Study: School Board Members’ Focus Shifting Toward Student Achievement

A national study that surveyed more than 1,000 school board members and superintendents found that a greater number of school boards are focusing on issues related to student learning and accountability instead of traditional operational issues.

2010 Census Under Way

Questionnaires for the 2010 census should reach every U.S. household in the coming days—and with billions of dollars of federal and local funding at stake, it’s important for principals and other educators to recognize the significance of this endeavor.
Now is the time to engage your students, staff, and parents in census-related activities to boost participation in your community. The Census Bureau’s Census in Schools program provides a wealth of free information, including student activity sheets in both English and Spanish, teaching guides, and take-home materials, to help students, teachers, and families to learn more about the census.

Obama Nominates Next U.S. Education Secretary

President-elect Barack Obama has tapped Chicago Public Schools executive Arne Duncan as the next U.S. education secretary. For the past seven years, Duncan has served as superintendent of the nation’s third largest school system. Before that, he was the deputy chief of staff for the Chicago public school system.
Duncan’s stances on education transformation suggest that at the federal policy level America’s schools are in for much-needed change over the coming months and years. How do you feel about having a former superintendent as the next head of the U.S. Department of Education? What are your hopes for this next era in education?

Principal Offers to Take a Serious Pay Cut

According to a recent The Miami Herald, principal Larry Feldman recently decided to postpone his retirement and offer his services to the cash-strapped Miami-Dade School District for an annual salary of $1 plus benefits.(Now that's what you call commitment.) The district declined Feldman’s proposition because it would be too difficult to replace him, considering his budgeted $1 salary, should he decide to leave before the year was over. Still, some parents have launched an e-mail campaign, and are considering a petition in favor of the popular principal's offer. Stay tuned.

NAESP’s Statement on the President’s Budget Request for FY09

Our nation’s schools are faced with unprecedented challenges, and educators are working to create and maintain effective learning communities to help children reach their highest potential. However, the Fiscal Year 2009 budget proposal that President Bush delivered to Congress this week fails to adequately fund essential programs to prepare the nation’s students for the bright futures that they deserve.

President Bush’s final budget request calls for $59.2 billion for federal education programs—which represents a cut in total spending— and seeks to eliminate funding for 47 programs and to freeze funding for many others.

Read NAESP’s reaction to the President's budget and full budget analysis.   

Reading Gains at the Elementary Level

Reading scores among elementary-level students have been increasing while scores for middle school and high school students have stayed the same or declined, according to a new study released by the National Endowment for the Arts. “To Read or Not To Read: A Question of National Consequence” finds that Americans are spending less time reading; reading comprehension skills are eroding; and these declines have serious civic, social, cultural, and economic implications. The study also finds that reading for pleasure, which is increasing at the elementary level, decreases in late adolescence.

Read “Best Practices for Achieving High, Rapid Reading Gains” from the November/December issue of Principal magazine to learn about how to increase the percentage of proficient readers at your school.

Teachers Told to Chip In for School Electric Bill

In Michigan, one school district has implemented a “pay to plug” policy and another district is considering doing the same, which would require teachers and other school staff to pay a fee for plugging in personal desk clocks, lamps, fans, and other electronic devices to help offset rising electricity costs. According to a Detroit Free Press article, Grosse Pointe Public Schools initiated the measure last spring, while Chippewa Valley Public Schools is deciding whether it should too, beginning as soon as this fall.

Budget cuts and subsequent tight budgets are the driving forces behind this policy, which is estimated to offset or save each district between $25,000 and $45,000 per year in electric costs.

The Grosse Pointe school district put the same policy into practice a few years ago but rescinded it after strong negative reactions. However, the district is willing to try again.

The Gender Shift

Just over a decade ago, more male principals could be found at the helm of public elementary schools. But today, according to the most recent stats from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), there are more female principals leading public elementary schools. Between 1993-1994 and 2003-2004, the percentage of female public school principals increased from 41 percent to 56 percent in elementary schools. There was also an increase in female secondary school principals—from 14 percent to 26 percent—although the majority of high school principals are still male. The majority of female principals in private elementary schools stayed the same at 68 percent (with about 34 percent leading private secondary schools).

During this same period, the number of K-12 principals in the U.S. increased from 104,600 to 115,000. You can read more NCES stats on principals at http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/2007/section4/indicator34.asp.

“ED in '08” Premieres

Excited about the future of education policy? You’re not alone. The campaign funded by education philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad and Bill and Melinda Gates, “ED in '08,” launched last week with print and radio ads in select cities.  “ED in '08” is a nonpartisan public awareness and action campaign that aims to ensure “the nation engages in a rigorous debate and to make education a top priority in the 2008 presidential election.” It’s inspiring to see the future of our children’s education weighing in as a serious issue so early in the campaign season.

Here at NAESP, we have also been talking about the future of education leadership with Vision 2021, a dialogue on what principals need to do today to prepare for tomorrow. Stay tuned for opportunities to exchange ideas about NAESP’s vision for the future.

New York City Principals Offered $25,000 Bonus

The latest development in the Bloomberg administration’s overhaul of New York City public schools is a tentative deal with principals and assistant principals that would provide $25,000 bonuses for those who elected to serve three years in underperforming schools, The New York Times reported yesterday. In addition to financial incentives, deal highlights include increasing principals’ workdays by 15 minutes, a more nuanced review system, and an end to seniority rights. Mayor Bloomberg’s reform initiative launched in 2003, Children First, affects the city’s 1.1 million schoolchildren and 1,200 schools. Education Week’s blog, Bridging Differences, provides an analytic history of the reform of New York City public schools. How would such policies affect principals in your district?

How Much Do Principals Earn?

How do salaries of elementary and middle school principals compare with those of other administrators and classroom teachers? Are increases in salaries of principals keeping pace with increases in salaries of classroom teachers? The National Survey of Salaries and Wages in Public Schools—conducted by the Educational Research Service—answers all these questions and more. The survey reflects data collected from 550 sample school systems representing all district sizes, all per-pupil expenditure levels, and all geographical regions across the United States.

The complete survey of school principals is published in the May/June issue of Principal magazine and can be accessed at http://www.naesp.org/ContentLoad.do?contentId=2238.

AMBER Alert on MySpace.com

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) is collaborating with the social-networking site, MySpace.com, to help locate missing children. The new partnership means that AMBER Alerts—which NCMEC established in 2001 for child abduction cases—will now be distributed to localized MySpace.com users. When a local law enforcement agency issues an AMBER Alert, that message will be sent to all MySpace users within the zip code of the missing child. Users who have information about the missing child can contact authorities.

NAESP supported last year’s passing of the Virginia Missing Child Bill, which also helps NCMEC locate missing children. The two part procedure requires that 1). Local law enforcement notify the principal of the school where the missing child most recently attended so that that child’s records can me marked; and 2). If the marked child’s record is requested, the matter will be investigated by the Superintendent of State Police. The U.S. Justice Department says that an average of 2,185 children are reported missing each day, making it even more important for principals and schools to know their state and local procedures to assist in the missing children's recovery. NCMEC reports there are currently 27 states with statutes requiring public schools to flag records of missing children, although these policies are not always implemented.

School Finds Million-Dollar Painting in Auditorium

A large painting of an Afghan tribesman has hung for decades in the auditorium of a Massachusetts elementary school. The school system’s superintendent recently asked Sotheby’s, the famous auction house, to appraise the work, “Afghans,” by the Russian artist Alexandre Iacovlef. The school guessed the painting was worth about $1,000, but boy were they in for a big surprise. The painting is actually worth between $1 million to $2 million.

While the much higher price tag was good news, it also created a dilemma—how to insure the painting and protect it from thieves. The school says it cannot afford to keep the painting, even though that’s what the donor wanted when he gave it to the school.

Now that spring is fast approaching, it might be time to do some spring cleaning and a schoolwide inventory. You never know, you might have an old Picasso lying around.

Students Have Reason to 'Bear' Down

What are you willing to do in the name of school spirit . . . and the Super Bowl? The Northwest Indiana Times reports that the principal and assistant principal of Churchill Elementary School in Homewood, Indiana will paint their faces and sing the Chicago Bears’ fight song at the scheduled Super Bowl pep rally if 95 percent of the students turn in 100 percent of their homework within the next week.  Principal Cece Coffey says, "There's already so much excitement among our kids about the big game that we thought we'd try to channel some of that energy into their schoolwork." Stay tuned and have a wonderful weekend!

Retired Principal Puts Stock in Future

Some principals never stop giving to their students. Dalia Jimenez, a retired principal in Tampa, FL donated $54,000 to help fund a covered play court for her former school Anderson Elementary.  The Tampa Tribune reported that Jimenez, who was principal of Anderson for 20 years, raised the money by selling Publix stock. Her donation will be supplemented by PTA contributions and matching funds from the school district in order to fully fund the project that may cost upwards of $150,000.  Jimenez’s motivation for such exceptional generosity was to provide a play area for the students that shielded them from the brutal sun.  “I’m spending my children’s inheritance, but I wanted to do something for the school,” says Jimenez.

Warm Weather Delays the Inevitable—the Flu Shot

This past Saturday was a beautiful spring day in many northeastern cities. In fact the 71 degrees in Albany, NY, 69 degrees in Boston, and a record breaking 72 degrees in New York City felt more like April than January temperatures. It’s safe to say that the northeast is having an unusually warm winter. One of the effects of this warm weather trend is a delay in the way that we winterize our bodies. For example, peak flu season is usually December thru March—but the warm weather in many regions of the country has delayed the “get flu shot” alarm in many households. Health officials are concerned that the mild winter will pacify people and they will in turn be caught off-guard when flu season hits, as it inevitably will.

In other regions of the country, influenza has already struck. The Centers for Disease Control Prevention (CDC) reports that regional or widespread flu activity has already affected Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina and South Carolina in the southeast region. The good news is that the flu season doesn’t peak until February and the CDC says it’s not too late to get a flu shot. The CDC includes up-to-date resources for schools at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/school/qa.htm.

Heroic Stories to Kick-off the New Year

New Yorkers—and the rest of the nation—are celebrating the heroics of subway Samaritan Wesley Autrey. If you haven’t heard of Autrey, he’s the man who saved the life of a teenager who suffered a seizure and fell off a New York subway platform this past Tuesday. Autrey bravely jumped onto the tracks and shielded the student as the subway car rolled over both of them. A true act of courage. The Principals’ Office is also celebrating the heroism of Maryland vice principal Sue DelaCruz who recently helped save a woman and her child from their SUV, which had run off the road into a lake. The SUV was almost completed submerged in the water when DelaCruz, waded into the lake, which is nearly seven feet deep, to save them.

We love to read stories like these, especially since they don’t include the names “Hilton,” “Lohan” or “Brangelina” for a change. Have a terrific weekend!

Tune into the Principals’ Office next week for some thoughts on No Child Left Behind.

Tough Choices or Tough Times

Last week’s release of the report Tough Choices or Tough Times has the education world buzzing with conversation. The report by the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce, a bi-partisan group of education and business leaders, calls for an overhaul of the Pre-K-12 educational system in the U.S. The report’s recommendations include: universal preschool, higher teacher salaries, and schools run by independent contractors. The authors point out that “our education and training systems were built for another era… and that “the problem is not with our educators. It is within the system in which they work.” The executive summary of the report can be downloaded at http://skillscommission.org/pdf/exec_sum/ToughChoices_EXECSUM.pdf.

Click here to read NAESP’s response to the report.

Second Graders Convince Leno to Eat His Veggies

Let’s hear it for students from St. Ignatius School in Portland, Oregon for promoting healthy eating habits. The school’s second graders were being taught about the Food Pyramid when they heard that comedian and talk show host Jay Leno hadn’t eaten a vegetable since 1969. The students wrote letters to Mr. Leno imploring him to take a renewed look at the Food Pyramid and give veggies another try. Their persuasive writing paid off: Mr. Leno ate a veggie for the first time in 30 years on an episode of “The Tonight Show” this week. If you want to see a clip of the show, visit the school’s Web site at http://www.stignatiusschool.org/today.htm. Principal John Matcovich says the entire letter writing project has been “a memorable example to our students of how powerful their writing can be.”

Principal Overcomes Loss of Son

Check out an uplifting article in the Sacramento Bee about one of our 2006 National Distinguished Principals, Noel Hesser. The article explains how Hesser dealt with the loss of his son by increasing his efforts to help troubled students while he was principal of Gloria Dei Lutheran School. We applaud Noel and we're always happy to share stories about principals making a positive difference in the lives of students.

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