Monday, March 29, 2010

District Leadership That Works

The title of this post is actually the title of an interesting book I've been reading.  It is based on a meta-analysis of existing research studies and examines the relationship between district leadership and student achievement.   It does appear from this research that students benefit from clear, unified, direction by the district and that schools do a better job when given some autonomy towards reaching those goals.  The book begins by reminding us about William Bennett giving the nickname "the blob" to the administration of public schools which he said stood for "bloated educational bureaucracy."  This may be a prescient reminder.  However this book is not an assault on district leadership rather it contains suggestions on how district leadership can be more effective.  It involves setting clear, nonnegotiable goals for achievement and instruction in collaboration with schools, teachers, parents, and board members then giving the schools and teachers the freedom to pursue those goals.

This is turning out to be a very busy week so it may be next week before I write much more.  However,  I want to write about my thoughts about school assignment issues, how we should measure student achievement, discipline issues, and other issues as they arise.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Don't shortchange our kids or our teachers!

Now, I know that decisions are never easy when budgets are tight and it is much easier to sit on the sidelines and second guess than it is to be on the board making decisions.  However, as I watch our current board go through the budgeting and planning process, I cannot help but think about what the priorities should be.

What I would hope is that we would keep as much of the budget in the schools and the classrooms as we possibly can.  I do not like the idea of increasing teacher loads (having teachers teach more classes).  I would much rather see some of our assistant principals teach a class.  It used to be the case that some assistant principals also had some teaching duties but this is no longer the case.  I also wonder if any our administrative staff (some of which were promoted out of the teaching ranks) could be reassigned to the schools.   I think it is entirely possible that some of these folks might even be more effective  if they worked closer to our students and with our faculty. 

Now, I know that there has been an increase in administrative (paperwork) demands over the last 35 years and I know our student demographics have changed.  I know that we are doing a better job of serving special needs children (which is mandated by the Federal government).  However, do not be misled, our school enrollment today in Forsyth County is almost the same as what it was in 1970.  Our staff size has approximately doubled.  Overall, we do not seem to be doing a better job of educating our youth.  Somehow, when we look as these numbers we need to figure out how to be more efficient.  In a large part, I think it ultimately boils down to having good teachers in the classroom, having an administration which gives them the resources they need and the freedom to do their job. 

As it stands now, our school board is charged with setting policy but relies heavily on the administrative staff of the schools to provide the policy alternatives to consider.  There are some good reasons for this but I would like to see more ideas presented to the staff rather than relying on the staff to generate all the ideas. I would not expect the administrative staff to suggest ways to fundamentally reassign and reorganize the administration.  That may or may not be what is needed but it certainly needs to be an option on the table.

I don't have a vote on the board (yet) and I have not had time (yet) to fully research some of these ideas, but I can promise that, if elected, I will be willing to consider all options; I will do some of my own research; I will be available to listen to ideas from the community.  (Speaking of which CHANGE has some good ideas regarding education.)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Why I am running for School Board

(This is the same note I posted on my Facebook fan page a while back but I thought it would make a good first posting here too.)

I care deeply about our youth and about their education.  I have been involved with our educational system in one way or another for much of my adult life, including six years recently as a full-time member of the mathematics faculty at Forsyth Tech, where I taught both recent graduates of our high schools and many dual-enrollment students who were high school students taking college classes.  My two step-sons are recent graduates from public schools.  I have volunteered as an adviser for youth groups at church and as a summer camp counselor frequently for all of my adult life.  I firmly believe that we all, as a society, can make no more important investment than in the education of our youth.

It takes more than caring to make a good school board member.   It also takes analytical skill, common sense (or not so common sense), willingness to make a time commitment, ability to work in committee structures, willingness to listen, and the ability to resist the urge to micromanage, along with others.  I have these qualities and abilities and the desire to serve.

I think it is important that our school board be diverse and representative of our community and that it always keep the interests of our kids first.  We should not ever lose sight of what is most important - education!

So, I am running for election to the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education in District 2.   I emphasize the word "for" because I am not running against any particular group of candidates.   There are currently ten candidates running in district 2 for ultimately four seats to be elected in November.   I hope to be one of those four and ask for your vote if you live in my district and your support regardless.   Please feel free to send me email, comment here, post on the wall of my Facebook fan page, or call me to let me know what concerns you or what ideas you have.