school districts can face large monetary penalties for failing to pay overtime to certain categories of employees under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). In fact, a number of judgments have already been rendered against school districts nationwide.

The presentation focused on the FLSA as it affects school districts. This technical presentation informed participants of the steps they would need to take to conduct a self-audit and the necessary steps toward compliance with FLSA.

Sneed informed the audience that the FLSA, with its minimum wage and overtime regulations, was extended to involve elementary and secondary schools in 1966. She listed the type of school employees that are impacted by the FLSA. Teachers and administrators are generally exempt, but custodians, some coaches, managers, bus drivers, secretaries, food service workers and teaching assistants fall under the purview of the law.

All hours worked for a non-exempt employee that exceed 40 hours per week must be considered when determining overtime. A number of mitigating factors may impact this consideration including dual employment (between jobs), joint employment (between buildings), comp time, on-site and off-site work, and employees who work even when prohibited. Sneed was adamant to point out that all "work" is compensable under FLSA.

Enrique Rodriguez, U.S. Department of Labor in Springfield, discussed the investigation process for school districts that have complaints filed against them. The investigation process includes a review of district payroll and time records, employee interviews, and a reconstruction of records to determine compliance. If a district is determined to be out of compliance, it is responsible for all back wages owed to all employees who have been underpaid. Additionally, civil penalties of up to $1,000 per employee can be levied if the action is a repeat occurrence or determined to be willful on the part of the employer. Press releases will be constructed by the investigators, and the information is subject to Freedom of Information Act disclosure. Rodriguez concluded by giving some examples of major areas of overtime violations. They include: not combining hours for combination jobs or locations, not compensating work performed at home, inaccurate records not indicating all hours worked, and comp time lapses.

Selbee, meanwhile, recommended that school districts develop board policy concerning the issue along with lists of employees who are exempt and non-exempt from the provisions of the FLSA. The gravity of the issue can be appreciated in a recent $40 million judgment against Farmers Insurance. Additionally, school districts in some southern states have been penalized recently.

Selbee indicated that there are three key considerations to determine exempt status for executive employees:

  • What is the primary employment of the employee?
  • Is the person supervisory in capacity?
  • Are the employee's duties discretionary? Administrative assistant assignments are problematic jobs in this determination

Sneed concluded the presentation by encouraging workshop participants to consider a self-audit for their school districts. The actual steps involved in a self-audit were discussed. A key component of the process is administrative training. The advantages of the self-audit are that a district sets its own timetable, it can help avoid lawsuits and legal fees, and the district may limit future liability. When it comes to FLSA, districts may need to spend some time and money on the front side to avoid paying extensively on the backside.

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Safety For All: Violence, Bullying and Suicide Prevention

Panelists: Laura McAlpine, Consultant, Coalition for Education on Sexual Orientation, Chicago; Jennifer Welch, Women's Policy Advisor, Office of the Attorney General, Chicago; and Carol Wozniewski, Interim Executive Director, Mental Health Association in Illinois, Chicago

Reporter: Linda Dawson, Director of Editorial Services, IASB

Talking about dating violence, bullying and suicide, as well as implementing policies to deal with the problems, can go a long way to making schools a safer environment for all students.

Youth reportedly hear anti-gay slurs at school at least 29 times each day, but fewer than 25 percent report that teachers or other staff intervene if present when a homophobic remark is made. More than half of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual student don't report incidents of violence to parents or school personnel, but these students are at a greater risk to attempt suicide, require medical care, smoke cigarettes, report drug use or to get pregnant (or get someone pregnant). Because they deal with high levels of stress in their daily lives, they also tend to have lower grade point averages.

Massachusetts, for example, has a Safe Schools Program has helped implement policies to help address and improve anti-gay and anti-transgender violence in high schools, according to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control. An anti-discrimination policy could help stop violence against these students, confront stereotypes and teach students to respect differences.

Suicide is the No. 2 cause of death among adolescents in Illinois, and that does not factor in that statistics on suicides are inconsistent and under-reported. It's a myth that talking about suicide increases its incidence. Youth need to know what to do when a friend threatens suicide. The Mental Health Association in Illinois recommends:

  • Encourage everyone to ask about suicidal ideations and intentions
  • Encourage networks of relatives, friends and neighbors to decrease isolation
  • Advocate care for those at highest risk
  • Encourage use of suicide prevention services for victims of harassment and violence
  • Increase awareness of suicide prevention and treatment for professionals on the front lines: first responders, education personnel, health care providers, physicians, law enforcement and mental health workers
  • Increase access to mental health care
  • Improve data collection on suicides
  • Increase general public awareness of the benefits of restricting access to means of suicide
  • Reduce the stigma of suicide and increase public awareness that mental health care is a critical part of health care
  • Develop sustainable funding sources to implement suicide prevention and intervention programs

For more information, contact three programs for schools as an approach to suicide prevention:

  • I.C. Hope — Don't Duck Mental Health (Contact: Melissa Hall, mhall@mhai.org)
  • LifeSavers — Peer Support/Prevention Team (Contact: Judy Ashley, hujuja@midwest.net)
  • The Jason Foundation — (877) 778-2275

Physical violence is usually the end result in a line of escalating violence-related acts that may begin with verbal abuse and seeking to control the victim. These behaviors may appear appropriate to teens just learning how to deal with relationships. Youth seeking independence may accept a higher level of violence that adults. Because society places a high standard on having a partner, teens may view being in an abusive relationship as better than having no relationship at all.

Schools have a unique opportunity to protect the victim and may be the last chance to influence an abuser before a lifelong pattern is established. And districts also have a legal liability for violence that occurs at school. Failure to act on pervasive abuse can make a board liable.

To make districts bully-free zones, adopt sexual harassment/teen dating violence policies, train staff in those policies and think in a "victim sensitive" frame.

For more information, check the Illinois Attorney General's Web site at www.ag.state.il.us or www.ivpa.org, which funds efforts to reduce teen dating violence.

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Board-Savvy Superintendent/Superintendent-Savvy Board

Moderator: John Cassel, Director of Field Services, IASB

Panelists: Julia Beckman, Board President, Community High SD 99, Downers Grove; John Fagan, Superintendent, Oak Park ESD 97; Mark Metzger, Board Member, Indian Prairie CUSD 204, Naperville; Michael Radakovich, Superintendent, Aurora, CUSD 131

Reporter: Kathy Massey, education administration intern

Questions posed by the book, Board-Savvy Superintendent, by Paul Houston and Doug Eadies, were the topic for this panel discussion. John Cassel opened the session with brief remarks regarding the importance of boards and superintendents developing a working relationship that fits their situation.

One panelist shared a common understanding that the board-superintendent relationship is critical to having a well-functioning school district. It was less clear, however, how to create and sustain that relationship. Personalities and experiences of school boards and superintendents vary greatly so each relationship is unique.

Another panelist cited "trust" and "respect" as paramount to having successful board-superintendent relations. Even though trust and respect may take time, there must be openness that everyone is acting in the best interest of students.

A history of strong relationships between board and superintendent will help sustain the district when difficult issues arise. To build trust with the community, Julia Beckman pointed out the need for constituents to hear and see a consistent message from the board and superintendent that is focused on "caring about kids."

Supt. Radakovich said he knows there is trust when board members don't hesitate to go to the superintendent and ask questions in order to better understand an issue. He noted the importance of building confidence in trust among board members, between the board and the superintendent and the superintendent and the board. The quality of these relationships ultimately impacts staff, students, parents and community.

Board member Metzger emphasized the need for the board and the superintendent to each know their roles and work accordingly. Board members should know the limits of their role as board member and not go beyond their purview.

Not everyone agreed on the principles identified in the book or in the interpretation of the word "savvy." Superintendent Fagan was disturbed that the term "savvy " as used in the book presented the superintendent as being able to manipulate the board. He stated concerned about the book focused on what is wrong with superintendent-board relations and not enough about developing a balance between two roles that are mutually beneficial.

Members of the panel exchanged examples of successful board-superintendent relationships that lead to positive results for schools. In each example the board, the superintendent and the community acted in concord with dynamics present at a particular time with a particular group of people that worked. The key is for boards and superintendents to build their own relationship based on who they are and where they want to go as a district.

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Special Ed Cooperatives – Communication and Collaboration

Moderator: Sharon Kennedy, Policy Consultant, Illinois Association of School Boards, Lombard

Panelists: William Delp, Superintendent, Special Education District of Lake County, Gages Park; David Harley, Director of Legal Affairs and General Counsel, Special Education District of Lake County, Gages Park; and of counsel, Scariano, Himes, and Petrarca, Chtd., Chicago; and member of Illinois Council of School Attorneys; Lisa Lerner, Board Member, ESD 75 Mundelein; Carol Bercos, Program Coordinator, Private Placement Team SEDOL

Reporter: Joel Estes, education administration intern

This panel represented a special education cooperative district that has established clear direction for its clients through the development of policy amid the challenges of funding, staffing and transportation. Moderator Sharon Kennedy introduced the staff and a board member from the Special Education District of Lake County (SEDOL), a special education cooperative that serves 2,100 special education students in 36 member school districts. The geographical area of the district represents more than 400 square miles.

Delp, superintendent of SEDOL, indicated that the cooperative provides school districts with services that they themselves would have difficulty providing. Those services include special class groups, a continuum of services and legal counsel. The cooperative maintains a governing board with one member from each of the 36 school districts. An executive board of eight members is responsible for a wide range of duties including employment and dismissal of staff, vendor contracts, agreements with community and state agencies, and state and federal grants.

Delp indicated that one of the major recent accomplishments of the cooperative has been the revision of the policy manual. A committee of staff and board members, along with an eight-member parent/school advisory committee completed the project. The main areas of concern for the group were: governance, personnel, discipline and student issues.

Bercos, a program coordinator, discussed the efforts of her team to conduct the private placement process. The Private Placement Team oversees 300 privately placed special needs students in day and residential settings for SEDOL. The cooperative provides this service to its districts as a contractual service. Twenty-six of the 36 districts in the cooperative use this service.

Harley along with Delp also discussed the importance of customer service for the cooperative. The district uses a five-pillar model to define the paradigm. Those pillars are: resources, service, people, quality and financial stewardship. Embedded within the model are the nine principles of success to which SEDOL aspires:

  • Commit to excellence
  • Measure the important things
  • Build a culture around service
  • Create and develop great leaders
  • Focus on employee satisfaction
  • Build individual accountability
  • Communicate at all levels
  • Align behaviors and goals and values
  • Recognize and reward success

Lerner, meanwhile, shared some guiding mottos used in the cooperative. They include: "Student achievement/Student well being: every child achieves to their fullest potential" and "Exceptional services for exceptional students."

Bercos concluded the presentation by discussing the cooperative's parent involvement initiative. The parent involvement program was developed from the needs of the parents and students. The program has one focus and purpose: creating bridges between home and school.

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Changing the Conversation: How New Technologies Helped Improve Communication in Our Learning Community

Moderator/Presenter: Bill Chapin, Director of Educational Technologies, Warren THSD 121, Gurnee

Panelists: Chuck Maurer, Assistant Principal, Warren THSD121, Gurnee; Rob Parrott, Assistant Principal, Warren THSD 121, Gurnee

Reporter: Gary Adkins, Director of Editorial Services, IASB

Providing online access to school-related information has helped improve Warren Township High School District 111's community relations, stakeholder involvement, student performance, and organizational efficiency, according to district staff members.

Several advanced software programs are employed to handle data at the high school, including a Web-based program called PowerSchool, designed to make detailed student information available to the public. This communication software program has changed conversations between parent and school, parent and teacher, student and teacher, teacher and teacher, teacher and office staff, and administrators and information, according to Director of Educational Technologies Bill Chapin.

Chapin said the program posts student grades, attendance and assignments on the Internet, with automatic e-mail notification of updates. Students now make course selections online via the program. "Parents and students are part of the process now," Chapin said. And he said login and password entries provide privacy and determine the level of access for each individual participant. Each time parents log in, their visit to the Web site is recorded.

Upon logging in, parents first see a "quick lookup" screen, an interactive page allowing them to e-mail their child's teachers by clicking on any listed teacher's name. Parents can see their own child's grades and attendance data for the past two weeks, and can click on the student's grade for any particular assignment to read assignment detail about how that grade was earned. Attendance history is also available for up to six weeks for each course the student is taking.

Currently, the high school has 13,000 online users of the PowerSchool program throughout the community, with the heaviest usage being for students, parents and even grandparents to view grades. This has resulted in quicker feedback and a richer conversation among all participants. For example, the traditional five-week grading feedback loop has been reduced to a matter of days, sometimes a single day, from the time an assignment is created until the time parents see the grade and, if necessary, provide feedback to the teacher.

Assistant principal Parrot said Warren Township High School is a big school, with more than 3,800 students on two campuses that are located four miles apart. "Technology has closed the gap between the two buildings," Parrot said.

Although four years ago there were no computers in classrooms, today all 260 certified teachers in the district are assigned their own laptop PCs, mostly Dells, vintage 2000-2004, he said. "Ours is a mobile faculty within and between schools," Parrot explained. Teachers take computers with them from classroom to classroom, which helps with mobility issues, because they can use their assigned PCs without logging on and off in each classroom. Teachers most commonly use PCs to take attendance, compute grades, communicate with parents, and review test data, Parrot added.

Office staff still use desktop computers, rather than laptops, and they use separate software programs other than PowerSchool to track credit transactions for student fees (Revtrak), run textbook inventories (TextLink), and manage finances and human resources (Acrux Financial Management). All the PCs run Microsoft Office 2000 or 2003, and the network computing environment is Windows 2000/2003. Numerous wireless access points were obtained through grant funds.

Results have been positive from the use of all this new technology, according to assistant principal Chuck Maurer: "we've been energized by it," he said. "And the services offered are so much greater than before."

For more information about this topic, visit the school district's education technology Web site: http://www.wths.net/edtech/handbook/default.htm

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Who Needs Data to Make a Decision?

Moderator: Ben Nowakowski, Business Manager, J. Sterling Morton High School District 201, Cicero

Panelists: Jay Cunneen, Superintendent; Margaret A. Kelly, President, Board of Education; Les Luka, Assistant Superintendent, Curriculum and Instruction

Reporter: James Russell, Director of Publications, IASB

Making board decisions efficiently and effectively, using beliefs, trial and error, or data. The choice will likely measure the success of any district, but particularly those facing exceptional challenges.

For this west suburban Chicago district, the decision was made a year ago to analyze decisions at the board and administrative levels by researching and presenting data wherever possible or practical. Their presentation, however, was designed to show how difficult the process can be, especially when the data may be limited or misleading.

Information may be true, but if it's not complete, it can't be trusted. Add the pressure of highly visible programs involving large, vocal special interest groups, and the decision gets harder, even when the data can be trusted.

The panel focused on decisions that the district faced to determine funding for and links between vocational and academic programs. Ultimately, they had to pull the plug on a popular but not highly effective program.

By weaving videos of classic comedy routines and film clips throughout their presentation, the panel also helped the audience to understand the basic dilemma in decision-making and information gathering.

In addition to establishing accuracy and thoroughness, someone must be responsible for filtering the data, and ignoring the "spin" doctors who may be promoting or opposing one cause or another.

Data sources may include contemporary records, confidential reports, public reports, written questionnaires, government documents, expressions of testimony, etc. But each must be tested for its reliability and how it fits into a larger context of information.

Other sources of data discussed were case studies, surveys, motivational research, activity analysis, time and motion studies, follow-up studies, and trend studies. It was suggested that the process must be tested or sampled. "You only get one chance to get it right," it was reported, especially in critical projects such as building or remodeling a school.

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