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Special Report of the 2005 Joint Annual Conference

Below is a list, by title, of the 17 panel reports that make up the Special Report of the 2005 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 100 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 2005 conference, held November 18-20 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, attracted nearly 6,000 school leaders.

Yes, High Performance Begins with the Board of Education

Results-Oriented Superintendent Evaluations

Recruit and Retain Top-Notch Teachers

NCLB: Using Data to Improve Curriculum

School Libraries Increase Student Achievement

Issues in Growing School Districts

Increasing Board Effectiveness Through Policy

Costing Salary Schedules in Preparation for Negotiations

Board/Superintendent Relationships

Twenty Questions You Need to Ask to Get Student Achievement

Rebuilding the Local School District Leadership Team

Crafting Media Messages

Issues in Suburban School Districts

Electronic Newsletters (INSPRA session)

Detecting and Communicating a Compelling Vision

Changes and New Developments in Illinois' NCLB Accountability Workbook

Issues in Establishing School Attendance Centers

Yes, High Performance Begins with the Board of Education

Lawrence Baskin
, Retired Superintendent, Glen Ellyn CCSD 89
John Cassel,
Field Services Director, IASB

Reporter: David C. Roberts, Principal, Pawnee High School; Education administration intern, University of Illinois-Springfield

The presenter's main topic was what a board of education can do to effect high performance. Four points were emphasized pertaining to high performance. They were: attaining desired results, realizing VALUE (Value – Benefits divided by cost), bridging the gap between current and desired states, and seeking opportunities to improve with a sense of urgency.

For a board to push for high performance in their district focus becomes very important. The district must have a strategy or a destination. There are three imperatives that every district should focus on. They are: increased learning, increased customer satisfaction, and utilization of resources. Boards must be able to separate legitimate and illegitimate requests and expectations. Boards must build a culture that allows for change. The following are rules boards should live by to allow for change:

  • Gain commitment in the three imperatives.
  • Remain steadfast to the imperatives (continuous improvement).
  • Create cognitive dissonance.
  • Establish clear targets.
  • Release responsibilities to matrix organizations.
  • Provide recognition.

To attain high performance boards must adhere to these roles. A bridge between current and desired states must occur. The system must be changed to produce a better yield. It is okay to be "hard" on the system; however it is important to be "easy" on the people.

Two discussion scenarios were passed out to attendees to emphasize the importance of district strategy and culture. Going from a low or average performing school district to a high performing district strategy and culture must be evaluated. Discussion was held on the two scenarios.

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Results-Oriented Superintendent Evaluations

Thomas W. Many
, Superintendent, Kildeer-Countryside C.C. District 96
Donald Shannon
, Kildeer-Countryside C.C. District 96 Board of Education
Jacqueline Walton
, Kildeer-Countryside C.C. District 96 Board of Education

Reporter: Dennis Pauli, Principal, Countryside Elementary; Education administration intern, Roosevelt University

Could a superintendent who appears to be successful in many ways still be in trouble with the board of education? Who defines success? Do the perceptions of board members influence performance reviews of the superintendent? At what target should the superintendent aim his efforts?

The panel, which consisted of the superintendent and two Board of Education members from Kildeer-Countryside C.C. District 96, shared strategies to focus a superintendent evaluation which emphasizes leadership behaviors that the superintendent should demonstrate in order to accomplish the district's mission, vision, values, and goals. The panel examined the process their Board of Education undertook to review current practice, learn about new methodology, and develop a new performance evaluation model.

The Board of Education began the process by assigning members to review current literature on leadership and evaluation. Books by Jim Collins, Rick DuFour, and Doug Reeves were among several that influenced the work of the Board of Education. After reviewing current literature the Board of Education and superintendent engaged in several dialogues to review past practice and outline a plan for future evaluations.

The panel addressed several reasons boards of education should evaluate the superintendent including: legal; clarifying roles; expectations and performance; and enhance communication between the board of education and superintendent. The District 96 Board was careful to focus the superintendent evaluation around SMART goals (strategic and specific, measurable, attainable, results-oriented, and time-bound). The number of goals should be small and focus on the district's mission, vision, values, and goals.

The panel emphasized that the evaluation should not be based on test scores, popularity, or obedience. The fundamental purpose of the superintendent evaluation is the improvement of teaching and learning. Furthermore, the board of education has a responsibility to work collaboratively with the superintendent to set SMART goals. The panel articulated it is not the responsibility of the board of education to implement the methods used to pursue goals.

Superintendents should be evaluated on goals they have direct control or direct influence over. Goals focused on results the superintendent has indirect influence should be avoided. The panel clearly articulated that goals must relate to the district's mission, vision, values, and goals. The board of education has a responsibility to clearly define successful performance and agree upon common language to use in the evaluation.

The Kildeer-Countryside C.C. District 96 Board of Education also created an evaluation with the cornerstone focused on leadership domains and leadership dimensions. The domains and dimensions fell within the following criteria:

  • Within the control or direct influence of the leader.
  • Directly related to the district's mission, vision, values, and goals.
  • Subject to objective description to ensure clear, consistent understanding of what successful leadership means.

The panel also provided tips for the board of education to consider before, during, and after the superintendent evaluation process. Among them are:

  • Review and revise, if necessary, the goals of the evaluation process and timelines.
  • Be consistent and provide specific examples allowing time for reflection.
  • Reduce evaluation to writing, sign it, and act on it. The evaluation must connect with the district mission, vision, values, and goals.

Finally, the panel concluded by offering the following benefits of the superintendent evaluation process:

Encourages effective management practices.

  • Assures alignment with community expectations.
  • Encourages growth and improvement.
  • Allows for more informed decisions.
  • Focus on future and continuous improvement of the school system.

The panel clearly supported the need for a superintendent evaluation process that focuses on district mission, vision, values, and goals. The new evaluation process they have implemented in Kildeer-Countryside C.C. District 96 has been effective. Additional information from this panel presentation can be obtained by contacting Dr. Thomas W. Many in Kildeer-Countryside C.C. District 96.

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Recruit and Retain Top-Notch Teachers

Jennifer Bialobok
, Community Relations Coordinator, Lyons Township High School District 204, LaGrange
Dennis G. Kelly
, Superintendent, Lyons Township High School District 204, LaGrange
Mark Pera
, President, Lyons Township High School District 204 Board of Education, LaGrange
Attila J. Weninger
, Director of Human Resources, Lyons Township High School District 204, LaGrange

Reporter: Gary Adkins, Director of Editorial Services, IASB

This presentation was developed to highlight "best practices" in recruiting, interviewing and hiring top teachers in Illinois. The workshop highlighted the Recruit Illinois program, which the panel presenters developed and maintain.

Recruit Illinois is a five-year project at Lyons Township High School District 204, funded with a $440,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education. It was designed to provide a model state-wide teacher recruitment and employment program. District 204 received the grant to build this model recruitment program for Illinois.

One result is the Recruit Illinois Web site (, which helps bring teachers and districts together. The site is designed to serve as a hub for human relations professionals across the state, collecting and disseminating information on teacher recruitment, interviewing, and hiring. Teachers can conduct targeted job searches, or apply for vacant positions within the state with a single application, and access relevant, practical, and up-to-date information about teaching and educational issues.

Panelists urged school boards to provide focus, direction, and support to their recruitment plan and team. Specifically, the board can play a key role in setting recruitment policy and broad goals. Boards can also:

  • Let administrative leadership develop specific goals
  • Provide resources, such as time, money and support; and
  • Let people do their jobs

A good resource is the Web site, which is interactive, building on the proven success of Lyons Township High School's teacher recruitment program and drawing from the collective recruitment and hiring successes from districts across the state. Recruit Illinois' recruitment "best practices" serve as a resource for all education human resource personnel.

School districts can build a model recruitment program to fit their own district needs, create a Teacher Profile, gain tips on screening and interviewing candidates, recruit teachers in shortage areas, recruit minority candidates, and uncover ways to retain good teachers.

A common employment application hosted on the Illinois Association of School Administrators Jobs Bank is linked to Recruit Illinois, allowing teaching candidates to submit one application to multiple districts throughout the state. Teachers can also prepare for an interview, narrow their job search, and access information on upcoming job fairs. School districts can post teaching vacancies at no cost.

According to Bialobok, future Web site developments will include options for addressing the widening gap between the number of minority students and the number of minority teachers in Illinois. Web site pages will be dedicated to recruiting techniques and retention practices that work best for minorities. The Web site will also help identify education human resource administrators across the state, helping connect them via an e-mail database, regional training workshops and job fairs.

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NCLB: Using Data to Improve Curriculum

Dr. Richard Voltz
, Superintendent, Ball-Chatham CUSD 5
Sam Xanders,
Ball-Chatham CUSD 5
Carrie VanAlstine
, Ball-Chatham CUSD 5
Stacey Klein,
Ball-Chatham CUSD 5

Reporter: David C. Roberts, Principal, Pawnee High School; Education administration intern, University of Illinois-Springfield

Ball-Chatham CUSD 5 is a financially sound district with over 4,000 K-12 students. CUSD 5 is located in Chatham, a bedroom community just south of Springfield. Eighty percent of the graduates attend college. Student test scores are good but could be better.

The presenter's objective was to show attendees how CUSD 5 has used NCLB mandates to help drive specific positive changes to their curriculum. This process involved detailed analysis of testing data for the district and review of relevant research concerning increasing educational standards.

The Ball-Chatham school board put emphasis on raising test scores that were good but relatively flat prior to 2005. They were not satisfied with test scores of the bottom 50% of their students. This push from the Board caused several changes in the district. Three notable changes were discussed. They were: changing the gifted program at grades four and five, changing the middle school math tracking, and decreasing the number of tracks at the high school.

Results have been impressive. Many, many graphs were sown to document grade level and subject area progress. Comparisons were also shown with the Dunlap School District, which is similar in size and make-up to CUSD 5. Dunlap School District is located just outside Peoria.

Presenters discussed other important reasons why test scores have increased. Professional learning communities at the high school, drop-in observations of teachers, the freshman advantage program, and focused study halls were among the other topics addressed. Professional development is embedded in each teacher's evaluation. The Board and Administration is accepting no excuses-the bard must be raised.

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School Libraries Increase Student Achievement

Moderator: Patricia Norris, Associate Director, Illinois State Library, Springfield

Ann O'Keefe
, LMC Director, Nancy Young Elementary School, Indian Prairie, CUSD 204, Naperville
Rebecca "Becky" Robinson
, Librarian, Lombard Middle School, Galesburg CUSD 205
Bruce Rodman
, Member, Indian Prairie, CUSD 204 Board of Education, Naperville

Reporter: Ellen Murray, Manager of Information Services, IASB

The Illinois School Library Media Association (ISLMA) commissioned a study on the relationship between good school library/media programs and student achievement. "Powerful Libraries Make Powerful Learners" was a two-year project undertaken by Keith Curry Lance and the RSL Research Group, Colorado, using data provided by the Illinois State Board of Education and Illinois librarians. It was partially funded with a Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant from the Illinois State Library, and a grant from the 21st Century Information Fluency project of the Illinois Mathematics & Science Academy. The results were released in February 2005.

Becky Robinson was ISLMA co-chair of the study. She described the process and the results. The evidence produced by this study indicates that Illinois school libraries contribute measurably to the academic achievement of students as reflected by their test scores. At all grade levels, test scores tend to be higher:

  • Where access to school libraries is more flexibly scheduled,
  • Where school libraries are staffed more fully,
  • Where school librarians spend more time collaborating with classroom teachers,
  • Where larger collections are available,
  • Where educational technology is more widely available to augment the local collection and, generally, to extend access to online resources into the classroom,
  • Where school libraries are better funded, and
  • Where students use school libraries, both individually and in groups, to learn and practice the information literacy skills they will need to excel on tests and as lifelong learners

Bruce Rodman talked about the importance of the study to local school districts in relation to the Illinois Learning Standards, NCLB, AYP and other education/curriculum impacts. He discussed the interrelationship of effective Library/Media Center (LMC) programs with existing district goals that deal with curriculum and instruction, staff qualifications and development, and the involvement of LMC staff and resources in both areas.

He listed the board's role as: 1) hiring the superintendent (assess the candidates on their commitment and support for effective library/LMC programs through interview questions and information from "previous" districts); 2) setting strategic direction; 3) budgetary and financial planning/support; 4) setting district policy. "Boards need to provide visible support," he said.

Rodman said the board's budgetary and financial planning/support for library/media centers includes: staffing (qualified LMC directors and aides); adequate LMC space; information resources; and, information technology. When setting district policy boards need to consider: the nature of LMC collections and selection; LMC staff participation in curriculum planning; LMC time vs. "planning" time; and, procedures and/or contract.

Rodman's summary of "to-do" items includes:

  • Administrators
    • Include librarians on committees
    • Facilitate flexible scheduling
    • Consider libraries/librarians as "essential"
    • Providing funding
  • Board members
    • Provide funding
    • Visit school libraries
    • Ask questions and support collaboration

Ann O'Keefe gave grade level by grade level visual and mental images of what a good LMC program looks like. Pictured for each grade was an LMC lesson or project to meet an Illinois Learning Standard. For each grade she also discussed typical reading interests, computer skills taught, and an anecdote about one student, demonstrating how the LMC staff can meet the differing individual needs of every student.

A summary of the Illinois study and additional information can be found at The Indian Prairie CUSD 204 library/media center policies are available online in its Policy Manual at The Illinois State Library offers many grant opportunities for libraries. For information, phone: (217) 785-5600 or (800) 665-5576 within IL only, or on the web at

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Issues in Growing School Districts

Moderator: John Cassel, Director of Field Services, IASB

Resource persons:
Howard Crouse, Superintendent, Indian Prairie CUSD 204, Naperville
Mark C. Metzger, Board Member, Indian Prairie CUSD 204, Naperville

Reporter: James Russell, Director of Publications, IASB

One of the Sunday roundtables designed to discuss vital or urgent issues facing school districts experiencing enrollment gains and affiliated population problems. More than 22 public school districts were represented at the discussion.

Indian Prairie officials led the discussion, because they are the second fastest-growing district in the state. A variety of problems and options were discussed.

Among the problems cited:

  • Building schools and cutting operating budgets
  • Population growth exceeds estimates
  • Village boards won't say no to housing developers
  • Culture clash, i.e., small-town v. suburbs
  • Effects of tax caps
  • Rapid turnover of farm land, rising price of improved land
  • Lack of affordable or available land for schools
  • Lack of retail tax base to offset residential property tax base
  • Land-locked older suburbs
  • Lapsed funding for state school construction grant program
  • Schools precede and predate newer municipal boundaries
  • Affordable housing limited to high-density, older neighborhoods
  • Lawmakers won't deal with HB 750, other tax swap proposals
  • Resistance to raising impact fees, transition fees
  • Opposition from real estate agents, developers, builders' councils
  • Limited revenue options for school districts

Related comments:

"All of the farms have been sold or are for sale," limiting suitable and affordable land available for school sites.

"We're making cuts as we're growing."

"There's very little land left, yet the bubble of kids is still coming."

"Many older rural communities are now maturing; yet the small-town attitudes haven't changed; we need to lose some of those values."

"Larger families with less income have to move into older neighborhoods to find affordable housing, and we don't get any more property tax revenue from it."

"There's no hope of passing a tax-swap deal in Springfield (because) there are too many winners and losers. You'll have to blow it (the GSA formula) up in order to fix it."

"Villages and cities fall into the trap that ‘more is better.'"

"Municipalities and school districts have different economics: they get their money right away; we have to provide a seat right away."

"It's a fallacy to think that developers will pass by a community because of their impact fees. Ask them this question: ‘Will they stop building?' No, it's market-driven."

"Builders are looking for holes in existing state legislation that would challenge the legality of land-cash ordinances."

The roundtable also generated a variety of options or potential solutions to school district growth, including:

  • Split-shift or sliding schedules to handle growth
  • Convert schools to accommodate change in student populations
  • Build single campus v. neighborhood schools
  • Buy farmland now
  • Relationship with community is essential
  • Regular redistricting
  • Utilize citizens groups to help draw up new boundaries
  • Help to place informed people on councils, planning groups, county boards
  • Help explain actual impact to these groups
  • Push to include improvements in land values from raw land to residential lots
  • Propose automatic review or escalation clauses in impact fees
  • Ask IASB to file a friend of court brief if your ordinances or fees are challenged

Related comments:

"Year-round schedule would maximize use of buildings."

"It will take a lot of parents talking and forcing them (developers, councils) to the table."

"Get as much as you can, as soon as you can," referring to impact, lag and transition fees.

"If you use a citizens advisory committee to help draft boundaries, you better have a darn good reason to reject what they recommend."

"The district's relationship to the community is essential when discussing these issues."

"Start talking now with your lawmakers to get a school construction program on the spring agenda."

"Do more P.R. work; tell the community about the good things that are happening in the schools."

"When you are hiring a new superintendent, consider how much expertise or experience they have in planning and growth issues."

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Increasing Board Effectiveness Through Policy

John Bauer
, Board President, Ramsey CUSD 204
Laurel DiPrima
, Policy Consultant, IASB
Chuck Stortzum
, Superintendent, Ramsey CUSD 204
Jeanne Williamson
, Superintendent, Dunlap CUSD 323

Reporter: Tami Roskamp, Principal, Nauvoo-Colusa Jr.-Sr. High School; Education administration intern, Western Illinois University

DiPrima, as a former board member, said she believes policy is important because that is what a board is elected to. The board is not elected to reflect their views onto the school, but into good thoughtful written policy. A board self-evaluation is a time to focus on policy and set expectations for staff and administration. Policy is a roadmap for administration. It provides boundaries in writing and defines authority. Policies need to be kept up to date and in compliance. When a situation arises, the school must follow the school code and the law. Some school code and law must be in policy.

Superintendent Williamson stated a school board has two functions: hire a superintendent and make board policy. When Williamson became Superintendent at Dunlap, it was helpful that the Dunlap School hired IASB to go through every policy for revisions and compliance with the law. After completion of this review, her job is to keep the policy manuals up to date. The best advice she can give a school board and administration is to keep district policies up to date and use the Press service from IASB.

The next phase in Dunlap will be to make board policy available online. She spoke about the need to have administrative procedures and policy. An administrative manual contains guidelines that are not the board's responsibility. It is a supplemental to policy. It is the how to of administrative procedures. Clear policy helps made good decisions. A board member who does not want to follow policy and makes a decision based on a personal bias can be held accountable if voting against policy. When a board member gets a complaint about a school situation, she recommends the board member listens and refers the concern to the administration. The board member should ask, "Have you talked to the teacher? Have you talked to the coach?"

The school board hires the Superintendent, which is the CEO (Chief Executive Officer) of the school district. This administrator is accountable to the board. The board does not act as an individual, but as a body. Policy changes must be voted upon.

Superintendent Stortzum compared district policy to the construction of a house. A solid square foundation is needed when building a house. Engineers design a good sub pavement in the foundation. A school needs a solid foundation to build a strong school system, which is the policy manual. He also reaffirmed the board's two functions of hiring a superintendent and making board policy.

Stortzum recommends not changing policy during a heated situation. Policy gives the administration guidelines. It cuts down on micromanagement. The board must rely on the board policy manual. The reason policy is written down is to eliminate vague and inaccurate language. If it is not written down, board members rely on past practice and memory. Effective board policy cuts down on lengthy discussions and reduces the length of board meetings. Effective policy allows boards to have more time to work on curriculum, goals, and the future.

School board president Bauer described a few situations where board policy was applied to issues in the Ramsey school district: prayer at graduation, fourth grade students playing on the sixth grade basketball team, student athletes driving through a cemetery, student fundraising, booster clubs, coaching positions, and severance packages. The board also consulted with legal counselor on some of these issues as well as following board policy. He explained about a board policy committee and utilizing parent advisory counsels to look at the need for new policies.

All panelists agree that written board policy is important and that board policy does increase board effectiveness and time efficiency.

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Costing Salary Schedules in Preparation for Negotiations

James J. Zuehl, Esq.,
Franczek Sullivan P.C.
William Harkin,
Associate Superintendent for Business, Wauconda CUSD 118

Reporter: H. Andrew Henrikson, Principal, Caruso Middle School; Education administration intern, Roosevelt University

Presenters James Zuehl and William Harkin led an informative panel on understanding the various components and varieties of salary schedules. Their presentation was basic enough for new board members to learn the components of a salary schedule and complex enough for experienced superintendents and business managers to have questions answered about avoiding TRS penalties for pre-retirement salary bumps.

A salary schedule is comprised of columns representing levels of continuing education and rows representing years of experience. Although it is most common to use row numbers of years of experience, James Zuehl pointed out an advantage to using letters instead. If teachers rely on row numbers as "years of experience," it would be more difficult to agree to use the negotiations strategy of freezing step movement for a year.

Why would a district and union agree to a step movement freeze? The downward movement on a salary schedule has a built-in salary percent increase called step size. If a district has very little money to offer, the board may offer to freeze movement and give an overall 2-3% for everyone. This offer would be attractive to the teachers that have maximized their years of experience in the district and have no more steps upon which to move anyway.

For example, a step plus 0.7% increase would mean the most long-tenured teachers in the district would only receive a 0.7% increase. Freezing the step allows the money to be distributed to all teachers – even those who have reached the bottom step already. So freezing the step and offering a 3% overall increase is a much higher increase for long-tenured teachers. It is these teachers who are commonly sitting across the table in negotiations.

In order to accurately figure out what is new and not new money, Zuehl explained how to create a salary "scatter gram." Using a blank salary schedule, plot the number of teachers that are in each cell and multiply that number by that cell's salary. Do not count teachers that will not be there the next year. Create next year's schedule by moving all of these people down a step. Lateral moves due to accumulated education are usually not considered, but they could be projected if a district has a credit reimbursement program and can accurately predict who is moving to the next column. Multiply the amount teachers will get paid in each step and add up all the cells to figure the salary costs on this year and next year's schedule. Find the difference between the schedules – that figure is considered the approximate cost of step.

Over time, as new teachers replace retiring teachers, the overall cost of the step is neither an increase nor a decrease to the salary cost of a district. This is an important point to grasp because in a year with many retirements, union negotiators will ask for their membership to capitalize on this salary savings. The impact of passing on this short term savings, however, will be felt in the years ahead when a younger teacher staff gains experience and moves as a group down the steps of a salary schedule.

Zuehl also described the several types of salary schedules, including those with consistent step size, variable step size and an artificial base.

Audience members were also interested in methods for avoiding the new TRS penalty for retiring teachers that realize increases above 6% in their last four years of service. One of the methods outlined was agreeing to pay a post-retirement bonus for teachers that do not accrue this district penalty by taking on additional stipends.

Associate Superintendent William Harkin closed the informative session by introducing board members to important considerations for negotiating. That includes not becoming emotionally involved, developing a salary schedule that benefits beginning teachers as well as the negotiating teachers, remembering that the new contract is for all teachers, and that the trust level established in negotiation sets the stage for future interaction between teachers and board members.

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Board/Superintendent Relationships

Dawn E. Miller
, Director of Field Services, IASB
Dusty Patrick
, TAG Consultant, IASB

Reporter: Dennis Pauli, Principal, Countryside Elementary School; Education administration intern, Roosevelt University

What are the specific roles of the school board and superintendent? Are roles and responsibilities of school board members and superintendents universal across the state of Illinois? These questions and more were addressed during this participatory panel presentation.

The presenters began with a review of the foundational principles of effective governance. These principles include:

  • Clarify the District purpose—the School Board continually defines, re-defines, and articulates district ends to answer the question—who gets what benefit for how much?
  • Connects with the Community—School Board engages in ongoing two-way conversation with the community.
  • Employs the Superintendent—School Board employs and evaluates one person-the superintendent.
  • Delegates Authority—School Board delegates authority to the superintendent to manage the district and provide leadership.
  • Monitors Performance—School Board constantly monitors progress toward district ends.
  • Takes Responsibility for Itself—School Board collectively and individually, takes full responsibility for Board activity and behavior.

Next, the presenters involved participants in an activity called, "Whose Decision?" Five ways decisions are addressed were discussed before the activity. These include decisions in which:

  • Administration makes routine decision with no school board involvement or communication.
  • Administration makes the decision and informs the school board.
  • Administration makes the decision, but first listens to the school board and possibly other stakeholders.
  • School board is required by law to make the decision however, in most cases administrative input is recommendation is respected.
  • School board must make this decision however, administrative input and recommendation is usually expected.

Following the overview of the five ways decisions are made participants reviewed and discussed eighteen scenarios. For each scenario participants determined who they believed would make the decision in their school district. Then participants discussed their responses in small groups. In many of the examples participants did not agree on who should make the decision. The activity emphasized and supported the critical need for the school board to clearly articulate and clarify all expectations of the superintendent.

Next, the presenters examined specific responsibilities of the school board. It is the responsibility of the school board to delegate to the superintendent all administrative functions, except those specifically reserved through board policy for the board president. Other responsibilities of the school board include:

  • Support the superintendent in all decisions that conform to board policy.
  • Provide the superintendent with clear expectations and regular evaluation.
  • Provide the superintendent with a comprehensive contract.
  • Hold all board meetings with the superintendent or a designee present.
  • Provide a plan for board/superintendent communication.
  • Provide the superintendent with sufficient administrative help.

The panel presentation closed with an examination of a board governance framework. Essentials in an effective framework address: Unity of Purpose; Roles and Responsibilities; Working Agreements; Behavioral Expectations; and Board Protocols. Additional information regarding the board/superintendent relationships can be obtained by contacting either Miller or Patrick at the IASB office.

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Twenty Questions You Need to Ask to Get Student Achievement

Sandra Watkins
, professor, Western Illinois University, Educational Leadership Department
Donna McCaw
, professor, Western Illinois University, Educational Leadership Department

Reporter: Tami Roskamp, Principal, Nauvoo-Colusa Jr.-Sr. High School; Education administration intern, Western Illinois University

School board members are more than policy makers. They are the adult voice for children. School board members are advocates for students' needs representing the best interests of students by asking the tough questions. Below are example questions and other comments on recommended topics:

In the area of professional development, what data does the school have that the current expenditures for professional development are making a difference in the area of teacher knowledge, teacher practice, and student achievement? What are the results? What do teachers do every day to support professional development initiatives? What is in the School Improvement Plan (SIP)? Does the professional development involve ongoing action research? In the area of professional development, teachers should be asking, "How do I get better?" There needs to be continuity and succession of activities in planning professional development activities including follow up. What is the research behind the professional development? Does it focus on teaching and learning? What is the cost of an SIP day?

What data does the school have that shows expenditures for mentoring programs for first and second year teacher are making a difference in teacher effectiveness and student achievement? One example of evidence is a portfolio. A mentor teacher needs to be a "walk-on-water" professional, otherwise the school is perpetuating mediocrity.

What data does the school have that shows expenditures for leadership are making a difference in the school culture and achievement? Action-research over the past 30 years shows there are specific behaviors and practices that effective leaders possess in improving student achievement and school culture.

What data does the school have that expenditures for trained media specialists are more effective in influencing student achievement? The library is one place that a school needs a highly-qualified person because the library is the "hub of learning." ACT scores increase when the library spends time planning with teachers, motivating students to read, and serving on school committees.

What data does the school have about expenditures for talented and gifted (TAG) programs? According to Watkins, this group is overlooked. These students need to be identified by third grade. Fifth grade identification is too late.

What data does the school have regarding expenditures for early childhood (EC) programs and the short and long-term affect/effect on academic achievement? Essential data about EC programs is the follow up student data over multiple years.

What data does the school have about English-as-a-Second Language (ESL) students? Data examples would be ISAT scores.

What data does the school have about school safety regarding metal detectors, cameras, and school resource officers? How much counselor time is used in preventive measures?

What data does the school have about student support services in the areas of a school nurse, social worker, and school psychologist? Does your school follow up on student dropouts? What is the current graduation rate? What interventions are in place to assist "at-risk" students? The key to students staying is school is relationships. Do kids feel secure at school?

Other areas to ask questions about are technology, block scheduling, and summer school programs. This session contains valuable information and should be a full-day workshop for board members and administrators. Watkins summed up the presentation with one statement: "Schools are as strong as the community wants them to be, and the community is as strong as its schools."

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Rebuilding the Local School District Leadership Team

Moderator: Ralph Grimm, Superintendent, West Central CU District 235, Biggsville

Lonnie Brent,
Board President, West Central CU District 235, Biggsville
William Mattingly,
Superintendent, Oregon CU District 220
Tom Peters,
Board President, Oregon CU District 220

Reporter: James Russell, Director of Publications, IASB

This presentation was divided by approach and circumstance. West Central is a new unit district, created from the 2005 merger of the Southern and Union school districts; Oregon is an established district that reported on a recent history of management problems and superintendent turnover.

West Central is K-12 district that comprises three campuses with an enrollment of 1,180. The referendum to consolidate was passed by a 3:1 margin in November 2004. Hiring a single superintendent for the new district was one of its first priorities.

Brent explained that they considered four choices: hiring a private search firm; using search services available from IASB; doing their own search; or relying on a volunteer advisory panel.

They opted for the advisory panel, in part, because they had a relationship with the three retired superintendents who served on the panel. Brent said they also believed this would be helpful to create community buy-in for the search process and the person ultimately selected.

Advertising was handled primarily through a paid Jobs Bank posting service provided by the Illinois Association of School Administrators. After accepting applications for 45 days, the panel screened 25 applications, recommended five persons for interviews which led to two finalists.

Brent said the hire has been successful primarily because Grimm communicated regularly; daily with the board president and weekly with the board. Grimm agreed and said a new superintendent also needs to meet regularly with key stakeholders in the community and the administrative staff, "as often as necessary."

Oregon's Tom Peters said their process was different because the district had gone through major divisive issues in recent years, including: teacher strike, declining enrollment, a complete board turnover, student discipline problems, block scheduling, a $2.8 million deficit, and four superintendents in three years.

The new board wanted to hire someone who could help them stabilize the financial condition, form and work as a leadership team, define goals through policy, identify needs and values of the community. Perhaps as important was finding a long-term hire "who would face financial penalties if they left early," Peters said.

Mattingly, who had years of administrative experience in several Illinois districts, described the interview and hiring process as "a courtship," which leads to a "credible and effective board/superintendent relationship."

That also requires a lot of homework for the prospective candidate. Mattingly, who signed a five-year binding contract with Oregon, said he used district audits, school report cards, board policy manual, student handbooks, the local media and community contacts as his resources.

He also suggested that the candidate must know the board members, what they want to know, how much and when. "Your stake in the relationship is to bend to them, be respectful, honest, know what you are doing and talking about, listen, and to be patient," he said.

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Crafting Media Messages

Linda Dawson
, Director of Editorial Services, IASB
Darlene Johnson
, Communication Services Director, CUSD 300, Carpentersville
Terry Ryan
, Director of Community Relations, Lake Park High School District 108

Once a school district has developed a strategic plan, or any time the board needs to convey a message about the district, a process can be followed to determine the best way to get that message across. The process is based on answering six basic communications questions: who, what, where, why, when and how. Once those questions are answered, it's much easier to develop distinct and succinct messages to reach an individualized audience.

Questions that need to be answered include:

  • Why is this topic important now?
  • Why hasn't this message gotten out before?
  • Where does the district want the message to appear? (press release, in-house publication, Web site, billboards, yard signs, personal appearances)
  • Who are the media outlets in the area? (TV/cable, newspapers, radio)
  • Who will speak for the district? (superintendent, board president, board members)
  • Whom do you want to reach? (parents, property owners, businesses, teachers/staff, others)
  • When does the message need to be delivered? (Work backwards to develop a timeline.)
  • What message do you want to convey?
  • How will you know if you have been successful? (Evaluation)
  • How will you fund your communications plan?

Working at individual tables, four groups prepared messages based on scenarios of basic information about fictitious school districts.

One table, based on information that their district had upgraded phone service to classrooms and also had decided to open gymnasiums to district patrons for early-morning walking, came up with the following basic message: Open doors, open lines, open minds. From this easily remembered slogan, the district could develop subsequent messages about the walking program (targeted to a wider audience) and easier access to teachers through the new phone lines in the classrooms (targeted at parents). The open minds portion of the slogan was not fleshed out as much, but was added to convey that the public schools were more flexible in their thinking than the local parochial schools.

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Issues in Suburban School Districts

Donna Johnson, Director of Field Services, IASB
Joanne Zendol
, Board President, Berwyn South SD 100

Reporter: Linda Dawson, Director of Editorial Services, IASB

Board members and superintendents, who self-identified themselves as representing suburban areas of Illinois, listed seventeen issues that impact their school district. They broke into four groups to discuss three issues for half an hour each and then reported to the entire group. Issues identified were:

  • New development (new students/lack of space/no impact fees/ no upfront help
  • P-Tabs — property tax abatement
  • TIFs — tax increment financing districts
  • Residency fraud
  • Slow economic development
  • Land-locked — lack of space for new buildings
  • PTELL — tax caps
  • Politics
  • Mobility — its affect on AYP
  • Growth in number of English as a Second Language (ESL) students
  • Assessment caps
  • Increased influx of students from Chicago Public Schools
  • No (or less) business property tax
  • New cap on TRS (pension plan)
  • Boundary issues/redistricting
  • Community differences
  • Property tax reform

Feedback on the issues included these suggestions:

Watch for the end date on TIF extensions to make certain that the money starts to flow into the district during the right levy hearing so it can be captured as new growth.

Form a joint task force with other governmental entities in the area to fight property tax abatement and rollbacks. At a minimum, school districts would like to see abatements changed so that they are not retroactive.

Some districts now require as many as five forms of proof of residency to register at the beginning of the year. All reports of residency fraud should be checked out. Sometimes they are unfounded. (In one case, a mom dropped the kids off at grandma's so she could leave for her job at 5 a.m. All people saw was grandma, who lived in another district, dropping the kids off for school every day.) If, however, the parents claim they are homeless, the issue is closed — whether they are homeless or not — and the students must be admitted. The new statewide identifying numbers for students may help with determining residency.

No one knows the true impact of assessment caps as yet. Although they sound good to homeowners, eventually school districts will lose money on the caps.

Use all resources in the district — including parents and community volunteers — to meet the growing demands of ESL students. Offer classes for parents (including child care). One district found that Friday nights worked very well for parent classes.

If a Constitutional Convention is convened, school districts need to get people elected as delegates who have the best interests of education at heart.

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Electronic Newsletters (INSPRA session)

Presenter: Jay Wojcik, Director of communications, Lombard District 44

Reporter: Linda Dawson, Director of editorial services, IASB

For years, schools and school districts have sent newsletters through the mail or home with students to get information in the hands of parents and community members. Now electronic newsletters are providing a more cost-effective, quicker way to deliver information.

Conventional newsletters are limited by the number of pages (usually an even number), the cost of color printing, turn-around time and the one-way nature of the communication. E-newsletters allow an unlimited number — or odd number — of pages, no additional cost for color, a short turn-around time, links to additional information, interactive forms, archived availability and "forward-ability."

While the biggest advantage is cost savings, Wojcik cautioned that access to high-speed Internet connections should be readily available for a majority of those who are to receive e-newsletters before going to a graphics-heavy format.

Districts or schools wanting to use e-newsletters need to answer some basic questions before beginning: how e-mail lists will be compiled, how that list will be managed and updated, who will handle customer service and how recipients will be able to update or change their preferences. Also to be decided are issues of in-house versus out-sourcing; storage of linked articles; and where the server will be housed to avoid power outages.

For the e-newsletter itself, there are issues of text (which is easier to create, has small files that everyone can read and will allow delivery through SPAM filters) versus html formatting (which allows color and graphics; a more interactive experience; and can track reception and usage).

Other hints include:

  • Keep it simple at first unless the person creating the document has significant on-line experience.
  • Keep copy short and provide links for more information.
  • Pick strong verbs.
  • Don't over-write the story — get to the point quickly.
  • Avoid using too many columns.
  • Try to have the entire story visible on the screen.

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Detecting and Communicating a Compelling Vision


Angie Peifer, Senior Director of Board Development, IASB

Alan Deany,
President, Tri-Point C.U. District 6J Board of Education, Kempton
Jeff Fritchtnitch
, Superintendent, Tri-Point C.U. District 6J, Kempton
Sandra Gunther
, Member, Tri-Point C.U. District 6J Board of Education, Kempton
Connie Hitchens
, Teacher, Tri-Point C.U. District 6J, Kempton
Rhonda Wilkerson
, Community Member, Kempton

Reporter: Gary Adkins, Director of editorial services, IASB

Panelists described the process the school board, administrators, teachers and community members of Tri-Point C.U. District 6J followed in envisioning a desired future for their school district. All agreed that the process has led to the detection and clear articulation of a helpful vision for this district of fewer than 600 students located in Livingston County in east central Illinois.

When the board began the process one year ago it did so with the hope of increasing community involvement, trust, and comfort levels, and these goals seem to have already been reached, according to school board president Alan Deany.

Board member Sandra Gunther agreed, but added that one other goal was to "get the board, community, teachers, everyone working together." The process began with a meeting designed to assess the beliefs shared by all participants. That was followed by separate conversations among staff members, and community members. "We were asked: ‘what do you expect?' and the moderator kept us on task," said Gunther. "It's a situation where you are able to work for a common goal," Gunther added.

District Superintendent Jeff Fritchtnitch added that "it's amazing how you have to internalize some of the truths you share" in consolidating many visions into a single vision for the school district. He added that the assessment of beliefs also exposed negative image problems and myths so that they could be confronted and expelled.

Teacher Connie Hitchens described the results of staff and community involvement in the visioning process that led to the creation of 13 strategic initiatives. She said everyone agreed the community should respect and support the schools, attend events, perform volunteer work, and provide job opportunities for older students. Teachers agreed on the need for cross-grade-level conversations among themselves, without an agenda. "This is happening now," Hitchens added.

Participants said they believe in the visioning process, which was directed by IASB's Angie Peifer, and are now communicating their district's vision and using it to guide decision making throughout their schools.

The panel session concluded with the suggestion that those who want more information or help with this process in their district should contact their IASB Field Services Director.

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Changes and New Developments in Illinois' NCLB Accountability Workbook

Moderator: Dr. Ginger Reynolds, Asst. Supt. for Teaching and Learning, ISBE

Gail Lieberman,
Special Assistant for NCLB, ISBE
Dr. Connie Wise,
Division Administrator, Data Analysis and Progress Reporting, ISBE
Reporter: H. Andrew Henrikson, Principal, Caruso Middle School; Education administration intern, Roosevelt University

Introduced by Moderator Ginger Reynolds, presenters Gail Lieberman and Connie Wise put together an information-packed workshop covering changes to calculation of Annual Yearly Progress (AYP). While not the most exciting IASB workshop topic, the presentation was fast-paced and full of important accountability information on No Child Left Behind (NCLB) for each of the 60 attendees.

The presentation began with a description of the process used to change the Accountability Workbook components that included dialogue with the following groups: 2004 Joint Annual Conference, legislators, U.S. department of education, State superintendent Randy Dunn, and an ad hoc group in the Spring of 2005.

Gail Lieberman helped attendees understand the following four changes to the 2005 Accountability Workbook:

  1. Subgroup Size
    • "Subgroup size changed from 40 to 45, and"
    • "From a 3% standard error of measurement to a 95% Confidence Interval"
      • For a small subgroup this increases flexibility.
  2. District Status Grade Span Review
    • "A district is eligible for district improvement status when all of its underlying grade spans (i.e., grades 3-5, 6-8 and 9-12) have not met AYP in the same subject area for two consecutive years."
    • "The 3 criteria for achieving AYP are 95% participation rate, meeting the target on performance, and meeting the target on graduation rate (high school) or attendance rate (elementary and middle schools). For unit districts, both attendance and graduation rates must be met as well as other factors."
    • "For districts with more than one school and more than one grade span, beginning with the 2004-05 test data, district student data will be aggregated up to three grade spans – elementary (3-5), middle (6-8), and high school (9-12). When a district does not make AYP in all of the grade spans that the district has, in the same content area, for two consecutive years, it will be identified for district improvement status."
    • "For districts with only one school or only one grade span, determination for district improvement status will be based on the same criteria for school improvement status."
  3. Subgroup of Students with Disabilities / a.k.a. Proxy
    • "The new "2%" flexibility was announced by Secretary Spellings in May as part of a short-term solution to fair assessment of students with disabilities."
    • "Schools and districts that do not make AYP only because of this subgroup will have 14% added to the percent meeting and exceeding standards (actual score is reported, with an * that describes the 14% proxy and what it means.)"
  4. New Definition of Full Academic Year (2006)
    • "Beginning in 2006, only students who were enrolled on May 1st of the previous year count for AYP."
    • This exclusion will not apply to students matriculating within a district from a lower grade school to a higher grade school.

Presenters encouraged attendees to see all the changes to the Accountability Workbook on-line at: They also promised to post their informative Power Point on the ISBE website. Wise thanked superintendents, principals and secretaries for their accurate inputting to IWAS which contributed to the quick turn-around in AYP calculations this year.

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Issues in Establishing School Attendance Centers

Moderator: Mike Johnson, Superintendent, Triad CU District 2, Troy

Reporter: Ellen Murray, Manager of Information Services, IASB

Moderator Johnson described his experiences with attendance centers in Poplar Bluffs, MO, where he instituted them, and in the Triad district where they were already in place when he arrived four years ago. His experiences were very similar to those of session participant Marvin Warner, superintendent of Highland CUSD 5 in Madison County

Warner and Johnson strongly agreed that districts need to do their homework before announcing the establishment of attendance centers. Poplar Bluffs took four years for this process. Develop a strategic plan, study the research, get community input, and visit districts similar to yours which use attendance centers.

Much of the available research is contradictory or inconclusive. Look carefully at those studies of situations that most closely resemble yours. Some issues are common across studies. Each change of school may be a setback for achievement, especially for low socio-economic students. Johnson and Warner agree, but say it only lasts for about six weeks into the school year. One participant suggested not having students change buildings for 3rd grade when students take high stakes tests. These study findings are one reason for the current interest in the construction of new K-8 buildings.

Other research finds that achievement goes up in attendance centers. Johnson and Warner found this to be true, especially when there is a mixture of all subgroups of students in each class. They also found financial advantages in staffing by equalizing student/teacher ratios and in keeping specials in one building rather than on the road between buildings.

Other advantages they found included: equalizing education for all students; stabilizing the financial situation; maximizing Title I funds; cost savings in assignment of teachers and support staff; reducing discipline problems by mixing subgroups of students at lower grades; cost efficiency for materials; and, easier mainstreaming of special ed students. Transportation costs were the one negative mentioned by both superintendents.

They recommended a number of steps to take before instituting attendance centers:

  • "If you don't have a strategic plan in your school district, you're missing the boat." – Mike Johnson
  • Do your homework
  • Make sure your teachers and other staff members support the plan
  • Involve your parents and community in the process (planning committees, open forums, etc.)
  • Include more than one grade level at each center
  • Be visible in the community to answer questions and promote the plan

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