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18 Winter 2013 Vol. 34, No. 3




Boards should spend time on what really matters.


An engaged, informed community Skill sets needed for higher education and is the best careers are indistinguishable. defense for communities facing local school closures. To win the fight against public school privatizations, school leaders must stand up and be more aggressive.



President challenges boards to focus on students.


Past president looks back on his time in the wheelhouse.


Rigorous high school curriculum means students are more likely to earn a degree.


Good forecasting may help schools avoid cash-flow problems.


Know the law. Respond to claims. Save money.

IN EVERY ISSUE PUBLICATION POLICY Alabama School Boards is published by the Alabama Association of School Boards as a service to its members. The articles published in each issue represent the ideas or beliefs of the writers and are not necessarily the views of the Alabama Association of School Boards. Subscriptions sent to members of school boards are included in membership dues. Complimentary copies are available upon request to public school principals throughout the state. Additional annual subscriptions can be obtained for $30 by contacting AASB. Entered as third-class mail at Montgomery, AL. Permit No. 34. Alabama School Boards is designed by Linda Tynan Creative Services, Pike Road, AL. Address all editorial and advertising inquiries to: Alabama School Boards, Editor, P.O. Drawer 230488, Montgomery, AL 36123-0488. Phone: 334/277-9700 or e-mail

4 TRENDS, RESEARCH & DATA 12 WHO IS WHO AT THE SDE? 13 HELP 16 EDUCATION & THE LAW 20 CALENDAR 34 AT THE TABLE 35 SUSTAINING MEMBERS ON THE COVER:© Victor Correia Inside: pages 6, 17, 21, 22, 28 & 32 iStockphoto©alexsl, iStockphoto©Sage78, iStockphoto©YinYang, iStockphoto©asiseeit, iStockphoto©MichaelDeLeon, iStockphoto©KLH49 Inside: pages 8, 10, 15, 24, 29, 30 & 31 © Fotolia365 -, © Kevin Largent -, © Stuart Miles -, © pressmaster -, © pixelrobot, © Csaba Peterdi -, © pmartike -

Bye-bye 2013 HELLO 2014 LEGISLATIVE SESSION HARD TO PREDICT On Jan. 14, the session begins for lawmakers to make their last impression before voters go to the polls Nov. 4 . The education budget and other weighty issues are on the table.



PRESIDENT Katy Smith Campbell, J.D. Macon County

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR Sally Brewer Howell, J.D.

VICE PRESIDENT Pam Doyle Muscle Shoals IMMEDIATE PAST PRESIDENT Steve Foster Lowndes County



DISTRICT 1 James Woosley Satsuma


DISTRICT 2 Don Nichols Perry County


DISTRICT 3 Jimmy Rodgers Covington County


DISTRICT 4 Gwen Harris-Brooks Lanett


DISTRICT 5 Suzy Baker Alabama School of Fine Arts

ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANTS Nancy Johnson Donna Norris Emily Maxwell

DISTRICT 6 Kathy Landers Talladega County


DISTRICT 7 Belinda McRae Marion County DISTRICT 8 Karen Duke Decatur DISTRICT 9 Dr. Jennie Robinson Huntsville STATE BOARD LIAISON Dr. Yvette Richardson

OUR MISSION: To develop excellent school board leaders through quality training, advocacy and services.

Alabama School Boards • Winter 2013 3

Trends Research&Dates


— Compiled by Denise L. Berkhalter

and communities face, with great teaching, great principals, hard work and vital support every student can achieve the American dream.”

Alabama’s National Blue Ribbon Schools announced Six Alabama schools, five of them public schools, have been selected as 2013 National Blue Ribbon Schools. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan celebrated the diverse group of 286 schools as proof “that demographics are not destiny. Each of the recognized schools send a strong message that despite the very real challenges that schools and families

Did you know? ACT College Readiness Benchmarks are scores on the ACT subject area tests that represent the level of achievement required for students to have a 50 percent chance of obtaining a B or higher or about 75 percent chance of obtaining a C or higher in corresponding credit-bearing, first-year college courses. While 18 percent of Alabama’s 2012 ACT-tested high school graduates met all four college readiness benchmarks, only 3 percent of minorities met all benchmarks.

ACT Benchmarks Subject Area Test

ACT Benchmark

English 18 Reading 21 Mathematics 22 Science 24 – Source: CCRS Rollout Powerpoint 4 Alabama School Boards • Winter 2013

Duncan also concluded that “an educated workforce is key to continued national prosperity and effective U.S. leadership on the world stage.” Alabama’s public school honorees are Holtville High School of the Elmore County school system, Ramsay High School of Birmingham City Schools, W. H. Council Traditional School in the Mobile County Public school system, Walnut Grove School in the Madison County school system and West Jefferson Elementary School in the Jefferson County school system. The coveted Blue Ribbon School award recognizes schools whose students are achieving at the highest levels in their states or are making outstanding improvements in their levels of academic achievement.


Looking for a complete copy of Alabama’s Courses of Study? Just visit the Alabama Learning Exchange website at You can search the courses of study by subject, grade level or keyword. There are also direct links to the courses of study for English language arts, science, mathematics, social studies, art, foreign languages, career technical education, physical education, technology education, driver and traffic safety education, health education, counseling and guidance, character education and information literacy.

Legal reminders for newly seated or reseated school board members If you have been recently elected/ appointed to a school board for the first time or re-elected/re-appointed for another term, take note of these key legal requirements you need to meet: • Signing the governance affirmations: Under the School Board Governance Improvement Act, board members taking office for the first time and those beginning a new term must publicly sign the written affirmations of effective school governance as a precondition of taking office. The state Department of Education has provided superintendents a certificate members should sign at the meeting at which they are sworn in. The signed forms should become part of the meeting’s minutes, and the SDE checks for them as part of its Comprehensive Monitoring program. • Taking ethics training: School board members must receive training on the state Ethics Law within 120 days of taking office. Members can receive the training by attending AASB’s Roles and Responsibilities orientation or by taking the Ethics Commission’s online course at In either case, you will receive a certificate of completion to be given to your superintendent and kept on file at the central office.


“We are very happy to have received this and congratulate everyone at Baldwin County High School,” said Alan T. Lee, superintendent. “Less than 80 schools worldwide have received the Apple Distinguished School designation, and for it to be extended to Baldwin County High School shows how the students and teachers continue to raise the bar for academic achievement.” The Digital Renaissance is a one-student-per-digital-device initiative that started at Baldwin County High School in August 2012. The school has experienced increased student academic achievement and engagement and decreased discipline and behavior problems since then.

Submitted photo

Baldwin County High School in the Baldwin County school system has received word that its Apple Distinguished School recognition, awarded in 2012, has been extended to 2015. The Apple Distinguished School designation is reserved for programs that meet criteria for innovation, leadership and educational excellence and demonstrate Apple’s vision of exemplary learning environments.

The Baldwin County school system is also the first in the state to open a virtual high school. According to an news report, the state Superintendent of Education Dr. Tommy Bice said he had hoped to see a state virtual high school come to fruition next year and praised the school system for its innovation. The school launched in August and is open to students zoned for the school system, including students who are homeschooled. Students enrolled in the Digital Renaissance Virtual High School must also take part in the Digital Renaissance program. Students take proctored quizzes and exams at the Digital Renaissance Learning Center. The school is a partnership effort with Troy University ACCESS Distance Learning Support Center.

Congratulations All-State School Board The All-State School Board Recognition Program has for 22 years commended up to five past or present school board members who have exhibited exemplary boardmanship and leadership skills. The 2013 winners were honored at the 2013 AASB Convention in Birmingham. Watch video profiles of the All-State honorees online at www. They are: Stephanie Walker A member of the Brewton school board since 1996 and a Master school board member who was described by nominators as “a community servant and catalyst to change.”

Gary Bonner A member of the Tuscaloosa County school board since 2008 who is at AASB Academy Level 3 and was described by nominators as “a servant leader of high character.” Laurie McCaulley A member of the Huntsville school board since 2008 and a Master school board member who was described by nominators as an “exceptional leader who is devoted to students.”

Willie Grissett A member of the Escambia County school board since 1996 and a Master school board member who was described by nominators as an “honest, fair, exemplary leader.” Angie Swiger A member of the Baldwin County school board since 2008 who is at AASB Academy Level 3 and was described by nominators as an “exemplary board member.”

Alabama School Boards • Winter 2013 5





hen someone asked me how it feels to serve as president of the Alabama Association of School Boards, the first two words that came to mind were very good. To know you have the respect of your constituents and their support is certainly a very good feeling. Knowing this is such a great association feels just as wonderful. For the next two years, I’ll encourage you often to be Leaders for Student Success. I chose that as my presidential theme because it aligns with AASB’s mission to develop excellent school board leaders and because I see Alabama becoming a premier state in education. We’ve made so much progress already. Our students are graduating from high school, landing jobs and pursuing higher education all over the world. They are serving in the military. International companies with an Alabama presence – such as Mercedes-Benz, Honda and Hyundai – clearly recognize the talent we have. Our state has a strategic plan called Plan 2020 to build upon that success, and our school board members are key to the plan’s successful implementation. In order for our schools to increase production of high school graduates who are prepared for international competition and successful lives, we need school board members willing to lead in education. As an association, we have to continue our focus on those leaders and give them the support and training they need to be good statesmen. We must encourage them to be advocates for public education, help them understand high-quality governance and teach them about their responsibilities and role as members of a properly functioning board. We need to give them the confidence to hire and grow an excellent leadership team, particularly superintendents and chief school financial officers. 6 Alabama School Boards • Winter 2013

School board leaders don’t get bogged down in single issues. They look at the big picture of how the board’s decisions can improve outcomes for all students. They seek victory for the entire school system and not just segments of it. They know the mantra “it’s all about the students” is true.

School board leaders don’t get bogged down in single issues. They look at the overall big picture of how the board’s decisions can improve outcomes for all students. AASB is well on its way to becoming the premier trainer of education leaders and definitely a player on Alabama’s political stage. I envision us taking even greater strides toward being that formidable voice for public education. We want the governor and legislature to reach out to us when an education issue is on the table and they need a trusted and reliable resource that can get them the right answers. To AASB’s newest members, I would like to encourage you to have an open mind and be willing to observe, listen and openly share that fresh perspective you bring to the table. It’s also a good idea for you to reach out to your district directors. We have nine geographic areas, each served by a director who is eager to hear from you and relay feedback to the AASB Board of Directors. I can tell you that AASB is a big tent, and there is room for everybody and for fresh ideas. Oftentimes, a fresh perspective helps us look at things in a new way. AASB is a progressive organization that is willing to approach our work in more efficient and effective ways and to listen to the views of everyone.

I look forward to ensuring Alabama is part of the Southern perspective that is brought to the table on the national level. If you are not at the table, then you do not have a part in decision making. As the National School Boards Association talks, debates and advocates the issues, we definitely want to be a part of it. As someone raised by her grandmother and who, as a school board attorney, has represented high-poverty and largely minority school systems, I am also driven to motivate the education community to be cognizant of the diverse needs of students. I reside in Macon County, a community where I have seen children who come from practically nothing excel to fantastic heights. Yes, environment impacts a child, but it does not have to be a 100 percent determinant of that child’s future. Education is the life-changing factor that can put a struggling or at-risk child on the path to a better tomorrow. Leaders for Student Success can build a culture in their schools where educators are expected to understand poverty and educate children out of it. Meeting children where they are can be difficult to do when you are not aware of what it means to live in high poverty or go home and not have your mother and father there or live in a two-bedroom house with nine other people. As leaders for student success, we should have high expectations for our students, our teachers and personnel, our schools and ourselves. I strongly believe all children, no matter their background, can learn. It simply takes people who are willing to figure out how to help them to reach the next level. n



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Wpeople ho

in your

neighborhood It takes many different people in your neighborhood to ensure your school’s success. Each holds a stake and influences others in your community. What they say can help … or hurt. That’s why keeping stakeholders informed with current news and information is important. SchoolCast™ can help.

Within minutes, you can send a voice, e-mail and/or text message to everyone in your neighborhood … or any combination of key groups. Plus, with our exclusive dashboard feature, all past messages are catalogued and easily retrievable. Let us show you how to reach your neighbors in ways they want to hear from you.


Real Time Communication for a Real Time World.® · Toll-free: 888.988.5884 Alabama School Boards • Winter 2013 7

Without ongoing community engagement, school closures can devastate By Denise L. Berkhalter, APR


ducation leaders don’t just wake up one day and determine to close a school without reason. Arriving at that destination usually results from a long, arduous journey that may have included hard internal conversations about declining enrollment, funding stress, troubling trend lines, transportation woes, deteriorating facilities and the like.

Shuttering a school building may be the only feasible option. But vocal community critics – who contend the school was closed without reason or regard – are hardly unexpected when there is a clear lack of information. The news is shamefully overdue if the first time a community hears about a possible school closure is at a board meeting or in a community forum. At that point, options are limited and the community knows that even if education leaders listen to them and make adjustments to accommodate as many concerns as possible, ultimately there is little way around closing the school. Is there a real wonder why uninformed communities erupt in firestorms over school closings and mergers? School closures and mergers are no fun for anyone. Expect some level of disappointment, hurt, fear or anger in your community when such decisions have to be made. But outright protests to cry foul could be substantially limited or possibly eliminated by avoiding one simple error. Don’t make the decision for the community but rather with the community. The community isn’t a faceless mass of people out there on the fringes of your school system. They are real people 8 Alabama School Boards • Winter 2013

with real emotions. They are invested in the community and in education. These are people whose lives will be disrupted or otherwise impacted by the decision to close a school. Some will lose jobs, their alma mater, a safe haven for their children, a steady supply of customers, a community gathering place, a symbol of the community’s identity, a source of school spirit, the rush of team pride … you get the picture.

Taking these steps may lessen the bitter backlash Step 1 – Know your data, both quantitative and qualitative Do your research beyond the basic feasibility study. You also need to know the demographics of the closing schools’ neighborhoods and look for any disparities. If you’re closing multiple schools, how many of these schools’ populations are predominantly of one race? What percentage of the city’s population is of that race? How many of the closing schools are in nearly homogenous neighborhoods? If all school closures are in high-poverty neighborhoods, what are the reasons for that? At what level do people use their schools as a source of employment or as a community resource? When asked, how vital would locals say the closing schools are to their neighborhood? Cull data not only from parents, students and staff but also area business owners, community organizations, real estate agents, personnel at feeder schools and others. Really think

about the kinds of data you’d like to collect to get a true sense of how locals feel about closing their schools.

Step 2 – Share the data well before school closure is ever an option As education leaders, you know there is normally substantial time spent mining data before that fateful realization that it’s time to close a school. You know the numbers and reasoning are sound. You usually have time to process this databased decision and acclimate to the reality of it. So why give the community months, weeks or even days to draw the same conclusion? Take the community along with you on this difficult journey. If you used a set of criteria to determine which schools should close – age and size of the facility, enrollment numbers, population shifts – share those factors. Share data and information quickly to limit misinformation and rumors. Think about the kinds of data that would be most meaningful to the community and present it in an easy-to-digest format. For instance, are you losing students? Does declining enrollment mean less state funding? Will the inevitable result be personnel reductions, fewer academic and extracurricular programs and more costly challenges? Why doesn’t it make fiscal sense to build an entirely new school where the dilapidated facility is or to constantly repair the leaky roof on the old building? How much has been spent on facilities upkeep, and how often is

maintenance done? Do you conduct exit interviews to find out why students are leaving the school or why parents aren’t enrolling their children in the schools? Are there even enough school-age children left in the community to fill a school?

Step 3 – Share ownership of the problems, and ask the community to help solve them What comes next is truly unsettling to education leaders who are used to the quiet, controlled comfort of an isolated school system. Share responsibility and decision making with your community. Bake sales won’t keep a school open indefinitely. But community brainstorming could lead to some very creative approaches to problem solving and encourage shared ownership. If school leaders and the community are both working on a problem and come to a similar conclusion, then the decision is being made with the community rather than for it. These brainstorming sessions and related community conversations should not be one-time events, either. They should occur often, and not just around the viability of a school. Honesty is also required. The magnitude of the problem should not be sugar coated, and there should be no hesitation in asking the community what it can do to help. You may find yourself pleasantly surprised. The community may come up with enough funds to keep the school open long enough for the current senior class to graduate. You just won’t know until you have the conversation. In the end, if the only logical option is to develop a closure plan, allow the community a meaningful voice in determining that plan. Then keep the community informed. If you leave a blank where there should be an answer, you shouldn’t be surprised when people fill it in.

Step 4 – Weather the storm and point to the rainbow People love their community schools. Losing one is a serious blow. Acknowledge that and honor it. Host a homecoming that brings back alumni to see the last

senior class graduate. Give away commemorative bricks from the demolished facility in exchange for buying a new brick to help fund the new facility. Keep part or all of the old school’s name when naming the new school. If merging schools, consider merging one of the old school’s colors with one of the new school’s colors. At a merged school, consider having a new mascot that is chosen by the incoming students and the existing student body. The point is to find ways to respect the community’s loss and honor the history and heritage of the closing school. Transitioning will give rise to a new set of difficulties to overcome. Give the community a heads up and, when possible, a say-so in addressing issues. Transportation challenges, for example, may eventually be alleviated by the addition of bus drivers. They should know that. A two-week summer camp may help students establish new friendships and become familiar with their new school facility and teachers. The community may be willing to fund that.

Dwell on the good … big and small Then comes the fun part: Telling the good news. Rainstorms often end with a rainbow. Point to it. The good news may be students will now learn in a safer, more modern facility. Classes may be smaller because the school system can afford more teachers. Students may have access to Advanced Placement courses, the arts, a variety of sports or other academic and extracurricular activities they didn’t have access to before. The good news may simply be there are now enough parking spaces for all upperclassmen who wish to drive their cars. There you have it. My public relations advice on school closures in a sizeable nutshell. Not what you expected? Alright, alright. Make sure you have these things in place, too: An established and trained spokesperson, l An up-to-date plan for communicating school closure(s), l

Talking points and fact sheets, A solid working relationship with the media, l Regular conversations with key influencers in your community, l The ability to host social media conversations, l Up-to-date information posted regularly on your website(s), l Information-rich news releases, l  News conferences to announce the pivotal aspects of the closure(s), l Community listening posts and forums, l Public hearings, l The release of feasibility study findings, l The release of architectural drawings, l Public speeches, l Parent and student meetings, and l Staff discussions about the closures. All are good tools and techniques. Yet, I remain firm in my advice for education leaders. Engage often in twoway communication with your internal stakeholders [those who work for and learn in the schools] and external stakeholders [parents, neighbors, businesses, faith leaders and others impacted by your schools]. Inform and truly listen to them. Build and maintain a mutually beneficial relationship with them. Work hard at systematically building the will for community support. l l

The aforementioned steps admittedly won’t work in regard to every school closure, specifically those resulting from unforeseen emergencies. Still, an engaged and informed community is the best defense in many situations facing local schools. If a school closure is “breaking news” to your community, then you have already created trouble for yourself. n Denise Berkhalter is director of public relations for the Alabama Association of School Boards. Reprinted with permission from the copyrighted e-publication NSPRA Counselor, published by the National School Public Relations Association, 15948 Derwood Rd., Rockville, MD 20855; ; (301) 519-0496. No other reprints allowed without written permission from NSPRA. Alabama School Boards • Winter 2013 9

PAST PRESIDENT’S PERSPECTIVE By Steve Foster, Lowndes County Board of Education



he 2013 Alabama Association of School Boards Convention and Delegate Assembly was my last as president of the state association. It has been such a pleasure to work alongside AASB’s amazing board of directors, the association’s staff and the members of this incredible association as it continued to move toward achieving its strategic goals.

You might think of our association as a ship. We are all onboard – not merely as passengers, but as crew. We share the journey. We share the joys, and we share the challenges. But each day, we move closer to our destination. We move closer to our goal, and that goal is excellence. It has been said that “A ship in a harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.” Our ship has certainly not been in harbor. We cannot afford to drop anchor; our mission is too great! Therefore, my highest aim as your president had been to synergize the strengths, skills and knowledge of AASB’s crew to achieve excellence at a higher level. And I have been amazed at the great progress that all of us, working together, have made! The crew – officers, directors, executive director, AASB staff, committee members, and all of you – has cruised toward the horizon and stayed the course set by a five-year strategic plan. We have been focused. We have been determined, and we are being successful! One of our goals is to provide much-needed services to AASB members. That is being accomplished and has benefited local boards. It has also led to a steady stream of income beyond dues and increased the fiscal health of our association. These services now help you with superintendent and chief school financial officer searches, policy review and analysis, 10 Alabama School Boards • Winter 2013

the updating and maintenance of current policies, and by increasing your access to the latest training and educational opportunities, products, tools, news and information. AASB has helped school boards recoup millions of federal dollars for the cost of certain services provided to Medicaid-eligible students. Those dollars go back into the schools and are vital for all schools, particularly for systems will little local funding. In line with its strategic plan, AASB has strengthened the voice of local school board members in the Statehouse as increasing numbers advocate on behalf of our children. We have also continued to develop our relationship with members of the state Board of Education and have worked closely with the state Department of Education on numerous issues. In the 2013 Regular Session, AASB asked the Alabama Legislature for liberation from restrictive laws that bind innovation. The Legislature gave school systems that freedom and flexibility in the Alabama Accountability Act. I encourage all of you to request status as an Innovative School System and to seek creative ways to enhance the education of your students. However, this law also includes infectious elements that we must seek to mitigate or eliminate. This law was also passed without input from the public, which I believe is contrary to the most basic principles of representative government. I believe that as individuals, as citizens, we need to let those responsible know that this must never happen again. To paraphrase comedian Bill Cosby, as citizens, we put you in there, and we can take you out. On the positive side, we’ve seen the Legislature begin to restore some crucial funding for public edu-

cation, though there are plenty of financial needs still unmet. We have pushed for flexible, realistic budgets rather than prorated budgets that devastate our systems, and thankfully, proration has been avoided. Our Legislature has increased funding for early childhood education. As a result, you’ll see more students come through the state-funded, voluntary prekindergarten program. Expect many of these students to enter your schools better prepared to learn. AASB helped to shape the School Board Governance Improvement Act, and we responded quickly to make certain that our members were prepared for its requirements. We are now in our first full year of required school board member training under that law. State implementation rules call for board members to learn individually and as a board team. Boards and their superintendents must learn in an interactive team training session for 2 hours each year. AASB is offering a variety of customizable whole board training sessions and has recruited a blue ribbon cadre of education experts to assist in providing whole board training of exceptional quality. I know none of you are Looney Tunes fans, but one or two of you may have had children who used to watch Wile E. Coyote and The Road Runner zoom across the desert in a heated chase. AASB’s road runner is Susan Salter, your director of leadership development, who has spent numerous hours zooming across Alabama to your communities to train your boards. And to meet increased demand for training, AASB launched an online board development portal. School Board U offers 24-hour access to online courses and, in early 2014, more than 20 hours of training will be available through School Board U. That includes the Effective Boards & Relationships and Roles & Responsibilities orientation courses. While additional School Board U courses are being developed, AASB has, in the shortterm, expanded its training calendar – offering regional meetings, book studies, site visits, drive-in orientations and pro-

viding both orientation courses in conjunction with our Annual Convention and our Summer Conference. Some of our training options are free with membership and others are lowcost or competitively priced. Increased demand for training has created some logistical problems, and we are working closely with meeting facilities to address space limitations for our conferences and annual convention. We continue to seek your input to make sure we are offering the training and services you need to succeed as a school board member.

I believe passing laws without input from the public is contrary to the most basic principles of representative government. One of those services you can take advantage of is the Persogenics communication style assessment that AASB has been using successfully with school boards. This research-based, web-based program is a tool to help teams and individuals increase their performance. It can also be used to build leadership skills and assist in identifying job candidates who can not only handle the job, but also work well with the team. A partnership between eBOARD solutions and AASB gets you a 10 percent discount on modules that help you conduct paperless board meetings, monitor your strategic plan progress, post policies for community feedback, evaluate your superintendent and more. The National School Boards Association has also partnered with AASB to connect Alabama’s school boards with resources on national education and advocacy issues. You will be hearing more about the National Connection service in the coming year. I am also pleased to announce that our association plans to increase its presence in downtown Montgomery, literally.

For years, we have been setting aside money in a building fund in anticipation of future needs and growth. During the past year, a Facilities Study Committee was appointed to evaluate our needs and potential options to meet our needs. We have tentatively agreed to purchase – pending due diligence – property that is just a hop, skip and jump from the state Capitol, the Statehouse and the state Board of Education. This is an exceptional property. After our purchase is complete, we will likely sell our existing properties and construct a building that better serves our membership. This is a space and place to serve our existing programs and would be suitable for advocacy, small group training and legislative programs. It would be specifically designed to serve our organization as it continues to grow into the 21st century. There are still steps to be taken before a final purchase is made. Yet, it is an exciting prospect to consider. And you will hear more in the near future. We have been busy. You have been busy. My time in the wheelhouse has ended. Our association is sailing due North toward excellence. I have no doubt that AASB President Katy Campbell will keep the ship on course. [See Campbell’s column on page 6.] When the 2014 Alabama Legislature gavels into session on Jan. 14, your association, under Katy’s capable leadership, will be right there fighting to assure funding for K-12’s operational needs; protect local and state school board authority; expand dual enrollment opportunities for students; extend constitutional protection from unfunded mandates to public schools; keep the state on track to graduate students who are ready for college and careers; have our state express the right to public education in the Alabama Constitution; and encourage the state to take a long-overdue look at sufficiently funding public education. [See related article on page 18.] We still have a lot to do. I anticipate that you will be onboard, carrying out your responsibilities in an excellent fashion. n Alabama School Boards • Winter 2013 11

WHO IS WHO AT THE SDE: Cynthia Richburg Freeman


What drew you to your current field of work?

I taught mathematics for 19 years at Luverne High School in Crenshaw County and loved it but thought I needed a new challenge. So, I came to the Alabama State Department of Education to work with the Alabama Math Science and Technology Initiative as the high school mathematics specialist. From there, I moved to the Curriculum Section to work with the math standards, and now I oversee the College and Career Ready Standards rollout.


hat are your Q. Wresponsibilities as CCRS rollout coordinator and

Advanced PlacementInternational Baccalaureate manager?

As the CCRS rollout coordinator, I am responsible for overseeing the professional development that the SDE provides to the local education agencies to assist with implementation. Also, we hosted CCRS Teaching Academies this summer, and that was a major project of mine. Basically, anything that has to do with CCRS comes across my desk. As AP-IB manager, I work closely with the

A+ College Ready schools as well as all schools that offer AP or IB courses.

for us the Q. Describe highlights of the CCRS rollout thus far? CCRS-mathematics was implemented in August 2012 and CCRS-English language arts was implemented in August 2013. Along with the ELA standards, literacy standards were implemented for all content areas in August 2013. I think the most exciting thing about the CCRS rollout is that every local education agency in Alabama has appointed a CCRS Implementation Team that meets quarterly in their in-service region. At these quarterly meetings, SDE resources are shared and LEAs are offered opportunities to plan and network with neighboring school systems. Teachers seem to be really excited about the new standards and what they mean for their students.

Q. What’s next?

We will implement a new course of study for history in August 2014 and the new science standards in August 2015. So, training for these new standards will begin soon. However, we will continue training on the mathematics and ELA standards.

About CCRS Rollout, AP and IB Freeman’s Role: Works in instructional services at the state Department of Education as an educational administrator; manages the Advanced Placement/ International Baccalaureate Program in Alabama; serves as the College and Career Ready Standards rollout coordinator. What is AP? Advanced Placement® courses are college-level courses offered in high school. They can give students a taste of what college is like, help them stand out on college applications and, if they score well on the AP® exams, allow them to earn college credit and/or placement out of introductory courses. What is IB? There are four International Baccalaureate programs for students aged 3 to 19 to help them develop the intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills to live, learn and work in a rapidly globalizing world. There are 17 schools in Alabama that offer IB courses. For more: 334/353-1191 12 Alabama School Boards • Winter 2013


A labama’s Advanced Placement program has made great strides. What have been the biggest accomplishments?

Three years of results for A+ College Ready’s Advanced Placement Training and Incentive Program show that program schools achieved a remarkable 108 percent average increase in passing AP scores – 13 times the national average – in their first year of participation and continued to improve each year. Additionally, the results show even higher percentage increases in qualifying scores for minority students, indicating that the state is making significant gains toward closing the achievement gap among traditionally underrepresented students.


 ow many students benefit from Advanced H Placement in Alabama?


How is participation in the IB program?


D o these students have a leg up when it comes to college admissions?

In 2013, there were 221 schools that offered AP courses. The number of tests given in all subjects was 36,126, and the number of qualifying scores – either a 3, 4 or 5 – was 13,654.

Currently, 17 schools in Alabama participate in the International Baccalaureate program. [See related article, page 28.]

Many universities look at the AP experience and credit of students when admitting students. However, the greatest benefit of AP courses is that students are better prepared for the rigorous coursework required in the university setting.

ow would you explain the importance Q. HofStandards the Alabama College and Career Ready in producing college- and careerready students?

The Alabama CCRS are much more challenging that the standards of the past. They require students to use higher-order thinking skills, such as analysis and evaluation. Students are asked to justify answers as well as think out of the box in various situations. These are skills that students need for collegiate success as well as success in the workplace. [See related article, page 21.] We owe it to the students of Alabama to provide a first-class education that will allow them to be successful in whatever they choose to do.


 hat role should school board members play W in ensuring the success of CCRS?

The support of school board members is critical to the success of these standards. Positive remarks about the CCRS to the general public play a big part in encouraging the support of parents and other stakeholders. Also, votes for continued support of the implementation of these standards are critical. n



Military recruiters want our high school students’ names, addresses and phone numbers. Do we have to release that information to them? Generally, yes. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive federal funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education. FERPA gives parents certain rights with respect to their children’s education records, including the right to keep their child’s records private, to inspect their child’s records and to request that a school correct information parents believe to be inaccurate or misleading. These rights transfer to the student when he or she reaches the age of 18 or attends a school beyond the high school level. FERPA does not bar all disclosures by the educational institutions. Directory information such as a list of students’ names, addresses and telephone numbers can be disclosed provided that the educational institution has given public notice of the type of information to be disclosed, the right of every parent or student to forbid disclosure without prior written consent, and the time period within which the student or parent must act to forbid the disclosure. Congress included a provision in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 that requires local educational agencies receiving assistance under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to provide directory information to military recruiters upon request. Typically, recruiters request this information on junior and senior high school students. The information is used specifically for armed services recruiting purposes and to inform young people of scholarship opportunities. However, if a parent or student forbids disclosure of this information in writing, the school is not authorized to release the information. — Sources: U.S. Department of Education and the October 2013 edition of Alabama Education News. For more, visit

Alabama School Boards • Winter 2013 13

14 Alabama School Boards • Winter 2013

By Nicholas D. Caruso Jr.


ast night a superintendent’s school board met with her to discuss her annual performance evaluation. She had a feeling that a couple of board members might take issue with some of her decisions, but nothing prepared her for the brawl that broke out.

It was obvious from the start that little or no consensus existed on how she performed this year, and it seemed several board members were confused about whether she had even done the work they had asked of her for the year — or what that work was. Much of the time was spent with board members challenging each other, rather than her. Trust was dramatically missing through the entire conversation.

“I highly recommend school boards place a topic on every agenda called “report on goals.”

This is not a column about superintendent evaluation, but rather some advice to help superintendents and school boards work through issues to better lead the school system.

A pulse check I spend a lot of time reading books on trust, hoping I’ll figure out how to build it up where it is missing. A relatively consistent theme throughout the literature is that trust is transactional. If key elements add up, there will be trust, enabling the superintendent and the board to focus on the work of the system. The transaction [known as the trust equation] I use to demonstrate this is: Clear goals + action plan + results = trust. One easily could substitute the word “success” for trust because if all three components exist, then you should be successful. Yet, if one or more are missing, trust [and success] are likely to be missing.

To help the school board check its pulse, superintendents can encourage members to take the time to see how well they perform on the trust equation. It can be difficult for superintendents to be the ones who suggest this to their board. They can start by encouraging their board chair to bring this to the board’s attention. If that doesn’t work, they might need to discuss this with the board as a whole, encouraging them to participate, but it works best if the initiative begins from within the board. It’s important for school boards to see the need for clearly defined goals. I am involved in a board training program called the Lighthouse Project [a research-based program developed by the Iowa School Boards Foundation to help boards raise student achievement], which suggests, importantly, a board establish and support performance goals for students. The board also should understand the superintendent’s plan of action to meet these goals and to align school system resources accordingly. Lastly, the board needs to request from the superintendent information to measure the plan’s effectiveness once implemented [or identify areas in need of improvement] to ensure the goals are met.

Periodic examinations Set up a board retreat or a series of evening workshops where the board can do a self-evaluation. The Alabama Association of School Boards can certainly help with this. The board should assess whether goals exist and how it is supporting them. Board members should consider whether they spend their time – in and out of meetings – focused on those goals and whether the board works together to accomplish them. Are school board meetings continued on page 20 Alabama School Boards • Winter 2013 15


PRIVATE EMAIL GOING PUBLIC Take a ‘better-safe-than-sorry’ approach to managing electronic communications


superintendent uses her school system-issued laptop, iPad and system email account during the school day to send sexually explicit messages to a man who is not her husband. The superintendent’s exchanges surface after a local newspaper makes a public records request. The contents become front page news. Before the school board can question her actions, the superintendent submits her resignation but complains she has a right to privacy. Does she? In short, no. Generally, a superintendent should have no expectation of privacy in emails sent from school system-owned devices using a school system email account.

Rules of the road School systems are wrestling with how to manage communications sent 16 Alabama School Boards • Winter 2013

using desktop and laptop computers, iPads, cell phones and other technology owned by the schools. No definitive guidance is available from the federal courts about the scope of an employee’s expectation of privacy when using employer-owned technology. However, lower federal courts across the country generally have held that the following can result in an employee having no reasonable expectation of privacy in communications sent through employerowned technology: (1) an employer policy explaining acceptable use of employerowned technology and the employer’s ability to monitor employee use, and (2) the employee’s written [or other] acknowledgment of such policy. To protect the school system and set employee expectations, the best approach is to have an acceptable use policy, a document that explains to employees the rules of the road from the school system’s perspective. Many policies already probably forbid the exchange of sexually explicit communications, but school systems ought to consider other policy provisions. The foundation of the policy should be straightforward. All uses of school system technology resources must be for

purposes that promote the educational mission of the school system. Employees’ activities should be related to their daily quest to serve the system and forward its goals. School systems should determine whether they want their policy to acknowledge that employees may engage periodically in activities unrelated to their work during their workday. The school system may want to qualify this acknowledgement, however, by explaining that any such non-work activities should be kept to a minimum. The policy should make clear that emails, text messages and other communications sent using system-owned technology by employees may be monitored, archived and reviewed by the system — regardless of whether such communications are related to school system work. If the policy states the school system will monitor use, the system should engage in regular monitoring. The policy should alert employees that most of their email communications may be subject to public records requests. In other words, they should not send communications if they would not want to see them appear as headline news.

A test drive Once the school system adopts an acceptable use policy, training for all employees is essential. As recent headlines about an Ivy League university illustrate,

even when employees sign such policies, they may not fully appreciate how the policy will apply to them. Some faculty at Harvard were shocked to learn this past spring that the university had examined the emails of 16 deans as part of an internal investigation. Actively training employees about the school system’s acceptable use policy will help set appropriate employee expectations. You can be creative in doing so. Use role plays during orientation or other interactive approaches to help employees better appreciate the concepts. Some school systems may want to require employees to reaffirm annually they have read and understood the system’s policy; require affirmation each time the employee logs on to the system network; or provide a banner on each login screen reminding employees their communications may be monitored. Developing an acceptable use policy, actively educating employees about that policy and revising the policy to respond to new developments in technology will help each school system fulfill its educational mission — and perhaps keep educators out of embarrassing news headlines. n

Alert employees not to send communications if they would not want to see them appear as headline news.

Maree Sneed is a partner with Hogan Lovells in Washington, D.C. Email: Esther Haley Walker, an associate in the firm’s education practice, contributed to this column. Reprinted with permission from the June 2013 issue of School Administrator magazine, published by AASA, the school superintendents association.

IN ALABAMA Though Alabama case law does not yet specifically address privacy in emails sent from school system-owned devices and email accounts, exercise the same caution with electronic communications as you would with printed communications.

Alabama School Boards • Winter 2013 17

Bye-bye 2013 HELLO 2014 Legislative Session hard to predict By Lissa Tucker


o crystal ball has proven accurate to predict the outcome of a legislative session, and the 2014 session holds many unknowns. First, 2014 is the last year of the quadrennium that began with a monumental shift after Republicans swept to the majority in both chambers in the 2010 elections. On Jan. 14, the session begins.

Legislative sessions, in an election year, begin and end early to allow lawmakers to return to their districts to campaign. Political watchers expect the “School boards are same for 2014, when the pressure will be frustrated when even greater to return home to participate state education in the June 3 primary dollars do not align elections. The primary runoff will be with local budget July 15, and the genpriorities and needs. Maximum eral election is Nov. 4. Legislative leaders flexibility would allow school hope to address a nonboards to strategically allocate controversial agenda while completing the resources and support at the education and general local level where learning takes fund budgets during an accelerated session place for students.” schedule. – Sally Howell, AASB executive director

Several hot-button issues still lurk beneath the surface. A small but vocal camp remains opposed to the Common Core State Standards, which are encompassed in the Alabama College and Career Ready Standards. The tourism lobby will want to reinstate a school calendar start date that sunset last October, and some lawmakers may still pursue a slow down as a result of last session’s surprise enactment of an income tax credit for parents whose children attend schools labeled as “failing.” Whether or not those issues remain in the background will all play into the tone and productivity of the session.

18 Alabama School Boards • Winter 2013

The Education Trust Fund budget poses a challenge because financial needs far outweigh available dollars. Legitimate needs in K-12 alone would easily take the approximately 135 million new dollars available under the Rolling Reserve cap. The 2011 Responsible Budgeting and Spending Act, commonly known as the Rolling Reserve Act, caps spending based on actual annual ETF revenues increased by the 15-year average growth. The act sets aside funding for lean years, to help schools avoid proration. After three consecutive years of proration, schools avoided those painful across-the-board budget cuts in the 2012 and 2013 school years. As revenues improve, the Rolling Reserve budgeting process provides consistent growth and protects local schools from proration. Education budgeting is also a challenge because the Alabama Constitution requires the Legislature to completely repay the Education Trust Fund Rainy Day Account by 2015. Alabama borrowed $437.4 million from that account in 2009 to offset proration for that fiscal year. The state has repaid nearly $275 million to the Rainy Day Account thus far. In this fiscal year, $35 million of the Rainy Day fund debt will be repaid with an additional $65 million possible payment if revenues allow and the governor releases it. That would leave a $62 million balance due in 2015. Another budgeting issue to consider is a statutorily required payment to honor the PACT promise. Established by the Legislature 24 years ago to allow families to pre-pay college tuition for their children, the Prepaid Affordable College Tuition plan was beleaguered by the recent economic downturn and upswing in college tuition. As a result, the Legislature passed Act 2010-725, which transfers funds annually from the ETF to prop up the PACT program from FY 2015 through 2027, if necessary. For 2015, the PACT payment would be $23 million.

Seek Early Passage of Protection from Unfunded Mandates Senate Bill 7 [Sen. Dick Brewbaker] and House Bill 26 [Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin] would provide constitutional protection for public schools from unfunded mandates. The bills were pre-filed and are poised to be among the first enacted in 2014. The non-controversial measure was ready for final passage last year but died when time expired on the final day of the session. The bills allow voters to determine if local school boards should have the same constitutional protection as every other local governmental entity to require a three-fifths vote should a proposed state law mandate spending local dollars. Bill passage would acknowledge school board authority to spend local dollars on local priorities.

The Public Education Employee Health Insurance Program requests a $94 million increase to maintain educators’ health insurance program. Public schools have cut the number of teachers because of previous funding cuts, and there is a sharp need for more teachers, particularly in middle schools. Other Current Expense, the basic K-12 operations and maintenance category, continues to operate with a shortfall from deep cuts as does transportation, which is continually underfunded. The voluntary state-funded pre-kindergarten program serving 4-year-olds requests a $12.8 million increase to expand. And the governor promises a raise for education employees. These items do not take into account funding requests that will come from higher education. The message for 2014 is simple. Local school boards should share their local priorities to help shape the education budget. Lawmakers need accurate, relevant information about budget impact on local schools to make the best decision for students. n

2014 AASB Advocacy Agenda  Funding Flexibility for Local Budget


The Education Trust Fund budget appropriations are not effectively aligned with the operations or long-term strategic goals in school systems. Current state appropriations are rigid and often difficult to adapt to local plans. Each local school board assesses its needs and implements a plan to meet those needs. Those decisions are unique to each local school system, and AASB supports giving school boards maximum flexibility to match state dollars to local priorities.

Fund K-12 Operational Needs Critical K-12 programmatic funding has not been restored after years of cuts, yet each year demands and expectations grow for K-12 education. Local school leaders ask the Legislature to fund more teachers in schools; operations (a budget item called Other Current Expense); school buses and fuel to get children to school; and an affordable and sustainable employee raise. The primary purpose for the Education Trust Fund is to fund public education, and the Foundation Program must have funding for basics such as student materials and professional development for teachers.

Support $12.8 Million Increase to Pre-K AASB supports a $12.8 million increase to the state’s flagship First Class Program in the 2015 Office of School Readiness budget. This would be the second year of a 10-year investment to expand access to high quality pre-K for Alabama’s 4-year-olds. Local school boards join a broad coalition that supports this premium investment as a cornerstone for students to succeed in their K-12 careers.

Protect State School Board Authority,

Preserve Common Core

AASB strongly believes that education policy decisions should remain under the jurisdiction of state and local boards of education. These state and local leaders interact with parents and educators in their communities and are charged with making education policy decisions impacting students. Alabama’s academic standards

and learning should not be subject to a federal agenda or partisan politics. AASB fully supports the state Board of Education’s authority to adopt Alabama’s College and Career Ready Standards as rigorous standards that challenge students, build critical-thinking skills and give students every opportunity to succeed. AASB fully supports each individual local school board’s authority to adopt a unique curriculum to implement those standards.

Protect Schools from Unfunded Mandates Local school boards remain the only local governmental entity without constitutional protection from legislation requiring them to spend local funds. It’s time for Alabama voters to decide whether to offer local schools that protection. The noncontroversial constitutional amendment would protect local schools from unfunded mandates.

Expand Dual Enrollment Opportunities A partnership between K-12 and postsecondary provides high school students the opportunity to take courses that apply toward a high school diploma and toward a college degree or certificate. It allows students a head start on a college career, puts them on a path toward an associate degree shortly after high school graduation and eases the transition to higher education.

Recognize Right to Public Education The Constitutional Revision Commission’s current proposal to restate the education article in the Alabama Constitution falls short of providing a right to public education in this state. AASB will work with the Legislature to allow Alabama’s voters to make this most basic promise to its children.

The Next Big Thing: Sufficient Resources

for Education

With increased demand for accountability and high performance expectations, the conversation needs to start about the lack of resources for public schools. The level of resources Alabama commits to its students relative to other states is lacking. Our capacity to deliver these resources is greater and should mirror our obligation to provide support for students’ public education.

Alabama School Boards • Winter 2013 19


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TRUST, continued from page 15

productive or does the board spend time distracted from teaching and learning matters? In an extreme case, such as the brouhaha in the scenario I described earlier, board members also should explore the dynamics of their interaction with each other. If they do not trust each other, they need to work on strategies to develop that trust. I would suggest that these meetings be held regularly, not just once a year. Finally, the board should not wait for special events, such as a board retreat, to assess its own work. I highly recommend school boards place a topic on every agenda called “report on goals,” so 20 Alabama School Boards • Winter 2013

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every meeting gives the board the opportunity to see how it is doing related to the trust equation. Is the school system clearly focused on the goals? How is the action plan working? How are the results? If needs exist from these reports, the board should spend time discussing how it can support the work and ensure the success of the plan. n Nicholas is the senior staff associate for field service and coordinator of technology with the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education. Email him at Reprinted with permission from the June 2013 issue of School Administrator magazine, published by AASA, the school superintendents association.

One and the same: College and workforce readiness By Matt Gianneschi Changing demographics coupled with employers’ raised expectations make the two skill sets indistinguishable from one, another.


onsensus came surprisingly quickly when state representatives of K-12 and higher education agencies from 22 states settled last fall on a common definition of college and career readiness. We all agreed that to be ready for

Fifty-five percent of jobs in Alabama by 2018 will require workers with a postsecondary education. This is eight percentage points below the national average of 63 percent. By 2020, about 66 percent of all jobs in the nation will require some form of postsecondary education and training. Today, 59 percent of all jobs require postsecondary education and training nationally. The average in the South is 54 percent. Source: Georgetown University Public Policy Institute; view the Alabama report: http://www9.

either pursuit, students need to be ready for placement into college-level courses in English and mathematics without need for remediation. The collective moment of gratification was brief, however, once we moved on to this question: Are college readiness and career readiness one and the same?

They suggested that the use of the term “careers” be distinguished from “jobs,” the former defining skilled positions that provide workers with a livable wage, and the latter referring to lowskilled, low-wage positions. The points were relevant, but they do not fully explain why college readiness and career readiness are, in fact, the same.

The ensuing conversation was not unlike others taking place nationwide, owing to the adoption by 46 states of the Common Core State Standards, which are Many current discussions regardfitted to a common description of coling college and career readiness tranlege and career readiness. [Editor’s note: scend previous attempts to align high The Alabama College and Career Ready school curricula with basic college admisStandards, which include the Common sions criteria. Rather than simply countCore State Standards, were adopted by ing Carnegie units, the nation’s collective the state Board of Education in 2010.] continued on page 22 Educators from career and technical fields argued Change in jobs by education level: 2008 and 2018. that the academic Education level 2008 jobs 2018 jobs Difference skills necessary High school dropouts 280,000 306,000 26,000 for college-level course work are High school graduates 691,000 754,000 63,000 identical to the Postsecondary 1,155,000 1,287,000 132,000 skills needed to Source: Georgetown University Public Policy Institute, Center on Education and the succeed in entryWorkforce level careers.

Today’s realities

Alabama School Boards • Winter 2013 21

READINESS continued from page 21

attention has turned to demonstrations of mastery, exhibiting connections across content areas and applying what have come to be known as noncognitive skills. David Conley, founder and director of the Center for Educational Policy Research at the University of Oregon, suggests in a 2007 monograph that college and career readiness are a comprehensive description of a student’s abilities. This covers noncognitive intellectual attributes and traditional academic skills, as well as academic behaviors and ways of thinking, such as intellectual openness, reasoning and analysis. This explanation of career and college readiness represents a fundamental shift in thinking, and it has profound implications for policy and practice at both the K-12 and higher education levels. Even if you buy into the modern definition of college and career readiness as differing markedly from more traditional demonstrations of abilities such as grades and scores on college-ready assessments, you still may question whether college and career readiness is necessary for all students. The occupational realities of America’s economy provide context.

College completion In 2011, President Barack Obama declared that 60 percent of the new jobs in America will require a postsecondary credential, a goal that would require hundreds of thousands of new students to attend and complete college. The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce analyzed this further and found the president’s estimate may be a little low. According to the center, the share of jobs in the U.S. economy between 1973 and 2008 that required postsecondary education increased from 28 percent to 59 percent. This figure is expected to increase to 63 percent by 2018. So not only are college readiness and career readiness the same, but also nearly all careers will start with college. 22 Alabama School Boards • Winter 2013

Last January, Education Week released its annual report card for the nation. The newspaper reported that high school graduation rates nationally had improved six percentage points to 72 percent. While certainly good news, the data continue to present a difficult future for our economy and our students. If we assume 72 percent of 12th graders in America have the option of enrolling in college immediately following high school and that 63 percent of all new jobs will require a postsecondary credential or degree, this means that nearly 90 percent of all high school graduates will require a college credential for the United States to meet basic workforce demands — nine of every 10 high school graduates must not only attempt college but also finish with a degree.

Compounding inequalities This universalization of postsecondary training is raising expectations for high school students and changing postsecondary education. In what economist Anthony Carnevale calls a “gradual but relentless movement toward vocational,

According to the Georgetown University Public Policy Institute, if the Southern states doubled their respective shares of workers with a bachelor’s degree, they could increase tax revenue between 75 and 150 percent. The institute notes a higher demand for postsecondary talent in the workforce disproportionately increases wealth and tax revenues because of the higher productivity and earnings of a postsecondaryeducated workforce. Source: A DECADE BEHIND: Breaking out of the LowSkill Trap in the Southern Economy cew/pdfs/DecadeBehind.FullReport.073112.pdf

occupation and professional education,” the majority of new postsecondary programs are moving away from traditional liberal arts at both the undergraduate and graduate degree levels. At the community college level, the fastest-growing programs are those in career-oriented applied associate degrees, certificates and industry certifications. Importantly, the academic skills necessary to succeed in these programs are nearly identical to those in traditional liberal arts fields. For example, the prerequisite quantitative skills for so-called “applied” fields such as nursing and renewable energy are just as high, if not higher, than those needed in traditional college disciplines such as English and history. And if it weren’t challenging enough to educate all students for college and careers, the implementation of this universal standard of readiness must take place within rapidly changing schools. According to the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education’s 2012 report Knocking at the College Door, the proportion of Hispanic high school graduates by 2025 will grow by 68 percent over the 2009 total. During the same period, white, non-Hispanic graduates

At the community college level, the fastest-growing programs are those in career-oriented applied associate degrees, certificates and industry certifications. will decline by 13 percent. By the time today’s kindergartners reach the 12th grade, the nation’s high school graduates will be nearly 50 percent white and 50 percent nonwhite. These numbers are exciting and reflect tremendous progress in educational attainment. But in the face of future workforce needs and current college attainment rates, these changes underscore the urgency with which all educators — K-12 and higher education alike — must ensure college and career readiness among all students. The current college-going rates for African-American and Hispanic students are generally well below those for their white and Asian classmates. The same pattern of disparity exists when one considers college graduation rates. These gaps often are compounded by profound inequalities across socioeconomic strata. Carnevale has shown that academically prepared students from workingclass and low-income families earn disproportionately fewer college degrees within eight years of high school graduation compared to students from middle- and upper-income households. Therefore, to meet future employers’ expectations, we must prepare all high school students for the rigors of college, and our efforts must surmount inequities in performance among students historically underserved in postsecondary environments.

passing college-level courses. In bygone generations, educators may have considered it appropriate to limit participation in dual enrollment to the most accomplished high school students. However, in light of the universal need for postsecondary completion and the vast demographic changes taking place, all students must have opportunities to participate in college courses as soon as they are academically prepared to do so. Start a conversation. College faculty often are unfamiliar with the dramatic curricular changes taking place in high schools today. To familiarize educators in our state with the changes taking place in math and English and to discuss the implications these changes will have on practice and policy, we are convening groups of high school and college faculty across Colorado. We hope these conversations help college faculty better understand the new academic requirements for high school students and help high school teachers appreciate the expectations college faculty have for entering students. If all students are expected to transition

from one system to another, both the sending and receiving faculty need to understand the other’s expectations. Comprehensively use data to track progress and inform practice. The analysis of the data can help establish patterns of postsecondary success, including remedial assignments and pass rates, students’ preferred program pathways, credit-hour accumulation, retention and, of course, degree completion. These data can help school leaders design focused and relevant curricula and help students, teachers and families prepare for transitions to college. Not so long ago, college readiness and career readiness were different goals. This is no longer the case. By working together, educators in K-12 and postsecondary systems will ensure that all students graduate ready for college and careers. n Matt Gianneschi is deputy executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education in Denver. He can be reached at Reprinted with permission from the May 2013 issue of School Administrator magazine, published by AASA, the school superintendents association.

Cross-system strategies While no cure-all exists for solving these complex problems, several crosssystem strategies have proven valuable. Aggressively expand dual enrollment. Nothing demonstrates college readiness better than enrolling in and

1983 to 2013 - Celebrating 30 Years

Ward Scott Architecture renews our commitment to passionately create quality built environments for our community Alabama School Boards • Winter 2013 23

Whose schools are they? By Lawrence Hardy


ahmoud Ahmadinejad. Kim Jong-un. America’s public schools.

What do these three have in common? The first two, leaders of Iran and North Korea, respectively, are threats to U.S. security, and the third, according to a report last year by the Council on Foreign Relations, U.S. Education Reform and National Security, they’re a threat – or, more precisely, their poor performance is a threat – as well. The comparison is outrageous and offensive. And, to be sure, the report’s authors didn’t make it. But then, they didn’t have to. The reader’s mind does an excellent job of that on its own.

“There is a tremendous amount of oppositional language that kind of creates a sense of opposing parties, and almost the threat of an enemy,” says Julie Sedivy, a linguist at the University of Calgary, Alberta. “That’s very emotional language, and it serves a purpose of setting up a potential enemy that everyone needs to rally against.”

Guess who that enemy is? Not so long ago, people who devoted much if not all of their professional lives to public education – administrators, teachers and counselors, school board members – could simply concentrate on the critical work before them. They knew the public, while not agreeing with everything they did, would be behind them. That time is now gone. 24 Alabama School Boards • Winter 2013

To win the fight – and it is a fight – for public education, school leaders must be more aggressive in standing up and confronting those who would privatize public schools, in some instances, with the expectation of considerable financial gain. That means changing, or not entering, the “no-win” conversations and not accepting the other side’s characterizations of “failing schools,” “incompetent teachers,” or what Louisiana State Superintendent John White, in describing opponents of yet another plan for state voucher expansion, labeled “entrenched interests.” For those with a real interest in saving public schools and keeping privatization proponents at bay, now is not the time to be shy, says National School Boards Association Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. To respond to these challenges, Gentzel announced last fall the creation of the “New NSBA,” a comprehensive rethinking of the organization that aims to strengthen ties with state school boards associations and lobby more aggressively on behalf of public schools. “The institution of public education is being slowly whittled away,” Gentzel says. “A little chip here, a little chip there – it may not seem like much, but over time it has an impact. We have to stand up before it’s too late.”

A conscious movement? Like many public institutions, schools always have had their naysayers and critics, but they’ve perhaps

“The institution of public education is being slowly whittled away. A little chip here, a little chip there – it may not seem like much, but over time it has an impact. We have to stand up before it’s too late.” — Thomas J. Gentzel National School Boards Association executive director

never faced a threat as existential as the one they face today. Even as recently as 2003, when the late Gerald W. Bracey wrote The War Against America’s Public Schools, such depictions might have seemed over the top. It had been just two years since a bipartisan Congress had passed No Child Left Behind, and while public school advocates were highly skeptical of the law’s eventual impact, few besides the brilliant, if somewhat eccentric, Virginia scholar were calling the mounting criticism of public education a “war.”

In retrospect, however, maybe he was right. “I don’t believe in conspiracy theories,” says author and education historian Diane Ravitch, one of the keynote speakers at NSBA’s 2013 Conference in San Diego. “I don’t think that people sat around 10 years ago and said, ‘If we do this, then that.’ But I think as events have unfolded, we now have a conscious movement that is determined to turn as many public schools as possible over to private management; and so, in that sense, there is a well-formed narrative. I’ve traveled the country these past three years, and I hear the same jargon wherever I go, which leads me to think this is not an accident.” Most troubling to Ravitch is what she sees as the convergence of the standardized testing movement on the one hand, and the push for privatization on the other. If schools are ranked poorly by their states because of poor performance on standardized tests, then more cries are heard to increase private options. Thus, says Ravitch, “the testing has become a platform for that privatization.” Of course, not everyone who supports “school reform” is out to dismantle the public schools or make a profit by privatizing them. Bill Gates isn’t in it for the money. He and other wealthy individuals, whom Ravitch refers to as “corporate reformers,” honestly believe the public schools are broken and need to be fixed.

“So there are people who have earnest, sincere, idealistic beliefs,” Ravitch says. “There are also people who are in it just because it’s fun. I mean, how can you explain all these Wall Street hedge fund managers who are pouring money into local school board races all over the country?” It’s well known that many schools serving low-income students, especially those in poor urban and rural areas, have failed to solve the twin problems of low achievement and high dropout rates. “Dropout factories” do indeed exist. These problems stem mainly from the myriad consequences of poverty that children bring to schools from their homes and neighborhoods, but they often are compounded by the poor quality of the schools themselves – yes, “failed schools.” Neither Ravitch nor groups such as NSBA dispute that such schools are out there and need big improvements. “I tell people I don’t walk around with a bucket of white paint and a broad brush and whitewash the problems,” Gentzel says. “But I also think we haven’t done a good enough job of telling our own story.”

Do facts matter? Part of that story is how public schools in the last half century have evolved from places that sorted students into groups of college-bound and laborers, to institutions that strive to prepare everyone for secondary education and high-skilled jobs. Over the same period, these institutions have cut racial and ethnic achievement gaps and raised student achievement even as America rapidly transforms itself into a multilingual, majority-minority society. It’s a great story, but one that rarely gets told.

And why is that? “I can’t help you. I just don’t know why this is the case,” says Richard Rothstein, a research associate for the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., and former education columnist for the New York Times. “If policies were based on fact, we would be examining what it is we’ve been doing that is so right in American education for the last 20 years or so.” In a 2011 response called Fact-challenged Policy, Rothstein disputes key statements Gates made in an opinion piece for the Washington Post. For example, Gates said student achievement “has remained virtually flat,” but Rothstein notes this is not the case. Long-term NAEP scores since 1978 show “American students have improved substantially, in some cases phenomenally,” including a 32-point gain [from 192 to 224] in the average math scores of African-American fourth-graders between 1978 and 2008. Indeed, Rothstein notes, “in fourth-grade math, black students now have higher average achievement than white students had when the assessments began.” continued on page 26 Alabama School Boards • Winter 2013 25

WHOSE SCHOOLS? continued from page 25

The Council on Foreign Relations report, written by “an independent task force,” doesn’t dwell on these details. Instead it points to such problems as low civics proficiency; poor graduation rates for African-American and Hispanic students; and the fact that, while eight in 10 Americans speak only English, “a decreasing number of schools are teaching foreign language.”

“If schools are ranked poorly by their states because of poor performance on standardized tests, then more cries are heard to increase private options.” Task force co-chair Condoleezza Rice, the former U.S. Secretary of State, says this could prove to be the nation’s “greatest national security challenge.” “Educational failure puts the United States’ future economic prosperity, global position and physical safety at risk,” the report warns. And it calls for “a national security readiness audit to hold schools and policymakers accountable for results and to raise public awareness.” The report also calls for expansion of the Common Core State Standards and “enhanced choice and competition in an environment of equitable resource allocation.” The task force’s other co-chair is Joel I. Klein, former chancellor of New York City Public Schools and now an executive vice president for Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., the parent company of Fox News. At a news conference in 2011 announcing his plans for the company, Klein said one of News Corp.’s goals is to “put them in the burgeoning and dynamic education marketplace.” That market has grown tremendously in recent years. According to an August 2012 Reuters story, venture capital transactions in the K-12 sector grew from $13 million in 2005 to $389 million in 2011, with some of the most prominent Silicon Valley firms playing a large part. The goal, one investment firm head told Reuters, is to outsource an increasing number of public school responsibilities – from teaching math to writing report cards – to private vendors.

Is there a disconnect? Another big player in that emerging marketplace is the forprofit charter school – although Ravitch points out that many socalled nonprofits are making significant amounts of money. In the past, charters’ biggest selling point was that they were laboratories of innovation where teachers and administrators could try new ways of teaching and escape burdensome regulations from above. Charter schools still are promoted on that basis, but the 26 Alabama School Boards • Winter 2013

bigger selling point now is choice, the idea that charters offer parents – particularly parents of poor and minority students – the opportunity to escape low-performing public schools and move to something better. The fact that numerous studies have shown that charter school students perform no better on average than their peers in traditional public schools, they serve far fewer special needs students or they lead to increased segregation in some cities has not lessened the power of this argument. The argument suggests “competition is always a good thing, choice is always a good thing,” says Sedivy, the linguistic professor and author of Sold on Language. It’s a powerful argument, whether or not it’s always true, and one that drives the advertising industry. And, not surprisingly, it works best on those who are the least informed about the true nature of the choices before them. Consider the 2012 PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools. The schools Americans presumably know the most about – their local public schools – are perceived as far better than public schools as a whole. Nearly half of the responders gave the schools in their communities either an A or B. Among parents, 63 percent assigned A or B grades to their local schools, an increase of 6 percentage points from 10 years ago and 13 percentage points from 20 years ago. When it comes to their view of the nation’s schools, however, the grades are much lower. Fewer than 20 percent assign grades of A or B, and nearly 50 percent give them Cs. In other words, proximity and direct experience led to favorable ratings; reliance on national media and the noise it generates made for low ones. “There is a disconnect between their direct experience with their local public school and their impression of American public schools nationally,” says Lisa Bartusek, NSBA’s assistant executive director for state association and school board leadership services. This suggests a two-pronged approach for state school boards associations and NSBA, Bartusek says: building on the support that’s already out there for local schools and changing the inaccurate perception of schools nationally. “Public policy is being framed on the perceptions that public schools are failing, and schools are being impacted by these policies,” Bartusek says. “And that’s where we have to connect the dots.” Ultimately, the question comes down to this: “Whose schools are they?” says Ravitch. “We cannot take what belongs to the public and hand it over to private companies to run, whether forprofit or not-for-profit. Many of these not-for-profits are making vast amounts of money. But even if they weren’t making money, they don’t do any better. We’re not saving kids; we’re creating institutions that are unaccountable to the public.” n Lawrence Hardy is a senior editor of American School Board Journal and can be reached at Reprinted with permission from American School Board Journal, May 2013. Copyright 2013 National School Boards Association. All rights reserved.

Alabama Branch Office 2111 Parkway Office Cir Ste 250 • Birmingham, Al 35244

Alabama School Boards • Winter 2013 27

to tilt the scale a bit in favor of the IB applicant at those institutions. On the other hand, several admissions deans took the middle ground, contending the IB diploma candidate was granted greater rigor but the a la carte IB applicant was on the same footing as an AP candidate.

For college admissions, does an IB diploma make a difference? By William Conley


ver my 32 years in college admissions work, and particularly in the past 10 years as dean of enrollment and academic services at Johns Hopkins University [with its 18 percent admission rate], I often have been asked by superintendents and other school leaders to assess how a move toward or away from Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or class rank would affect their students’ prospects for admission to highly selective colleges. My answer always has been prefaced with the same two words: It depends. Indeed, while some common ground exists in the world of college admissions, there is also considerable variability. The 2011 State of Admissions report published by the National Association for College Admission Counseling cited grades in college-prep courses and strength of curriculum as the two highest-rated factors in the admission decision — with 84 percent and 66 percent, respectively, of all colleges rating them as “considerably important.” 28 Alabama School Boards • Winter 2013

Well back in 10th place among 15 factors was subject test scores [AP, IB] with a 10 percent rating. When parsed by colleges admitting fewer than 50 percent of applicants, these data points shift dramatically. Grades [96 percent] and curriculum [94 percent] increased in importance, while 24 percent judged subject test scores as considerably important. Among highly competitive colleges, it is a universal practice to factor International Baccalaureate coursework in assessing the strength of curricula, but there are no absolutes when it comes to weighing the IB as a single factor in an admission decision.

Comparative rigor While Johns Hopkins and Bucknell University both view IB and AP as equally deserving in the assignment of academic rigor, two highly competitive colleges, one on the West Coast and the other in the Midwest, judge IB course work to be more rigorous than AP. This would seem

All competitive colleges contacted for the purpose of this article appreciate that the IB’s test platform is primarily freeresponse questions compared to the AP’s greater reliance on multiple-choice questions. In the words of an admissions dean at a highly selective East Coast university: “The IB seems to cultivate more of the broad-minded, intellectually curious approach that many of us in education like to see in students.” Among highly selective college deans, there is general agreement, save some nuance, that IB coursework bestows upon an applicant a highly motivated, academically ambitious halo. In fact, the trend line for IB credibility as represented in NACAC’s State of Admissions report – which is published every two years – is very positive. In 2009, 19 percent of selective colleges attributed “considerable importance” to subject test scores [AP, IB] compared to 24 percent in 2011. In a period of just two years, this is a remarkable uptick for the IB profile. Nonetheless, such a positive trend does not translate to a de facto advantage for IB students in the selective college admissions process. As the NACAC report states: “Because applicants to the most selective institutions often have similarly high grades and test scores, these colleges need more information with which to evaluate each applicant … and their admission process is more ‘holistic.’” For schools like Johns Hopkins and Bucknell that attract large numbers of self-selecting, high-achieving applicants, the holistic approach means that it is less likely that a single factor, be it IB or class rank, will rule the outcome for an applicant. Then consider colleges like a Stanford or a Harvard that admit fewer than 7 percent of their applicants. It is unlikely an inquiring denied applicant

“What is not debatable is the assertion that students who complete a rigorous high school curriculum are much more likely to complete a bachelor’s degree than those who complete less rigorous curricula.” would ever be told: “If only you had pursued an IB curriculum.”

Context rules Selective colleges, first and foremost, judge an applicant on her or his individual merit. Although the National Association for College Admissions Counseling’s biannual report does not include school quality among the factors rated, the quality of the applicant’s high school does play a contextual role in the admission decision. As in the case of evaluating applicants, no universal methodology exists for

ranking high schools. The presence of an IB curriculum contributes to an assessment of quality along with such factors as the proportion of graduates attending four-year colleges and percentage of AP test takers scoring above 4 and IB test takers earning a 5 or better. By adopting the IB program, a school does not, in the words of one admission dean, “somehow become a better school right away.” The best schools are judged to be those that do best by their students. What is not debatable is the assertion that “students who complete a rigorous

high school curriculum are much more likely to complete a bachelor’s degree than those who complete less rigorous curricula,” a point made in the State of College Admissions report. However, to answer the question “How do selective colleges view students’ IB experiences as part of the admissions process?” Well, it depends. [See related article, page 12.] n William Conley is vice president for enrollment management at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa., and he can be contacted at Reprinted with permission from the September 2012 issue of School Administrator magazine, published by AASA, the school superintendents association.

Alabama School Boards • Winter 2013 29

Avoiding the hidden rocks at low tide Three policy considerations for cash flow solvency By Dan Warden


magine for a moment that you can’t breathe for want of oxygen. This is what an organization faces when it lacks adequate cash to meet payroll and other obligations. Accrual accounting and budgets have their place, but cash flow is the ultimate reality for any organization, including school systems. Cash is oxygen. Good cash flow forecasting and management can help school systems avoid the hazards of running out of cash and, at the same time, minimize potential disruptions to programs and borrowing costs. Over the last five years, state reductions have severely impacted cash flows. School system cash balances have been reduced and, to a significant extent, replaced with Accounts Receivables of IOUs from the state. Now, in addition to balancing budgets, school systems face greater challenges in ensuring that cash is available to make payments when they are due. Even when budgets are balanced, there can still be cash flow problems.

Developing projection policies to stay afloat Imagine that the budget represents the ocean surface while cash flows represent the ocean floor. For your school system ship, a reduced budget translates to shallower sailing waters. Add state deferrals, which shorten the distance between you and the rocks on the ocean floor, and the risks of grounding your ship become even greater. Allowances for these risks, known or unknown, must be incorporated into school system planning and positioning. Use these steps to develop strong policies for cash flow forecasting and management: 30 Alabama School Boards • Winter 2013

• Develop a system for both the projection and monitoring of cash flows. • Enable the school system to project best, worst and most likely scenarios the system may face in the foreseeable future. • Enable the school system to detect in a timely manner departures from projections that require management action. • Enhance the school system with an inventory of the cash management tools available and the plans to deploy them if necessary. Include tools you expect to use, as well as tools that could be used contingently if worst-case scenarios materialize. Tools that carry no cost or low cost should be utilized before alternatives, which could either disrupt operations or require significant expenditures.

Creating useful cash flow projections Since cash needs to be available whenever it is needed, monthly projections of cash balances should be prepared to identify when cash would run out, how much would be needed during the drought and how many months the extra cash would be needed. Does your school system perform the following projections? The baseline: Project expected needs based on the current budget and reasonably expected cash flows. This becomes the baseline for planning cash flow needs. The contingency for worst cash flow: Project cash flows based on the current budget under the worst anticipated cash

flow projections for that budget. This is the first level of contingency planning since additional cash may be needed if cash flows as projected in the baseline do not materialize. The contingency for worst budget: Develop contingency plans for budget reductions if a worst-case budget situation were to occur. A cash flow projection based on these contingencies should also be developed and used to factor in additional contingency cash flow planning.

Forecast uncertainties School systems are facing considerable uncertainty and may need to change budgets and cash flows as events unfold. Totally unanticipated events may also occur. Therefore, cash flow projections should be used in the same manner that seasoned sailors use maps and charts. While they are useful guides, they must be supplemented by ocean-floor depth soundings and position checks followed by appropriate course corrections. The school system’s projection and monitoring system should provide for comparison of monthly projections to actual results, and variances should be investigated. Variances may indicate changes in conditions that require alterations to system plans.

Cash management tools Cash management tools are tactics used to accelerate cash inflows, delay cash outflows, or provide for temporary borrowing to cover the drought periods. Your school system is probably already using some of these. Generally, each tool can only be used up to a limited amount and for a limited duration. While some have no cost or low cost to the system, others do carry a cost. Disruption of school system services [a spending freeze or expenditure delays] or additional expenses could further

Cash flow projections should be used in the same manner that seasoned sailors use maps and charts. reduce school system services in already austere budget times. Additionally, some of these tools require advanced planning, making them difficult to employ on short notice. Plan to use the least costly tools first and the more costly ones only when needed.

A lighthouse The policies the school system establishes are the sailors’ tools. Projecting, monitoring and managing cash flows are in one hand, while the other hand holds the plans for addressing shortages. Even so, these tools may prove inadequate if your staff is stretched or reduced beyond comfort levels. Your staff may need assistance from the leadership team in any or all of the following ways: • Provide an external review of cash flow planning and actual cash flow projections. This would be a second pair of eyes that could make recommendations for improving the processes in place and/or in reviewing projections. • Provide assistance in obtaining the information necessary to prepare cash flow projections or in the processes used to project and monitor cash flows. • Train staff in cash flow projections and monitoring. • Prepare cash flow projections externally. School system staff should be involved, as outside consultants may not be familiar with factors unique to your school system. n Dan Warden is director/consultant with the CPA firm Vicenti, Lloyd & Stutzman, and he has more than 22 years of school budgetary and accounting experience. He can be reached at This article originally appeared in California Schools magazine, published by the California School Boards Association.

Alabama School Boards • Winter 2013 31

Control unemployment expenses, save education dollars By Jessica Sherrill


have to admit I’m slightly obsessed with unemployment and how schools can save millions of dollars with careful navigation through the unemployment process. Following are my lessons learned, with hopes you can navigate the system better, and ultimately, save money.

Lesson #1: Check your mail — especially during breaks You might be surprised that the easiest way to lose money in unemployment claims is by not regularly checking your mail or email, if your state is electronic. The U.S. Department of Labor grades each state’s unemployment program partially based on timeliness, which means we have deadlines each step of the way to keep the claims moving. This is a big concern during holiday, spring and summer breaks when your schools are likely closed.

“Many employers don’t respond to every claim, but I’m urging you to do just that. “

Ironically, those breaks are also very busy times for claims to be filed against schools. I encourage you to keep a close watch on your mail throughout the year, even during breaks, so you have an opportunity to respond every time.

Lesson #2: Respond on time Many employers don’t respond to every claim, but I’m urging you to do just that. Your state’s unemployment agency needs your help in finding information on the person who has filed for unemployment, 32 Alabama School Boards • Winter 2013

who is also known as a claimant. And, this helps you have a better chance at winning your claim. It’s best to provide the following information: • Claimant’s start date — This is the date he or she actually started work, not just the start date of the most recent school year. • Claimant’s separation date — Separation is a term used in unemployment arenas to mean that an employee no longer works for the employer. So, the separation date is the last actual day the claimant worked. This is not the last day of an employment contract or the last day they ran out of leave. • Claimant’s job position — It is important for the unemployment agency to know what level of expectation was placed on the claimant, likely for purposes of determining misconduct. • The reason why the claimant is not working for your school anymore — This is the most important part, and if you provide nothing else, at least send this information.

Lesson #3: Provide details Imagine that I respond to an unemployment claim by telling you the employee didn’t work out and was let go. Now, imagine instead I say a custodian was terminated because he was caught sleeping on the job. For another example, what if I told you a teacher voluntarily quit versus voluntarily quit in the middle of the school year, stating she wanted a career change? These slightly more detailed responses give a clearer picture of what happened. Be specific. It is vital you provide clear, relevant information when responding to claims. Your state’s unemployment law is designed to be matched to facts. I can assure you the claimant is providing his or her side of the story; this is your chance to provide yours.

Lesson #4: Send paper Claimant says he was fired; you know he walked off the job when you tried to reprimand him. He files for unemployment and now someone else is trying to decide whether you should pay. This is a classic “he said, she said” situation, and it happens all the time in unemployment claims. However, when you have documentation of warnings, evaluations, policy acknowledgements, resignations, etc., you bring additional credibility to your statement. It’s great to create and keep the documentation, but it only helps your school if you send it over. Be sure to provide documentation when you respond to your claim.

Lesson #5: Don’t give up So, now you’re checking your mail and sending over-detailed responses on time. Don’t give up if the initial determination of the claim doesn’t go your way. You will have the opportunity to appeal. Do it if you feel the decision was wrong. The next step in most states is a telephone hearing — a conference call with everyone involved, led by a hearing officer who just wants to hash through why the claimant isn’t working anymore. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Lesson #6: Show up and be prepared As you wait for a hearing to be scheduled, double-check that you have sent over all of the relevant documents. Begin thinking of who has firsthand knowledge of what occurred. One of the worst things you can do in preparing for a hearing is to plan for the human resources person to be on the hearing call with just a summary of what happened. If that’s your plan, you’re sunk. You need to gather up the claimant’s supervisor, find out who witnessed the last event and stress the importance of them being available for the hearing. To take it a step further, review the relevant law of the claim so you know what information you can be expected to cover. For example, if the claimant quit,

you’ll likely be listening to the claimant first about why he or she quit and then be responding with what you know to be the reason. Or, if the claimant was dismissed, you’ll need to provide a run-down of what happened to cause him or her to be fired. The fact that your school board might have already gone through this when the employee was terminated does not matter. This is a completely separate court.

Lesson #7: Explain school terms and concepts Be sure to explain any special terms and any customs that might make your school different from the typical employer. For instance, if a paraprofessional violated the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, you’ll want to explain what the term means and why it’s important. If a school employee can’t be terminated without a due process hearing, then you’ll want to explain that process. If there are any state school laws that dictate how you hire and fire, it is necessary those be explained. We can’t assume the unemployment folks understand how schools are different or

Did you know?  School employees in Alabama

with reasonable assurance of reemployment the next school year are generally denied benefits between terms and during regularly scheduled breaks.

 Individuals who have educational employment will receive two monetary determinations:

• one containing all wages

reported during the base period, including school wages, and

• one containing all wages

reported during the base period, without school wages. Under certain circumstances it may be possible for these individuals to draw a reduced benefit amount during a scheduled school break and between terms.

 To learn more about unemployment claims in Alabama, visit

every law we’re subject to, so we must educate them.

Lesson #8: Give reasonable assurance before breaks I mentioned before the number of unemployment claims against schools increases during breaks. Luckily, the Department of Labor understands that public schools close for certain breaks and thus has told the states that schools do not pay unemployment during these times. The catch is the employee must have been hired or given a reasonable assurance preferably before the break begins that he or she will return to work when the break ends. It is best to do this in writing and provide to the employee the date of expected return. In most cases, this is not necessary for your holiday and spring breaks, as they are shorter than the summer break. Therefore, your employee might not work during the summer months and may or may not continue to be paid during that time. And, if an employee files for unemployment, and you can prove the employee has reasonable assurance, then the claim should be denied. If you mistakenly tell an employee he or she will return but later you can’t, for whatever reason, have the employee back, then you are looking at possibly paying retroactive payments from the date the claim was filed. Oddly, this doesn’t apply to teachers. They only would be entitled to unemployment from the date of expected return, going forward. All in all, providing reasonable assurance is the greatest defense to the busiest unemployment season for schools.

Lesson #9: Fight overpayments Nearly 11 percent of unemployment payments are made in error, according to the Department of Labor. Because unemployment is meant to keep our society afloat, the general standard is to pay benefits as soon as someone becomes eligible. The problem arises when the claimant later becomes ineligible. Occasionally, someone is paid and later is disqualified for one of various reasons. The good news is that you are able to request that continued on page 34 Alabama School Boards • Winter 2013 33


James Woosley

School Board Satsuma City Board of Education Hometown Satsuma How Long Have You Been a Board Member? 2+ years, first term Books at Bedside Other than my own book, Conquer the Entrepreneur’s Kryptonite, the Bible, a daily devotional by C.S. Lewis, and Book Yourself Solid by Michael Port. Inspiration I have a deep desire to make a positive impact. I simply want to make a difference in my work, for my family and for our students. Motto as a Board Member I just want to help our system, our employees and most of all our students move into their potential. It’s greater than any of us know. Walter Mitty Fantasy If traveling through time and space with Doctor Who is a bit too fantastic, then just let me be a successful NASCAR driver! Greatest Accomplishment as a Board Member Nothing individual. It’s about being a part of a great team of people who successfully created a new school system in less than a year. We defied the odds, the skeptics and the naysayers. And now we work to make the system even better. Pet Peeve as a Board Member Only one? Probably the speed at which we can make things happen. Good ideas are all around us, but budgetary and resource limitations slow things down. There’s a time for slow and steady, but there’s also a need for quick innovation with appropriate trial and error. If it fails, 34 Alabama School Boards • Winter 2013

UNEMPLOYMENT EXPENSES continued from page 33

money back. Public schools are provided an option to reimburse the state for unemployment payments made, which means you pay dollar for dollar what is paid to claimants. Being a reimbursing employer has its perks, because you only pay when a claimant files a claim and wins. Therefore, if you win, you don’t pay. If there is an overpayment you are concerned with, get in touch with your state’s unemployment agency to find out what you can do to be credited back. In most cases, you only can get money back when the overpaid claimant returns the money. But, you’d be surprised by how often you are able to recover overpayments.

Lesson #10: Make friends and ask questions Unemployment government workers enjoy talking about this and explaining the nuances of our federal framework. I encourage you to reach out to your state unemployment agency personnel to get help if you think something was done in error. Ask questions and expect honest results. All in all, realize that sometimes unemployment is not fair. Your schools might pay unemployment when you think they shouldn’t, but they might not pay unemployment when the claimant thinks they should. It really comes down to dispelling unemployment myths, giving it a try each time a claim comes in and following the process to the end. When you understand the law in your state and consider what your school system can do to reduce unemployment costs, you stand to save money. It takes time, effort and maybe some extra digging through filing cabinets and personnel files, but ultimately your system has the ability to minimize your claim losses and payments. When you save in unemployment, your students win. n Jessica Sherrill is staff attorney for the Oklahoma State School Boards Association. She is a member of the National School Boards Association Council of School Attorneys and can be reached at Reprinted with permission from the American School Board Journal, May 2013. Copyright 2013 National School Boards Association. All rights reserved.

that’s OK as long as it doesn’t cause long-term damage and we learn from it. Reason I Like Being an AASB Member If my only point of reference for being a board member was within my own board, it would feel overwhelming and alone. The ability to connect with other board members and learn together helps us all be better, even if our systems are very different. My Epitaph I‘m not sure I could write my own. I’ll leave that to the people who knew me best. n

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Pelham, AL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 205/403-8388

• Southland International Bus Sales

Birmingham, AL. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 888/844-1821


Mobile, AL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 800/844-0884

• Synergetics, DCS

Birmingham, AL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 205/250-0700

New York, NY. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 866/792-5879

• Godwin Jones Architecture

Montgomery, AL. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 334/387-2040

• Hoar Program Management

Birmingham, AL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 205/803-2121

• KHAFRA Engineers, Architects and Construction Managers

Birmingham, AL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 205/252-8353

• Lathan Associates Architects PC

Hoover, AL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 205/988-9112

• Oldschool Collaborative, LLC

Birmingham, AL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 205/999-1013

• PH&J Architects Inc.

Montgomery, AL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 334/265-8781

• Ra-Lin and Associates Inc.

Carrollton, GA. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 770/834-4884

• Terracon

Starkville, MS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 662/461-0122

Birmingham, AL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 205/942-1289

Montgomery, AL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 334/420-1500

Ft. Mitchell, KY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 877/462-5967

• TCU Consulting Services LLC

• Union Springs Professional, LLC

Alabama School Boards • Winter 2013 35

Alabama Association of School Boards Post Office Drawer 230488 Montgomery, Alabama 36123-0488

Non-Profit Org. U.S. Postage PAID Montgomery, AL Permit No. 34

2013 Winter Alabama School Boards Magazine  
2013 Winter Alabama School Boards Magazine  

The 2013 edition of the winter Alabama School Boards magazine features articles on the 2014 legislative session, the 2014 AASB Advocacy Agen...