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Special Report of the 2007 Joint Annual Conference

As it has for the past several years, IASB has posted selected panel reports that make up the Special Report of the Joint Annual Conference. 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.

With more than 100 panel sessions scheduled at the conference each year, no individual can hope to attend all of them. In navigating this document, you will be able to 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.

Among the reporters who drafted these session summaries were conference "interns," comprised of education administration students from several Illinois university graduate programs. Each intern was assigned to cover a panel selected for its lasting value to school leaders. Other reports have been prepared by members of the IASB communications staff.

The panels chosen were among those 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 2007 conference was held Nov. 16-18, 2007, at the Hyatt Regency Chicago and attracted nearly 6,000 school board members, administrators and staff.

A Winning Strategy for a New 'Limiting Rate' Tax Referendum

District Consolidation: Can We Improve Educational Opportunities for Students?

District Goal-Setting and Planning: Making Your Work Visible

How to Keep the Media Monsters at Bay

Turning Conflict Resolution into Creative Leadership

Role of Board Members During the Negotiations Process

School Improvement Imbedded in a Culture of Continuous Improvement

School Board's Role in Student Achievement

Beating the Odds: 80 Percent Poverty, 80 Percent Minority; 80 Percent Meets/Exceeds

Clean, Green and Mean

Code of Ethics: How to Enforce the New Law, Best Serve the District and Protect Yourself

Ten Most Common Mistakes in Collective Bargaining

IMSA for All

Rural Schools and Stealth Students

Superintendent Employment Contracts

Study Circles for Broad-Based Community Engagement

Getting Reform Right: A Data-Driven Approach to Improving Student Success

Protecting Your District from TIF Districts: TIF Districts and Intergovernmental Agreements

Diversity Best Practices

A Winning Strategy for a New 'Limiting Rate' Tax Referendum

Sally Pryor, Superintendent, Park Ridge-Niles CC District 64

Sue Runyon, President, Board of Education; Steve Huening, Citizens for Strong Schools Referendum Committee; Craig Elderkin, Community Finance Committee; Bruce Martin, Business Manager; Bernadette Tramm, Public Information Coordinator; Andy Duerkop, Teacher, Park Ridge-Niles CC District 64

Reporter: Duncan McHugh, doctoral candidate, Educational Administration and Foundations Department, Illinois State University

The Park Ridge-Niles CC District 64, after years of budget cutting which resulted in no progress toward fiscal health, determined that the only way to stop the financial destruction of their school district was to change their strategy. The impact of the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (PTELL), significant changes in district leadership, a teachers strike, and turmoil in the community compounded the district's financial problems. Decisions were made to align the board with the administration. Unification of the board was essential in this time of crisis.

The board decided to become more transparent in its budgeting process and consistent in all communications with the public. They established a "community finance committee" (CFC), implemented a committee-of-the-whole on finance, and increased their operating fund balance to 33 percent due to Cook County's consistent tardiness in disbursing property tax revenues to the school district. Then the board, working with the CFC, began collecting information from the community in an attempt to determine how large a referendum was needed and when the referendum should be run.

The CFC did not become the referendum committee. It did; however, become a standing committee dealing with financial structure, spending management, communications, and new legislation. The community was to be continually educated as to what their tax dollars were buying within the school district. The CFC also provided advice to the board. The board was determined to provide full information to the community. The CFC did explore opponents' websites and did develop responses to challenges presented by them. It also provided significant information to the referendum committee.

In learning from the private sector, the board identified its "brand promise." They were determined to meet the needs of the whole child and maintain low class sizes. They also had to inform the public how past budget cuts hurt the students and educational programs.

The board learned that most of the district revenues were under PTELL and that their expenses would always increase more than what PTELL would allow their revenues to increase. They also learned that the district could "never increase the tax rate enough to avoid another referendum." The referendum will provide relief, but fund balances will eventually drop, due to PTELL.

Strategies included: keep the community informed, listen to the various constituencies' concerns, use a variety of channels to communicate, repeat messages regularly, convey board understanding of community needs and concerns, keep budgets grounded in fact, data, and transparent, and remember that the process is never complete as it will always be subject to changes and will need regular input, discussion, and review.

The board worked to nurture consensus, two-way communication with the community, and an arms-length relationship between the CFC and the administration. They also committed to following the data. If the data showed that they were wrong, they realign their position with the data.

The CFC provided much information to help educate the board and public regarding "limiting rate language". They used specific examples to explain difficult concepts. They kept the public informed and answered challenges with data and facts.

To run a referendum, they recommended starting at least six months before the election, establish a base of volunteers sufficient to fulfill all of the referendum committee's needs, and hire professionals to fill any gaps that exist in the expertise of the volunteers. Other suggestions included coordinating efforts in the community to avoid having multiple referenda running at the same time; keeping commitment high; focusing on the shared vision and mutual trust; and establishing a grassroots campaign that is personal in nature. This means going door to door, holding coffees and teas to inform citizens of the districts status, goals, and challenges and to promote the referendum's passage.

Resource materials are available from District 64, at, or 847.318-4300. More information is also available from Craig Elderkin at

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District Consolidation: Can We Improve Educational Opportunities for Students?

Robert Hall, Professor and Chair, Department of Educational Leadership, Western Illinois University, Macomb

John Closen, Associate Professor of Educational Leadership, Western Illinois University, Macomb
Lonnie Lemon
, Superintendent, West Carroll CUSD, Thomson, IL
Steve Kelley
and Mike Melhus, members of the Committee of Ten consolidation team, Carroll County, Illinois

Reporter: Tori S. Lindeman, intern, educational administration, Western Illinois University

Establishing a platform that will support a three school district consolidation is a daunting task. The panel represented all five components of the consolidation team: researchers, parents, community members, school school/board members and Committee of 10 members. The goal was to provide a timeline of events, structure of the Committee of 10 and identify critical elements of a school consolidation undertaking.

Timelines are flexible. The pace is set by the needs of the districts involved. Attempting to implement a consolidation on a "fast track" is not always the most advantageous. Depending upon the amount of stakeholder support, a choice such as this may be perceived as less than honest and open. All stakeholders must believe in the process that is used and must understand the goals of the consolidation. An important component of any consolidation discussion is identifying a sense of urgency, but this urgency should not be the overall climate of the meeting. Having forethought is the best way to prepare for change, but if the referendum to consolidate does not pass, the educational process and stability for the student population must continue uninterrupted while a new plan can be developed if needed.

The first step toward consolidation is entering into a feasibility study; conducted by an independent firm or group that will not be biased in the process. Once the study is completed and the school boards involved have voted to advance with the process the panel highly recommends creating a Committee of 10. The committee is comprised of stakeholders from community, business, school, and parent groups. Its charge is to establish rules to operate under. It creates subcommittees to educate the stakeholders on the needs and "flash points" of the consolidation and by doing so involves a greater number of individuals within the process.

The committee will consume a tremendous amount of time and energy. Members need to be honest and forthright in their dealings and should understand the implications of their representation.

A typical Committee of 10 first establishes subcommittees and focus groups to break the process and components into small and workable information sections. Examples of sub-committees: finance, buildings, transportation, configuration, marketing, curriculum, and extra-curricular. Public support can be gained through these committees conducting community forums or presenting at local organizations, clubs and meetings. Through the open exchange of ideas the Committee of 10 can gain a better understanding of concerns, which may have additional residual affects which were not originally identified.

Areas of efficiency, benefits and consequences should all be specifically detailed in the informational meetings so voting stakeholders are not surprised after the passing of a consolidation vote with higher tax base or teacher contract matters.

Realignment of voting bodies will be addressed through the Regional Office of Education, so the working relationship with this office should be close knit throughout the entire process. They will be a guiding and supportive force in the attempt to consolidate, as will the relationship with area political figures and business owners. The new school board itself will have to be realigned with newly elected members. These members will have the final say in many of the matters that will have been discussed and identified by the Committee of 10. The Committee makes recommendations to the new Board, but does not hold a legal say in any of the matters, the committee is merely a guiding and supportive organization.

"It is all a matter of perspective!" Hall said. Consider these highlighted areas; they are not to be overlooked! Sometimes the important things to a community are non tangible. He also said do not diminish the importance of emotional based elements. Roots run deep in small communities and heritage will never be sacrificed for progress if they are not honored. Among the community's concerns are:

  • Old rivalries
  • Mascots / team colors
  • Loss of individual town identities
  • Trophies and class pictures that line the halls
  • Graduation ceremonies – where will it be held; who is valedictorian?
  • When does junior high start? 6th grade- 7th grade?
  • Where will dances be held; which dances do we keep?
  • What about Boys Scouts, Girl Scouts, and summer baseball teams?
  • Holiday celebrations? Winter holiday programs?
  • Hunting season waivers, planting and harvest weeks

Finally, it was suggested to involve the educational staff whenever possible. Sponsorship of non-academic outings, gatherings and events to build a community within the staff can not wait until the meet in the hallway on the first day of school. The staff development will require continual attention for the first two full years, if not longer. It is important not to assume things are acclimating smoothly. It must be a conscious effort. All efforts for consolidation will have been for naught if the climate within the educational setting is not positive and embraced by the members of the educational community that have direct contact with the students.

Contact for copy of the presentation PowerPoint: or

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District Goal Setting and Planning: Making Your Work Visible

Larry Dirks, Director, Field Services, IASB

Diane Cape, Senior Director, Production Services, IASB
Terry England
, President, Board of Education
Jeff Holmes, Superintendent, Clinton CUSD 15
Phillip Jacobs
, Vice President
Travis Forman, Secretary, Board of Education
Darbe Brinkoetter, Superintendent, Mt. Zion SD 3

Reporter: Duncan McHugh, doctoral candidate, Educational Administration and Foundations Department, Illinois State University

According to Larry Dirks, the Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB) perceives school board members as elected governors who, collectively as a board, "sit in trust for its entire community." In the interest of effective governance, the board must fulfill fundamental duties. Each board must identify and clarify its district's purpose. Identifying what is unique about the district will provide a foundation for this clarification.

To establish this vision of purpose, Dirks said that a two-way dialogue must take place between the community being served and the board. The board's responsibility for the choice of superintendent, and their final selection, should reflect the district's identified purpose. The board then delegates authority to its superintendent and administrative team. The board's job includes the monitoring of the superintendent's performance and reviewing the district's progress on its strategic plan. Finally, the board takes responsibility for itself, collectively and individually.

The process of identifying the district's purpose should result in a mission and vision that is acceptable to the community. A vision statement should provide the community with the desired outcomes being pursued by the district over a specific period of time. By setting district goals, via a strategic plan, that can be measured, monitored, and modified that address the district's mission and vision within the time specified, the board establishes its own mechanism for self-evaluation.

The Clinton CUSD 15 and the Mt. Zion SD 3 took advantage of a set of services offered by the IASB in their efforts to build support for the schools within their respective communities. Jeff Holmes, Darby Brinkoetter, and their respective board representatives provided details of how and why their districts made use of this resource.

In Clinton, small group meetings were set up involving board members, then staff, and then community members in their effort to establish and refine the districts priorities and goals. In each meeting, a critical review of the board's list of goals and priorities were accepted. The board reviewed suggestions and concerns, modified their goals to match the views of their stakeholders. The superintendent and administrative teams established the objectives to be used to fulfill the board's goals.

Mt. Zion used a survey process to gather the data needed to establish goals and priorities. The finished products, which were offered as examples, were well developed and provided a polished presentation of the school districts' missions, visions, and goals in a package that was attractive, formatted in an easy to understand fashion and reasonably priced.

Diane Cape informed the audience that the services offered by the IASB were a good value for the money. She stated that the charge for the Clinton district was $1,256.00 for 6,500 completed documents with mail charges amounting to about $800. Other services include; personalized service and product, price quotes covering all related products and services, free professional design services, IASB-owned stock photos and the ability to incorporate local photos into the project. These design, editing, proofing, and publishing services are used after the local board determines what information that they want to disseminate to their community.

The IASB also offers single, full day, or four to five evening "process facilitation" sessions to boards in order to assist them in developing their unique purpose, mission, and vision statements. The importance of the district's timeline was also stressed. The months of September through November are among the busiest for the IASB, meaning that other months of the year provide a much greater opportunity for the IASB staff to engage in these processes, especially May, June, and July.

Even with the quality of the final product and its utility in developing a better informed community, Dirks emphasized that the value in this service is not in the document that is produced, but rather in the process that is used to develop the document. The conversations that occur, the team building, and development of trust can and should be even more valuable to the board and the district than the final document.

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How to Keep the Media Monsters at Bay

Charles McCormick, Superintendent, Kaneland CUSD 302, Maple Park

Julie Ann Fuchs, Assistant School Business Official, Kaneland CUSD 302, Maple Park
Terry Ryan
, Manager, Communications Support, School District U-46, Elgin
Melea Smith
, Director of Communications, Naperville CUSD 203

Reporter: Jennifer Nelson, Manager of Information Services, IASB, Springfield

The presenters started with a basic primer of "behind the headlines" about the individual jobs in a daily newsroom. The two most relevant to school districts are the beat reporters and the editorial assistants/community columnists. These are the reporters that most likely attend school events and board meetings as well as publicize any school activities to the community.

Terry Ryan stressed that it is important to try and give reporters what they want. Full disclosure of board packets help to keep the press informed and prepared for meetings. It is essential to anticipate questions that might come as follow-up to a board meeting and to have one spokesperson available after meetings to answer the media questions.

Some tips were offered about preparing for an interview – both print and television. Remember to never assume you are 'off the record' and that the worst response is "no comment." It is important (for TV interviews) to think in terms of "sound bites" that would be easily excerpted for a news story. If possible, allow reporters to talk to the expert in a certain topic. Most importantly, it is crucial that the board speak with one voice through one spokesperson.

It was also noted that because newspapers are focusing more and more on human interest stories, giving access to the student body in some cases is beneficial. Providing a list of the "correct" students allows the district to still control the story.

For those districts with a one-person communications office, there were some must-do's to share:

  • Make this communications specialist the media point person and introduce him/her to reporters in the area;
  • Encourage him/her to invite the media into schools and to special events;
  • Make sure that phone calls are returned ASAP; think of them as if they were parents calling, and;
  • Make the communications specialist a key member of the district cabinet; they must be in the know to be able to help share and communicate district information.

The rest of the panel presentation focused on how to communicate effectively in a crisis. It is important to share information with the school board, but sometimes it is good to wait until the conclusion of the crisis to be able to provide a full overview of the events.

When there are a lot of inquiries about a certain event, it is easier to have a press conference to disseminate all the information to all interested parties so that the information is consistent.

Finally, it was suggested that it is always important to work with your local authorities to determine the best course of action for all involved. Whenever possible and appropriate, surrender authority to the larger agency so you can refer all media questions to them. The job as a communications specialist "is to serve and protect your school district."

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Turning Conflict Resolution into Creative Leadership

Presenter: Winton Goodrich, Associate Director, Vermont School Boards

Reporter: Jennifer Schwartz, educational administration intern.

Effective leadership from the board and the superintendent will result in a healthy school district where students are engaged, staff is highly motivated, and the community is supportive of school endeavors, all of which will culminate in improved student success. How can leaders ensure effective leadership occurs, especially when conflict arises?

Goodrich recommends leaders first recognize people engage in conflict for two reasons; either because they have needs that are being met by the conflict itself, or because they believe their needs are inconsistent with the needs of others. According to Goodrich, reducing conflict can be done if the leader acts on the needs of those involved in the conflict.

Citing a study presented in, First Break all the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers do Differently, which lists several needs of employees, Goodrich refers to a priority list of needs of most employees. The list includes; knowing what is expected, having the right materials to do the job, opportunity to do what the employee believes he/she does best, meaningful praise in the past week, and opportunities to learn and grow. Fulfilling the needs of the employees first will often reduce conflict in most situations.

Goodrich also recommends varying the leadership style used according to the situation at hand to reduce conflict. A directive style (top-down decision making) may be appropriate in a basketball game, whereas a consultative approach (involving others in the decision) may be more appropriate during an administrative team meeting.

A collaborative approach (allowing the group to make the decision through a consensus) may also be used by a school board, or by a curriculum director when working with department heads. According to Goodrich, if the leader finds their particular approach, or leadership style, is taking them down the wrong path, he or she should "recycle their attitude." An ongoing focus on what the leader can do to meet the needs of those involved will result in long term gains for the organization, sustained effort, high morale, and group growth.

Goodrich also provided the audience with practical tools to reduce conflict during any situation. Knowing the response style of the individual(s) involved helps the leader generate effective responses. The following response styles were also reviewed:

  • Tanks
  • Snipers
  • Grenades
  • Know-it-Alls
  • Think-They-Know-it-Alls
  • Yes Persons
  • Maybe Persons
  • Nothing Persons
  • No Persons
  • Whiners

Tactics the leader can use with each style were provided. Perceptive leaders know their own leadership style, as well as the other individuals involved. In a conflict situation this understanding helps the leader to understand the behaviors of those involved, as well as how to tailor their own behaviors to meet the needs of his or her various constituents.

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The Role of Board Members during the Negotiation Process

Beth Dever, Business Manager, Avoca SD 37, Wilmette

Philip Gerner, Attorney, Robbins, Schwarz, Nichols, Lifton & Taylor, Chicago
Jeffrey Greengoss
, Vice President, Board of Education
Joseph Porto, Superintendent, Avoca SD 37, Wilmette

Reporter: Jennifer Nelson, Manager of Information Services, IASB, Springfield

This panel session focused on the role of board members and the school board during contract negotiations. There were two themes that were stressed by all the panelists throughout the presentation. First, the negotiation process begins when the previous contract is finalized. Second, the time put in in advance of negotiations more than pays for itself when the negotiations go smoothly.

School boards are an equal part of the process of negotiations; they also have issues that need to be addressed. Boards should not be passive in their involvement in negotiations. Breaking concerns into two categories, non-financial and financial, allows individualized focus on both. Both the board and the union should keep a 'problem file' that details any areas of concern with the current contract that should be addressed in a new one including 'fuzzy' language or anything that leave teachers unhappy.

The biggest part of contract negotiations is, of course, the financial priorities and parameters. Before negotiations begin, both parties should agree on a common set of data that includes current costs, comparative data to other districts in the area and long-range projections. Having both parties with the same information allows negotiations to bypass a large problem area-namely having correct data and financial analysis.

When determining and communicating priorities, the Avoca members found that setting pre-negotiation and negotiation ground rules were key. These are written guidelines that are agreed upon at the first session and signed by both sides. Another way to communicate the board's priorities is to have a small set of five or six agreed upon points that are repeated consistently by all board members.

When negotiations get pushed to the limit, it is best for the board to be proactive and make the first move. It should not be seen as a sign of weakness to get a mediator involved early; in fact, this is to the board's advantage. Board members must also communicate with the staff and community; many times unions do not fully communicate to the staff about what is being offered in the hopes that they can negotiate more.

Some best practices of negotiations include establishing ground rules, submitting complete proposals, never rescinding any offers and being consistent. The most efficient negotiations start with good relationships in the district and end with a contract.

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School Improvement Embedded in a Culture of Continuous Improvement

Thomas Mulligan, Superintendent, Riverton CUSD 14

Paul Nonneman, President, Board of Education; Christi Mulligan, Curriculum Director, Riverton CUSD 14

Reporter: Jonathan D. Green, educational administration intern, Southern Illinois University

The presentation by Mulligan and Nonneman focused on the Riverton school district's use of the Baldrige Criteria as a framework for school improvement within the school district. Dr. Mulligan introduced the topic by discussing how the school district came to use the Baldrige framework. He further discussed how the district needed a framework to help district personnel share information and make decisions on school improvement within and throughout the school district.

Nonneman gave background information on the Riverton School District and community. The Riverton School District is comprised of 3 attendance centers, and is a slow growing school district because of tight boundaries on all sides. The school district has made additions to all buildings in the past decade and referendums have passed at a rate of 73 percent. However, even though referendums have passed, the overall tax rate has declined.

Mulligan discussed how the school district began its journey in using Baldrige as its vehicle towards school improvement. The presentation was made on PowerPoint and this is a synopsis of the discussion held. Mulligan took over in the 2001/2002 school year. The school district instituted the following school improvement measures: they switched to a year round calendar, with intersession remedial work sessions; they started to strategically plan their school improvement; and they began using Danielson's Framework for Teaching and use the Baldrige Framework for improvement.

Mulligan also discussed the focus of Baldrige and how the Riverton utilizes its principles: the Baldrige process is systematic and was developed for business and converted to education. He related information in how to gain access to information on Baldrige and utilize its processes. Mulligan went through the different categories of Baldrige and how the questions are used to focus school improvement.

Mulligan focused his presentation on how stakeholders are involved in the Baldrige and school improvement process. They ask all stakeholders what they want from each process and how they are to meet the requirements of the process. He discussed the in-process measurements and outcome measurements.

Mulligan discussed how the school district reviewed data collection and implemented change from the data. The second step the school district utilized involved building leadership teams and training the team members. The next step was to set goals and determine the projects for the year. Once the projects are determined the school board approves the goals and the teams set the measurable goals for the year. Next the teams develop a strategy matrix for the board to approve.

Mulligan also went through how a school building within the district would implement this process. The highlights of this discussion was that there are no wasted staff meetings, change happens from the bottom up and not top down, and teachers work on projects throughout the year and utilize their time wisely.

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The School Board's Role in Student Achievement

Moderator: Barbara Toney, consultant, Targeting Achievement through Governance, IASB

Panelists: Tim McHugh, President; Carola Majewski, Vice-President, Board of Education; Carol J. Auer, Superintendent, Keeneyville SD 20, Hanover Park

Reporter: Scott E. Doerr, educational administration intern, University of Illinois- Springfield

Keeneyville SD 20 Board of Education has researched, developed and implemented the "Targeting Student Learning" process to help student achievement scores and to meet AYP. This process is a program prepared by the Illinois Association of School Boards and subsidized by the Illinois State Board of Education. It allows the local board to create policies that influence how students are taught and assessed throughout the school year.

These policies and their belief statements are developed from their mission statement. In addition, they found assistance from the Iowa School Boards Lighthouse Study, which provided them with guidance in developing high-achieving goals for the school board, administration, teachers and students. By adopting a clear mission, vision and goals, the school board can focus on policymaking, which means that they develop, update, monitor, review and communicate to the administration and staff their expectations for student learning.

The Keeneyville board wanted to develop a way to become involved in student learning without interfering with the work of their teachers. They believed that all students could learn and that schools can teach all students. The school could make powerful decisions by using student-centered, data-driven information that affected everyone positively. The board found that they could make a difference in student learning by holding high expectations for everyone, supporting their staff, holding themselves accountable for student success and linking the school with the community.

The TAG program allows the school board to link their policies with student learning through a four-part process. First, the board of education discusses the topic in detail, whereby creating a way to place concerns within categories and topics. A category is one of eight policy areas identified as most directly impacting student learning. A topic is a recommended policy subject with a category. Second, the board assesses existing policies with the school district, starting by making a list of current policies dealing with the topic and focus on a specific topic. From these lists, the board would create new policies to achieve their goals after gathering the data. Third, the board gathers information and involves other stakeholders within the community throughout the entire process. Finally, the board decides and develops a policy that reflects their vision, mission and goals. The process allows the board to decide what components they want in their policy in order to create a plan and timeline to implement the plan.

Keeneyville also provides for one key concept in their thinking: student learning refers to all that a community wants youngsters to take from public schooling and is more than simply academic achievement. According to McHugh, this process has "helped to cement and unify the relationships with the superintendent, administrations, community and each other."

In addition, Superintendent Auer noted that she believes this process has allowed their district to focus their energies "to where we want to go." The board's responsibility to provide leadership, direction, improvement and alignment of curriculum has been fulfilled by beginning this process of raising scores not only as a district, but also for their subcategories.

In conclusion, the curriculum at Keeneyville begins at the top with the board of education creating district-wide policies for student achievement. Then through the leadership of the superintendent and other administrators, the teachers are meeting the beliefs and goals through their strategies implemented in their classroom. Moreover, if student achievement fails then it is not just the teachers that are blamed for the misgivings, but rather the entire system.

Finally, with the guidance of the staff at IASB, this process can be implemented over a period of time. Assistance in developing and implementing this process can be beneficial to the students as well as the board of education.

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Beating the Odds—80% Poverty, 80% Minority, 80% Meets/Exceeds

Joyce Carmine, Superintendent, Park Forest-Chicago Heights SD 163

Maryann Matyasec, Director of Curriculum & Instruction; May Wiza, math coach, Park Forest-Chicago Heights SD 163

Virginia Ford, President, Board of Education; Bonnie Barlow, music teacher; Deborah Hart, science teacher, Park Forest-Chicago Heights SD 163

Reporter: Jennifer Nelson, Manager of Information Services, IASB, Springfield

Park Forest is a community about 35 miles south of Chicago. The Park Forest-Chicago Heights school district has 6 buildings and approximately 2,000 students. The student population is overwhelmingly minority at just over 90 percent and just over 78 percent low income. So what can a school board in such a district do to encourage achievement?

A school board should set on a yearly basis specific goals. These goals should be evaluated each year and should be set for both the superintendent and the district. The board should maintain high expectations of the students and the staff. The Park Forest board communicated that they embrace a culture of diversity with both the administrators and the teachers. Some of their specific goals include improving student performance in reading, writing and math to meet ISBE standards, establishing and maintaining equitable programs throughout the district, and to improve internal and external communication within the district and the community.

One major step that this district took to promote achievement was in their professional development offered for the teachers. They offered job-imbedded professional development (providing substitute teachers so professional development can occur during the school day). They also require new teacher orientation and mentoring for the first two years of employment.

The Park Forest-Chicago Heights Board of Education made much of the changes in the district possible through providing the funding for new technologies to assist with teaching (more computers, etc.). They also helped by including the requirement for orientation a component of new teacher contracts.

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Clean, Green & Lean: The Benefits of Cleaning for Health & Energy Conservation

William Thompson, Director of Facilities Management, Lockport THSD 205
Claris Olsen
, Environmental Health Consultant, Healthy Schools Campaign, Chicago

Reporter: Linda Dawson, Director of Editorial Services, IASB

Having a healthy, high-performing, energy-conscientious school does not need to be expensive. By paying attention to four specific areas, Lockport THSD 205 learned how to buy energy more cost-effectively, got teachers and staff to buy into conservation ideas, improved air quality in its buildings and started using environmentally friendly cleaning supplies.

Thompson said the first step in any energy conservation program is to determine current energy costs and usage patterns. Lockport began its program in 1999 and since then saves nearly $60,000 annually by knowing its energy costs and usage pattern, as well as when and who to contract with for energy services. With a district that consumes 400,000 therms of natural gas a year, a swing of 40 cents can mean a difference of $160,000 in energy costs.

After determining how to buy its energy at cheaper rates, the district turned to the second area: use conservation. An energy audit is cost effective because the districts save money above the cost of such an audit. Lockport's audit pointed out many ways to save by looking at how energy was used in the kitchen, the boiler room, the gym, and the parking lot as well as classrooms. Money was saved in the cafeteria by waiting to turn on 20 warmers when they were needed for food, not at 6 a.m. when staff came into work. Also, Thompson said, don't turn on all the stage lights if only one or two people are working in the area. The district also takes advantage of "free" heating and cooling days (temps between 53 and 63) when neither the boiler nor chiller need to run. By installing occupancy sensors in every classroom and setting the temperature back on nights and weekends, additional money was saved. "And nothing is cheaper than off," he said.

Conservation efforts and tracking give a certainty to budgeting, Thompson said, as well as providing demonstrable results. Despite the fact the district has 1,100 more students, 1,700 more computers and 145 LCD projectors than 10 years ago and despite adding air conditioning to a 35,000-square-foot field house, the district uses 900,000 fewer kilowatts a year.

With energy conservation well underway, three years ago the district turned its eye to improving air quality in its classrooms by checking and monitoring carbon dioxide levels. Dirty air filters have the biggest negative impact on carbon dioxide, Thompson said. The district now invests in better filters, as well as encouraging teachers not to stack books on ventilators, which they found can cause major problems with air quality. Improving the air quality has reduced the amount of irritants in the classroom, which helps cut down on asthma attacks and other breathing-related illnesses and absences.

The fourth step looked at products custodians use. If the purpose of cleaning is to protect students' and teachers' health, then it doesn't make sense to use products that have chemicals that will make them … or the people doing the cleaning … sick, Thompson said. They started small, asking all custodians to use one green product … a Green Scene floor cleaner. Since then, they have slowly replaced traditional products with green products and have come to realize that 90 to 95 percent of the cleaning in all the buildings can be done with four products: a bathroom cleaner and scale remover; a multi-purpose cleaner; natural floor cleaner; and a window and glass cleaner. They also have switched to HEPA filters on their vacuums, stopped using deodorizers and air fresheners, and now use micro fiber cloths and mops, which pick up more dust and irritants. To reduce cross-contamination, a different color micro fiber cloth is assigned to different areas: restrooms; surfaces like desks, walls and counters; glass and mirrors; and dry, general purpose cloths.

In addition to the health benefits, Thompson said, another reason to go to green cleaning supplies is because it will be mandatory in 2008.

Following Thompson's presentation, Claris Olson discussed the Healthy Schools Campaign, gave a legislative overview of the changes that will occur in 2008 and talked about other legislation that will impact schools.

The Healthy Schools Campaign advocates for policies and practices that allow all students, teachers and staff members to learn and work in a healthy school environment. They focus on environmental health, wellness/food and fitness, and building strong stakeholder support.

Olson reemphasized Thompson on green cleaning: it helps students stay healthy and learn; it protects the health of custodial staff; it increases the lifespan of facilities; and preserves the environment. She said the U.S. Government Accountability Office found 50 percent of schools have an indoor air quality problem. Because children breathe, drink and eat proportionally more than adults and because their bodies are still developing, they also are more vulnerable to chemicals.

Research also shows, Olson said, that people from low-income and minority communities have more exposure to environmental hazards than the general population.

Illinois new "green clean" law, passed in 2007, is the second in the nation; New York was first in September 2006. The Illinois law applies to all elementary and secondary schools. Public meetings in December 2007 will help determine guidelines being developed by the Illinois Green Government Council. The final guidelines should be ready in February 2008, and then schools will have 90 days to adopt a policy and switch to green cleaning products. However, they will be allowed to use their existing stocks of cleaning supplies.

"If a school can demonstrate a hardship," Olson said, they can ask to be released from the requirements, "but it's usually cost effective (to switch)."

Olson outlined five steps to green cleaning in schools:

  • Switch to green cleaning products
  • Introduce green equipment
  • Adopt green cleaning procedures
  • Use green paper and plastic products
  • Share the responsibility

Olson added that Public Act 095-0416 also provides that all future school construction projects must receive Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, use the Green Globes system or the green standards of the Capital Development Board. The benefit is that modest additional upfront costs will be offset by longer term return on energy savings, she said.

When economically feasible, schools and day care centers are required to develop and implement Integrated Pest Management, with a person specified as responsible for the program.

For more information on energy costs, consult these Web sites: (natural gas rates/high correlation with electrical rates) (electricity rates) (Com Ed) (Energy Information Administration)

For more information on green cleaning, consult:

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The Illinois 'Code of Ethics': How to Enforce the New Law, Best Serve the District, and Protect Yourself

Heather K. Brickman, attorney, Hodges, Loizzi, Eisenhammer, Rodick & Kohn, Springfield; chair, Illinois Council of School Attorneys' Executive Committee; member, Policy Reference Education Subscription Service (PRESS) Advisory Board.

Kurtis Anderson, former superintendent, Grayslake CCSD 46; owner, Pairadox Consulting, Grayslake
Jennifer L. Hansen
, Neal Takiff, attorneys, Whitted, Cleary and Takiff, LLC, Northbrook; members, Illinois Council of School Attorneys

Reporter: Scott E. Doerr, educational administration intern, University of Illinois- Springfield

This session discussed the Illinois Governmental Ethics Act & State Officials and Employees Ethics Act which became effective in November 2003. These acts were comprehensive revisions to current Illinois statutes regulating ethical conduct, political activities, and gift giving/receiving. The "Ethics Acts" were passed and signed by the governor to ensure that all government employees, including educators, administrators and school board members, were held accountable for their actions while in their official capacity. In addition, the state governments felt all public employees should be held accountable for their actions to maintain the public's trust.

That means that all units of local government, including school districts, are required to adopt policies regarding political activities as well as giving and receiving of gifts. Finally, the Election Interference Law guides school administrators and employees in maintaining proper, ethical conduct when a school referendum is pending.

Under Article 5 of the Illinois State Statute, state employees shall not intentionally perform any prohibited political activity during compensated time or use government resources to perform those activities. In addition, district employees may not perform political activities for the promise of time off during regular contractual work. These political activities include, but are not limited to: participating in polls, soliciting votes, circulating petitions or campaign literature or be compensated to actively run campaigns. Furthermore, school districts cannot directly advocate for or against referendum issues, but rather present factual information to the public.

Secondly, state employees, including school district employees, may not intentionally solicit or accept any gift from any prohibited source or in violation of any federal or state statute. The following exceptions apply to this Act: educational materials, transportation reimbursement, contributions made under the Election Code, gifts given by family members or friends provides under the Act and food or refreshments not exceeding $75 per calendar day. Individuals may counter the gift ban by donating the same value of the gift to a charity or returning the original gift.

Each government entity must create a policy that is as less restrictive as the state law, but can be more stringent. All entities were required to create a policy within six months of the effective date of the law. In addition, each government entity must form an ethics commission to hear complaints filed against employees as well as school board members.

Thirdly, all campaign contributions and expenditures must be disclosed for public viewing. No public funds shall be used to persuade the public for or against any candidate or proposition, or be appropriated for political or campaign purposes to any candidate or political organization.

Once an ethics commission is established by the board of education and complaints are filed, the process to solve is quite ambiguous. All complaints must be notarized and filed according to the rules and regulations of the State of Illinois. The commission must hold a sufficiency determination meeting to establish whether or not probable cause exists. All hearing will be open to the building unless the committee has justifiable cause to close. The commission should maintain legal counsel to help determine whether or not the act was intentional, reckless or negligent. All hearing should be done in a reasonable amount of time and must issue an official opinion within 30 days in open session.

In conclusion, school districts and their employees and school board members are considered state employees and entities under these specific laws and for the purpose of ethical behavior. State and federal law dictates to all government employees that ethics and morals are important aspects to maintaining such employment. All political activities must be conducted on their own time using their own resources and expenses. In addition, all candidates and political organization must disclose contributions, in-kind contributions and gifts as part of state law. It is the intent of the State of Illinois to keep politics and business on separate ends of the spectrum to maintain fairness and accountability.

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Ten Most Common Mistakes in Collective Bargaining

Brad Colwell, J.D., Ph.D., Department Chair, Educational Administration, Southern Illinois University-Carbondale
Norm Durflinger
, Ed.D., Associate Professor, Department of Educational Administration, Illinois State University.

Reporter: Jennifer Schwartz, educational administration intern, University of Illinois-Springfield

The two presenters discussed approaches of traditional bargaining from the perspective of an attorney and a college professor. School leaders and school board officials were provided practical suggestions and guidelines to stay out of trouble

Although first recognizing there are many different bargaining strategies, the presenters found that in almost every case, successful outcomes come down to a traditional adversarial bargaining relationship. According to the presenters, issues, aside from money can generally be worked out in a "win-win" bargaining manner as money can seldom be agreed to in this non-adversarial fashion. Hence, according to the presenters, it is best to stick to a traditional bargaining relationship from the beginning, as all outcomes tend to resolve around monetary compensation and benefits.

Given the presenters' beliefs, the majority of the session focused on the traditional bargaining practices and the mistakes that administrators and school board members generally make. Key mistakes include: deciding who comes to the table, not setting ground rules, bargaining against yourself by responding to your own proposals, failure to have one individual speak for the group, letting emotion prevails over substance, and failure to reduce all important items that are part of the agreement to writing.

Perhaps the most discussed item was who should come to the table and represent the district during the bargaining process. The attorney recommended no district principals be present, and that the superintendent be a silent party. The professor recommended rotating principals in lieu of the superintendent. He believed this would allow the administrative team to avoid hard feelings with the union after negotiations ended. Both presenters agreed on limiting board attendance to one or two individuals.

Communication with the media can also be troublesome if ground rules are not in place. Both presenters recommended all communications go through a single spokesperson. In addition, rather than providing the media with specifics, the following is a generic response that can be used, "Negotiations are ongoing and we are optimistic that a mutually agreeable settlement will be developed."

When negotiations do not go as planned a district may find itself in mediation. Mediation must occur before a strike. While mediation should not be feared, a district should avoid arbitration, or third party negotiations which are binding, and take the final decision making out of the hands of the school board. The presenters agreed that in all cases, the final contract decisions should remain in the hands of the board.

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IMSA for All

Steve Isoye Vice Chairman of the Board, Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, Aurora

Glenn W. "Max" McGee, President; Cathy Veal, Vice President; Eric McLaren, Vice Principal, IMSA

Reporter: Reginald Patterson, educational administration intern, Chicago State Univerrsity

The Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA) has long been a resource for elementary schools in Chicago. The presenters were able to give first-hand accounts of the programs available for students in the Chicago area. IMSA provides support for students and faculty in the greater Chicago and suburban school districts.

Programs offered by IMSA include:

Illinois Virtual High School- IVHS expands educational opportunities by delivering online courses for Illinois students. IVHS uses new and emerging technologies that expand the boundaries of space and time to provide Illinois students and their teachers with increased equity and access to the highest quality educational opportunities.

Excellence 2000+ - is an after school enrichment program for Illinois middle school or late elementary (grades 4-5, 6-7-8) students who are talented, interested and motivated in mathematics and science. The program also provides on-going professional development for the teachers who deliver the program at the local site.

IMSA – Kids Institute – serves students in grades 3-9 through hands-on enrichment programs that integrate concepts of science and mathematics. The programs are designed and taught by IMSA students who are trained and assisted by IMSA staff.

Promise- Providing Opportunities for Mathematics and Science Enrichment (PROMISE) preadmission programs are for talented underrepresented and economically disadvantaged students in eighth grades and ninth grades. Through innovative group inquiry and problem-solving activities, the program promotes interpersonal and academic growth.

CyberQuiz 4Kids- challenging online mathematics and science brainteasers and word problems for Illinois students in grades 6-9.

The internationally recognized Academy develops creative, ethical leaders in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. As a teaching and learning laboratory created by the state of Illinois, IMSA enrolls academically talented Illinois students (grades 10-12) in its advanced, residential college preparatory program. It also serves thousands of educators and students in Illinois and beyond through innovative instructional programs that foster imagination and inquiry.

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Rural Schools and Stealth Students: Managing Special Student Populations

Hector L. Lareau, attorney, Law Office of Hector L. Lareau, Moline; member, Illinois Council of School Attorney's Executive Committee

Lynn Carter, Superintendent, Virginia CUSD 64
Margaret Dunn
, principal consultant, Homeless Education, Illinois State Board of Education, Springfield
Tonya Evans
, Superintendent, Central CUSD 4, Clifton
Larry D. Kuster
, attorney, Rammelkamp, Bradney, P.C., Jacksonville; member, Illinois Council of School Attorneys

Reporter: Jonathan D. Green, educational administration intern, Southern Illinois University

The presentation focused on what was described as the "stealth population," which from this point on will be referred to as "homelessness or homeless students." Margaret Dunn, the state consultant for Homeless Education in Illinois spent the first 25 minutes of the presentation relaying statistical information about homeless students and their rights. She primarily focused on what school districts are required by law to do when identifying a student as defined by the McKinney-Vento Act.

The Homeless Education Act is a federal mandate, passed on to each state. Each state is required to have a program in place to meet the needs of homeless students and work to identify these students. She stated that "nine percent of all homeless individuals are children" and there are a multitude of reasons why children could be homeless.

Dunn also clarified state rules on student's rights to school placement, and how schools were to determine placement. She stated that the underlying question one must ask the individual is: "If able would you be living on your own?" One day of homelessness classifies the student as homeless for the remainder of the school year. Homeless students are entitled to immediate enrollment by that district. This statement brought about audience participation as they questioned whether or not districts needed to comply with the school law provision of proof of residency.

Dunn replied that they could phone or fax the previous school of the student and enroll the student immediately. She also spoke to developing community partnerships to help further the cause of meeting student's needs who were homeless.

Kuster went through the legal ramifications of homeless students and how to interpret the laws regarding residency. He stated that "there is an obligation to enroll the student than verify their residency." He also stated that the school code states that "legal custody" is established through court appointed guardianship. He also talked about how special education students have different rules than regular education students.

Lynn Carter provided some scenarios for Dunn and Kuster to give rulings on. She provided three scenarios: The first scenario involved residency of a student, the second involved a student who moved in with their aunt and whether that student was homeless, and the third involved a student who was kicked out of their home and local agencies were called to help the student. In the second scenario, Dunn advised the school to contact the ROE and get a liaison involved and work with DCFS to help determine what district is responsible for the student's education. In the third scenario, the student has a right to education in original school unless the distance is too great. The district needs to work with homeless education liaison to determine if distance is too great.

Tonya Evans also gave a couple of different scenarios. In her district, they require students enroll with three sources of information to verify residency. She has had students use the address of a relative who lived in the district, but did not personally reside in the district. She also has had to hire a private investigator to follow parents meeting buses to have students attend the school district. The last scenario, the school district had a mother who worked at a local daycare use the daycare address so her students could attend the school district. Dunn and Kuster commented on each of these scenarios.

Overall, the presentation was a good discussion on the different scenarios a school district could face when dealing with different family situations and dealing with these situations as a school district to make sure that homeless students rights are met.

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Superintendent Employment Contract

Leigh Lewis, Assistant Superintendent, Triad CUSD 2, Troy.

Sara Groom Boucek, Associate Director/Legal Counsel, Illinois Association of School Administrators, Springfield
Stanley B. Eisenhammer
, attorney, Hodges, Loizzi, Eisenhammer, Rodick & Kohn, Arlington Heights; member, Illinois Council of School Attorneys

Reporter: Tori S. Lindeman, educational administration intern, Western Illinois University

Groom Boucek and Eisenhammer provided a very concise and comprehensive analysis of what is generally agreed upon as the single most important function of a school board; the employment of the district superintendent. The presenters identified key elements which should be considered by both the board and the superintendent candidate alike. The team focused the discussion on the following highlighted areas of the contract that often dominate disputes during dismissals.

Groom Boucek advocated for 'just cause' to be a priority for both the board and the candidate to examine closely. By including specific wording within a contract which can raise the standards above and beyond the personal relationship aspects that can often 'go south' will provide a higher standard for termination and set levels of expectations. She advised to include terms which seek identifying acts and examples that go beyond the template of "not arbitrary or capricious" in nature.

Eisenhammer's view was slightly more simplified: "Regardless of contract language, you either have cause for dismissal or you don't!" he said, adding that a majority of contract components need to be less cumbersome. "Everyone needs to not only understand what is being written, but what is actually implied and meant by the terms. Don't write a contract to create loop holes!"

Further light was shed on the board's obligations under the contract. Noncompliance by the board in areas such as evaluations, goal setting and notification prior to termination were emphasized in the discussion. It was concluded that the onus lies to the board to complete these duties, and failure to do so could extend a superintendent's contract by law.

Other contract and evaluation quips and tips:

  • Superintendent evaluations should not be "end of the year autopsies, but rather mid-year physicals"
  • The fastest way to kill a relationship with your superintendent is to circumvent the chain of command
  • It is better to start salary offers high and be modest with raises, rather than lose a candidate
  • The law mandates all goals placed in the contract must be met for the board to extend it – be mindful!
  • Watch out for 'end of career superintendent candidates'; don't overlook TRS regulations and caps!
  • Don't make the contract goals longer than a year; "Don't tie them to AYP; make them measurable!"
  • Don't list the 'sins' of the previous superintendent in the new candidate's contract – start fresh!
  • 360 degree surveys were strongly discouraged as tools linked to the contract evaluation; great for discussions.
  • Boards are encouraged to provide as much 'due process' as a superintendent requests.
  • Encourage specifics in add-ons: (ex.) number of conferences, memberships and business expenses
  • Know your community/district – don't set your candidate up for failure by asking more than is realistic.

A 'sample' format of a contract outline was used as a guide for the presentation. It was accepted by the audience as template for areas to address. Throughout the presentation questions referring to the document established the representation of a diverse board population of which many openly admitted key areas set forth in the sample were not including in the active superintendent's contract for their districts. Review of this document is strongly encouraged. Presentation materials are available by the contacting presenter via email at:

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Study Circles for Broad-Based Community Engagement

Fran Frazier, Susan McCormick, Senior Associates
Gloria Mengual, Program Director, Study Circles Resource Center, Pomfret, Connecticut
John A. Lobaito,
Administrator, Village of Mundelein
Cheryl Longfellow
, member, Board of Education
Roger Prosise; Superintendent, Diamond Lake SD 76, Mundelein

Reporter: Reginald Patterson, educational administration intern, Chicago State University

This workshop provided the participants not only with a hands-on experience and a first hand view of the Study Circles, but it also provided real life examples to use as a measuring tool for implementation at your school. The workshop provided us with a real example of a working Study Circle (Diamond Lake SD 76). We collectively learned how study circles help people understand issues, build new relationships and partnerships, and lead to workable solutions and action. There was information shared discussing strategies for organizing and including people from all sectors of the community including: parents, children, city officials, community organizations, nonprofit organizations, schools, school officials, politicians and others.

The basic principles of the study circle programs

Community–wide study circle programs embody democratic principles of equality, inclusiveness, and collaboration. This approach to community change is based on these ideas:

  • People care about the communities they live in, and want to make them better.
  • Complex problems call for many kinds of solutions.
  • People from all backgrounds and all segments of society have something to contribute.
  • When everybody is included in public life, everybody benefits.
  • When all kinds of people develop trust and relationships through face-to-face dialogue, new ideas and approaches emerge.
  • When people consider different points of view on a complex issue, they uncover common ground and find better solutions.
  • When people have a voice in the public conversation, they are more likely to take part in creating and carrying out ideas for community change.
  • The more people that are involved, the bigger the impact.
  • Community change is more likely to last and deepen when individual and collective actions are tied together.

Study circles address a variety of education issues, including the achievement gap, school climate, redistricting, school violence, parent involvement and curriculum development. This workshop mobilized our thinking and planning processes for implementing an effective study circle that engages and supports community involvement. The examples used from real life models reinforced our conceptual concepts of the process and potential outcomes and benefits of using the study circle.

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Getting Reform Right: A Data-Driven Approach to Improving Student Success

Melanie Raczkiewicz, Chief Academic Officer, St. Charles CUSD 303

Anne Conzemius, Chief Academic Officer, QLD Learning, Madison, Wis.
Melissa Dockum
, principal, St. Charles CUSD 303
Donna Dowd
, instructional coordinator, St. Charles CUSD 303

Reporter: Gary Adkins, Director, Editorial Services, IASB, Springfield

Federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) requirements were the impetus for an all-out, district-wide effort in St. Charles CUSD 303 to continuously improve student learning results based on data-driven decisions, according to panelists Dockum and Dowd.

After a group of special education students fell a bit short of NCLB goals in both 2003 and 2004, the district called together a group of community members and staff on a Saturday to uncover a vision for the district that might help all school focus better on what needed to be done to improve. With the resulting new focus on developing the intellectual, social, physical and emotional growth of students, District 303 now provides a curriculum guided by the following vision statement developed by participating citizens and staff members:

The District 303 School Community empowers and inspires ALL to:

  • Attain excellence
  • Learn with passion, and
  • Live with integrity in a changing world.

District 303 schools today are known for academic excellence achieved through a reputation for academic rigor, a student-centered environment, engaging programs and a commitment to continuous improvement.

But in 2004 too many special-needs students at Wredling Middle School in District 303 were performing poorly in two core subjects. Just 35 percent of special-needs eighth-graders met state standards in reading and 24 percent met standards in math, as shown on the 2004 school report card from the state.

Schools were labeled as falling short of standards if less than 40 percent of all students combined or 37 percent of "subgroups" – which includes students with disabilities and students in seven other demographically defined subgroups – met standards.

The numbers in 2004 showed that Wredling was the only school in the St. Charles-based district that fell short of state-defined yearly progress standards two years in a row, even though Wredling students as a whole performed very well.

Both years, the failures stemmed from the performance of students with disabilities. NCLB requires students in each subgroup – defined by ability level, race, English proficiency and income level – to demonstrate improvements.

Wredling students were given the opportunity to transfer to one of the district's other two middle schools at the beginning of the 2004-05 school year under a No Child Left Behind requirement. But not a single student requested a transfer – a testament to the school's teachers and staff, panelist said.

School officials also were required to create a school improvement plan outlining goals for the 2004-05 school year. But compliance was not the only impetus for seeking school improvement. Staff members themselves committed to getting better results for the students. The goals for eighth-grade students with disabilities were to increase their reading scores by 11 percent and math scores by 13 percent.

Officials tested each special-needs student to identify the specific concepts that child needed to learn. They also developed two new reading programs and one new math program for the students in addition to modifying an existing math program to meet the needs of students with disabilities.

Principal Dockum also talked to the students with disabilities to explain the improvement goals and get feedback on the standardized tests. They "started getting to know the child," she said.

"Because the kids could tell us what they need, we thought we would probably see more improvements than ever," Dockum said. "We were trying to give power to the students, trying to draw them into the picture."

Meanwhile, officials launched staff development sessions to help teachers increase their understanding of special needs students. The aim was not just to increase intellectual understanding of the students, but to increase appreciation and empathy. Staff members were asked to experience what certain disabilities feel like: in one room they were asked to carry around heavy rocks, for example, to experience what depression might be like. In another they were asked to wear mittens while attempting dexterity exercises. As a result "the staff members had a different heart," according to instructional support coach Dowd.

And as a result of all these efforts, just one year later Wredling joined the other 16 schools in the St. Charles district in meeting annual benchmarks under the NCLB Act. Since then no school in the district has missed NCLB goals, although panelists did admit that in a few cases student subgoups have "just made" the goals.

Today the school's efforts toward continuous improvement are focused on clear targets, using a "SMART goals" philosophy. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-oriented, and Time-bound goals. Thus, for example, while a traditional goal might be to improve student math performance, a SMART goal could be to increase the percentage of special education students meeting or exceeding standards in math by 13 percent as measured by the March ISAT exams for a given year.

Dowd urged panel attendees not to be put off by the percentage of gains sought, but instead to translate those percentages to the number of students affected. Thus, a 13 percent gain in a group of 48 special education students translates to 7 more students making AYP goals.

"We adjusted our thinking from school improvement planning to student improvement planning," explained Dowd.

District 303 has matched organizational values and beliefs with a process that leads to success, the panelists agreed. How did it come to work in the district? Both Dowd and Dockum agreed that it all began with the creation of the district-wide vision. The district later created a department of assessment and accountability, provided instructional support coaches, and monitored implementation.

Principal Dockum also acknowledged assistance received from Rick DuFour, school board president in Adlai E. Stevenson High School District 125, Lincolnshire, and help from Becky DuFour, a former school principal. Dockum and other school leaders went to visit the DuFours to learn more about the school reform plan they had outlined in their book, Learning by Doing. The DuFours emphasized examining individual student data to learn what it tells about the student's abiilties and needs.

But it all began with the creation of that vision team, whose purpose was to furnish schools with the big picture—a district vision. Next came a focus on student' learning, not just on teaching. And data-driven decisions became crucial to the school's and district's ultimate success.

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Protecting Your District from TIF Districts: TIF Districts and Intergovernmental Agreements

Heather K. Brickman, attorney, Hodges, Loizzi, Eisenhammer, Rodick & Kohn, Springfield; chair, Illinois Council of School Attorneys Executive Committee; member, PRESS Advisory Board

Roger Crawford, former president, Maine THSD District 207 Board of Education
Brenda Murphy
, President, Des Plaines CCSD 62 Board of Education
John Donnellan
, Superintendent, Fox Lake Grade SD 114
Dean Krone
, attorney, Hodges, Loizzi, Eisenhammer, Rodick & Kohn, Springfield; member, Illinois Council of School Attorneys

Reporter: James Russell, Director of Publications, IASB, Springfield

This panel started with the question: "How does Tax Increment Financing (TIF) work?" But that question was immediately followed with another: "And why should school districts care about them?" A brief history of TIF use and purpose began the session, with many caveats and anecdotes added as to why they don't always fulfill their promise.

The financial impact of a TIF on school districts depends a lot on its geographic area and size, current EAV, and projected use and EAV. For example, a TIF that is developed for single family or multi-family residential development may have a huge impact on school enrollment, depending largely on the scale of the project and its marketing base (families vs. retirees or older homeowners).

Other potential adverse effects were cited, including:

  • Loss of tax revenue from "new growth" in a tax-capped environment
  • Loss of tax revenue when lower EAV would increase tax rates above statutory minimum
  • Loss of EAV, thereby shifting tax burden to other taxpayers

Every case is different, Crawford noted, which is why it's important for school officials to study these proposals carefully. "It's like a 100-yard goalpost; anybody can hit it."

It was noted that TIFs get even more complicated when they involve multiple governing units and school districts, which sometimes results in creating opponents among each unit.

TIFs have been utilized in Illinois since 1977; currently there are 998 active TIF districts, with an estimated EAV of $10 billion. Many communities have multiple TIF districts and see them as positive economic development tools.

It takes about six months for the formal TIF process to be completed. Key documents in the development of a TIF that should be examined closely are called the Redevelopment Project Area and Redevelopment Plan. Some districts even employ their own eligibility studies or partner with other taxing bodies to examine the plans of the TIF.

One way school districts can increase access to the process is by having a representative on the Joint Review Board, which determines whether a proposed TIF meets certain legal qualifications. While the board does not have ultimate authority (a city may overrule a board's decision by three-fifths vote), participation on this board assures the school district's representation in the process.

One of the key criteria for qualification is the "But For Test." In addition to qualifying as a blighted or conservation area, the project area "would not reasonably be anticipated to be developed without adoption of the redevelopment plan."

It also allows for the district to participate in the negotiation of terms of the TIF.

Negotiable terms might include payment to the district of incremental taxes received from new property or that would have been received from non-TIF funds or payments to the district to include "new student captures." Other projects may allow room to negotiate the term or life of the TIF district, limiting the dollar amount of bonds sold, returning surplus revenues back to school districts, limiting the residential zoning within a TIF, or adding "perpetuity" clauses to housing developments within a TIF.

While it may appear obvious that a TIF represents only a financial threat to a taxing body, the positive impacts must also be weighed. These prospects are intended:

  • To help spur commercial growth
  • To recover blighted areas
  • To reduce local property tax burden for homeowners
  • To demonstrate goodwill towards the community

It's important, therefore, that both sides address all concerns and make a serious effort to understand each other's positions and concerns. Because intergovernmental agreements have to be lived with long after the negotiations conclude, an attitude of developing true "partnerships" in TIFs often produces the best results for all taxing units involved.

It was concluded that school districts can avoid being caught by surprise by getting involved as soon as possible in the TIF development process.

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Diversity Best Practices

Moderators: Nesa Brauer, Sandra Kwasa, Consultants, Board Development, Illinois Association of School Boards, Springfield and Lombard

Panelists: Bea Young, founder, The Kaleidoscope Group, Chicago
Carmen Acevedo, Assistant Superintendent, Plainfield District 202

Panel members announced that IASB is embarking upon a partnership with Kaleidoscope Group to help school districts address the diversity of their student populations. The panel members agreed that schools need to better understand the impact of subtle biases on school success, particularly in light of the dramatic demographic changes many districts increasingly see reflected in their student population with regard to ethnicity, race, socioeconomic status, language, and more.

Audience members joined in interactive exercises to increase their diversity awareness. Open discussions were held around each table in the room to "lower the waterline of the cultural icebergs," as Board Development Consultant Sandra Kwasa, of the IASB staff, said. Cultural icebergs, she explained are the portions of each individual's background that are not visible immediately.

Through discussions participants discovered the wide diversity of cultural backgrounds represented at the workshop. One exercise, for example, called for each participant to select and explain two variables that best describe them culturally. The variables were chosen from a list of primary dimensions, such as age, physical abilities, race, and so forth, or from a list of secondary dimensions, such as education, beliefs, class and income, and more.

Through conversations, questions and dialogue, participants developed an idea of the broad scope of diversity, beyond the usual issues of race and gender that people tend to consider when they think about diversity and inclusion. The talk touched on topics such as religion, education, physical abilities, sexual orientation, class, income, and language.

"As educational leaders, school board members and administrators need the awareness and skills to help staff members create more inclusive learning environments where these differences are valued," according to IASB board development consultant Nesa Brauer.

The panel members described how one district is accomplishing this, namely Plainfield District 202, represented on the panel by Assistant Superintendent Carmen Acevedo. Acevedo told panel attendees she joined District 202 in 2005 and soon set to work to obtain data by drawing out cultural background information from all staff and stakeholders in the district through an internal cultural audit.

This audit, which she partnered with Kaleidoscope Group to facilitate, entailed interviews with board member and superintendent, and questioning of homogenous focus groups made up of all administrators, teachers, and support staff. The cultural background data derived from this audit was shared with the school board, resulting in a consciousness-raising workshop for administrators on "the journey to achieving cultural competence," held in August 2007, as well as a leadership team workshop on "understanding the impact of privilege on the learning process," held in November 2007.

According to Acevedo, the workshops helped open the door for teachers and other staff to talk about cultural questions. It also drew some "pushback" from majority communities, questioning "why are we doing this?" But the answer to that question was simple: "It helps everyone to see a microcosm of the world your kids will live in," Acevedo said.

"It is great preparation for majority kids, too," she explained.

Also addressing the panel audience was Bea Young, founder and educational practice leader of the Kaleidoscope Group, a private firm in Chicago with regional offices throughout the United States and focused on diversity and serving corporations, municipalities, nonprofit groups and educational organizations. Young noted that Brauer and Kwasa have been trained and certified to facilitate diversity and inclusion awareness workshops for school board members.

Young also said that her firm is offering a proprietary Systemic Diversity Journey Model, which included internal and external cultural audits, such as those undertaken in Plainfield District 202. She said these proactive approaches to diversity and inclusion in education begins with an introductory diversity training in-service workshop. "Then KG will help the district review its mission, vision and goals with a diversity lens. They also offer an internal cultural audit that is confidential and anonymous. It involves leadership interviews with board members, and other school leaders, as well as focus groups of administrators, teachers, and support staff. These groups are homogeneous because people open up more when speaking outside of a mixed group," Young explained.

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