JULY/AUGUST 2008 Vol. 29, No. 3
IMAGINATION: Hope for a New Generation
10 10 QUESTIONS Dr. Mabrey Whetstone, Special Ed Services Director, discusses his role in the statewide quest for quality education for all children.
ESTABLISH SAFER ROUTES TO SCHOOL
11 WORLD TRAVELER BECOMES NSBA'S 61ST PRESIDENT Barbara Bolas took the reins as the National School Boards Association president for the 2008-09 term in April.
FEATURES 8 WORKSHOP TEACHES PROGRESSIVE DISCIPLINE About 150 education leaders and professionals participated in AASB’s workshop on “Progressive Discipline: Disciplining and Dismissing Employees in Today's Legal Climate.”
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.
Full Inclusion or Responsible Inclusion? THE CHOICE IS SIMPLE
14 ROBOKIDS: ROBOTICS PROGRAM INSPIRES INGENUITY 16 COVER STORY A Guide to the Revised Competitive Bid Law
IN EVERY ISSUE 4 UP FRONT 6 EDUCATION & THE LAW 27 CALENDAR 15 HELP 26 BOARDMANSHIP BASICS 28 PEOPLE & SCHOOLS 31 AT THE TABLE ON THE COVER: photo/artwork©istockPhoto.com
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. CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER Ken Roberts, C.P.A. DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC RELATIONS Denise L. Berkhalter DIRECTOR OF GOVERNMENTAL RELATIONS Lissa Astilla Tucker DIRECTOR OF BOARD DEVELOPMENT LuAnn Bird 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 Shannon Hendricks Alabama School Boards • July/August 2008 3
Compiled by Shannon Hendricks
AASB DISTRICT DIRECTOR ELECTIONS Check your mail this month for details on AASB’s district director elections. The association’s revised bylaws state any active member can selfnominate or nominate another active member for district director by writing the executive director by Sept. 1. AASB will inform the district membership of nominees. Ballots listing the eligible nominees will be mailed to the district members by Oct. 1. Each board within a district gets one vote. The board president will certify that action was taken at a board meeting to choose a nominee, and the ballot must be returned to AASB by Oct. 31. If only one person is nominated, he or she automatically becomes district director. The district will be notified of the election results as soon as they are calculated. This year’s elections will be in the districts of directors Patsy Black, District 1; Jeff Bailey, District 3; Susan Harris, District 7; and Laura Casey, District 9, who have reached the two-term limit and are ineligible for reelection. An election will also be held in District 5, where Jennifer Parsons is eligible for reelection.
STATE TREND: Systems Choose Four-Day Work Week Sky-rocketing fuel and energy costs have forced some school systems to move to four-day work and school weeks with extended hours during the summer. That was the case in Hoover, where the board of education adopted a Monday-Thursday schedule for employees in early June. Trussville’s schools and central office operated on a four-day work schedule through Aug. 1. Similar action was taken across the state, condensing summer work and school weeks in Jefferson County, Cullman and Bessemer, to name a few. The Energy Information Association recently reported the average price for a gallon of gasoline in Alabama was $3.92, while the average retail price for electricity in the United States had risen to nearly 7 cents per kilowatt-hour.
Taxes and Schools Voters rejected a half-cent sales tax that would’ve relieved growing pains in the Madison County school system as well as in Madison and Huntsville city schools, reported the Huntsville Times. The measure’s failure in the June primary leaves few options and could lead to more portable classrooms. It’s the latest blow for boards already facing budget cuts, fewer state dollars and an expected glut of student transfers as Army families move in when bases are realigned.
4 Alabama School Boards • July/August 2008
Are You Ethical? School board ethics isn’t a concrete science. However, if a more ethical, happier life is what you seek, self-proclaimed “Ethics Guy” Dr. Bruce Weinstein suggests these five fundamental principles in a BusinessWeek article: do no harm, make things better, respect others, be fair and be compassionate.
3,338 DID YOU KNOW?
There were 3,338 graduates recommended for their first Alabama teacher certification in 2006-07, according to the state’s Teacher Preparation Program Performance Profile.
SAY WHAT? “I’ll tell you what’s wrong with No Child Left Behind. Forcing our teachers, our principals, and our schools to accomplish all of this without the resources they need is wrong. ...Labeling a school and its students as failures one day and then throwing your hands up and walking away from them the next is wrong.” — Sen. Barack Obama, U.S. presidential candidate
Programs to Expand Statewide Gov. Bob Riley and state Superintendent of Education Dr. Joe Morton recently announced the expansion of two prominent state education initiatives. By August 2009, every high school in Alabama will have the state’s ACCESS distance learning program up and running — a year ahead of schedule. Riley said Alabama will be the only state with videoconferencing and Web-based learning in every high school. In addition, 13 new schools will soon join the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative. The number of schools using AMSTI to improve math and science education is now 573.
Teacher Absences Linked to Lower Grades Researchers at Harvard and Duke universities just added validity to what sounds like a no-brainer: teacher absences impact student performance. “The more teachers are out before the test, the less well students perform,”said Raegen T. Miller, the lead author of the researchers’recent paper. The study also reports teachers in schools with more low-income students tended to take more sick and personal leave. “With the link to student achievement, especially for principals and school district leaders,”Miller suggests, “(reducing absences) might be ... something to talk about.” Download the paper at http://www.nber.org/papers/w13356.
What is the Board’s Role in Student Performance?
Top Board Concerns Student achievement and funding topped the list of concerns expressed in the National School Boards Association survey “School Boards at the Dawn of the 21st Century: Conditions and Challenges of District Governance.”In addition, about 80 percent of respondents said they were concerned about education technology and teacher quality. Read the report at www.NSBA.org.
Are you a new school board member who is curious about your board’s role in improving student achievement? The National School Boards Foundation (www.schoolboarddata.org) has this to-do list for you. ■ Establish a vision of what students should achieve. ■ Ensure that a structure — such as policies and resources — is in place to support improvement. ■ Hold the board, superintendent, staff, students and community accountable for continuous improvements in achievement. ■ Advocate for students in the community.
AASB Will Bring Training to You Have you ever attended an AASB workshop and wished your whole board was there to hear it? AASB will bring its sessions to your whole school board or a small group of boards for individualized training on topics ranging from School Board Self-Evaluation and Preparing for a Superintendent Search to Conducting a Tax Referendum, Conflict Resolution, Introduction to Board Service, Governing that Improves Student Achievement, and Team Building. Call AASB Board Development Director LuAnn Bird at 800/562-0601
97,382 BY THE NUMBERS
Number of the nation’s public schools in 2005-06, compared to 28,996 private schools, as stated in the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2009 Statistical Abstract of the United States.
SAY WHAT? “I supported the No Child Left Behind Act because it recognizes that we can no longer accept high standards for some students and low standards for others. With honest reporting of student progress we begin to see what is happening to students who were previously invisible to us. That is progress on its own, but we can and we must do better.” — Sen. John McCain, U.S. presidential candidate
HEALTH THREAT: LEAD IN MINIBLINDS
Professional Development Should Match Need
The state Department of Public Health warns schools that vinyl miniblinds containing high levels of lead could pose a health threat to students — particularly those in preschool and kindergarten. Miniblinds are a leading cause of lead poisoning in the state, and some have been tested and found to contain lead at 10 to 100 times higher than the limit set by the Environmental Protection Agency. Lead dust drawn out of the miniblinds once heated by the sun can come into contact with children. Lead exposure, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, can cause cognitive impairment in children. For info, call state Environmental Services Director Pres Allinder at 334/206-5373.
Is your board of education considering professional development opportunities for new teachers? You may wish to check out Alabama’s Teacher Preparation Program Performance Profile for 2006-07. Below is the percent of surveyed graduates who entered their first teaching careers wishing they were more prepared in the following areas: ■ 17 percent in using technology for record keeping and other management purposes. ■ 19 percent in using strategies to improve reading comprehension appropriate to their subject/grade. ■ 24 percent in working well with exceptional/special needs students in inclusive settings. ■ 25 percent in recognizing and referring students with special needs. ■ Alabama School Boards • July/August 2008 5
EDUCATION & THE LAW
Dirty Words? Mandated Sex Education In classrooms throughout Alabama, school administrators and teachers are providing students with learning opportunities that will serve them well during childhood, adolescence and adulthood. A detailed course of study is defined for all grades and the requirements for graduation are established. However, in one critical area, critics say Alabama is not adequately addressing the educational needs of its students.
By Jamie Keith
labama does not mandate sex education in public schools and, as a result, students may not be receiving the knowledge and information they need to prevent unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Alabama Law, Act No. 92-590, defines the minimum contents to be included in sex education programs or curricula in schools where sex education is taught. Specifically related to sex education, the act requires that “as a minimum” programs must include and emphasize: “...Abstinence from sexual intercourse is the only completely effective protection against unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) when transmitted sexually.” The act also requires that programs and curricula include and emphasize: “...Statistics based on the latest medical information that indicate the degree of reliability and unreliability of various forms of contraception, while also emphasizing the increase in protection against pregnancy and protection against sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV and AIDS infection, which is afforded by the use of various contraceptive measures.”
Are You Implementing the Law?
6 Alabama School Boards • July/August 2008
A question facing local education authorities, school administrators and educators is: “Can schools implement proven effective prevention programs that meet the requirements of Alabama law stated in Act No. 92-590?” It is alarming that during 2006, 34 percent of all reported cases of sexually transmitted diseases in Alabama infected teenagers. Also of significant concern is the increase in the state’s teen pregnancy rate during 2006 to 39.6, up from a rate of 37.5 in 2005. The increases in teen pregnancy and teen STD rates are compelling reasons for the education community to review the act defining sex education in Alabama public schools and implement programs that meet the requirements of the act.
Do You Understand the Problem? We must understand the complex issues that contribute to the participation of Alabama’s youth in sexual risk behaviors in order to reverse the STD epidemic among teens and reduce the rate of teen pregnancy in this state. With this understanding, we can begin to select and implement prevention strategies that are evidence-based and have been proven effective in preventing teen pregnancy and teen STD. There are effective, science-based prevention programs that have a strong abstinence message and that provide medically accurate information about the reliability and unreliability of contraceptives and condoms. A recent study released by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy detailed research findings on programs to reduce teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Some of the programs identified in the study focus on both abstinence and information on various methods of contraception. It is important to note that there are also service-learning programs highlighted in the study that have strong evidence of reducing teen pregnancy rates while young people are enrolled in the program.
Are You ‘Willing’ to Face this Complex Issue? Another question facing local education authorities is: “Will schools implement pregnancy and HIV/AIDS prevention programs?” The issues of teen pregnancy and teen STD are complex, complicated and often controversial. While supporting abstinence as the only completely effective way to protect the physical, spiritual, emotional, psychological and mental well-being of youth, sex education programs in Alabama’s public schools should also provide students with evidence-based, proven effective sex education that gives them the knowledge and skills they need to ensure a future free of unintended pregnancy and STD — not only during their teen years but throughout their adult lives. Nearly all teenagers are at risk of pregnancy and STD because most teens will experience pressure to have sex at
some time during adolescence. Abstinence from sexual activity is the most effective method of pregnancy and STD prevention. Ideally, one would hope the abstinence message would be enough to prevent teens from engaging in sexual behavior while serving to protect their spiritual, emotional, psychological and mental well-being. Realistically, however, public health data and student surveys indicate that a message that stresses abstinence and includes complete and medically accurate information about contraception and condoms may be necessary.
What is the School Board's Role? There is concern in the education community about these important health issues and the lasting impact they have on the lives of teens and their families. There is also a growing interest in identifying and implementing effective prevention programs in the school setting. What roles do school boards have in assessing the needs of youth in their school systems and encouraging the implementation of effective prevention programs? School boards may... ◆ Provide leadership for policymaking. ◆ Define a vision for fully developing young people. ◆ Monitor the needs of youth in local communities and set or revise policies based on identified needs. ◆ Direct the superintendent to address the issue of teen pregnancy prevention through policy implementation. ◆ Partner with other community organizations for the purpose of communication and community outreach. ◆ Ensure programs are available that enhance student achievement and health development. ◆ Provide resources for effective teen pregnancy programs. Implementing evidence-based programs that have been proven effective in reducing sexual risk-taking behaviors should be a goal of all local education authorities. These programs can be implemented in accordance ■ with Act 92-590. Jamie Keith is executive director of the Alabama Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. She may be contacted at email@example.com
President Signs Supplemental with Medicaid Provision
resident George W. Bush signed legislation June 30 that saves the Medicaid Administrative Claiming program administered through the Alabama Association of School Boards for now. The War Supplemental Appropriations legislation included a moratorium on the Medicaid rule eliminating certain transportation and administration reimbursements to schools. The Senate’s vote on the measure, which included the same language as the House,
passed in June by an overwhelming 92-6 margin. Now that the bill has been signed, federal Medicaid reimbursements to schools for identifying and providing needed services for Medicaid-eligible children with disabilities will continue until at least April 1, 2009. Without Congressional action, the MAC program was set to end June 30. A temporary win, Congressional leaders now have until April 2009 to find a permanent solution.
AASB Executive Director Sally Howell said the association supports the MAC program as an excellent example of a partnership between public schools and the state Medicaid Agency to enable point-of-service delivery for students in need. Howell also said AASB will continue to work closely with the National School Boards Association and the Alabama Congressional delegation on this issue because the MAC program provides critical revenue for schools and services to eligible children. ■ Alabama School Boards • July/August 2008 7
About 150 education leaders and professionals participated in the Alabama Association of School Boards’ workshop on “Progressive Discipline: Disciplining and Dismissing Employees in Today’s Legal Climate.” The event featured veteran school board attorney R. Kent Henslee, who explained a number of the nuances of progressive discipline, arbitration and the importance of keeping accurate employee personnel records. AASB also took the opportunity to preview the association’s Policy Reference Guide CD — which includes policy samples, Alabama laws, attorney general’s opinions and other guidance materials.
POLICY REFERENCE GUIDE Each superintendent has received one free copy of AASB’s 2008 School Policy Reference Guide CD-ROM. Additional copies are $25 each. To get your copy, call 800/562-0601 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Board members Ben Davis of Lowndes County and Anne Fitts of Selma pose with AASB Director of Board Development LuAnn Bird.
8 Alabama School Boards •July/August 2008
AASB Executive Director Sally Howell is shown in the background as school board attorney R. Kent Henslee presents.
Montgomery attorney Jayne Harrell Williams
Covington County Superintendent Sharon Dye and board member Craig Nichols
COMING SOON: AASB DISTRICT MEETINGS Mark your calendar for AASB’s fall 2008 district meetings on “Cyberspace in Our Schools: Student Issues in a Digital Society.” These regional meetings are a valuable training and networking opportunity for members. Attendees earn one hour of School Board Member Academy credit. For more information, contact AASB at 334/277-9700.
September 15. . . . . September 16. . . . . September 18. . . . . September 22. . . . . September 23. . . . . September 25. . . . . September 29. . . . . September 30. . . . . October 2. . . . . . . . .
District 2 District 1 District 5 District 8 District 9 District 7 District 3 District 6 District 4
Ramada Inn, Selma Creek Family Restaurant, Atmore Midfield High School, Midfield Holiday Inn, Decatur Madison City Schools Central Office, Madison Ramada Inn, Selma Sheraton Capstone, Tuscaloosa Classic on Noble, Anniston Taliaferro’s Restaurant, Tuskegee
Alabama School Boards • July/August 2008 9
10 QUESTIONS By Shannon Hendricks
Dr. Mabrey Whetstone, Special Ed Services
t’s a 10-year investment in the futures of Alabama’s most challenged and gifted children. Judging from the affectionate way Dr. Mabrey Whetstone talks about his service as the state Department of Education’s director of special education services, he loves it. The National Association of State Directors of Dr. Mabrey Whetstone Special Education acknowledged his dedication when it installed Whetstone — a member of the NASDSE Board of Directors since 2002 — as its 2007-08 president. The state Board of Education honored Whetstone for that achievement and for his work in ensuring that policies, standards and practices concerning students with disabilities are equitable and properly implemented. Under Whetstone’s decade of leadership, the state education department launched programs to enhance disabled students’ reading and literacy skills, increase federal grant funds and address the issue of minorities disproportionately placed in special education. Whetstone took a moment to discuss his role in this statewide quest for quality education for all children. Q. What is it that a state director of special education does? A. The primary duty is to oversee the provisions of special education services that each of the 132 school systems provide students with disabilities across the state. We provide focused monitoring — looking at whether or not local school systems are meeting the federal statue in addition to the Alabama Administrative Code, which lays out the rules and regulations that school systems in Alabama must follow as they provide services to students with disabilities. I am also responsible for the gifted education programs in our state. There are 35,552 gifted students in those programs. That number is increasing and needs to greatly increase. For the first time two years ago we were able to have gifted education programs in every school system in the state. We have 84,772 students ages 3 to 21 with disabilities in the state of Alabama. We’ve come down from almost 100,000, and right now 11.4 percent of the general population is in special ed. 10 Alabama School Boards • July/August 2008
Q. How would you define special education in the context of what systems in this state must provide for special needs students? A. They must provide a free and appropriate public education, which is the primary requirement of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA. They do this in several different ways. They develop an individualized education program, or IEP, for every student that lays out what educational services should be there. In addition, they must educate students with disabilities in the least restrictive environment. Q. What does “least restrictive environment” mean? A. Children with disabilities are to be educated with nondisabled individuals as much as possible or as appropriate. Over the last several years, since I have been director, we have been moving toward more inclusive environments and having students with disabilities in general education programs and being educated with general education, non-disabled students. Q. Are there other special education services school systems are providing? A. We have to do non-discriminatory assessment to determine if a child is eligible for special education. There are dueprocess and rights afforded to parents, such as mediation and resolution and due process hearings and complaint resolutions within that. Students with disabilities are now included in the general population of assessments in the state where in the past they were not often included. We ensure students with disabilities receive discipline in READ ALL ABOUT IT relationship to the federal law. Mastering the Maze: The Special Mainly, we have to look at the Education Process is a publication problem and whether or not of the state Department of the trouble a child got into was Education and includes an a manifestation of the child’s introduction to the special education process for properly disability. We are spending a identifying students with special lot of time making sure there is needs. It also includes charts, a smooth transition from the forms and directions. Download high school program into the a copy from www.alsde.edu or adult world. And, of course, call 334/242-8114. (Continued on page 15. See related story on page 24.)
World Traveler Becomes NSBA’s 61st President By Ellie Ashford When Barbara Bolas was growing up on a farm in rural, western New York, she never expected she would become a world traveler, not to mention a school board leader and president of a national organization. olas, who took the reins as the National School Boards Association president for the 2008-09 term in April, credits her experiences traveling and living abroad as providing a global perspective to her work as an education leader. Her leadership focus is educating students to be global citizens. After graduating from college, Bolas spent six years as a teacher, mostly with third- and sixth-graders, in rural New York and metropolitan Ontario, Canada, and also worked with children in eastern Venezuela. Her husband, Jim, a project manager in the industrial engineering and construction business, was often stationed abroad while working on projects, and Bolas accompanied him on trips throughout Europe, South America, the Caribbean, and Canada. While living in Venezuela, Bolas was impressed by people she met there who spoke multiple languages and had an excellent understanding of global issues. “For me, this was an eye-opener,” she says. “These are the type of people our students must compete with in the global economy.” And when Bolas saw students risking their lives to take part in a political rally to demand better schools — and saw youths being beaten by the national guard — she developed a better understanding of our nation’s democratic system and the “value of being an American citizen in a free and open society.” To provide the needed stability for their children’s education, the family settled in Upper St. Clair, Pa., a suburb of Pittsburgh. An active PTA member and Brownie leader, Bolas developed training sessions for latchkey children. With the encouragement of friends and family, she ran for the school board following a conflict over a school system policy that allowed teachers to take sabbaticals during the school year. Her initial board tenure included challenges familiar to many school board members — a strike by teachers, contentious struggles over taxes, building renovations, controversies over asbestos removal and extending the school year, hiring a new superintendent and parents demanding more control over the curriculum.
During more than 20 years on the school board, though, Bolas says there have been plenty of success stories. These include building a state-of-the-art high school, initiating and retaining a challenging International Baccalaureate program, developing a balanced curriculum and continually raising student achievement. Barbara Bolas Each of the school system’s six schools has been designated by the U.S. Department of Education as a Blue Ribbon School. The high school is recognized as a New American High School, and two middle schools received the Don Eichorn Schools to Watch Award. Bolas recently retired after serving as a director of development in charge of fund raising for several non-profit enterprises. Her two children are now grown and on their own. As Bolas spends the next 12 months traveling the country as NSBA president, she plans to emphasize the role of public education in strengthening global consciousness. “We need to help our students, communities and school board members to be more aware of the world around us, and we must arm our students with the skills to compete in the global economy,” she says. “But it’s not just about training youths for the jobs of the future; it’s also about helping them better understand other cultures and get along with those who are different from them,” she says. For Bolas, “public education is a tool for strengthening and continuing our democracy and promoting civic engagement and community involvement.” And, she believes, “our schools must develop future citizens who are aware of and understand the world around them.” ■ Reproduced with permission from School Board News. Copyright © 2008, National School Boards Association. Opinions expressed in this magazine do not necessarily reflect positions of NSBA. For reprint information, call 703/838-6789. ABOUT NSBA Founded in 1940, the National School Boards Association is a not-for profit federation of state associations of school boards across the United States. Its mission is to foster excellence and equity in public elementary and secondary education in the United States through local school board leadership. For more, visit www.nsba.org. Alabama School Boards • July/August 2008 11
By Denise L. Berkhalter The reasons for busing or driving children to school are aplenty — from busy schedules and weather worries to stranger danger and unsafe traffic.
asoline prices are skyrocketing. Funding for student transportation next fiscal year has been trimmed. And with 4.7 million registered automobiles in Alabama, and about 8,500 buses on the roadways transporting more than 360,000 students back and forth to school, there is plenty reason to encourage students to bike and walk to school. Alabama’s Safe Routes to School initiative is part of an international movement to make it safe, convenient and fun for children to regularly bicycle and walk to school. By decreasing traffic and congestion, particularly around schools, Safe Routes advocates hope to improve community and personal health, the environment and increase safety. Now through Nov. 30, local boards of education can apply for funding to enable and encourage children in grades K-8, including those with disabilities, to walk, bike or otherwise get to school under their own physical power. Last year’s awards ranged from $40,000 to more than $1 million in projects benefiting students biking or walking to schools in Andalusia, Auburn, Boaz, Brantley, Brilliant, Homewood, Huntsville, Mobile, Montgomery, Mountain Brook, Reform, Satsuma, Tuscaloosa, Vernon, Vestavia Hills, Good Hope and Baldwin County. Successful grant applications are funded for incorporating the five E’s of the Safe Routes program, which include education, encouragement, engineering, enforcement and evaluation. While sidewalks are key to safer pathways to school, Safe Routes funding may be used to facilitate planning, development and implementation of a wide variety of projects that will improve highway safety and reduce traffic, fuel consumption and air pollution in
12 Alabama School Boards • July/August 2008
Children at Tarrant school enjoy a walk with adults during the 2007 Walk to School Day.
BRIGHT IDEA: A Walking School Bus Gather a group of children and one or more adults and walk to school. That’s a walking school bus. It can be as informal as two families taking turns walking their children to school to as structured as a planned route with meeting points, a timetable and a schedule of trained volunteers. — Safe Routes to School and around school zones. Appropriate categories for funding include speed calming devices, traffic control devices, flashers, sidewalks, bicycle paths/racks, pedestrian facilities and crosswalks, as well as appropriate training and encouragement programs such as safe biking practices, helmet giveaways, parent and youth workshops and walk-to-school events. The Safe Routes to School Program officially launched in August 2005, when Section 1404 of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users was signed into law and began providing each state with funding. In Alabama, those funds are administered through the Alabama Department of Transportation, and the competitive grant program is coordinated by Bill Luckerson of the department’s Bureau of Modal Programs. The federally funded initiative requires no matching funds and is being operated in this state as a joint endeavor of the Alabama departments of transportation, education and public health with special emphasis on K-8 schools. Luckerson stresses that Safe Routes is a community
endeavor. Local communities should examine concerns from a broad-based perspective and develop solutions that reflect comprehensive community involvement, input and implementation strategies. Strong applications include useful input from educators, but local law enforcement, community leaders, parents, students, developers and engineers, local transportation departments, health professionals, neighborhood associations, trails groups, bicycle groups, disability advocates, local government officials and others. Luckerson encourages local boards of education to collaborate with their community now on how best to do their part and help this state and nation reverse the decline in children walking and biking to school. In 1969, about half of the nation’s children walked or biked to school. Today, fewer than 15 percent of schoolchildren do so. As a result, kids today are less active, less independent and less healthy, according to the National Center for Safe Routes to School. If the prediction holds, this generation of children may be the first not to outlive their parents thanks to childhood obesity and related health problems. Alabama has one of the highest rates of childhood obesity in the nation. And when it comes to funding pupil transportation, the state already spends an estimated $763 per bused student each year. The national Safe Routes center also reports as much as 30 percent of morning traffic is generated by parents driving their children to schools. Traffic-related crashes are the No. 1 cause of death and major injury for U.S. children ages 1 to 17. In 2006, Alabama lost 244 people age 20 or younger in fatal vehicle crashes. The number of schools participating in state-funded Safe Routes programs across the nation is at 2,700 or more. Thus far, about $221 million has been spent or committed for these programs. ■
HOW TO APPLY FOR SAFE ROUTES FUNDS
CELEBRATE WALK TO SCHOOL DAY Join more than 40 countries as they encourage students to walk and bicycle to school on Walk to School Day, Oct. 8. Schools can sign up at www.walktoschool.org/register to be listed on the international Walk to School map and to receive free downloadable materials, including an e-newsletter, certificates and templates for stickers and frequent walker punch cards.
The eight-page 2008 Safe Routes to School application is available online in .pdf format, at http://saferoutestoschool.crdl.ua.edu/ application_form.html. Here are a few tips to consider before you apply. Conduct an assessment of the 2-mile radius around your school. Contact students, parents, school staff and local law enforcement for input. Assemble a Safe Routes to School Work Team that includes the parent-teacher associations, a city traffic engineer, civic leaders and bicycle/walking clubs. Conduct surveys and identify streets for conducting walking/windshield audits or inspections of the site from a cyclist or walker's point of view. Partner with a traffic engineer/law enforcement official to determine specific locations for improvements. The audit survey can be found at the Safe Routes site. The Alabama Section of the Institute of Transportation Engineers (www.alsite.org) has volunteered to help perform surveys near schools, obtaining and interpreting data such as traffic volumes and crash history for use in SRTS applications. Return the completed application to Alabama's Safe Routes to School Coordinator Bill Luckerson by Nov. 30. He may be contacted at 334/353-6446 or email@example.com. Alabama School Boards • July/August 2008 13
RoboKids: Robotics Program Inspires Ingenuity Submitted Article Take plywood and a box filled with PVC pipe, screws, an irrigation valve cover, piano wire, an aluminum paint grid, a bicycle inner tube and something called a micro-energy chain system. In just six weeks, try to use it all to design a functioning machine that can perform specific tasks in three minutes. Sound like a reality show? Well, sort of. It’s actually a scene right out of an annual BEST robotics competition that draws creative middle and high school students from across Alabama. is short for Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology. The competition has the feel of a basketball game, chess match and science fair all rolled into one day. There are cheerleaders, mascots, pep bands and wildly cheering adults on hand each fall for this six-week competition that celebrates students’ intellect, creativity and ingenuity. Started in Sherman, Texas, in 1993, BEST has grown from 14 participating schools to more than 700 schools and more than
10,000 students who are involved. Auburn University’s Ginn College of Engineering and College of Sciences and Mathematics brought the BEST program to Alabama in 2001, and it has spread from one competition site in Auburn, known as Alabama BEST, to three others, including Jubilee BEST in Mobile, Tennessee Valley BEST in Decatur, and Blazer BEST in Birmingham. There is no entry fee for schools and no limit to the number of students who can participate. All equipment and materials used to build and run the robots are provided by corporate sponsors. Austin High School in Decatur has been fielding a BEST team since 2002. Susan Haddock, math teacher and BEST team sponsor, said she has seen the best come out in her students as a result of the competition. “In the past six years, more than 40 students from our robotics team have gone on to study engineering, not because someone told them they would be a good engineer, but because they’d been involved in BEST,” she said. “We started Alabama BEST to help address the critical shortage of engineers and scientists the U.S. is now facing,” said Dr. George Blanks, director of K-12 engineering outreach for the Ginn College of Engineering and co-director of the BEST program at Auburn. “Alabama, like other states, is simply not educating enough engineers, scientists and technology specialists to fill jobs that will be open as the Baby Boom generation retires. In addition, many new technology-based industries are locating across Alabama. To ensure economic prosperity into the future, industry, K-12 and higher education must work together to grow an essential technologically literate work force,” Blanks said. Blanks said industries in this state see the BEST program as an ideal K-12 work force development program. “In the process of building their robot,” he explained, “students learn to identify and analyze design problems, brainstorm solutions for them and to build and test their designs, (Continued on page 27)
14 Alabama School Boards • July/August 2008
10 Questions: Dr. Mabrey Whetstone Continued from page 10
there are the related services. We have to ensure that schools provide such related services as physical therapy, occupational therapy and transportation. Q. Is there a minimum number of special education teachers required? A. No, there is not. The way we get teacher units right now is all based on the Alabama Foundation Program which determines state funding based on average daily membership of all students. Students with disabilities receive more money from the foundation program because there is a different divisor used to ensure there is appropriate personnel there to work with students with disabilities. Several years ago, we ended up going with the same class size numbers that general education has since many of our students now receive their services in the general education classroom. For regular classroom teachers, the class sizes are for grades K-3 a maximum of 18 students per teacher, grades 4-6 a maximum of 26 and grades 7-12 a maximum of 29. In a selfcontained classroom, of course, the special ed teacher may not be able to handle that number of students, so it can fluctuate. You have to provide the free and appropriate education, so the number of kids who could be in a classroom may vary depending on the severity of their disabilities. Q. What is a self-contained classroom? A. We have many fewer of those. When special education began in 1975 with the passing of the Public Law 94-142, which was the Education of All Handicapped Children Act, special education was thought of differently. They were just trying to define “disabled kids” at that point and time. These children were not in the public school system. They just weren’t going to school. So, when students with disabilities came into the public school system, the thinking was, ‘Well, let’s just put them in a classroom and have one teacher serve all these kids.’ Over the years, that has proven not to be an effective way of providing special education services. Students with disabilities often would lose so much that they could’ve gained from being around non-disabled individuals, and they never received the same course of study that is laid out for non-disabled individuals. Instead, they received a much watered down version of that. So, now we’re really trying to encourage students with disabilities to be educated with non-disabled kids, to be educated as close as possible to grade level and to be exposed to the same content as general education students are. They must pass the same graduation exams as general education students do if they are going to receive the diploma, so it makes much more sense that we ensure students with disabilities get that quality instruction. Q. Are there instances when separating students into a classroom is best for the student? A. Inclusion means we are including students with disabilities into the general ed curriculum. You may determine a child eligible
for special education services, but where you provide those services is left up to the IEP team with the understanding that they should educate this child as much as possible with the non-disabled. The federal push is to be in the general education program and the general education classroom with supports. That’s what special education should be about — providing those extra supports. But, we are to have a continuum of services in special education. For some kids, the most appropriate environment is the general education classroom, but for some students they may need to be in a more self-contained classroom in order to meet the needs that individual child has. A lot of times that has to do with the severity of the disability and also has to do possibly with behavioral problems that the child is having. So, the child may need to be in a more self-contained environment until those behaviors can be worked with. I think it greatly benefits general ed students to be in classrooms with special education students. What we’re looking for in this world is to produce high school graduates who have an understanding of all people. It really makes no difference if we’re talking about disability or gender or race. Q. How long does the referral and evaluation process take when a child is suspected to have a disability? It takes 60 days from the day the parent gives permission to evaluate to the completion of the evaluation. Then the school system has 30 days from the completion of the evaluation to make an eligibility decision. However Special Education Services strongly encourages the local school system to reach the eligibility decision earlier than 30 days if possible. From the date of eligibility, the school system has 30 days to develop and implement an IEP. Many school systems develop their IEP on the day that they make the eligibility decision, thereby shortening the number of days in this process. (Continued on page 31)
Our elected superintendent has resigned before the end of his term. How should we fill the vacancy?
A county board of education can appoint a superintendent to complete the unexpired term of an elected superintendent who vacates office prior to the end of his or her term. The appointment should be made in accordance with Alabama Code Section 16-9-11. If the board doesn’t make the appointment within 30 days after the vacancy, the state superintendent of education will appoint someone. —Shannon Hendricks Alabama School Boards • July/August 2008 15
By Ken Roberts, AASB Chief Operating Officer School boards support student success in a variety of ways. Responsible stewardship of public funds — necessary to provide safe and functional working and learning environments for students and school personnel — is one of them. State law outlines very specific guidance on how local boards of education procure goods and services. Failure to precisely adhere to laws governing the expenditure of public funds can bring scrutiny to school systems — from audits to state Department of Education oversight. Compliance with the competitive bid law and the public works law, which applies to construction contracts over $50,000, is one of the more important aspects of the overall fiscal management responsibility of a local board. The newly revised competitive bid law became effective Aug. 1 and contains explicit guidance for local boards of education on procuring goods and services.
16 Alabama School Boards • July/August 2008
AASB was a strong proponent of the legislation drafted by the Alabama Association of School Business Officials and introduced into the 2008 legislative session by Rep. Jeremy Oden. The primary goal of changing the law — codified in Title 41, Chapter 16 of the Code of Alabama, 1975 — was to increase the quality of and obtain the best price for goods and services. To help local boards navigate the changes, AASB created this guide. In it, you’ll find a summary of the competitive bid law changes, recommended best practices to help determine the real impact of these changes and suggestions to ensure fiscally sound procedures are followed in the procurement of goods and services.
Higher Threshold, Increased Quality The first change in the law is probably the most easily understood but represents the most dramatic potential impact upon a local board. It raises the threshold for requiring the competitive bid process from $7,500 to $15,000. We were due a change in the minimum expenditure amount necessitating the competitive bid process. The threshold, last raised in 1994, was long overdue for an inflationary adjustment. Annual inflation of the $7,500 threshold over the last 14 years would increase the amount to over $11,000. Also, southeastern states’ bid laws contained thresholds ranging from $15,000 to $25,000. Boards should recognize an increase in the quality of goods and services as a result of this change, as well as a reduction in administrative time spent on procuring these goods and services. For instance, many boards enter into contracts for services that impact the health and safety of students and employees that invariably cost between $10,000 and $15,000. Examples include pest control and solid waste removal contracts. The competitive bid process often led to vendor price undercutting where school safety was put at risk by vendor inability to comply with applicable laws and regulations governing these services. These contracts are better served by other procurement processes — such as a request for proposal or RFP — that make it easier to integrate past performance and other factors into the decision-making process. Therefore, under the revised law, a $12,000 contract can use the alternative process and increase the likelihood of obtaining a contracted service that follows all applicable laws and regulations, such as appropriate chemicals or spraying times for pest control contracts. This should lead to an increase in the quality of services local boards receive.
Optional Bond, More Bids The old law required that a bidder provide a bid bond as a part of the bid proposal. The revised law makes that requirement optional to the local school board, as long as the bid bond requirement applies to all bidders, is included in the bid specifications and is available for the goods or services being bid. In many instances under the old law, potential bidders would not bid because of this requirement. The revisions give the board the discretion of including the requirement in the bid invitation. This should lead to a local board receiving more bids, thus increasing competition and reducing the price paid by a local board. A common example is lawn care contracts. It was fairly common for the vendors, often individuals, to decline submitting a bid because of fear or inability to submit the funds for a bond. Often, these individuals could have provided quality service at a lower price but were not awarded the contract because they could not meet specifications as defined under the old law. The key here is for the board to decide whether a bond would be appropriate for the specific bid under consideration. It should not be a one-time decision to be applied to all bids but a separate decision for each bid. The bid bond generally provides indemnification — in the form of a bank-certified check or insurance check — that would only be necessary if the prospective vendor materially changed his or her submitted bid before the contract document is executed. So, if vendors attempt to back out of their bids, the board could convert the bonds to protect against loss that could result from the bid withdrawal.
Joint Purchasing, Expanded Options The previous version of the competitive bid law allowed local school boards to enter into joint purchasing agreements to pool resources with other local governments to obtain high quality goods at lower prices. However, this joint agreement power was restricted to any school board or other purchasing agreements comprised of any local governments that were within the same county or adjoining counties. The revision expands and clarifies the joint purchasing language to allow school boards to join any joint purchasing agreement as long as certain conditions are met which did not change in the current revision. These conditions include the need to approve the joint purchasing agreement by board (Continued on page 18) Alabama School Boards • July/August 2008 17
A Guide to the Revised Competitive Bid Law Continued from page 17
resolution and the requirement that bidding agents comply with the competitive bid law. The bidding agent is the party to the contract handling the actual purchasing activities of the joint purchasing agreement. This revision greatly expands a local boardâ€™s number of options and, thus, increases competition, which could lower prices paid by local boards for goods and services. The key to capitalizing on this revision is to ensure that joint purchasing is given consideration, along with other purchasing options, when purchasing needed goods and services.
A LOOK BACK
Online Bids, Intense Competition
ACT SYNOPSIS 08-281 Changed the parameters for the provisional teaching certificate to allow it to be granted for grades 6-12 (currently grades 9-12). It also focused eligibility on knowledge of the subject to be taught and extended the window for individuals to acquire their mandated teaching experience. The fee increased from $20 to $40.
In a revision similar in concept to the joint purchasing expansion, the current competitive bid law will, beginning Jan. 1, 2009, allow a type of online bidding process referred to as a reverse auction. Reverse auctions are similar procedurally to eBay in that possible vendors (sellers) will bid on goods or services for a specific period of time in a procedure organized by a third party. The use of this purchasing method is buyer driven in that the board controls the details of the good or service needed and allows the intense competition created by the reverse auction market to procure goods or services at lower prices. This method is only allowable if the price obtained for the good or service is the same or lower price that could have been obtained through the state purchasing program or if the good or service was not available through the state purchasing program. Also, the revision mandates that the state Department of Examiners of Public Accounts provide administrative guidelines to local boards on the use of reverse auctions. This guidance should be available this year by Nov. 30. Local boards should follow the guidance provided by the examiners while ensuring that reverse auctions are given consideration when determining purchasing methods. The decision of whether to use this method will be on a case-by-case basis. The key is to give this method full consideration at the beginning of the procurement process. This law revision also authorizes a course of action for boards when the lowest responsible bidders notify the board that they will not comply with the terms of the original agreement or the board determines and documents that the lowest responsible bidder defaults under the terms of the original agreement. In the past, the board would have been required to rebid the good or service. The board can now award the bid to the second lowest responsible bidder without rebidding, which saves time and resources. The second lowest bidder must agree to all the terms and conditions of the original bid and provide the good or service at the same or lower price submitted to the board on their original bid. The board should ensure that the finance office documents the specific failure to comply with the terms of the agreement. This necessitates a degree of care in compiling the bid specifications to facilitate a valid compliance determination after the contract is awarded and ensure the vendor performs under the contract terms and conditions. 18 Alabama School Boards â€˘ July/August 2008
Eventful and interesting 2008 regular and special legislative sessions have set the stage for the 2009 regular session that convenes Feb. 3. Here's a look back at a few of the education-related bills enacted this year:
08-544 Provided that 75 percent of any unanticipated and unappropriated ending balance in the Education Trust Fund be deposited in the Education Proration Prevention Account. 08-552 Appropriated $6.3 billion from the ETF for the FY 2009 education budget. ($355 million decrease from last fiscal year.) Constitutional/Amendment A proposed constitutional amendment will go before voters Nov. 4. If approved by voters, the amendment would revoke and replace the current Education Rainy Day Account statute. It would provide access to a certain sum as a line-of-credit against Alabamaâ€™s oil and gas royalties to offset proration limited to 6 1/2 percent of the prior year education budget less any prior year withdrawals that have not been repaid; capped to the average of the certified projections by the state finance director and Legislative Fiscal Office; and limited to the amount of proration. Provides that the loans must be repaid within six years from the Education Trust Fund.
Local Preference, Economic Support
The updated competitive bid law that became effective Aug. 1 increased the bid threshold from $7,500 to $15,000. Local school boards are now exempt from bids when using certain joint purchase agreements and can award contracts to the second lowest responsible bidder if the lowest bidder defaults. AASB joined other K-12 education advocates in support of the legislation. AASB Vice President Steve Foster and Executive Director Sally Howell (far left) were present when Gov. Bob Riley signed Act 2008-379. Photo by Robin Cooper
Lifecycle Option, Lower Costs A somewhat complicated revision of the law, effective Jan. 1, expands the term “cost” to include costs over the expected lifecycle of a good or service. In addition to sustaining costs or lifecycle costs, this “cost” to the board also includes acquisition costs. It is important to note that this method of costing is optional but could help the board obtain the lowest price over the life of the asset. This costing method is allowable in situations where the lifecycle costs can be “reasonably ascertained” using “industry recognized and accepted sources.” Of course, the successful bidder would still need to comply with all other terms and conditions of the bid invitation. As with the reverse auction procedure, the state Department of Examiners of Public Accounts will be required to issue administrative regulations governing lifecycle costing by Nov. 30, 2008. AASB feels it is important to follow the guidelines determined by the examiners. However, a board can meet the intent of this revision by documenting their basis and source of information for defining lifecycle cost of a particular good or service, assuming the basis is reasonable and applied equitably to all bidders. For illustrative purposes, the “cost” of a copier may include maintenance/support agreements or extended warranty costs that the board considers necessary to protect against equipment failure. Any support agreements or warranty requirements should be included in the bid invitation and the details of such agreements or warranties included in a bid should be analyzed in detail when comparing bids. To summarize, this revision gives the board an option that may help obtain a lower cost over the life of the good or service. It could also lead to higher quality goods since boards have the option to select vendors with higher acquisition costs but lower maintenance costs over the life of the goods.
The last revision is based on the concept of local governments supporting local economies by giving local bidders a local “preference” in the competitive bid process. This “local preference” has always been available to other local governments, but the revisions explicitly added local boards of education to that language. Simply put, the board has the option of awarding bids to local responsible bidders if their bid is no more than 3 percent higher than the lowest responsible bidder. If a board chooses to use this procedure, it should take official board action and include in the meeting minutes what has been deemed the local preference zone. A local preference zone can be the boundaries of the board’s jurisdiction, the county in which the board is located or the core based statistical area — a population classification that usually encompasses a much larger area. The U.S. Census Bureau is a good resource for determining which CSBA includes a particular board. For example, the Decatur CSBA includes the boundaries of Morgan and Lawrence counties, which could be the designated “local preference zone” for any boards within those counties. The zone should be established for all bids and not on an individual bid basis. Again, this revision is designed to give the board more options and additional flexibility. Any board contemplating using this option should weigh the benefits of supporting the local economy against the higher prices that would be paid for goods and services. Each of the competitive bid law changes discussed in this guide were intended to provide boards with the additional flexibility needed to procure higher quality goods and services, high quality goods and services at lower prices or both. AASB urges local boards to evaluate these new or expanded options and consider how they can be used to maximize of the board’s financial governance. This will greatly assist the board in meeting the ever increasing public demand for fiscal accountability. ■ Send your school finance questions to Ken Roberts, AASB Chief Operating Officer, firstname.lastname@example.org.
ON THE WEB
■ Read the competitive bid law legislation at www.AlabamaSchoolBoards.org or www.sos.state.al.us (search for Act No. 2008-379) or call AASB at 334-277-9700 or 800-562-0601. ■ Metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas are collectively called core based statistical areas. CSBAs consist of an urban nucleus — a place with a population of at least 10,000 — plus adjacent communities with strong economic and social connections with that core geographic area. For more, visit the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, www.whitehouse.gov/omb.
Alabama School Boards • July/August 2008 19
By Roy Hudson, 2008-09 Alabama Teacher of the Year “One small step for man; a giant leap for mankind.” NASA broadcast those immortal words from the surface of the moon in 1969. It was the culmination of a promise that John F. Kennedy had made to the American people almost 10 years before. It had been a promise that had been criticized as naïve and foolish and hailed as daring and visionary. n that momentous evening almost 40 years ago, I was a 17year-old teenager. As I walked out into the barren Texas landscape and gazed up into the nighttime sky, I knew that the world would never be the same. Science fiction had become reality. I was frightened by the unknown, but I was also full of hope because I knew the future held unlimited potential for me and my generation. The moon landing was a symbol of what we as Americans could accomplish with imagination, daring and hard work. Since that evening, the world has changed in almost unimaginable ways. I certainly didn’t conceive of some of the technological advances that we now take for granted in our everyday lives. A global economy has become a reality as the United States loses more and more businesses to overseas corporations and more and more American jobs are outsourced to foreign countries. The current generation of young people is not filled with the excitement of unlimited potential that permeated my generation. They know that they have to compete with the rest of the world for jobs, and they are not sure if they are adequately prepared. Daring and hard work are not enough.
20 Alabama School Boards • July/August 2008
According to a new national study conducted by Lake Research Partners, 30 percent of American voters are unhappy with the current focus on “the basics” in public education today. They would like to see more emphasis placed on promoting the imagination because it is essential in creating schools that can be successful in the 21st century marketplace and developing above-average students. Some key findings of the survey: ➤ Nine in 10 voters (89 percent) say that using imagination is important to innovation and one’s success in a global, knowledge-based economy and essential to success in the 21st century. ➤ 69 percent of American voters believe that, when compared to other nations, America devotes less attention to developing the imagination and innovation.
➤ 88 percent of respondents indicated that an education in and through the arts is essential to cultivating the imagination.
HOW SCHOOL BOARDS CAN SPARK STUDENTS’ IMAGINATIONS
➤ 63 percent of voters strongly believe that building capacities of the imagination that lead to innovation is just as important as the “so-called basics” for all students in the classroom. They also believe that an education in and through the arts helps to substantiate imaginative learning (91 percent) and should be considered a part of the basics.
When school boards are considering policy, the Imagine Nation constituency asks them to consider an education that develops the cognitive capacities of the imagination: ✸ Support time and resources for an education in and through the arts. ✣ Support integrated and interdisciplinary processes and approaches, which also save money and time in the school day. ✦ Understand that it may take contemporary methods to reach today’s learners. ✤ Support the need to teach beyond assessment and move beyond scoring that focuses on the minimum, which may stifle students and educators. Broader assessments encourage imaginative and innovative teaching and learning. — Imagine Nation
The results of this study echo the sentiments of a survey that was conducted by the Conference Board in 2006 in which three-fourths of the nation’s top business leaders said that creativity and innovation were among the top five skills likely to increase in importance for America’s top high school graduates. These findings clearly send a signal to our school boards and our administrations to develop and support arts education at all grade levels, but it goes far beyond that. Imagination and innovation must be promoted and encouraged across the curriculum even in the so-called “basic” classes. Teaching to a standardized test discourages creativity and critical thinking skills. 86 percent of parents say imagination should In the Jefferson County School system, we be developed in core courses when asked: have established technical academies in the “On a scale of 1-10, how critical is it to areas of pre-engineering, finance, art and incorporate building imagination into core theatre where students explore their given courses?” discipline while applying math, science, English and history in innovative and sometimes surprising ways. Students who have studied in these programs have a distinct advantage when they compete later in the global marketplace. Since 2001, graduating seniors in the Shades Valley Theatre Academy have been offered between $1.5 million and $2.9 million in scholarships each year to such universities as Emerson, Cincinnati, Pepperdine, DePauw, Birmingham-Southern, Samford, Alabama and Auburn, among others. Their fields of study have been as diverse as bio-chemistry, engineering, pre-med, pre-law, psychology, veterinary medicine, forestry, education, building science, communications and, of course, theatre. I encourage all educators to explore innovative and creative ways to engage every level of leadership and rally public support for a new vision of education that will place imagination and the arts at the core of learning in schools. Then, we must begin to take even more bold steps if we are to create schools that give our students the skills that allow them to meet the challenges of the 21st century global marketplace. We must give back to this generation the hope that I felt for my future on that momentous evening almost 40 years ago. ■
2008-2009 Alabama Teacher of the Year Roy Hudson, who teaches theater arts at Jefferson County’s Shades Valley High School, is the first arts educator to become the state’s top teacher.
IMAGINE NEW CENTURY EDUCATION Building a 21st century education can happen through the arts. The arts engage students deeply in learning that is rigorous and relevant to their lives today and empowers them with the vision, motivation and skills to strive for excellence in the future. An arts education also helps spark creativity in the economy because it demands and develops imagination and the critical, intellectual and personal skills needed to create, innovate and adapt in a global economy and in one’s professional life. Some of the skills and habits of mind developed by imaginative students are the ability to... ✤ Use multiple ways of learning and communicating. ✦ Set goals and achieve them. ▲ Concentrate on a task. ◆ Manage challenges and overcome failure. ❖ Respect multiple values and perspectives. ✱ Participate in a group and be team player. — Imagine Nation
For more on the Lake Research Partners Survey, visit www.theimaginenation.net. Alabama School Boards • July/August 2008 21
2008 Alabama Association of School Boards
EDUCATION MEDIA HONOR ROLL N
AASB’s Media Honor Roll recognizes media representatives in print, radio and television who report school news in a manner that is fair, accurate and balanced. If you are working with a reporter who deserves recognition, pass a board resolution (sample available, contact email@example.com) and submit this nominee form. Mail or fax to: Alabama Association of School Boards, Attention: Denise L. Berkhalter, P.O. Box 230488, Montgomery, AL 36123-0488; (fax) 334/270-0000. Include resolution passed by the school board. Deadline: Postmarked by October 17, 2008. We hereby recommend that the following news media be recognized for fair and balanced reporting and for providing valuable information to the community about public schools. HONOREE’S NAME News Organization _____________________________________________________________________________ Daily Newspaper Radio Weekly Newspaper Television Address ______________________________________ City ________________________ Zip Code ___________ HONOREE’S NAME News Organization _____________________________________________________________________________ Daily Newspaper Radio Weekly Newspaper Television Address ______________________________________ City ________________________ Zip Code ___________ HONOREE’S NAME News Organization _____________________________________________________________________________ Daily Newspaper Radio Weekly Newspaper Television Address ______________________________________ City ________________________ Zip Code ___________ In case we have a question: Your Name___________________________________________________ Phone __________________________ Your School Board ________________________________________ E-mail ________________________________ Copy this form to submit additional entries. 22 Alabama School Boards • July/August 2008
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
• Almon Associates Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Tuscaloosa, AL
• KPS Group Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Birmingham, AL
• American Fidelity Assurance . . . . . . . . Birmingham, AL
205/987-0950 or 800/365-3714
• Paul B. Krebs & Associates Inc. . . . . . . Birmingham, AL
• Lathan Associates Architects PC . . . . . Birmingham, AL
• Barganier Davis Sims Architects . . . . . Montgomery, AL
• McCauley Associates Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . Birmingham, AL
• BlueCross BlueShield of Alabama . . . Birmingham, AL
• McKee & Associates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Montgomery, AL
• Christian Testing Labs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Montgomery, AL
• Council of Alabama . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Birmingham, AL Coca-Cola Bottlers Inc.
• Davis Architects Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Birmingham, AL
• Dome Technology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Idaho Falls, ID
• Exford Architects . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Birmingham, AL
• Fuqua & Partners Architects PC . . . . . . . . Huntsville, AL
• Fibrebond . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Minden, LA
• Gallet & Associates Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Birmingham, AL
• Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood Inc. . . . Montgomery,AL Birmingham, AL Mobile, AL Huntsville, AL
334/271-3200 205/879-4462 251/460-4006 256/533-1484
• Hoar Program Management . . . . . . . . . Birmingham, AL
Architecture and Design • Payne & Associates Architects . . . . . . . Montgomery, AL
• PH&J Architects Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Montgomery, AL
• Rosser International Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . Montgomery, AL
• Sain Associates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Birmingham, AL
• Scientific Learning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Tallahassee, FL
• Seay, Seay & Litchfield P.C. . . . . . . . . . . Montgomery, AL
• Sherlock Smith & Adams Inc. . . . . . . Montgomery, AL
• Southland International Bus Sales . . Birmingham, AL
• 2WR/Holmes Wilkins . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Montgomery, AL Architects Inc. • TAC Energy Solutions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Birmingham, AL
• Transportation South . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Pelham, AL
• Interquest Detection Canines . . . . . . . . . Demopolis, AL
• Evan Terry Associates PC . . . . . . . . . . . . . Birmingham, AL
• Jenkins Munroe Jenkins Architecture . . Anniston, AL
• Volkert & Associates Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mobile, AL
Alabama School Boards • July/August 2008 23
FULL Inclusion orRESPONSIBLEInclusion? THE CHOICE IS SIMPLE By Regina L. Everett, Alabama Elementary Teacher of the Year
here are many reasons why teachers choose a career in education. My reason is probably a little different from most. I was a learning disabled child. My earliest memories of school involve being struck on the hand with a ruler because I couldn’t do my work and having
all my friends laugh at me. You see, I was one of the “unteachables.” Fortunately, I was placed in a Title I class with a wonderful teacher who changed the course of my life.
I have been fortunate enough to successfully teach upper-grade elementary students for most of my teaching career. Each year, I have several inclusion students in my class. In fact, I have volunteered to be the inclusion teacher for the last several years. Having struggled with learning disabilities of my own gives me the ability to empathize with what my learning disabled students are feeling. I can reach them in ways some teachers may not be able to. I begin every school year by reading to my students Thank You, Mr. Falker, the true story of Patricia Polacco, a learning disabled child. I then share with them my story. They are amazed to hear I had learning challenges just like some of them. They begin to believe if their teacher can overcome these challenges, then so can they. I tell you my story, so you will understand I am not only seeing learning disabilities and the inclusion debate through the eyes of a teacher but through the eyes of someone who has “been there” as a learning disabled child. Let me state from the beginning that the reason inclusion works in my classroom is because I never “dumb down” my curriculum. I have the same high expectations for my special needs students as I do for my reg24 Alabama School Boards • July/August 2008
ular education students. The difference is how students are expected to achieve these goals and expectations. As teachers, we are all used to accommodating and/or modifying student work, based on each child’s individualized education program, or IEP. Does it take more time to individualize your instruction to fit the needs of each child in your class? Certainly! For inclusion to work in a general education setting, however, it is crucial that individualization take place. In addition, let me state that without the assistance of one of our special education teachers, Susan Fryer, inclusion would not work in my classroom. Having a special education teacher in my classroom allows me, the general education teacher, to focus on the needs of my entire class. Ms. Fryer assists with guided reading groups, reads tests for my special students (as required by their IEPs), helps them find page numbers and stay on task, assists with lesson planning, etc.. For inclusion to be successful, teachers must be willing to make teaching a collaborative process. According to the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, as amended in 2004, inclusion is not required. Instead, IDEA requires students be placed in the
Photo© istock photo.com
She taught me to read. After two years with this teacher, I was above grade level in reading.
“least restrictive environment” to meet their “unique needs.” This means all students, whether they are special education or not, get the chance to have an equal education. Along these lines, full inclusion means all students, regardless of handicapping condition or severity, will be in a regular classroom/program full time. All services must be taken to the child in that setting. I have taught in both a full inclusion and a partial inclusion setting. For inclusion of any type to work, it must be handled responsibly. I would be lying if I said inclusion works for every child, every time. You and I know that would be impossible. Unfortunately, this is what proponents of full inclusion would like you to believe. Author Susan photo©istockPhoto.com
Mandel Glazer explored the meaning of mainstreaming and wrote that some students’ “least restrictive environment” may be a special classroom. There are cases where certain students may be more excluded than included in inclusion classrooms. At many schools across this country, a full inclusion policy is in place. For most children, this works fine. But what about the children who are not benefiting from full inclusion? What about the fifth-grade autistic child who cries all day and wants to lay on the floor under tables or the child with Down Syndrome who can only grunt when he is hungry? What about the child who is in fourth-grade and cannot identify letters due to an incredibly low IQ? Then there is the child who was brain damaged during child birth. What about the child who, thanks to scarlet fever as a newborn, will be developmentally delayed his entire life? What about the children who are so developmentally delayed they have to wear diapers to school and require help just to sit up? What about the children who are physically violent and pose a risk to themselves and their fellow classmates and teachers? And, finally, what about the regular education students who are in classrooms with these students? Many times, teachers feel the regular education students are the ones who are being left behind. According to Ron Nelson, co-director of the center for At-Risk Children’s Services at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, some kids’ mental health needs go beyond what a general education school and/or classroom can deliver. I implore school boards and policymakers across the state to consider the benefits of responsible inclusion. Trying to force all special education students into a regular education classroom mold is just as discriminatory as trying to force those same students into a special education classroom mold. Realizing inclusion, in one form or other, is here to stay, there are many things that can be done to make inclusion work for everyone involved: 1. Training, training and more training that addresses effective strategies for including students with various disabilities must be provided. 2. Paraprofessionals, assigned to individual students, must be provided where necessary. 3. Adequate time must be built into the schedule, so staff can meet as a collaborative team to address the changing needs of students. 4. There must be administrative support for inclusion teachers. 5. In inclusive settings, class sizes must be reduced and/or the number of teachers must be increased. 6. Special education teachers and general education teachers must work together to coordinate their efforts to meet the needs of students with disabilities.
An Inclusion Checklist for Your School By Joy Rogers his checklist may help board of education personnel evaluate whether their practices are consistent with the best intentions of the inclusion movement. Rate your school system with an “A” where the main statement best describes your system and a “B” for each item where the parenthetical statement better describes your school. Each item marked “B” could serve as the basis for discussion among the staff. Is this an area in which the staff sees need for further development? Viewed in this context, an inclusive school system would not be characterized by a particular set of practices as much as by the commitment of its staff to continually develop its capacity to accommodate the full range of individual differences among its learners.
1. Do we genuinely start from the premise that each child belongs in the classroom he or she would otherwise attend if not disabled (or do we cluster children with disabilities into special groups, classrooms or schools)? 2. Do we individualize the instructional program for all the children whether or not they are disabled and provide the resources that each child needs to explore individual interests in the school environment (or do we tend to provide the same sorts of services for most children who share the same diagnostic label)? 3. Are we fully committed to maintenance of a caring community that fosters mutual respect and support among staff, parents and students in which we honestly believe that non-disabled children can benefit from friendships with disabled children and disabled children can benefit from friendships with non-disabled children (or do our practices tacitly tolerate children teasing or isolating some as outcasts)? 4. Have our general educators and special educators integrated their efforts and their resources, so they work together as integral parts of a unified team (or are they isolated in separate rooms or departments with separate supervisors and budgets)? 5. Does our administration create a work climate in which staff are supported as they provide assistance to each other (or are teachers afraid of being presumed to be incompetent if they seek peer collaboration in working with students)? 6. Do we actively encourage the full participation of children with disabilities in the life of our school, including co-curricular and extracurricular activities (or do they participate only in the academic portion of the school day)? 7. Are we prepared to alter support systems for students as their needs change through the school year, so they can achieve, experience successes and feel they genuinely belong in their schools and classes (or do we sometimes provide such limited services to them that the children are set up to fail)? 8. Do we make parents of children with disabilities fully a part of our school communities, so they also can experience a sense of belonging (or do we give them a separate PTA and different newsletters)? 9. Do we give children with disabilities just as much of the full school curriculum as they can master and modify it as necessary, so they can share elements of these experiences with their classmates (or do we have a separate curriculum for children with disabilities)? 10. Have we included children with disabilities supportively in as many as possible of the same testing and evaluation experiences as their non-disabled classmates (or do we exclude them from these opportunities while assuming that they cannot benefit from the experiences)? Reprinted with permission from “The Inclusion Revolution” by Joy Rogers, Phi Delta Kappa Center for Evaluation, Development and Research May 1993 bulletin, No. 11.
(Continued on page 30. See related story on page 10.) Alabama School Boards • July/August 2008 25
BOARDMANSHIP BASICS By LuAnn Bird, AASB Director of Board Development
TEAMWORK EASIER WHEN STUDENT SUCCESS IS THE FOCUS At the end of my second training session with a school board and administrative team, a high school student who had attended the sessions thanked me — on behalf of all the students in the school system — for working with his board. hat changed? The board was working more as a team. They now had a collective understanding of their role in governing to improve student success. In our first workshop, we discussed the board’s expectations for student achievement. All board members said students in their school system could be achieving at higher levels. Identifying their common values for student learning led to the next discussion about what it takes to change achievement.
Governing for Student Success While there are many factors that affect student achievement, we looked at research that showed that effective teaching in the classroom has the greatest impact on students. The board learned that their role is to support professional development that is linked to student learning needs in the school system. Monitoring and improving student achievement is the board’s job. The board also looked at research that showed that poverty does not have to be a limiting factor in a student’s ability to learn. A study that examined the effect of home and classroom support on reading performance showed that students were able to meet high learning expectations even in low income families where there was little home support. High support in the classroom made the difference. These studies show that all students can learn at high levels. We then examined what boards are doing in high achieving school systems. We found that these boards set high expectations for student achievement, look at data to identify areas of need, set goals that improve learning, support professional development aligned with the goals and hold the system accountable. Finally, we defined the difference between governance and operations. Ideally, the board should provide leadership for improved learning by spending time on governing issues such as setting policy, monitoring school system performance, engaging the community and setting school system goals. Meanwhile, the board should delegate day-to-day operations to the superintendent. 26 Alabama School Boards • July/August 2008
Changing the Meeting Climate I was asked to come back and assist this board and administrative team with goal setting. The climate at the second meeting had changed. No longer were there questions about what the board should be doing. Board members were more concerned with the details of setting student achievement goals. In this second session, we addressed the importance of narrowing the focus in the school system based on students’ greatest learning needs. Peter Senge in his book, The Fifth Discipline, notes, “Most school systems are already overwhelmed with change. They don’t need a new initiative: they need an approach that consolidates existing initiatives, eliminates “turf battles,” and makes it easier for people to work together toward common ends.” We also examined the role of testing. The board learned that test scores are measures, not goals in and of themselves. Rather, assessments provide information that allows the school system to set targets where interventions are planned to improve student learning. The board’s role is to analyze the data and decide what they will accept as evidence that the school system is making progress toward goals that reflect that all students can learn at high levels.
Advice to New Board Members ■ Listen. You have a lot to learn from your colleagues on the board, administrators, staff, parents, community members and students. ■ Be patient with your new ideas. It takes a while to build trust and credibility with your new colleagues on the board. ■ Read your board policies. These documents are the board’s way of communicating the direction for the superintendent and the school system. ■ Risk being wrong. Even though you may have strong feelings on an issue, your board members might have better ideas. ■ Don’t take it personally. At times your colleagues, parents or even the public may passionately disagree with your vote. ■ Keep up to date on educational issues. By staying informed, you will have more confidence that your decisions are in the best interest of the students in your school system. ■ Learn the difference between governance and operations. Many new board members unknowingly cause the board to micromanage the school system because they have not learned their governing role. ■ Attend AASB events. Learning from other school systems, and educational experts will give you valuable information in leading your school system to higher levels of achievement.
Board and administrative teams that work together to set student achievement goals that are aligned throughout the system, create a culture for teaching and learning that leads to improved student performance. In this school system, changes occurred after the board identified their common desire to reach higher expectations for their students.
Get it Right from the Start When the elections are over or new board appointments are made, you can avoid conflict that is unproductive at your meetings by conducting a new board member orientation. Set time aside to discuss the role of the board in improving student achievement. AASB can facilitate a roles and responsibilities discussion. Boards can create a sense of unity by making student achievement the center of their work. By identifying your expectations for higher achievement and setting goals to meet students’ needs, your behavior at board meetings will make your students proud of your work. The community will have hope because they will see evidence that the board is focused on making sure all students have the skills needed to succeed in the 21st century. ■ This article was originally published in the Wisconsin Association of School Boards’ Wisconsin School News magazine and was reprinted with permission. Formerly of WASB, LuAnn Bird (firstname.lastname@example.org) is now AASB’s director of board development.
RoboKids: Robotics Program Inspires Ingenuity Continued from page 14
all in a team-building setting. That’s the kind of work force industry needs — people who understand technology and know how to use it to solve problems. That is what we mean by technological literacy.” There is also a direct industry connection with students. Industries can volunteer to mentor BEST teams. Blanks said mentors — engineers, scientists and other technical professionals — are a critical part of the program. “They shepherd the students across the six weeks of the robot design and construction process. Teachers and students desperately need a mentor’s expertise to make a team successful,” Blanks said. BEST program leaders ask school board members to learn more about the program and help pursue opportunities to bring the competition to their schools by enlisting the help of local universities, colleges and industries. “Working together, we can succeed in showing students that engineering, science and technology are all equally exciting careers to consider,” Blanks said. “After all, what’s not incredibly cool about building a working robot from a box of stuff?” ■ To learn more about BEST in Alabama, contact Dr. George Blanks at email@example.com or 334/844-5759.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR SEPTEMBER
15-Oct. 2 AASB District Meetings 15 16 18 22 23
District 2 Meeting District 1 Meeting District 5 Meeting District 8 Meeting District 9 Meeting
25 District 7 Meeting 29 District 3 Meeting 30 District 6 Meeting
Ramada Inn, Selma Creek Family Restaurant, Atmore Midfield High School, Midfield Holiday Inn, Decatur Madison City Schools Central Office, Madison Sheraton Capstone, Tuscaloosa Straughn High School, Andalusia Classic on Noble, Anniston
OCTOBER 2 District 4 Meeting Taliaferro’s Restaurant, Tuskegee
19 Board of Directors Meeting Renaissance Montgomery Hotel & Spa, Montgomery
19-20 AASB Academy Core Conference “Leadership for Community Engagement” Renaissance Montgomery Hotel & Spa, Montgomery
NOVEMBER 4 General Election
DECEMBER 4 Board of Directors Meeting Wynfrey Hotel, Hoover
4-6 AASB Annual Convention Wynfrey Hotel, Hoover
JANUARY 2009 12-Feb. 9 AASB District Meetings 30-Feb. 2 NSBA Leadership Conference Washington, DC
Alabama School Boards • July/August 2008 27
People Schools AASB Welcomes Your News Send news of appointments, elections, promotions, retirements, honors, births and deaths to Attn: People & Schools Editor, Alabama School Boards Magazine, P.O. Drawer 230488, Montgomery, AL 36123-0488 or info@AlabamaSchoolBoards.org.
ON THE MOVE ■
Gary Quick has been named superintendent of the Barbour County school system.
Pat Nelson is the newest member of the Jasper school board.
William B. Clemmons is now a member of the Arab school board.
James Harris is a member of the Ozark school board.
Mark Jipson is now a member of the Enterprise school board.
Phil Schmidt began a full term as a Madison County school board member.
Geary Terrell has started his term as Midfield school board member.
Timothy Hall is now a member of the Roanoke school board.
Dr. Gwendolyn Moore has been appointed superintendent of the Macon County school board. Her term began in June.
Joan Frazier has been appointed superintendent of Anniston city schools. Her term began in June.
Lou Ann Wagoner is the new superintendent for Alexander City.
Dr. Udo Ufomadu is the newest member of the Selma school board.
Patrick Waldrop and Gary Hill have been appointed to the Athens school board.
Warren Johnson has joined the Tuscumbia school board.
Tracy Allen was named to the Sylacauga school board.
Dr. Judson Edwards has been named to the Troy school board.
Cynthia Brown Cynthia Brown earned a promotion in the state Department of Education’s Classroom Improvement Section, which is responsible for minimum curriculum content standards and course design for K-12 students in the public schools. Brown Cynthia Brown succeeded Dr. Anita Buckley Commander, who retired July 1 as director of classroom improvement.
Trustees Appointed The AASB Board of Directors appointed Jeff Bailey of the Covington County Board of Education and reappointed Eddie Lowe of the Phenix City Board of Education as Alabama Risk Management for Schools trustees. Their three-year terms will be effective July 1. Bailey Jeff Bailey Eddie Lowe replaced ARMS Trustee Linda Steed of Pike County, who retired from the ARMS trustee board June 30. ARMS is a selffunded risk management program for Alabama’s school boards.
AASB Members Join First Choice Committee School board members Laura Casey of Albertville and Jennifer Parsons of Jefferson County, as well as superintendents Linda Ingram of Coffee Laura Casey Jennifer Parsons Sally Howell County, John Heard of Perry County and Jeff Goodwin of Oxford join AASB Executive Director Sally Howell as members of the state Board of Education’s First Choice Implementation Committee, formed when the state board approved changes to Alabama’s graduation options.
Trussville Student Wins National Award Hunter Bledsoe, who just completed eighth grade at HewittTrussville Middle School in Trussville, won second place in the 2008 National Geographic Bee and earned a $15,000 college scholarship. The event was moderated by “Jeopardy” game show host Alex Trebek. The event included 55 contestants and was hosted by the National Geographic Society. He’ll attend Jefferson County International Baccalaureate school this fall.
(Continued on page 30) 28 Alabama School Boards • July/August 2008
Continued from page 28
Honoree, chosen for raising body image and self-esteem awareness among teen girls. Prudential also recognized Distinguished Finalists Grant Atkinson of Thompson High School in Shelby County and Stephenie McGucken of Central High School in Phenix City.
OF NOTE ■
Butler County Superintendent Michael Looney was named 2008 Citizen of the Year by The Greenville Advocate newspaper.
George Hall Elementary School in Mobile County is one of only six schools in the nation and the only school in Alabama to earn the Ninth Annual National School Change Award — the only award of its kind.
Alabama celebrated its 2008 Presidential Scholars. Receiving the nation’s highest honor given to high school students were Jacinth L. Greywoode of Loveless Academic Magnet Program High School in Montgomery County and Bianca A. Williams of Jefferson County International Baccalaureate High School.
Diedre Graham of Murphy High School in Mobile County is a 2008 Prudential Spirit of Community Award State
Melissa Hughley of Bob Jones High School in Madison received the 2008 Gold Apple Award for having the best group of artwork or writing by students in the country.
Gay Bussey Langley, the first woman to serve on the Talladega County school board, has died. Her 20 years of service included strong support for the arts education.
John W. “Johnny” Atkison, a former member of the Piedmont Board of Education, has died. He had also been a reporter and photographer for the Anniston Star and Piedmont Journal. ■
Full Inclusion or Responsible Inclusion? Continued from page 25
A final area of concern for inclusion teachers is the accountability portion of the No Child Left Behind Act. The current law focuses on whether certain subgroups of students meet predefined benchmarks on assessment tests in reading and mathematics. One of these subgroups is special education students. This fact keeps many teachers from being willing to accept inclusion students. I strongly encourage policymakers to consider a “growth” model for accountability purposes with NCLB. A “growth” model looks at whether a group of students improves their test results in a certain subject from year to year. Basically, a child is not in competition with other children, only with themselves. As the law stands in Alabama, schools are being asked to do two very different things. “On the one hand,” notes Sandi Cole, director of Indiana University’s Center on Education and Lifelong Learning, “they are accountable for each student’s individualized education program under IDEA, and they need to measure progress over time. But No Child Left Behind measures achievement based on a standardized score at one point in time during the year and does not give schools credit for a student’s IEP goals.” Although the challenges are many, overall, responsible inclusion has worked for me. My classroom — as an inclusion classroom — brings my students together and gives them the opportunity to work together as a team, just as they will have to do in the real world. It was Horace Mann who said, “education, then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is the great equalizer of the conditions of men — the balance — the wheel of the social machinery.” I want all of my students to have the opportunity to make a difference with their lives. They are inferior to no one! ■ Regina L. Everett is a National Board Certified Teacher and the Alabama Elementary Teacher of the Year. She teaches fourth grade at Saraland Elementary in Mobile County. 30 Alabama School Boards • July/August 2008
In So Many Words Co-teaching - The simultaneous presence of general education and special education teachers who jointly teach a class of diverse learners. Co-teachers in “responsible inclusion” efforts work closely together to decide the best practices for meeting the academic needs of each disabled and non -disabled student. Inclusion - Students with disabilities receive services in their school and are placed in the same classroom with non -disabled children Individualized Education Program - An IEP is a disabled child’s annual education plan written by a team that includes the child’s parents, teachers, therapists, psychologists, etc. Mainstreaming - Placement of a special education student in a regular classroom for some or all of the child’s school day. Responsible Inclusion - The practice of focusing on what’s best for special education students based on individual needs and making other options available rather than automatically placing all special education students in general education classrooms. Self-contained Class - A classroom specifically for special education students Special Needs Student - A child who has disabilities or who is at risk of developing disabilities that may require special education services Source: Adapted from definitions at Parentpals.com and the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning.
10 Questions: Dr. Mabrey Whetstone
AT THE TABLE
The Rev. Preston Nix School Board Attalla City Board of Education Hometown Attalla A Board Member for 21 years Books at Bedside Quiet Strength: The Principles, Practices, and Priorities of a Winning Life by Tony Dungy Inspiration Youth. Students inspire me. Motto as a Board Member All children can learn. Walter Mitty Fantasy To see every child who is integrated into our school system graduate. Advice to New Board Members Become educated about your role as a school board member. Understand that the main objective is doing what is best for our students. Greatest Accomplishment as a Board Member To see our increased graduation rate, which increased through tutoring, testtaking and making sure students take the pertinent subjects leading up to graduation. Pet Peeve as a Board Member I don’t always get what I want, but I’ve learned to be content with things until I can make the important things happen. Reason I Like Being an AASB Member For the information I’ve gained to help me better understand my role as a school board member and what we can do to enhance our school system. Knowledge is worth money. My Epitaph May the service I’ve given speak for me. ■
Continued from page 15
Q. How has No Child Left Behind impacted special education in Alabama? A. It has had a very powerful, positive effect on special education in Alabama. One component of this is a much more intensive effort to truly teach kids has come out of No Child Left Behind, which said that we are going to assess all children. That was a very positive stance to take because many school systems did not test all their special ed students. Now, the local school systems’ administration have a focus on ensuring kids with disabilities get good instruction because they are going to be tested and their scores are going to count toward whether a school makes adequate yearly progress or not. That’s incredibly important. The second component of this goes back to the inclusion of students with disabilities in the general education curriculum and the fact that they must be taught by highly qualified teachers. According to No Child Left Behind, that means a teacher who is highly qualified in the content area that they are teaching. But, until No Child Left Behind, special education teachers went through a program in which they majored in special ed, but they didn’t major in math, science, English, history. So, they knew a lot less about the content. But No Child Left Behind, said, ‘No. Struggling kids need to be taught by the best qualified teachers. We need someone teaching special education who knows mathematics, who knows science.’ That’s another strong reason for wanting students with disabilities in the general ed classroom. We want them taught by highly qualified teachers. Special ed teachers bring with them to the general education classroom the fact that they are highly qualified in instructional strategies, in behavior management, in modifying curriculum, in designing appropriate tests for kids. They bring a vast toolbox of skills that benefits all kids in that classroom. Now, we truly have collaborative teachers with the general ed teacher and special ed teacher in the same classroom working with all kids. Then, you don’t point out the special ed kids. We get past that, and, as a result, will have a much better school system. In many classrooms across this state, you can walk in and can’t tell who the special ed student is. That’s powerful. There does need to be some changes to No Child Left Behind, and hopefully those changes will come when it is reauthorized. Right behind that will be another reauthorization of IDEA, which is generally reauthorized about every four years. Q. Is that why we are seeing your division work through the state Board of Education to update Alabama’s special education rules? A. When the federal law changes, we have to go to the board to make sure Alabama Administrative Code is in line with the federal law — each state must change their procedures to correspond with that. And, sometimes it comes to our attention that the Administrative Code needs to be clarified. Q. Are we headed in the right direction? A. We are making great progress in this state with students with disabilities. They are graduating with diplomas at higher rates than ever before. They are succeeding in the general education classroom at higher levels than ever before. Academically they are performing better than they have in the past. We are seeing in Alabama a very successful transition to work with a 70 percent employment rate of our high school graduates with disabilities. We work very hard to help our kids get jobs and make sure they have the support services they need to keep those jobs. ■ Alabama School Boards • July/August 2008 31
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