Alabama Association of School Boards
Professional Sustaining Members
A Partnership That Works! AASB appreciates these professional members for supporting association activities and you all year long. • Aho Architects LLC . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Hoover, AL
• JH Partners Architecture/Interiors . . . . . Huntsville, AL
• Alabama Beverage Association . . . . . Montgomery, AL
• Kelly Services, Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Dothan, AL
• Alabama Gas Corporation . . . . . . . . . . . Birmingham, AL
• Alabama Supercomputer Authority . Montgomery, AL
• KHAFRA Engineers, Architects . . . . . . . Birmingham, AL and Construction Managers
• American Fidelity Assurance . . . . . . . . Birmingham, AL
205/987-0950 or 800/365-3714
• KPS Group, Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Birmingham, AL
• Paul B. Krebs & Associates, Inc. . . . . . . Birmingham, AL
• Barganier Davis Sims Architects . . . . . Montgomery, AL
• Lathan Associates Architects PC . . . . . Birmingham, AL
• BlueCross BlueShield of Alabama . . . Birmingham, AL
• McCauley Associates Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . Birmingham, AL
• Christian Testing Labs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Montgomery, AL
• Council of Alabama . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Birmingham, AL Coca-Cola Bottlers, Inc.
• McKee & Associates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Montgomery, AL Architecture and Design • Payne & Associates Architects . . . . . . . Montgomery, AL
• Davis Architects Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Birmingham, AL
• PH&J Architects Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Montgomery, AL
• Dome Technology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Idaho Falls, ID
• Rosser International, Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . Montgomery, AL
• Exford Architects . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Birmingham, AL
• Sain Associates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Birmingham, AL
• Fuqua & Partners Architects PC . . . . . . . . Huntsville, AL
• Scientific Learning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Tallahassee, FL
• Fibrebond . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Minden, LA
• Sherlock Smith & Adams Inc. . . . . . . Montgomery, AL
• Gallet & Associates Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Birmingham, AL
• Southland International Bus Sales . . Birmingham, AL
• Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood Inc. . . . Montgomery,AL
334/271-3200 205/879-4462 251/460-4006 256/533-1484
• 2WR/Holmes Wilkins . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Montgomery, AL Acrhitects Inc.
Birmingham, AL Mobile, AL Huntsville, AL
• TAC Energy Solutions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Birmingham, AL
• Hoar Program Management . . . . . . . . . Birmingham, AL
• Transportation South . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Pelham, AL
• Jenkins Munroe Jenkins . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Anniston, AL Architecture
• Evan Terry Associates PC . . . . . . . . . . . . . Birmingham, AL
• Volkert & Associates Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mobile, AL
JANUARY l FEBRUARY 2008
The Legislative session is under way. Here’s a look at the governor’s proposed budget and AASB’s stance on key issues.
Vol. 29, No. 1
10 FACE TO FACE Laura Casey sits down with Sen. Hinton Mitchem
12 CONVENTION A roundup of news from the 2007 AASB Convention
NEW RULES FOR FUND RAISERS
FEATURES 6 DO YOU BELIEVE? AASB President Sue Helms launches campaign to build confidence in public schools
7 LEADING LEADERS
22 10 QUESTIONS Legislative Fiscal Office Director Dr. Joyce Bigbee and State Finance Director Jim Main
27 GRADUATION New proposals from state Board of Education workshops
HELP CULTIVATE 21st CENTURY CITIZENS
Immediate Past President Jim Methvin reflects on AASB’s goals and statewide mission
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
PRESIDENT Sue Helms Madison City
DISTRICT 1 Patsy Black Monroe County
PRESIDENT-ELECT Florence Bellamy Phenix City
DISTRICT 2 Bill Minor Dallas County
VICE PRESIDENT Steve Foster Lowndes County
DISTRICT 3 Jeff Bailey Covington County
IMMEDIATE PAST PRESIDENT Jim Methvin Alabama School of Fine Arts
DISTRICT 4 Katy S. Campbell Macon County
DISTRICT 5 Jennifer Parsons Jefferson County
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR Sally Brewer Howell, J.D.
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, and complimentary copies are sent to public school principals throughout the state. Additional subscriptions can be obtained by contacting AASB. Entered as third-class mail at Montgomery, AL. Permit No. 34. Alabama School Boards is designed by J. Durham Design, L.L.C., Montgomery, 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 info@AlabamaSchoolBoards.org.
CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER Ken Roberts, C.P.A.
IN EVERY ISSUE 3 UP FRONT 8 EDUCATION & THE LAW 27 HELP 28 PEOPLE & SCHOOLS 31 AT THE TABLE 31 CALENDAR ON THE COVER: Alabama Flag©istockPhoto.com
DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC RELATIONS Denise L. Berkhalter DIRECTOR OF GOVERNMENTAL RELATIONS Lissa Astilla Tucker EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT Tammy Wright ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANTS Debora Hendricks Donna Norris BOOKKEEPER Kay Shaw
DISTRICT 6 Sue Jones Jacksonville DISTRICT 7 Susan Harris Winfield DISTRICT 8 Pam Doyle Muscle Shoals DISTRICT 9 Laura Casey Albertville STATE BOARD Sandra Ray Tuscaloosa
RECEPTIONIST Lashana Summerlin CLERICAL ASSISTANT Kristi Martin Alabama School Boards • Januar y l Februar y 2008 3
ADOLESCENT LITERACY DATA The challenges and successes of the Alabama Reading Initiative Project for Adolescent Literacy in 14 pilot schools are summarized in the report “The ARI-PAL Maiden Voyage: The Alabama Reading Initiative Sails Toward a New Horizon.” Results show ARI-PAL schools (except grade 7) made greater gains in reading comprehension on the Stanford Achievement Test, Tenth Edition and in reading on the Alabama Reading and Math Test. Download the report at www.alsde.edu.
GROW YOUR OWN TEACHERS A staffing trend for rural and small school systems is creating a homegrown teaching force of locals interested in making a difference in their communities (See http://www.ericdigests.org/ 2000-4/rural.htm). Encourage your college-bound seniors to consider the teaching profession. Alabama offers state-funded scholarships totaling more than $2 million in teaching scholarships to 100 high school seniors and professionals seeking an alternative degree in teaching. The Alabama Teacher Recruitment Incentive Program scholarships will go to future math, special education, general science and English teachers who plan to enroll in college this fall. Find out more at www.atrip.alabama.gov before the March 31 deadline.
NSBA EVENTS Don’t forget to register for the National School Boards Association’s T+L Conference on technology, Oct. 28-30 in Seattle, and the Council of Urban Boards of Education Annual Conference & Award Ceremony, Sept. 25-28 in Las Vegas. More at www.NSBA.org. 4 Alabama School Boards • Januar y l Februar y 2008
HONOR THY BEST TEACHERS Nominate your exemplary teachers for the 2008 American Star of Teaching Awards by March 31. Choose nominees who use innovative methods to boost student achievement, involve parents in education and to motivate the hardest to reach youngsters. Learn more at www.ed.gov/teacherinitiative.
DID YOU KNOW? Alabama ranked 12th in the nation in 2007 for its 226 national board certified teachers, which brings the total to 1,329.
PRE-K CONFERENCE APRIL 3-4 Transitioning from preschool to kindergarten is no easy task for Alabama’s youngest students. Find out what public schools can do to ease that transition at the third annual Alabama Pre-K Conference themed the “Building Blocks for a Better Tomorrow.” The April 3-4 event will be at the newly constructed Renaissance Montgomery Hotel & Spa at the Convention Center in the capital city. Call the state Office of School Readiness at 334/223-0522 or visit www.dca.state.al.us/OSR.
REGISTER NOW FOR MARCH 14-15
LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE AASB Needs Your Snapshots of Success At AASB’s annual convention, the
If you haven’t registered for AASB’s March 14-15 academy course on Leadership for Developing a Highly Effective Staff, it’s not too late. Don’t miss your opportunity to work toward another level in AASB’s School Board Member Academy and to learn how to support your governance teams’ efforts to motivate employees, drive employee performance and effectively evaluate it. Speakers include Air University Commander Lt. Gen. Stephen Lorenz on creating a culture of high expectations; Eric Hirsch of the New Teacher Center on the Teaching & Learning Conditions Survey; and Dr. John Draper, Council for Leaders in Alabama Schools executive director, on getting the right people in the right positions. Interested in learning more about Connecting with 21st Century Learners? Then arrive early March 14 for a 1 to 3 p.m. pre-conference workshop featuring Dr. Melinda Maddox, the state Department of Education’s director of technology initiatives. Member registration is $65 for the early bird workshop and $125 for the conference in advance. Late registration carries a $10 fee. The Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover is the host hotel. Accommodations go fast, so call 800/996-3739 or 205/987-1600. Go to www.AlabamaSchoolBoards.org to register or call AASB at 800/562-0601.
association launched its “I Believe” campaign. AASB President Sue Helms asked all school boards to send in photographs that tell a positive story about public schools to display during convention. Please label each photograph with the board’s name, school’s name and a caption indicating the success and send by e-mail to info@AlabamaSchool Boards.org or by mail to Denise L. Berkhalter, Attention: Snapshots of Success, P.O. Drawer 230488, Montgomery, AL 36123-0488.
Know a High School Student Who Wants to Make a Difference? The deadline for recommending high school students for Alabama Possible youth camp is March 31. Motivated students could qualify for $150 scholarships to cover the cost of the June 29-July 2 camp at Huntingdon College in Montgomery. The camp is sponsored by the Alabama Poverty Project, an education and research organization. To recommend a motivated youngster, contact Executive Director Nick Foster at 205/939-1408 or visit www.alabama poverty.org.
READY FOR SOUTHERN REGION? July 20-22 New Orleans Mark your calendar for the July 20-22 NSBA/ Southern Region Conference hosted by the Louisiana School Boards Association at the Astor Crowne Plaza Hotel in New Orleans. Book rooms at 888/696-4806 and register for the conference at www.LSBA.com
Alabama School Boards • Januar y l Februar y 2008 5
PRESIDENT’S PERSPECTIVE By Sue Helms, AASB President
I Believe in Public Education
believe every individual has a right to an exemplary education in a safe environment with highly qualified, dedicated teachers. I believe individuals learn in unique ways and high expectations increase student learning and performance. I believe education requires the collaboration of communities, families and schools. I believe in public education! We know the challenges facing America’s schools are unprecedented and complicated. These challenges are compounded by government interference, funding shortfalls, state and national mandated tests, high profile celebrities with talk shows and political agendas, and inaccurate media reports that erode public confidence at a time when we need it most. But I believe these challenges, though great, can be met with support from all stakeholders. I believe collaboration and teamwork are the keys to changing our nation’s perception of public education. I believe it is about nurturing relationships that encompass patience and virtue. Today, I ask you to also believe in public education. During my tenure as president, I would like us to focus our efforts on re-establishing confidence in public education because I know we can make a difference. We need to spotlight the positive accomplishments of our students and schools within our communities. Why is it important for us to highlight our success stories? The public should always be made aware of our efforts to provide the best possible public education for our students. Who can tell our story better than us? If we don’t believe in our success, who will? Together we will work hard, but I also know that together we can, and will, succeed. As we start our mission, I ask that you take snapshots of success and pass these pictures along to our AASB staff. We are going to collect your photos and share them with our members. The greatest part of this journey will be the lessons we learn from sharing our successes with each other. Whether it is students
6 Alabama School Boards • Januar y l Februar y 2008
engaged in learning, leadership skills displayed by a principal, the actions of a committed teacher or staff member or just students having fun, we want you to capture it on film. In July, I am sure we will be amazed at all our snapshots of success. Throughout my tenure we will send you reminders about our mission and evidence of our successes. I am excited, and I look forward to serving you as president. I believe in public education, and I know each of you do, too! Sue Helms began serving as AASB president at the close of the December 2007 convention and is the association’s former president-elect. She is a member of the Madison city school board.
I Believe Send your snapshots of success to info@AlabamaSchoolBoards.org (for high resolution digital photos) or mail prints to Denise Berkhalter/Snapshots of Success, P.O. Drawer 230488, Montgomery, AL 36123-0488.
A RETROSPECTIVE By Jim Methvin, AASB Immediate Past President
Leading the Leaders
he mission of the Alabama Association of School Boards is advocacy for public school students; leadership development and training; and providing resources for education governance. AASB is leading the education leaders in our state to successfully fulfill this mission. The success of our mission is directly related, I believe, to the success of school boards across Alabama. Jim Collins, author of Good to Great and the Social Sectors, states that a great organization is one that delivers superior performance — through its mission — and makes a distinctive impact over a long period of time. This is true for our association as well as local boards of education. Local boards’ performance can also be assessed relative to their mission. AASB is a school board’s prime resource in terms of being a conduit for educational and governance information through its publications, the School Board Member Academy conferences, leadership conferences, district meetings and other activities.
In the last two years, AASB has provided training conferences on understanding our leadership traits, financial accountability, student achievement, school climate, school board members’ roles and responsibilities and many targeted work sessions on such topics as making cultural diversity work and building successful reading programs. Attendance at these Academy conferences and the annual convention continues to increase. The AASB Board of Directors appreciates and recognizes school board members’ commitment to increasing your knowledge and skills and your support of AASB’s programs and activities. I challenge each school board member to initiate discussions with your superintendents and fellow school board members following the AASB conferences and meetings. To me, a prime responsibility of school board members is to keep your superintendent engaged in discussions of current and future educational issues that could impact the school system — what you learn from AASB — as well as continuing to share your community’s needs and expectations. Communicating with our fellow school board members about these same education issues is essential. A school board member’s internal compass is his or her interest and commitment for public education. It is this passion that we need to share with our colleagues in order to build momentum to accomplish our mission. It is this passion that clearly sends a message to our communities that we are continually working toward greatness in our school systems. Demonstrating our commitment and voicing our school systems’ accomplishments lead to greater support of public education. AASB leads the leaders in our communities. The association’s work promotes success for school boards, and, in turn, successes for the school children we represent and serve. Jim Methvin served as AASB president from 2005 to 2007 and is now the association’s immediate past president. He is a member of the Alabama School of Fine Arts board.
Alabama School Boards • Januar y l Februar y 2008 7
EDUCATION & THE LAW By Burgin H. Kent, Attorney, Bishop, Colvin, Johnson & Kent LLP
elow are eight bright ideas for superintendents and school board members to consider this year. Review the status of probationary and contract principals. The Teacher Accountability Act, found in Ala. Code Section 16-24B-1 through 8, basically allows a school system to employ new principals as probationary principals for one full contract year or two years if the person has never served as principal. The school board, upon the superintendent’s recommendation, can terminate the probationary principal at the end of the probationary period for any reason or without a stated reason. It’s important to understand that absent the superintendent’s written recommendation to cancel or not renew and the board’s majority vote to accept that recommendation, the board enters into a new contract with the contract principal for a period of not less than three years. So, if you have a probationary principal, you need to decide prior to the end of the probationary contract term whether to nonrenew in time to have the superintendent recommend, the board vote and the principal notified.
Review whether to nonrenew a contract principal. Ala. Code Section 16-24B-3(c) requires the superintendent to make a recommendation and a majority board vote not to offer a new, renewed or extended contract to a contract principal.The board’s vote must be made at least 90 days before the end of the contract. The recommendation should contain written notice of the superintendent’s decision and reasons for not renewing. The superintendent and employing board’s decision may be based on any reason that
8 Alabama School Boards • Januar y l Februar y 2008
is not personal or political. The contract principal must be notified either by personal service or by certified mail (return receipt requested) mailed to his or her last known address. Factor in plenty time for the superintendent and the board to consider whether a contract principal should be retained, for the superintendent to make his recommendation — along with the reason — and for the board to vote and notify the contract principal at least 90 days before the end of the contract. For example, if the contract expires on June 30, the contract principal must be notified no later than April 1. The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals in Gartman v. Limestone County Board of Education has ruled that the 90day notice does not apply to probationary principals. Make sure all contract principals are properly evaluated each year. Ala. Code Section 16-24B-3(i)(1) provides: “The chief executive officer (superintendent) or his or her designee shall at least annually evaluate the performance of each contract principal. The evaluation shall be performed in a manner prescribed by the state Board of Education.” Failure to evaluate a contract principal as required by this section shall extend his or her contract “one additional contract year for each contract year not evaluated up to three years” (See Ala. Code Section 16-24B-3(m)). A probationary principal is not eligible for a contract extension due to the board’s failure to evaluate, according to Holmes v. Macon County Board of Education. However, if a contract principal is not properly evaluated,his or her contract will be extended.
Review your system’s policy manual. You should review your school system’s policy manual prior to the end of the school year. Why? • To make sure that the policies in effect are being followed. • If you are not following a current policy, it needs to be changed or rescinded. • To make sure that your policy manual contains certain mandatory policies. It is not unusual to have a situation, such as a lawsuit, arise and for no one to know, when an inquiry is made, whether there is a policy in effect that addresses that issue. Usually, the question arises when the board’s attorney asks it. Sometimes, the opposing party asks the question during the course of the case, either in a deposition, when documents are requested or even at trial. Needless to say, a system can be placed in an embarrassing situation if its superintendent, board member or representative does not even know if a policy exists. A board may not be required to follow any set procedure in handling a matter. However, if it has adopted a policy, it “is bound to follow it” (See Belcher v. Jefferson County Board of Education). A board’s policy that is not followed may create a liability. But, how can you follow a policy if you don’t know whether one exists?
Modify or rescind policies that are obsolete or are not followed. Oftentimes, a school system will have policies in effect that have not been followed for many years. This may be as a result of updated technology or a change in the law. An example might be a policy that sets out the qualifications to be a bus driver or even to serve as school superintendent. These policies may set out the minimum requirements that existed at the time the policy was adopted. If the school system does not change its policy every time the law changes, it will have a policy on its books that could be in conflict with present-day legal requirements. I recommend that a board not adopt a policy that simply restates minimum requirements set forth in the Alabama Code. The board is subject to the law, so why would it make such a law policy, particularly if it is not going to be diligent in amending, modifying or rescinding policies when there is a change in the law? Likewise, if a school system has found it difficult to follow its existing policy — such as self-imposed timelines to respond to complaints, disciplinary appeals or grievances — the board should modify the policy by either extending the time period or, if necessary, eliminating a specific time period and replacing it with language such as “within a reasonable time.” Such modifications can help prevent a system from violating its own policy.
Make sure your system has up-to-date equal employment and nondiscrimination policies. As a general rule, the fewer policies, the better. Why? The courts have long recognized that the power to administer and supervise school systems is vested in the school board, and the courts will not seek to control the broad discretion, granted by the Legislature, that is exercised by school boards (See Clark v. Jefferson County Board of Education). Stated differ-
ently, a school board is not required to have a specific policy in effect in order to operate the school system. However, every school board should make sure that it has upto-date equal employment opportunity and nondiscrimination policies. The equal employment opportunity and nondiscrimination policies should set forth affirmatively that students shall not be excluded from participation in, be denied benefits of, or subject to unlawful discrimination in any program or activity on the basis of sex, race, color, religion, creed, national original, disability, immigration status, non-English speaking ability, homeless status, migrant status or any other legally protected status. The board should also make sure that its equal employment opportunity policy provides that applicants or employees will not be unlawfully discriminated against based upon sex, race, religion, creed, national origin, disability, age, color or any other legally protected status. These policies are necessary in the event a charge or suit is filed alleging discrimination. Make certain your system’s up-to-date sexual harassment policy has been distributed to all students, parents, faculty and staff. Each school system should have adopted a sexual harassment policy that contains the procedure for reporting, investigating and providing penalties for violations and addresses both student and employee complaints. The sexual harassment policy should be distributed to all students, parents, faculty and staff, and each of them should sign for the policy. You should have each employee sign a receipt that they have received and reviewed the board’s sexual harassment policy and place the receipt in their personnel file. One way to distribute the policy to students and parents is to include it in the Code of Student Conduct and require each student and the parent or guardian to sign a statement that they have received a copy. Maintain copies of the signed statements and a copy of the Code of Student Conduct. When defending such cases, it is extremely helpful to show the student and parent or guardian were aware of the policy if they deny knowing it was their responsibility to report sexual harassment claims.
Comply with the “meet and confer” statute when adopting, amending or rescinding a policy A school system must comply with Ala. Code Section 16-1-30, known as the “meet and confer” statute, in order to adopt, modify or rescind a policy. Prior to adopting a policy, there must be a written recommendation from the superintendent, and the board or the superintendent must consult with the local professional organization. The professional organization does not have to agree with the policy — and often does not — but it must be consulted. All written policies should be made available to all board employees affected. Any amendments to the policies must be furnished to the affected board employees within 20 days after adoption.
This is a brief summary of contracts and policies that should be reviewed annually. You should always consult with your board attorney when you have any questions concerning the status of probationary or contract principals or when adopting, amending or rescinding a policy.
Alabama School Boards • Januar y l Februar y 2008 9
FACE TO FACE By Laura Casey
Sen. Hinton Mitchem
his face-to-face interview with Senate President Pro Tempore Hinton Mitchem is the latest installment in a series of features recapping one-on-one conversations between members of the Alabama Association of School Boards’ grassroots Leader to Leader program and key state leaders in government and education. Here’s a recap of AASB District 9 Director and Albertville school board member Laura Casey’s discussion with Mitchem earlier this year. ◆ Casey: Sen. Mitchem, thank you for taking time this after-
noon to visit with me about state-level school board issues. How did you come into public service? ▲ Mitchem: How did I get into politics itself? You’ll get a kick out of this. Well, I was in the Jaycees, and we got upset about something the city was doing. And so, they drafted me to run for city council. So, I ran for city council and won. I was just a young kid, and I did not spend one dime. The Jaycees just went house-to-house and got me elected to the city council in 1968. I decided in 1970 that I would get into state politics. I ran for the House and got beat. That’s when we ran with Cullman County and got more votes, but I lost. In 1974, I ran for the House again and got elected in the House. So, I’ve been in the Legislature now since 1974 — almost 33-34 years. ◆ Casey: Tell me a little bit about being the president pro tem of the Senate. ▲ Mitchem: That’s probably the highest honor that I’ve ever been able to be involved in. I’m just very appreciative. There are 35 senators, and you have to be nominated and then they vote. I won by a landslide vote of 18-17 (laughs). If I get too cocky, then I’ll have to look back and remember that I just won by one vote. The last year was probably the hardest year that I’ve ever had since the 35 that I’ve been in Montgomery, because it was so divisive. I did get elected. It was all straight party lines — Republicans and the Democrats. I haven’t been a party person as much as I have been a person that supported and worked with everybody. That’s what I’m doing right now. We think we’ve got an agreement from Jim Folsom. I have worked real close with the lieutenant governor. Pro tem is a constitutional office, even though we’re elected by the other Senate 10 Alabama School Boards • Januar y l Februar y 2008
members. If something happens to the governor and the lieutenant governor, then the pro tem steps in as governor. So, I’m really two heart beats away from the governorship — of course you hope and pray nothing like that will ever happen. ◆ Casey: That was a rocky year last year. ▲ Mitchem: Oh, you know they had the fight the last night of
the session, which was devastating. I mean, it was the worst political thing. That was the punch that was seen all over the world. We got phone calls from all over the world. Even when I’m someplace now — I could be in California or New York — if they find out that I’m in the Alabama Senate, that’s the first thing they bring up. ◆ Casey: There has been some discussion that the president
pro tem would change after two years. Do you see that happening? ▲ Mitchem: I will serve another year until January of next year. I would suspect that’s something we’re going to have to work through after this session. But, I don’t want to do anything to keep this session from being successful. The way the whole mechanism works is I would either have to resign or either it takes a three-fifths vote, which I believe is 24 out of 35, to vote a pro tem out. So, I don’t know. Like I said, I’m just going to do the best job I can for the next year, and then we will look at that issue at a later time. ◆
Casey: What do you see as the biggest challenge facing education in the Legislature this year? ▲ Mitchem: The education budget that we’ll be operating — that’s for K-12,
community colleges and four-year schools — is $6.7 billion. The general fund appropriations for everything else in state government — Medicaid, mental health, conservation and agriculture — are $1.84 billion. When you look at the $6.7 billion education budget, there was a projected balance of $398 million at the end of the year that just ended in September, when in essence, we had $280 million. So, that estimate was overrated by $100 million — not by the Legislature itself but the people who usually do an excellent job with those numbers. But, there has been such a dramatic change in the economy that they missed that estimate by what probably is not a very big percent, but it is over $100 million. Also, the growth in the Education Trust Fund began to slow down in the late spring. And then receipts in the Education Trust Fund finished about $120 million less than projected. So, you see that’s another $120 million down. And overall — private corporate income tax was $84 million less than projected, sales tax was $26 million less than projected and the use tax, $15 million — the four grew at 6.5 percent, and that was probably about 5 percent less. So, 5 percent of $6 million is over $300 million. But we do have a safety guard. We’ve got $428 million in that proration account, so if we had not put that in there, it would be big trouble. In addition, there is the constitutional account — money that can be taken out if the governor declares proration. The other way it can be taken out is if it looks like it’s getting close and getting bad, but if the governor declares proration, this is the only way this money can be taken out. And, of course, a big chunk of this money was taken up in the 7 percent pay raise that the teachers got in the start of 2008, and each retired teacher, instead of getting a percent pay raise, got just a regular $600 before taxes. Some of the teachers that taught years ago, 25-30 years ago, are still in relatively good health and still going strong, and they just don’t make enough to live off of with their retirement. I’m glad we could help, and I’ve always supported retired teachers. But, sometimes that money has to come out of the boards’ pocket, and boards of education are always fighting trying to keep their heads above water. That’s what we try to take into consideration in every pay raise. But the biggest challenge facing education is the financial woes. Once you hit that threshold and build it up, it’s hard to ever go back. Thank goodness we did have money set up in these proration accounts, which is going to save us this year. And hopefully we won’t be in proration. With that Rainy Day Fund, we’ll have enough carryover and all without proration. ◆ Casey: That was going to be one of my questions. Do you anticipate proration this year? ▲ Mitchem: Odds are that eventually — if you take that proration prevention account and you do have to use that money — that it will probably be enough. It’s going to be close. Again, we don’t know when the upturn in the econ-
omy will be. Right now it’s atrocious. When you look at everything that’s happening with the economy right now, nobody could have anticipated a year ago that we were going to be in this recession, and it’s everywhere. All receipts are down. ◆ Casey: Local school boards stretch every dollar, but we still
face unfunded state and federal mandates. How would you suggest school boards manage these? ▲ Mitchem: You just have to plan ahead. Try to watch your budgets, which you do, and not overspend. Make sure you do a good job on spending what you’ve got and trying to use the state Board of Education to help you with projections and to get through a crisis. ◆ Casey: There are attempts at the state level to impose a
statewide uniform school calendar and to allow students who go to private schools or are homeschooled to participate in public school extracurricular activities. What are you feelings on these issues? ▲ Mitchem: I would personally like to see us — someway, somehow — start school at one time and take the same vacation. I think in the next two or three years, that will happen. I don’t see it happening this year. This year, Laura, the economy has really got us in a tight situation. It seems to me like half the people want a uniform start and ending. It doesn’t really bother me to leave it up to the local school board — that’s where it probably ought to be — but I still think it would really be a little bit helpful if everybody pretty much started within the same week rather than a month apart. Now, if someone is in a private school or home school and wants to participate in extracurricular activities in the public schools, About Sen. Hinton Mitchem: ... well, I’ve never been asked that Born in Oconee County, Ga.; has a question, but I would be against that. bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Georgia; I would think I would be for making father of three children: Todd, them either attend the school and be Tonya and Derrick. involved in everything or just have to What he does: Elected president do without. pro tempore of the Alabama Sen◆ Casey: What is your top public eduate Jan. 9, 2007; represents the cation goal for K-12 during your state’s 9th District, which includes tenure in the Legislature? Blount, Madison and Marshall ▲ Mitchem: It would have to be — counties; serving his eighth term in everybody would probably say this the Senate after serving one term — getting adequate funding that puts in the House of Representatives. us on the level of some of our other Committees: Agriculture, conserstates and not to be on the bottom vation and forestry; commerce, end of the funding. We’ve got to get transportation and utilities; confirmore local support because there is mations; finance and taxation; not enough money in Alabama to general fund; health; rules; and fund every school — from capital veterans and military affairs. outlays to books, teachers and beneContact him: 334/242-7876 fits. But, I guess just being able to get or 256/582-0619 (Continued on page 26) Alabama School Boards • Januar y l Februar y 2008 11
By Denise L. Berkhalter xecutive Director Sally Howell, J.D., expects AASB President Sue Helms to do an outstanding job leading the organization. “We are fortunate to have someone with her strong leadership skills and experience to serve as AASB’s president,” Howell said. “Sue understands the challenges facing local school boards and the pressures they are under to succeed academically and financially.” Helms, also president of the Madison school board, assumed her new role at the close of the 2007 AASB convention in December. She had completed a full term as president-elect. Officers serve one two-year term. The other AASB officers chosen to lead the organization that serves more than 800 school board members are President-elect
Consider the Alabama Association of School Boards’ newest cadre of leaders as stars twinkling in the academic skies, guiding the association toward stronger boardmanship that supports student success.
Modesty may keep them from admitting it, but those who accept AASB leadership positions bear a great deal of responsibility for carrying out the association’s mission.
★ Sue Helms ★ Jim Methvin
★ Pam Doyle
★ Steve Foster ★Rev. Preston Nix
12 Alabama School Boards • Januar y l Februar y 2008
AASB’s December Convention featured a 21st Century Education panel discussion. The panel included (left to right) Ted Kennedy, co-founder of Birmingham-based BE&K, a worldwide engineering, construction and contract maintenance firm; Sen. Vivian Figures, who chairs the Senate Education Committee; Dr. Neil Lamb of the Hudson-Alpha Institute for Biotechnology in Huntsville; and former state Superintendent of Education and former Auburn University President Dr. Ed Richardson .
Florence Bellamy of the Phenix City Board of Education, who will automatically assume the presidency when Helms’ term ends in 2009 and Vice President Steven T. Foster of the Lowndes County Board of Education. Jim Methvin of the Alabama School of Fine Arts board becomes AASB’s immediate past president. Two new district directors also began their term following convention. AASB District 2 members elected William D. “Bill” Minor Sr. of the Dallas County school board as director, while District 8 chose Pam Doyle of the Muscle Shoals school board.
Two of the association’s nine district directors — District 4’s Katy Smith Campbell and District 6’s Sue Jones — were re-elected to second terms. The remaining directors are District 1’s Patsy Black of Monroe County, District 3’s Jeff Bailey of Covington County, District 5’s Jennifer Parsons of Jefferson County, District 7’s Susan Harris of Winfield and District 9’s Laura Casey of Albertville. Also during the convention in Hoover, the Alabama Caucus of Black School Board Members chose the Rev. Preston Nix of (Continued on page 14)
A Job Well Done Rep. Paul DeMarco of Homewood presented a joint resolution on behalf of the Legislature to outgoing Alabama Association of School Boards President Jim Methvin. The resolution honored Methvin, who is a disability administrator for the state Department of Education Disability Determination Service, for his service as president of the association and his extensive contributions to education in Alabama. Excerpt: WHEREAS, a former member of the Homewood Board of Education, he has served the Alabama Association of School Boards (AASB) as director, vice president and member of various committees before ascending to the presidency; he also holds a position on the board of the Alabama School of Fine Arts; and WHEREAS, he represents Alabama as delegate and member of various committees in the National School Boards Association, including the Federal Relations Network; and WHEREAS, having completed the training requirements of the School Board Member Academy, he has attained Master School Board Member status numerous times and been named to the AASB Master Honor Roll; and WHEREAS, beyond AASB activities, he has contributed his knowledge and experience to Science Course of Study Committees; Science Textbook Committee; Old Schools in a New Century Task Force of the Alabama Historical Commission; Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce Education Task Force, Public Health Department’s Youth Obesity Committee; Department of Education’s Student Health Committee; and the Governor’s Commission on Leadership. ... THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF ALABAMA, BOTH HOUSES THEREOF CONCURRING, that in anticipation of his retirement as president of the Alabama Association of School Boards, we are delighted to recognize Mr. Jim Methvin for his extraordinary service in the field of education, and by copy of this resolution, prepared in tribute, we extend best wishes for continued success. Alabama School Boards • Januar y l Februar y 2008 13
Attalla as the group’s president. The caucus also chose David M. Tuck of Coosa County, vice president; Dr. Shelia NashStevenson of Madison, secretary; Bobby Diggs, president of the Lawrence County school board, treasurer; and Minor of Dallas County and Willie J. Grissett of Escambia County, members-at-large.
Delegate Assembly Action Delegates are selected by member school boards to be their voting representatives at AASB’s annual business meeting. The following is a summary of primary action taken by the 2007 Delegate Assembly and reports made by committees in December. For a complete list of resolutions and bylaws, go to www.AlabamaSchoolBoards.org. ■ Nominating Committee: The committee recommended Florence Bellamy of Phenix City to serve as AASB’s president-elect and that Steve Foster of Lowndes County serve as vice president. Both recommendations were accepted.
■ Bylaws Committee: Recommended minor editorial revisions to Article IIIMembers, Section 2b, Admissions & Qualifications; Article VI-Board of Directors, Section 5, Duties;
Congratulations! Several drawings occurred throughout the convention. Donated prizes go to the school system of the winner. Sponsor Hoar Construction presented cash prizes to the boards of Bravell Jackson (on left in top right photo) of Marion County, and Mary Moncrease (on left in lower left photo) of Conecuh County. Southland International Bus Sales presented a prize to Michael Box (on left in lower right photo) of Winfield. Other prizes went to Larry Eddins of Coffee County, Mary Ann McDonald of Elmore County and Annie C. Hunter of Lowndes County. 14 Alabama School Boards • Januar y l Februar y 2008
A record-breaking 430 education leaders attended the convention themed “Charting a Course for 21st Century Learning.” Speakers included humorist Meagan Johnson and demographics watcher Dr. James Johnson of the University of North Carolina. Attendees learned information vital to modern-day governance teams and heard a high-profile panel discuss 21st century education in Alabama. ■
Article VIII-Districts, Section 3, Elections and Section 4, Term; and Article IX-Committees, Section 1, Standing. Article provisions made delegate consideration of such changes unnecessary. To see the revised bylaws, go the “About AASB” section of www.AlabamaSchoolBoards.org.
■ Resolutions Committee: Among the notable amendments proposed and accepted were to: • Add “prohibit unfunded mandates in the ETF budget” to Section 1: School Finance, SF-1 Education Trust Fund Budget. • Add “AASB encourages school boards to effectively document employee performance to support appropriate personnel actions and/or to improve performance” to Section 3: Personnel, P-3 Employee Relations. • Change the compulsory school attendance ages AASB supports from “6 to 16” to “6 to 17” under Section 4: Student Programs/Services, SPS-2 Compulsory Attendance Age/Kindergarten. • Add “AASB opposes access to extracurricular activities to anyone who is not an enrolled public school student” under Section 4: Student Programs/Services, SPS-8 Extracurricular Activities.
2007 All-State School Board Members ■ Civic Service: Has represented her board on several local committees and task forces; created and established an outdoor classroom; and a member of the Garden City Historical Society, Hanceville Lions Club and Cullman Chamber of Commerce.
“Her flexibility in working with students, teachers and the public has earned her an enviable reputation as an excellent board member who really cares about education and the community.” — Wendy Crider, Cullman County board president AASB congratulates the 2007 All-State Board Members. Pictured are (left to right) Sue Helms, AASB President; T. Brett Whitehead, Tuscaloosa County; Willene Whatley, Conecuh County; Sheila Kretzchmar, Cullman County; Robert A. Lane, Lowndes County; and Jim Methvin, AASB Immediate Past President.
Robert A. Lane
■ Board: President of the Lowndes County school board and a member since 1984. ■ School Board Member Academy: Master Honor Roll (achieved Master level 17 times); attended 184 conferences; 798 academy hours, the highest total of any board member in Alabama. ■ AASB Service: AASB president, vice president, and District 2 director; served on the multicultural, bylaws, nominating, executive/legislative, summer conference planning, legislative, resolutions, All-State School Board, school board recognition and convention planning committees. ■ National School Boards Association Service: NSBA Board of Directors; served on the nominating and Federal Relations Network committees. ■ Civic Service: Governor’s Task Force on School Violence and on the boards of the Alabama Association of Governmental Organizations, Council of Substance Abuse and Lowndes County Home Instruction for Parents of PreSchool Youngsters.
“Mr. Lane has a great history of support for our children and our administration. He sets high standards and supports efforts to meet those standards. I believe he is a model board member worthy of recognition and emulation.” — Steve Foster, Lowndes County board member
■ Board: A Cullman County school board member since 1995 and former president and vice president. ■ School Board Member Academy: Achieved Master level in 2007; attended 59 conferences; 278 total academy hours. ■ AASB Service: Has advocated for K-12 schools as a member of AASB’s grassroots network.
Willene J. Whatley
■ Board: Vice-chairman of the Conecuh County school board, and a member since 1986. ■ School Board Member Academy: Achieved the Master level four times; has attended 81 conferences; 307 academy hours. ■ AASB Service: District 1 director (1996-2000); Alabama Risk Management for Schools Trustee; has lobbied the Legislature on K-12 school funding issues; and served on academy assessment, executive/legislative, bylaws (chairman), and budget & finance (chairman and vice chairman) committees. ■ Civic Service: Author of five local history books; member of the Kiwanis Club, Children’s Policy Council and local Chamber of Commerce (former president and vice president); and has served on the Evergreen Planning and Zoning Committee.
“Mrs. Whatley attends all professional development activities and reports to the other board members and constantly updates the board on current events that affect education and other roles as board members.” — Ronnie Brogden, Conecuh County superintendent
T. Brett Whitehead
■ Board: Vice president of the Tuscaloosa County school board and a member since 2004. ■ School Board Member Academy: Achieved Level 3 ■ AASB Service: Attended 20 conferences; 90 academy hours; member of AASB Leader to Leader Network ■ Civic Service: Owns Whitehead and Associates; chairs Tuscaloosa Home Builders Association’s education committee; and member of the Children’s Hands on Museum Board, N. Joyce Sellers Foundation for Educational Excellence and the West Alabama Chamber of Commerce.
“Oftentimes, individuals’ actions do not complement the political rhetoric, but Mr. Whitehead has been an example of being there where the rubber meets the road by making donations to several schools in our system.” — Dr. Frank Costanzo, Tuscaloosa County Superintendent
Alabama School Boards • Januar y l Februar y 2008 15
K-12 a Priority in Governor’s Proposed ’09 Budget
n April, lawmakers are expected to tackle the budget — an unenviable task considering Alabama expects between 400 million and 600 million fewer dollars than in 2008. Because current levels of spending can’t be sustained, the governor proposed a budget that makes K-12 a priority. The proposal would give 69 percent of the Education Trust Fund to kindergarten through 12th grade public education, while 27 percent would go to higher education and 4 percent to other education-related state programs and agencies. The Alabama Association of School Boards has commended the governor for the proposed “split” and is urging lawmakers to preserve that allocation. AASB believes the split is only appropriate because K-12 serves 77 percent of Alabama’s students. Other K-12 advocates also argue that the distribution should more closely reflect percentages of student enrollment. K-12 and higher education have a very different capacity to serve students. By law, Alabama’s students must attend school from age 7 to 16. K-12 public schools serve some 740,000 students. Universities serve about 141,000. Before a local school system can receive the first dollar of state education funding, it must raise a 10-mill match to be eligible. The statewide K-12 match required in 2009 is $458.6 million, according to the state Department of Education. There is no required match for higher education or any other entity to receive state dollars. The percentage of ETF funding for K-12 has varied over the years and lost ground. The allocation needle has moved since 2001 with a higher percentage going to higher education. In 2008, the more than 2 percent shift translates to a (Continued on page 18)
They Said It ... “It literally breaks my heart to think we have the premier reading initiative in the nation and have results to show for it, and we are in position where we may have to reduce funding. We’re talking about cutting the futures of the children of this state.” — State Superintendent Dr. Joe Morton (after presenting to legislators a request for a $245 million in K-12 education funding over last year’s $4.5 billion budget), The Associated Press 16 Alabama School Boards • Januar y l Februar y 2008
STATE OF EDUCATION From Gov. Bob Riley’s February 2008 State-of-the-State Address... ■ Public Education: “Nothing is more exciting or more important as the gains we are making in education. The U.S. Secretary of Education said this progress is, quote — ‘phenomenal’ — and that no other state has done more than Alabama to improve education. The reforms we’ve put in place are working. Since we last met, all states have received their grades on the nation’s report card. And I am proud to say that Alabama led the nation in reading improvements in the fourth grade! But the good news doesn’t stop there. Math scores in grades 4 and 8 doubled the nation’s gains! When was the last time you remember Alabama leading the nation in education? It’s never happened before, but ladies and gentlemen, today it’s a reality. What was once considered to be only a hope became a decision — a decision not to tolerate mediocrity any longer. And that decision — to be the best in education — is redefining what it means to live and raise a family in the great state of Alabama.”
■ Double-dipping: “I travel all over the state talking with the people and I have yet to meet anyone who isn’t disgusted or embarrassed by the scandal in our community colleges. Finally — thanks to Chancellor Bradley Byrne and our state Board of Education — we are ending the corruption. But we must make sure those abuses never, never happen again. So let’s ban double dipping in our two-year system, our fouryear system, in K-12 and in every state agency.”
■ Pre-kindergarten: “No economy, no state will ever reach its full potential if the next generation is not properly prepared for the future. And the best way to prepare them is to start at the beginning. I ask you: if we expand our toprated pre-K program to more of Alabama’s children, will that help them succeed? Absolutely! Children who participate in high quality pre-K are less likely to repeat a grade or be placed in special education. We know they score higher on achievement tests and are more likely to graduate from high school and go on to college. As adults they get better jobs with higher-paying salaries, and they are also more likely to stay out of prison and off welfare. In Alabama our pre-K program is already the best in the nation. Just last year Republicans and Democrats joined together and substantially increased pre-K funding. Yet access to pre-K remains too restricted. Currently it reaches only 4 percent of our 4-yearolds. That’s simply not enough. And so my budget includes a $20 million increase to triple the number of children who benefit from voluntary First Class pre-K. The way the system operates today lower income families can send their children to Head Start. Higher income families can afford private preK. But working middle-class families are left out. By provid-
ing affordable access, First Class fills the gap that has left our working families with too few options.”
■ Education Program Funding: Just as investments in pre-K make sense, so do the investments we make in programs that we know work. Our nationally renowned Reading Initiative, our Math, Science and Technology Initiative and our ACCESS distance learning program do get results. Clear, unmistakable results. They are proven winners. And in Alabama, if there’s one thing we know, we know enough to back winners. Now some say these programs must be cut; that we can’t afford them this year. But if we’re serious about creating the best education system in America, then the last thing we should do is hurt those very initiatives that are making Alabama a national leader in education. And if you pass this balanced budget, we will not only protect these education programs from cuts, we can and we will expand them! ... After years of explosive growth, we will face tighter budgets. That just means we have to prioritize. ... We can and we must make choices that enable us to live within our means, and we must do so without shortchanging education, our state’s security and health care.” (See related stories on page 18-19)
They Said It ... “It’s the economy. Alabama’s economy is still doing great, but we had a few extraordinary years. You can’t stay on top of the mountain all of the time. Occasionally you have to come into the valley.” — Sen. Hank Sanders, Senate’s Finance and Taxation-Education Committee chairman, The Associated Press
Alabama School Boards • Januar y l Februar y 2008 17
Education Budget: Higher Ed vs. K-12 Continued from page 16
In Alabama, higher education support from state taxes ranks No. 1 nationally.
loss of $155 million for K-12. Meanwhile in Alabama, higher education support from state taxes ranks No. 1 nationally. The 2007 Southern Regional Education Board Fact Book notes the national average of state appropriations going to higher education in 2005-06 was 9.5 percent, compared to Alabama’s 16.5 percent. There are stringent requirements that also differentiate K-12 from higher education. Fiscal, academic and legal accountability are constant demands on local boards of education. Shortfalls in state funding directly impact school systems’ ability to comply with these accountability requirements. State Superintendent of Education Dr. Joe Morton and Gov. Bob Riley often praise the progress in student achievement and consider the turning tide a testament to the state’s financial investment in public education. One recent example of student success is Alabama’s rank as first in the nation in fourth-grade reading gains on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. AASB has joined state K-12 advocates to support the governor’s budget allocation between K-12 and higher education. The Higher Ed Takes Bigger association’s advocacy team also warns that the battle for educaBite Per Student tion dollars will continue and any entity that is slated to lose dolof Education lars will lobby mightily to restore funding. So, AASB calls on local Dollars school board members statewide to urge legislative leaders to stand by public K-12 students who are the least able to withstand state funding cuts. ▼
The Education Trust Fund appropriation per student for the 2006-07 fiscal year was $5,374 for K-12, which serves 739,760 students, and $8,948 for higher education institutions, which serve 77,943 postsecondary and 140,789 four-year college students. Sources: State Department of Education and the Alabama Commission on Higher Education
FOR THE RECORD ■ 2008 Regular Legislative Session: Convened Feb. 5 and must end no later than May 19. ■ Track Bills: Throughout the legislative session, track education-related bills and
actions online at www.Alabama SchoolBoards.org in the “Advocacy & Legislation”section. ■ For Copies of Acts: Call AASB at 800/562-0601 or visit www.sos.state.al.us in the “Government Records”section. ■ Pass Along Hot Tips: If you have information about an education advocacy issue, contact AASB’s governmental relations and lobbying team at email@example.com. ■ State Your Position: Provide feedback to AASB’s Executive/Legislative Committee, which assists the Resolutions Committee in developing a legislative program for the association. AASB’s resolutions drive the association’s legislative program. Delegates decide on amendments and changes suggested by the Resolutions Committee during the association’s winter conference. ■ Read it for Yourself: To read AASB’s resolutions, visit www.AlabamaSchoolBoards.org in the “About AASB”section. 18 Alabama School Boards • Januar y l Februar y 2008
AASB’s AGENDA The Alabama Association of School Boards wants your
support as we ask lawmakers to help the state deliver on the promise of a brighter future for our children. Local school boards are the community representatives and leaders who build the foundation necessary for accomplishing the public’s highest priority — educating our future citizens. Here is information you’ll need to guide your conversations with these key government leaders.
OUR GUIDING PRINCIPLES ■ FULLY FUND EXISTING FOUNDATION PROGRAMS — AASB supports state funding sufficient to guarantee full funding of the Foundation Program. AASB supports the priority of appropriating additional funds to address shortages in currently mandated programs. ■ UNFUNDED MANDATES — AASB opposes any legislation that would impose requirements on local school systems without state or federal resources appropriated for that purpose. State or federal mandates without accompanying funding should not be binding on local school systems. AASB advocates full funding of existing mandates. ■ DID YOU KNOW? Local school boards are the ONLY local governmental entity without constitutional protection from unfunded state mandates under Amendment 621 of the Alabama Constitution. ■ LOCAL CONTROL — AASB opposes legislation that would diminish or eliminate local control. AASB supports legislation that would expand local control and decision-making authority. ■ OPPOSE TUITION TAX CREDITS/ VOUCHER PROGRAMS — AASB opposes any program that institutes tuition tax credits and/or voucher programs to divert public resources away from public schools.
itizing basic education programs using realistic revenue projections. AASB opposes crafting future budgets that depend on the Proration Prevention Account or constitutional Rainy Day Fund (an education line of credit) to offset expected shortfalls. ■ SUPPORT ANNUAL PROPERTY REAPPRAISAL — Annual reappraisal eliminates inequities in the real estate market by accurately reflecting the fair market value of property. AASB strongly supports annual reappraisal to capture revenue growth that fuels critical services in real time and invest it in our public school students. ■ SUPPORT TECHNOLOGY IN SCHOOLS — AASB supports an investment in technology to ensure global competitiveness. Funding should address infrastructure and wiring; access; and reliable, up-to-date equipment, software and maintenance. AASB supports investing in training to help or enable teachers to best use technology as a teaching tool. ■ SUPPORT 21st CENTURY SKILLS — AASB supports ensuring every child leaves school with the skills required for success in the 21st century by changing traditional approaches to teaching and learning for the new millennium. ■
OUR ADVOCACY TOOLBOX ■
OUR LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES ■ FIX THE FLAWS IN TENURE/FAIR DISMISSAL — AASB urges a targeted, thorough fix to the tenure and fair dismissal laws. The 2004 revamp created confusion, long delays and unpredictability at a time when local school boards are trying mightily to meet the public’s demand for accountability. It’s a loselose proposition when a school board must continue to pay an employee it has terminated, find and pay a substitute to perform that employee’s duties and explain to the public that the new law forces unnecessary expense and delay. ■ INCREASE GRADUATION RATES DECREASE DROP OUT RATES — AASB supports efforts to increase student achievement. AASB urges study of innovative programs to address graduation/dropout issues and the expansion of programs already proven successful. ■ SUPPORT PRUDENT EDUCATION TRUST FUND BUDGETING — Recent budgets were built upon unprecedented growth and substantial carryover balances from previous years. However, revenue projections for 2008 are falling short. The state will need to use the Proration Prevention Account (education’s savings account) to meet current year budget commitments and likely will be unable to fund the 2009 budget at ‘08 levels without a significant economic rebound. AASB supports prior-
Get to know local legislators and their staff. It helps to know local legislators on a first-name basis and to make sure they know you by name. Also, get to know legislative district office staff and understand the role, the importance and the power of legislative staff. Make your legislator so familiar with local schools and how their decisions impact local schoolchildren that they seek out the school board’s opinion when education issues arise. It helps to provide legislators with news articles, reports, executive summaries or other information. Know the legislative process and the issues. Be sure you stay abreast of the legislative calendar and know the composition of key committees, particularly those related to education and budgeting. Go online to www.AlabamaSchoolBoards.org for bills of interest and read AASB’s legislative alerts (Leg-Alert newsletter) and other publications to stay on top of legislation impacting education. AASB's government relations director can also provide you with a packet of legislative action information (call 800/562-0601). Find areas of common agreement. A good way to foster a positive relationship with a legislator is to identify a common concern or issue and develop a plan to work toward accomplishing it. If you do disagree, don’t allow your differing opinions to become harsh words, threats or a grudge. Simply state the facts, attempt to understand the reason for a legislator’s position, agree to disagree and continue to work with the legislator on the next issue. Get the word out. Board members can share important news about education in many ways, such as speaking to local groups, writing guest editorials, developing positive relationships with the local media, providing news and updates for newsletters and through meaningful community engagement. The more you are able to keep people informed, the more they will come to understand the issues and feel comfortable contacting legislators. Alabama School Boards • Januar y l Februar y 2008 19
By GiGi Douban It’s a catch phrase that school boards toss around often these days: prepare students to compete in the global marketplace. But what does that really mean? roponents of 21st century learning split the concept into two major chunks: technology and global connectedness. Students may have mastered instant messaging and e-mail, but that isn’t enough in today’s economy, which requires that students know how to use technology to create valuable work. They must be able to sift through volumes of information online, know how to pull the most reliable material and use it effectively in the real world. “If you look at the needs of a 21st century economy, that’s where the jobs are going because it is so technology driven,” says Barbara Michelman, director of communications for the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, a national advocacy group. Business leaders say they need employees who are problem solvers and innovators. “The other part of this is how the world becomes more globally connected. So, how are we as citizens able to function in a global environment? Are we learning a second language? That’s a skill that’s going to be needed of people in the 21st century more and more as we do business with other countries,” Michelman says. Also, the group urges schools to teach finance and international studies.
20 Alabama School Boards • Januar y l Februar y 2008
If not, proponents fear American students will continue to trail other countries on some measures. On international performance tests in math, 15-year-olds in the United States on average score worse than their peers in more than 20 other developed countries. And among countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, only four countries — New Zealand, Spain, Turkey and Mexico — have lower high school completion rates than the United States.
Alabama Signs On Alabama in recent years has begun shifting its educational priorities with 21st century skills in mind. The state’s introduction to 21st century learning came two years ago when the Alabama Best Practices Center, a division of the A+ Education Foundation, received one of 11 Microsoft Partners in Learning grants issued nationwide. Twenty Alabama schools participated, where students formed online collaborative groups and learned podcasting and blogging. The next year, 20 more schools participated in the grant. The grant term has ended, but 20 schools this year have opted to continue the work, each paying $7,500, says Cathy Gassenheimer, managing director of the A+ Education Foundation. In 21st century learning, Gassenheimer says, teachers don’t spend their class time lecturing. They’re out with students perhaps taking samples from the river, analyzing it, then documenting their findings online. History students might spend less time with textbooks, and instead interview war veterans. “It’s not only memorizing, but it’s showing the teacher that they understand the concept and can apply the concept,” Gassenheimer says. So far six states — North Carolina, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Maine, Massachusetts and South Dakota — have joined the national organization to launch full-scale initiatives applying 21st century skills in schools. Alabama is well on its way to doing the same, Gassenheimer says. “We’re working closely with the state Department of Education and the governor’s technology initiative,” she says. “I would put Alabama in the top tier of states that are working on 21st century learning.”
Not a Simple Undertaking At one time, the focus nationwide was on access to technology; however, school leaders must continuously modify their goals to keep up with the digital age. An Education Week report notes that the Washington-based International Society for Technology in Education is revising its model standards for students. “Creativity” and “innovation” have been added to such categories as “information retrieval” and “digital citizenship.” All of this might sound good in theory. But with the pressures posed by the federal No Child Left Behind law to improve student performance on core subjects, who has the time? “Nobody presumes that this is a simple undertaking,” Michelson says, “but you don’t have to throw out the baby with the bath water. These skills could be infused with the core subjects.” An example is Jennifer Barnett’s classroom, whose hub is not a cluster of desks or a space at the back of the room where students gather. It’s online, and it’s called a wikispace. Wikispaces are Web pages that groups can edit together. Barnett, a teacher at Fayetteville High School in Talladega County, has created a virtual carnival for students. It is information packed into a medium students are most comfortable with. It contains links to a college history professor’s lectures, which students can read or hear. Those lectures, she points out on her page, cover the same topics her students are learning. There is a link to a National Public Radio report on the 100 best characters in fiction since 1900. Students chime in by posting their favorite books. And on the lighter side, students can get a Voki, an application that lets users express themselves on the Web in their own voice using a talking character. Barnett uses Voki to encourage student conversations about what they like or don’t like about class.
Some Additional Tips for 21st Century Learning: ■
Build Internet safety into the curriculum. Students need to learn how to use e-mail and the Internet safely and appropriately, how to guard their personal information, discern if information is reliable and protect themselves from cyberbullying. Many Alabama schools use a curriculum called iSafe (www.isafe.org).
Communicate with parents. Alabama’s course of study requires that students use e-mail. Make sure parents understand the safeguards and protections that are in place, why it is important for children to learn these skills, and who to contact if they have questions.
Share resources with the community. In areas where few families have high-speed Internet access at home, develop opportunities for members of the community to use school technology. Offer workshops for the public on Internet use and open computer labs to the public.
Turn mistakes into teachable moments. When a student makes a bad decision about Internet use at school, make sure school leaders take proper corrective action without overreacting.
Balance safety and access. Concerns about Internet safety can lead to system policies that make it very difficult for teachers to fully integrate Web tools and resources into their lesson plans. A “layered” approach gives teachers broad access to online tools and then scales down access according to grade level.
Seek broad input on safety policies. Address the issue of Internet safety and access proactively by creating a system-level policy development committee that includes all stakeholders (top administrators, board members, IT staff, principals, parents, teachers and students).
Support teamwork. Create time during the school day for teachers to collaborate around 21st century curriculum and instruction. Pair reluctant teachers with trailblazers. Make technology integration a priority in the professional development budget.
Tools should be used. Promote schoolwide understanding that digital equipment should never sit idle. The sharing of equipment, wherever it is located, is necessary to maximize student and teacher learning with technology.
Make priorities clear. Single out leading-edge 21st century teachers both for recognition and for leadership roles. Consider supplements for teachers who are well-prepared and willing to work with other teachers on technology-infused student projects.
Focus on what students need. Develop strategies, based on school size, that ensure every teacher understands the need to prepare students for life and work in the 21st century. Group study of books and articles inspire such discussions.
Invest in professional development. Sponsor a technology conference for teachers once a year that includes a blend of conversation about the rationale behind 21st century learning, presentations on successful projects, and opportunities for hands-on experimentation with a collaborative web tool (blog, wiki, social network, podcast, etc.). Build a follow-up plan that asks teachers to try what they’ve learned in their classrooms. ■
Convince the Community Before 21st century learning can hit classrooms statewide, the community needs to be on board. “I think that (school) boards can be instrumental in building local support for the changes that need to occur to get schools where they need to go,” Michelson says. School boards also can support 21st century learning with classroom technology and professional development. “The allocation of resources should tie directly to ensuring 21st century skills,” she says. In addition, state officials and local school boards should involve parents, teachers, community leaders and public policy managers to develop a 21st century skills framework, she said. Michelson said it’s important to ask the business community what their projected work force needs are for the next five to 10 years. Then, she said, the education community can ask, “How can we align our curriculums?” Editor’s Note: A source of information for this article was Working Toward Excellence, the journal of the Alabama Best Practices Center. For more about 21st century learning, visit www.AlabamaSchool Boards.org.
Alabama School Boards • Januar y l Februar y 2008 21
10 QUESTIONS By Sally Brewer Howell, AASB Executive Director
Legislative Fiscal Officer Joyce Bigbee Q. What role do you play in the legislative process? A. I am the director of the Legislative Fiscal Office, and my office is responsible for reading proposed legislation and putting fiscal impact notes on that legislation in terms of what it’s going to cost or, if it’s a revenue bill, how much money it’s going Joyce Bigbee to bring in. We also do revenue forecasting for the Legislature and provide fiscal information to each member of the Legislature. ... for both parties, for both houses. The governor is responsible for introducing or having introduced a budget by the second legislative day, and then the Legislature takes those budgets and reviews them and makes amendments or substitutes; and we’re responsible for providing support for that. Q. How many staff members do you have? A. We have 16. We have an analyst who handles education and analysts who have health and social services; revenue and tax issues; corrections, courts and public safety; agriculture, conservation and natural resources; transportation and various issues; and economic development. Q. How are you appointed? A. There is a joint fiscal committee that is made up of five members of the House and five members of the Senate that appoints the director and could fire the director. (Laughs) That hasn’t happened yet. Q. What is it like responding to 140 different bosses? A. That’s a challenge, but I think back to all the people who I have had an opportunity to work with. Hopefully, through them, I’ve been able to have an impact on the state of Alabama, and that is what I think public service is about. Q. How do you go about making a revenue estimate? A. Good question. We look at trends. We, luckily, have a lot of years of expertise, so we know the background of different taxes and the different things that go on with the taxes. What we do when we make revenue estimates is bring all the analysts in and sit down and brainstorm. We usually have four or five sessions before we actually finalize our estimates in order to give them to the Legislature. Q. How hard is to make projections for the Education Trust Fund? 22 Alabama School Boards • Januar y l Februar y 2008
A. The ETF is always going to respond most readily to changes in the economy because it has sales taxes, which respond immediately, and it has income taxes, which respond very quickly to changes in economic conditions. I tell the Legislature every year, “I can tell you that we will have a downturn. What I can’t tell you are when and the extent of it.” So, when the economy starts to grow, we miss it because we just can’t predict how fast it’s going to come out of a slow down. When it starts to go into a slow down again, we can’t project how deep or how quick that slow down is going to be. Q. So how do you advise the Legislature on this? A. Well, that’s why I advise them to try to set aside some money, because I know I’m not going to be able to predict accurately the point at which a recession or downturn is going to happen. They have surprised me, and they have set up a savings account for that very contingency. I’m very happy about that. Q. What generally are the biggest financial challenges facing the state? A. The general fund probably is more of a challenge, although the ETF will be a challenge in ’09 because we’ve had great growth for the last three years. We’ve been able to put in some new programs and have given some benefits, and we may need to continue to fund those. When you have a slow down, you’re going to have to look more closely at those programs and what’s working and what’s not working. The other issue, as far as challenges, is the $1 billion bond issue, and we’ll have to come up with money to pay that debt service. It will be a time of tightening the belt ... in ’09 for the ETF. The general fund is always tight. It doesn’t have very many growth taxes. One of the major sources of income to the general fund is interest income, and rates are being cut and projected to continue to be cut. Q. Do you have any suggestions for local boards, given the economic times? A. My suggestion to them is the same as my suggestion to the Legislature. They should have been putting aside some money knowing that the strong economic times couldn’t last forever. So, hopefully they have made some contingency plans and/or have spent some of the money for onetime expenditures that won’t reoccur in the next cycle. (Continued on page 26)
10 QUESTIONS By Bobby Diggs, Lawrence County School Board
State Finance Director Jim Main Q. What does the finance director do? A. There are really three jobs in one. One person can’t do all three jobs, but I recruit good people, and I’m excellent at delegating. The finance director is the chief financial officer for the state of Alabama, which means that every agency — from Jim Main Corrections, Medicaid to Mental Health — all of their financial issues come across our desks, really all their problems. Everything about government is money, so everybody’s problems are money. If things are going smoothly, they don’t have to come see us. But anytime there is a bump in the road, they have to come, and we have to solve it. That also includes the education entities and their bumps in the road. The state school board does the local board of educations’ bumps in the road, but the state school board or Joe Morton comes to us to get him the flexibility to do them. (Editor’s note: Dr. Morton is state superintendent of education.) The second responsibility of the finance director is to be a policy advisor to the governor, because practically all policy has a price tag on it. The reading initiative, the math and science initiative, distance learning — you know, before he jumped into ‘we want to do these and how fast we want to do these,’ he had to know what they were going to cost and where we were going to get the money from. And then, we have a department of almost 600 people. We have one of the largest property casualty insurance companies in the state of Alabama. We are the insurance company for every education building and every state building in this state. We do all the technology for noneducation — education uses the Supercomputer. Then we have a service division that has multiple functions like caring for all these buildings. It’s one of the bigger departments of state government, but the interesting part is it’s so diverse. Q. What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make since being in this role? A. That is almost an impossible question to answer, because I can’t survey my mind in 60 seconds for the toughest. I can tell you, generally speaking, that we never will have enough money to do all the things we need to do in education and
non-education entities. And generally, I’m the one that has to say no. I can say no a lot, because we have to prioritize. We have a lot of wonderful non-state agencies that — the year before I became the finance director — had to come out of the budget. That wouldn’t be the hardest one — but to say no to people that are doing wonderful things because we don’t have enough money and we have to prioritize and, of course, the state agencies have to be first. Q. How does your office’s role differ from the Legislative Fiscal Office’s role? A. The Legislature’s role in our government is to appropriate money, and the executive branch is then to oversee the spending of it. So, in this office, not only do we have to project revenues, but we have to prepare budgets. Actually, the statutes say that the finance director is a consultant to both the Legislature and the governor on those fiscal matters. That was all written before they had a Legislative Fiscal Office. Before then, this was the only place they could really come. Truly, now our function is to focus on how to operate state government on a day-to-day basis. The Legislative Fiscal Office is really focused on the next budgets and monitoring the revenues as they come in. Q. What are the biggest economic challenges the state faces today? A. We have a general non-education fund that is not a growth fund. The type things that are the bulk of the revenues for the general fund are interest — severance tax and insurance premium tax. Those things are things that change slowly. It usually creeps up or down in quarter-of-a-percent increments. So, the general fund doesn’t grow as fast as our needs are, so that’s a problem. Q. What does the slow economy mean for the Education Trust Fund? A. Since I have been finance director, the sales and income tax, which are the education dollars, have increased 9.5 percent over the year before. Then the next year it was 11.5 percent; then 10.5 percent; and last year, it was 6.5 percent. So, the growth is less over the year before, but the average growth is in the 4 to 5 (percent) range. So, 6.5 percent growth, in most years, we would have thought was tremendous. But compared to double-digit growth the three years (Continued on page 26)
Alabama School Boards • Januar y l Februar y 2008 23
By Ken Roberts, AASB Chief Operating Officer
Defining a School-related Organization Simply put, school-related organizations have at least a limited ability to govern themselves and control their operations within the confines of our legal statutes and accountability standards. The determination of whether particular activities fall under school control would be made on a case-by-case basis. Some organizations are completely within the scope of school control and adhere to the same standards as any other school activity. Other organizations are considered completely separate, as long as they adhere to certain operational and financial standards. Lastly, there are organizations that are considered separate organizations but participate in certain activities that would come under school control because of the unique circumstances involved in the activity.
The public demands accountability for the use of public funds. Those demands are ever-increasing, and so is the need for transparency in the operations of not only local school systems but their related organizations. The Governmental Accounting Standards Board has helped redefine what organizations comprise our school systems and the need to meet the accountability standard for these school-related organizations. The latest GASB developments could affect system operations and policy, so here are a few issues to consider when developing a practical guide for your school system’s relationship with and the financial reporting of school-related organizations. 24 Alabama School Boards • Januar y l Februar y 2008
Separating an Organization from the School In order to be completely separate from the school, an organization would need to: 1. Obtain its own employer identification number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service; 2. Maintain a separate mailing address; 3. Maintain separate records and accounts outside of the school (including financial records, bank accounts, etc.); 4. Enter into an agreement with the school to meet certain administrative requirements (See the “Parent Organizations/Booster Clubs” section below); and 5. Avoid a possible conflict of interest with the school by steering clear of having a school employee lead fund raising, maintain accounting records or hold a leadership position in the organization.
Identifying the Types of Organizations Numerous school-related organizations exist with a variety of purposes and activities. However, one could group these organizations into the following three broad categories: ■ Student Organizations: Student clubs and classes are usually recognized as school activities. Examples are the FFA and Beta Clubs. The student officers and faculty sponsors operate these organizations within the school using the school accounting system and with the principal having a fiduciary responsibility over their funds. These organizations are considered school organizations. There are exceptions, such as community recreational leagues, that have a separate EIN and use a separate mailing address and operate off campus. These organizations are generally considered separate because of the nature of their operations and the fact that they report to entities other than the school. ■ Athletics: School athletics are considered extra-curricular activities and must operate under school control and, therefore, are subject to the same controls and procedures as any other school activities. If the athletic event is not on school property, then there must be agreement between the entity exercising authority over the event location and the school. This agreement should include very specific financial details, including the distribution of parking fees, admission and concession receipts. ■ Parent Organizations/Booster Clubs: These organizations generally meet the criteria to be separate organizations. These types of organizations could be classified as school activities if they do not comply with any one of the criteria mentioned earlier or if they mutually agree to come under the fiduciary control of the principal. Booster clubs, in particular, represent a challenge in ascertaining their relationship to the school and the school system’s responsibility for accountability for the clubs’ operations. This is important because the public perceives the booster club to be a part of the school. Therefore, it is vitally important that the booster club not only comply with the criteria for operating as a separate entity but the leadership should also sign an agreement to take the following actions: • Provide a report of the annual audit of the organization to the school, • Make financial records available to the school’s auditors and authorized school personnel, upon request, • Provide other required financial reports, as requested, • Provide proof of a fidelity bond for the organization’s treasurer, and • Ensure that it does not provide any payment or other benefit to a school employee (or an employee’s family member) in violation of the State Ethics Law.
Complying with the Rules Organizations that comply with the above guidelines can still participate in school-related activities that fall under the fiduciary control of the school principal. But, here are a few important rules to remember: 1. Admission receipts: Admission receipts to all athletic events on school property are school funds and must be remitted to control of the appropriate school employee immediately. 2. Concession receipts: Concession operation revenues at athletic events on school property are school funds, and the profit from the concession operation must be remitted to the control of the appropriate school employee immediately. A detailed profit and loss statement should be compiled and maintained for review by school officials. Conversely, if the school purchased the concession items, all of the funds should be remitted to the school. The school and the organization operating the concessions are allowed to have a written agreement that provides a reasonable commission to organizations in return for the volunteer services provided by the organization. 3. Parking fees: Parking fees to any school function are school funds and must be remitted to the appropriate school employee immediately. The school and the organization operating the parking are allowed to have a written agreement that provides a reasonable commission to the organization in return for the volunteer services provided by the organization. 4. Off campus events: If the school activity occurs off school property, the distribution of admission, concession, parking and similar revenues and/or allocation of costs should be governed by an agreement between the school, organization and entity hosting the event. In this case, the school should receive most of the revenue generated from the event, though the booster organization and/or hosting entity would be entitled to at least their direct out-of-pocket costs (including volunteers’ donated time) in sponsoring the event. 5. On campus events: If the organization operates a training camp, exhibition or competition involving an activity of the school, there should be an agreement governing the use of school property and distribution of any costs or receipts generated by the event. Generally, the school should receive any funds generated by the event if it is held on school property. 6. Paying school employees: Payments — including salaries, stipends, services, expenses or any other form of compensation — made to school system employees must be forwarded to the central office for proper processing. ■ Send your school finance questions to Ken Roberts, AASB Chief Operating Officer, firstname.lastname@example.org. Alabama School Boards • Januar y l Februar y 2008 25
10 Questions: Joyce Bigbee Continued from page 22
Q. As you look over your career, what are your great accomplishments? A. It has been a great career. It was custom-made for me. I like challenges. I like having different things to do everyday. It’s not a job for everybody. Each day there is a new issue. There’s tax reform, the intricacies of Medicaid funding, dealing with
10 Questions: Jim Main Continued from page 23
before, you know, we could get down in the mouth. But, we can’t grow that fast indefinitely. Our sales and income tax can’t go up double digits year after year. So, I think it’s healthy that it has slowed down a little bit. Our individual income tax has not slowed down. It was a little over 9 percent in ’07. It’s the individual income tax that I would say to always watch. If people are making money and we’re growing in that on an annual basis, I believe that our economy is in good shape and the Education Trust Fund is in good shape. If the unemployment rate is below 4 percent, and the individual income tax is still almost double-digit in growth, what could you ask for greater than that as far as an economic boom for education? I’m not disappointed. I’d rather have a soft landing than just fall off the edge of a cliff like has happened before. Q. Don’t we have two funds to shield us from or ease the effects of proration? A. There is a constitutional account that we can borrow up to $248 million. We are really borrowing it from the Alabama Trust Fund. It has to be paid back in five years. So, that’s not a gift. During hard times if we borrow money, when good times return or within the next five years we have to pay it back. The other account is a statutory account, and it has more than $400 million in it. Actually, we can tap into it by a certification by me that we need to prevent proration. Q. What advice would you give local school boards as they craft their budgets? A. For the next fiscal year, I would try to be conservative in my budget. I think that we have had so much growth ... that we kind of need to digest all of the good times and not take on any huge new programs. Q. What grade overall do you give local, state and federal government for their support of Alabama’s public education? A. Well, I would give the state an A+, and I base that on what has happened since Bob Riley has been governor. Who would have dreamed that we would go from a little over $4 billion to a little less than $7 billion of state support and that we would have a 22 percent salary increase for educators and support people? And, retirees have gotten all kinds of good 26 Alabama School Boards • Januar y l Februar y 2008
the federal government, education reform — I was intimately involved in changing from the minimum program to the Foundation Program (Editor’s note: the state’s funding program for public schools). So, it is challenging but fun. It keeps you interested in what you’re doing. That’s what I like about it. ■ These 10 questions were asked by AASB Executive Director Sally Howell and is part of a series of conversations between members of AASB’s grassroots Leader to Leader program and key state leaders in government and education.
graces. I don’t think that all of the local areas are equal in their support of education. There are some that deserve an A and probably some that deserve an F. Q. What do you hope to accomplish in your tenure as state finance director? A. My biggest focus has been to try to put more transparency in the budget process and more efficiencies and accountability. We put in place SMART (Specific, Measurable, Accountable, Responsive and Transparent) Governing. We require every one of the agencies to do an executive strategic plan. We put all of this on a Web site, so any citizen that has an interest in a particular agency can see what’s being spent and why. Q. Is SMART Governing suggested for K-12 education? A. It’s up to the state Board of Education to measure local boards’ results in whatever way they can measure them, and we are trying to make the state Board of Education and Joe Morton be more accountable to us as an agency of state government on behalf of all of you. But they need to do with the local boards what we’re doing to our agencies — make them be more transparent, more accountable, more efficient. Transparency in government is the only way I can see that we’re going to get the trust and have the public’s support that we need. ■ These 10 questions were asked by Lawrence County school board member Bobby Diggs and is part of a series of conversations between members of AASB’s grassroots Leader to Leader program and key state leaders in government and education.
Face to Face: Sen. Hinton Mitchem Continued from page 11
enough money for funding would be the top priority because everything else depends on how much money you’ve got. ◆ Casey: How can we as school board members help you to do your job? ▲ Mitchem: Just what you’re doing today — visiting with me and telling me what your biggest concerns are and showing us that you are interested and need our help. It’s not necessarily important to holler the loudest. Just show that you’re sincere. I have really enjoyed this and am honored that you would come by as a school board member and let me talk to you awhile. ■
Graduation Options May Change
By Denise L. Berkhalter
Alabama’s graduation options could be modified and implemented this fall if the state Board of Education approves a proposal discussed in its first two K-12 work sessions of the year. State Superintendent Dr. Joe Morton, in a Montgomery Advertiser guest column, attributed the state’s intensified focus on Alabama’s often-scrutinized graduation rate to the changing world and dire consequences of not graduating from high school. “The playing field between America’s youth and those abroad is increasingly more competitive. We know high school graduates are more employable and make higher incomes than dropouts. We also know a large portion of our state’s inmates, approximately 80 percent, are high school dropouts,” he said. One proposition Deputy State Superintendent Dr. Ruth Ash discussed with the board was redefining the state’s high school graduation options. Under the proposal, students would be required to complete at least one distance-learning course, beginning with the 2008-09 freshman class. There would be exceptions for students with an individualized education program. High school graduates now earn one of three diplomas: an Alabama High School Diploma with or without endorsements; an Alabama Occupational Diploma; and an Alternate Adult High School Diploma. The proposal calls for replacing the Alternate Adult diploma with a credit-based endorsement to the Alabama High School Diploma. To receive this endorsement, general education students and those with disabilities would need to complete the required core curriculum credits and earn one additional career/technical education credit. This proposed change would take place voluntarily in the 2008-09 school year and would be required for the ninth-grade class in 2009-10. Students must pass the Alabama High School Graduation Exam to earn an Alabama High School Diploma with the advanced academic endorsement. For a credit-based endorsement, students would have to take the exam each time it’s offered through 12th grade but would be only required to pass three of the five sections. Unless parents/guardians or IEP committees opt students out, Alabama high school students would automatically work toward the Alabama High School Diploma with the advanced academic endorsement. Eleven other states offer such an opt-out measure.
In Alabama, 38 percent of graduates earn the advanced diploma. The other diploma endorsements — besides the proposed credit-based — are career technical and advanced career technical. Local school boards could adopt other diploma options, such as honors and international baccalaureate. The high school diploma, regardless of endorsement, and the occupational diploma require four years each of English, math, science and social studies. The advanced endorsement requires higher level math and science in addition to a computer applications half-credit and two foreign language credits. Also proposed were alternatives to the 140 hours of “seat time” in one subject that students must have to earn one unit of high school credit. Students could instead demonstrate mastery of a particular skill through testing or taking online courses. Through credit recovery, students could get remedial assistance when they’ve failed a segment of a course rather than repeating the entire class. “It is imperative that Alabama’s students stay in school,” Morton said. “The only thing more important than staying in school is the assurance that an education is received that prepares students for a diverse, 21st century work force, which seeks new and innovative skill sets. In Alabama, strides are being made to ensure just that.” ■
Help. Q. A.
Is the state fire marshal allowed to enter our schools without any advance notice? YES. State law gives the state fire marshal and his deputies/assistants permission to enter schools at all hours for necessary investigations and permission to conduct inspections dealing with fire and life safety code laws, regulations and ordinances. If a violation is found and corrective action is needed, the state fire marshal generally works with the school system, so a response plan can be developed and action can be taken to address the issue. — Denise L. Berkhalter Alabama School Boards • Januar y l Februar y 2008 27
People Schools Dr. Ann Roy Moore
The School Superintendents of Alabama named Dr. Ann Roy Moore Alabama’s 2008 Superintendent of the Year for her distinguished service. She has served as the Huntsville City School System’s Superintendent of Education since June 2001 but has 33-plus career years in education. She represented Alabama at the National Superintendent of the Year program during the recent American Association of School Administrators National Conference in Tampa.
Florence Bellamy AASB President-elect Florence Bellamy received the Clifford S. Smith Lifetime Achievement Award at the Phenix City Schools Heart of the Community Awards Ceremony for her contributions to education. Bellamy has been a Phenix City board member since 1989 and is listed on the AASB School Board Member Academy Master’s Honor Roll. She is a supervisor at the Russell County Department of Human Resources and has served on numerous community committees and boards.
Dr. Grady Sue Saxon Leeds Board of Education member Dr. Grady Sue Saxon recently published two books — a collection of poetry and photographs titled Sand Between My Toes, and the practical guide on How to Raise Children: A Recipe in Plain English (www.Amazon.com). Saxon’s child rearing book addresses issues related to single parent homes, blended families and families dealing with chronic illness. Such topics as preschool, the value of play, nutrition and skills kindergarteners need are also discussed in her “recipe” book.
Send news of appointments, elections, promotions, retirements, honors and deaths to Attn: People & Schools Editor, Alabama School Boards magazine, P.O. Drawer 230488, Montgomery, AL 36123-0488 or info@AlabamaSchoolBoards.org.
William Silver William Silver, Saraland school board president and a member of the Saraland Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, announced the school system has officially separated from Mobile County. The board named Paul Sousa its interim consulting superintendent and Veronica Hudson its board vice president. A superintendent search is under way (www.saraland.org). The new system’s schools include Saraland Elementary and Nelson Adams Middle school with construction on a high school — home of the Spartans — slated for completion before August 2009.
Bonnie Garrett Bonnie Garrett, a science teacher at Huntsville’s Edward White Middle School, is the state’s only winner of the Milken Family Foundation’s 2007 National Educator Award. The state Department of Education and foundation surprised Garrett with the award and $25,000 at a school assembly that included legislators and state leaders. The award, known in education circles as the teaching Oscar, was given to 80 exemplary teachers across the nation.
Linda Jarzyniecki Linda Jarzyniecki, a math teacher at Greenville High School in Butler County, is one of only 20 teachers selected for the All-USA Teacher Team. The national recognition given by USA Today honors exemplary K-12 educators. Thousands of nominations were submitted nationwide, but the newspaper chose teachers who identify and address their students’ needs and who impact student learning. Jarzyniecki has been an educator for more than 20 years and teaches Algebra, precalculus and advanced placement calculus. (Continued on page 30)
Legendary actor James Earl Jones read Saturdays and Teacakes to fifth-graders at Huntsville’s Hampton Cove Elementary to celebrate the partnership between Verizon Foundation’s Thinkfinity.org and the state Department of Education’s Alabama Learning Exchange. The foundation awarded a $79,000 grant to expand online educational resources available through the Alabama Learning Exchange Web portal (http://alex.state.al.us).
28 Alabama School Boards • Januar y l Februar y 2008
Continued from page 28
ON THE MOVE ■
Dr. Yvette Richardson is the new Russell County superintendent, filling the position left vacant by the death of Dr. Vivian Carter. Her 2 1/2-year contract began in January. Sherill Parris, former administrator for the Alabama Reading Initiative, was named assistant superintendent of education for reading. She replaces Dr. Katherine Mitchell, the first person to hold the position, who retired in December.
OF NOTE ■
Rebecca Darby of Lauderdale County’s Central High School was named the state’s only math finalist for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. In science, the finalists are Ashley Allen of Oneonta schools’ Oneonta High School and Jennifer ReedTaunton of Albertville’s Alabama Avenue Middle School. Lester Brown of Greene County and Dr. Beth McCulloch Vinson of Lawrence County won free registration to upcoming AASB School Board Member Academy conferences. Their names were drawn from completed evaluation forms. Annie C. Hunter, Lowndes County school board member, won a shoppers’ package drawing from The Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover for early check-out during AASB’s annual convention. The state Department of Education recently landed a $1.8 million School Improvement grant to expand the Alabama Reading Initiative Project for Adolescent Literacy project to low-performing schools. Seven schools will be selected from Birmingham, Huntsville and Tuscaloosa city schools and Mobile and Montgomery counties. Judy Brown and Mark Raines received national awards from the Association for Career and Technical Education. Brown, who formerly taught culinary arts at Madison’s Bob Jones High, was named 2008 National Teacher of the Year. Raines, a Tuscaloosa Center for Technology teacher, was named Outstanding New Career and Technical Teacher. Jefferson County’s Bryan Elementary School in Morris hosted a media conference that included state and school leaders and the Institute for America’s Health director to discuss the state’s kid-friendly health and wellness curriculum for fourth- and fifth-graders, Wellness, Academics and You. WAY programs are also under way in Bullock, Chambers, Cherokee, Clarke, Covington, Madison, Mobile and Shelby counties and the cities of Dothan, Ft. Payne, Hoover and Opelika. Montgomery County’s McIntyre Middle School, the only Alabama school, won a national grant from the Parent Teachers Association for its efforts to promote families and school collaboration. ■
30 Alabama School Boards • Januar y l Februar y 2008
2007-2008 TORCHBEARER SCHOOLS Nine Alabama public schools from across the state were named Torchbearer Schools and received $15,000. In 2004, the Torchbearer program was launched to recognize schools that succeed despite the odds. To be eligible, high-performing schools must have at least an 80 percent poverty rate. “The nine schools receiving the 20072008 Torchbearer Award are staffed with educators who truly care about their students enough to make learning an enriching experience,” said state Superintendent of Education Dr. Joe Morton.
Anna F. Booth Elementary Mobile County
Edgewood Elementary Selma
E.D. Nixon Elementary Montgomery County
George Hall Elementary Mobile County
Indian Springs Elementary Mobile County
Lincoln Elementary Huntsville
Mary W. Burroughs Elementary Mobile County
North Birmingham Elementary Birmingham
Wilkerson Middle School Birmingham
AT THE TABLE
MARK YOUR CALENDAR
14 AASB Early Bird Workshop School Board Escambia County Board Hometown Atmore A Board Member for 11 years Books at Bedside The most recent combined volumes of Reader’s Digest Inspiration I’m inspired by the goodness of my heavenly father when I wake up every morning and realize he has given me a brand new day. Motto as a Board Member Do the very best job you can to see that every child in your school system or across the state has complete access to the best education from capable people who can tutor and teach them, so they can go as far as they can go. Walter Mitty Fantasy I spent the first 15 years of my education career as a high school choir director. So, my fantasy is that I would like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony. That would be quite a job. Advice to New Board Members Being a school board member is a challenge. They will have the ability to make decisions that could ultimately assist or deny a child the opportunity to get the best education they can have to be a success in their future.
“The 21st Century Learner” Wynfrey Hotel, Hoover
14-15 AASB Academy Core Conference “Leadership for Developing a Highly Effective Staff” Wynfrey Hotel, Hoover
29-April 1 NSBA Annual Conference and Exposition Orlando, Fla.
MAY 19 Regular Legislative Session Ends
JUNE 3 State/Federal Primary Election
JULY 15 Primary Runoff Election 20-22 NSBA/Southern Region New Orleans, La.
27-30 AASB Summer Conference Perdido Beach Resort, Orange Beach
Greatest Accomplishment as a Board Member The greatest accomplishment came when I was informed that all of our schools made adequate yearly progress under No Child Left Behind. That assured me that our children’s lives have been touched.
31-August 1 AASB Leadership I
Pet Peeve as a Board Member When board members fail to be sensitive to the economic use of Alabama tax payers’ dollars that are to be used for education. I don’t like to abuse funds that should go to educating our children.
Reason I Like Being an AASB Member AASB is an academic tool school board members can use to acquire degrees of excellence. My Epitaph There lies a rebounder — a person who can get knocked down but who gets back up.
Perdido Beach Resort, Orange Beach
19-20 AASB Academy Core Conference “Leadership for Community Engagement” Renaissance Montgomery Hotel & Spa, Montgomery
DECEMBER 4-6 AASB Annual Convention Wynfrey Hotel, Hoover Alabama School Boards • Januar y l Februar y 2008 31
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