MINNESOTA SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION
Volume 65, No. 1
Learning Curve If You Focus on Purpose, You Can Light Up the Room Dollars for Student School Board Member Scholars
2012 SUMMER SEMINAR IT’S ALL ABOUT STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT!
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VOLUME 65, NUMBER 1
Calendar J U LY 2 0 1 2 4 .....................Independence Day (no meetings)
4 5 6 24 27
QUOTES OF NOTE MSBA Staff
STRAIGHT TALK Bob Meeks, MSBA Executive Director PRESIDENT’S COLUMN Kent Thiesse, MSBA President VENDOR DIRECTORY Pierre Productions & Promotions, Inc. ASK MSBA Amy Fullenkamp-Taylor
LEARNING CURVE Bruce Lombard
IF YOU FOCUS ON PURPOSE, YOU CAN LIGHT UP THE ROOM Greg Abbott
DOLLARS FOR STUDENT SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER SCHOLARS Greg Abbott and Bruce Lombard
REFLECTING ON A POWERFUL EVENING: JAMIE NABOZNY, BULLIED Dick Bernard
EIGHT QUALITY INDICATORS THAT MAKE A GREAT SCHOOL Greg Abbott
SEPTEMBER 2012 3 .....................Labor Day (no meetings) 11 ...................MSBA Fall Area Meetings 12 ...................MSBA Fall Area Meetings 13 ...................MSBA Fall Area Meetings 18 ...................MSBA Fall Area Meetings 20 ...................MSBA Fall Area Meetings 28 ...................Last Day for Submitting Legislative Resolutions 30–Oct. 2 .......MASA Fall Conference
CONTENTS JULY/AUGUST 2012
5 .....................Early Bird Workshops 5 .....................MSBA Board of Directors’ Meeting 5 .....................MSBA Insurance Trust Meeting 6 .....................MSBA Summer Seminar 7 .....................Charter School Training 7 .....................MSBA Phase I & II Combination 7 .....................Minnesota School District Liquid Asset Fund Plus Meeting 14 ...................Primary Election Day (no meetings or activities 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.)
OCTOBER 2012 4 .....................MSBA Insurance Trust Meeting 4–5 .................MSBA Board of Directors’ Meeting 8 .....................Columbus Day Observed (optional holiday) 11–12 .............MN Association of Educational Office Professionals Conference 18–19 .............Education Minnesota Conference
The MSBA Journal thanks the students of North Shore Community School for sharing their art with us in this issue. COVER ART:
Jobe Juenemann, first grade JULY/AUGUST 2012
OFFICERS President: Kent Thiesse, Lake Crystal Wellcome Memorial President-Elect: Walter Hautala, Mesabi East DISTRICT DIRECTORS District 1: Kathy Green, Austin District 2: Jodi Sapp, Mankato Area District 3: Linden Olson, Worthington District 4: Betsy Anderson, Hopkins District 5: Marilynn Forsberg, Spring Lake Park District 6: Kevin Donovan, Mahtomedi District 7: Roz Peterson, Lakeville Area District 8: Elona Street-Stewart, St. Paul District 9: Karen Kirschner, Mora District 10: Dana Laine, Frazee-Vergas District 11: Tim Riordan, Virginia District 12: Ann Long Voelkner, Bemidji Area District 13: Deb Pauly, Jordan STAFF Bob Meeks: Executive Director Barbara Lynn: Executive Assistant/Director of Board Operations Kirk Schneidawind: Deputy Executive Director John Sylvester: Deputy Executive Director Tiffany Rodning: Deputy Executive Director Greg Abbott: Director of Communications Denise Drill: Director of Financial/MSBAIT Services Amy Fullenkamp-Taylor: Associate Director of Management Services Sandy Gundlach: Director of School Board Services Donn Jenson: Computer and Information Systems Manager Bill Kautt: Associate Director of Management Services Grace Keliher: Director of Governmental Relations Katie Klanderud: Director of Board Development Gary Lee: Associate Director of Management Services Bruce Lombard: Associate Director of Communications Bob Lowe: Director of Management Services Kelly Martell: Director of Technology Cathy Miller: Director of Legal and Policy Services Erica Nelson: MSBA Advertising The MSBA Journal (USPS 352-220) is published bimonthly by the Minnesota School Boards Association, 1900 West Jefferson Avenue, St. Peter, Minnesota 56082. Telephone 507-934-2450. Call MSBA office for subscription rates. (Opinions expressed in the Journal are those of the writers and do not necessarily represent MSBA policy.)
Quotes of Note captures some of the more interesting statements MSBA staff have read in local, state and national publications.
The importance of listening
The importance of reading during the summer
“Unlike your mouth, your ears will never get you into trouble.”
“Lead by example—if children see the adults around them reading often and as a leisure activity, they’ll understand that books can be a fun and important part of their summer days.”
John Sweet, Retiring Delano Superintendent
For-profit tutoring companies “We know what these kids need better than these companies from all over the world, with their one-size-fits-all approach.” Susan Currey, St. Cloud tutoring program supervisor
Bill Gronseth, Duluth Superintendent
Student achievement “There is a clear focus on what we expect students to know and be able to do. We’re not just teaching them and hoping that they’re learning. We’re talking about the data and where the kids are at and what we have to do to push them to the next level.” Sally Soliday, Echo Park Elementary School Principal, Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan
Keeping student-parent communication open to prevent bullying “Let children know that if anyone ever threatens them or someone else, it is important they tell you about it—even if the person tells them to keep it a secret. If they know that someone has been hurt or threatened, it is also essential to tell. Loyalty to peers is something children learn early in life, and most children dread being labeled a ‘tattle tale.’ However, children need to learn there are times when ‘telling’ on a friend is essential to their safety as well as to the safety of their friend.” David Krenz, Austin Superintendent
WE’RE TIGHTENING OUR BELT, BUT CONTINUE TO KEEP YOUR BENEFITS TOP-NOTCH
Just as school boards across the state have completed the school year and are beginning the process of planning for a new year, we at your MSBA are also moving forward. The MSBA Board took some very important votes in May that will provide MSBA members with the best possible services and programs available for your continued learning opportunities.
Bob Meeks MSBA Executive Director
In another step to provide financial constraint, the Board voted to freeze MSBA staff compensation.
In a major decision, the MSBA Board chose to “freeze” membership dues for the 20122013 school year. The Board recognizes the financial difficulties you are experiencing with lack of adequate financial support from the state. In another step to provide financial constraint, the Board voted to freeze MSBA staff compensation. This will be three out of the past four years that MSBA staff have had a compensation freeze. We look at this as our contribution to assist you in keeping your costs down. As we tighten our belts, we are making sure that we maintain all the benefits of your MSBA membership, including: • Free advice and consultation on everything from the Open Meeting Law to board procedures. It’s just a phone call away with our toll-free number: 1-800324-4459. Staff field more than 28,000 phone calls each year, in addition to thousands of e-mail questions.
We also will continue to offer Fall Area Meetings, our Delegate Assembly to promote YOUR legislative resolutions and our Lobby Line. Again, all free of charge. We also offer financial programs aimed at saving your district money—such as the Minnesota School District Liquid Asset Fund, the Minnesota School Boards Association Insurance Trust, PaySchools, P-Cards, Minnesota Tax and Aid Anticipation Borrowing Program and more. One of our members’ most-used services is our Policy Services, which offers all mandatory policies, recommended policies and updates after each Legislative session. MSBA will even do Custom Policy Services for your district. And MSBA will still continue to offer the best training for board members, starting with our Board Member Orientation series (Phase I–IV), Officers’ Workshop, Negotiations Seminars, In-services where we come and work directly with your board, our Summer Seminar and a new Before Your Board DVD series that you can use to discuss issues with your board at work sessions. Now, more than ever, your membership is well worth the money. We will continue to help you as you prepare for a new school year and overcome all the hurdles and challenges that go with it.
• Our January Leadership Conference, a top-notch, two-day conference featuring nationally recognized speakers, workshops and trade show. It’s available without any registration cost to you. • Information to keep you up to date, such as our daily E-News Clipping Service, our Boardcaster newsletter, Management Services Newsletter, MSBA Journal, and “Capitol Compass.” And it’s all free.
PRESIDENT’S COLUMN STRENGTHENING THE BOARD/SUPERINTENDENT RELATIONSHIP
July 1 is a major transition point in many school districts across Minnesota each year, as that is the date that most new superintendents begin their contracts in a school district, following the completion of the previous superintendent’s contract on June 30. This can be a time of significant transitions and adjustments in a school district, both internally and externally, and can result in changes in the working relationship between the superintendent and school board members. Kent Thiesse MSBA President
Providing leadership to a school district is a team effort, and not an individual initiative.
I have had the opportunity to work with four school superintendents during my tenure on the Lake Crystal Wellcome Memorial School Board, including Les Norman, who recently retired. As I reflect on the years with the various school leaders, the following are some traits and strengths that I feel a good superintendent can bring to a school district and board: • Good communication with the school board and community. If there are ever recurring reasons that school boards don’t renew superintendent contracts, one of the top reasons is that the superintendent doesn’t communicate well with the board or the residents, and does not provide timely and factual information. • Being well-prepared for board meetings and having a good understanding of district finances. There’s nothing worse than bringing an issue to the board and five questions later, all that is heard is: “I’ll have to check into that” or “I don’t have that report with me.” A good superintendent usually anticipates financial matters and other issues before they occur, and develops options for the school board to consider. • Keeping the focus on students. For every major issue the superintendent brings to the school board, a good superintendent tries to evaluate what impact the issue and resulting decisions might have on student academic growth and student achievement.
On the flip side, school board members can also strengthen the school board/superintendent relationship by remembering the following: • The role of the school board is to set policy, and not to micromanage the ongoing operation of the school district. The board’s job is to set a direction for the district and to ensure that policies, procedures, and finances of the district are guided in that direction. Delving into the day-to-day processes of how the administration gets to the goal can, many times, slow the process and create internal problems in the district. • Just as superintendents should be prepared, school board members also need to be prepared. Review the board meeting agenda and background information before arriving at the board meeting. There’s nothing more frustrating for a superintendent or other board members than to have an illprepared board member ask several questions that would all be answered if the material had been read, or if the superintendent had been contacted prior to the meeting. • No one likes surprises. Alert the superintendent and board chair about issues or concerns prior to a meeting, so the issues can be researched or addressed prior to the meeting. Good discussion needs informed board members, all with the same background material at hand. There are many school boards and superintendents across the State that emulate these desirable traits for a solid board/superintendent relationship; however, there are also many things that all of us can improve on to strengthen that relationship. Providing leadership to a school district is a team effort, and not an individual initiative.
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LEARNING CURVE Summer Seminar opening keynote to tout importance of learning
Jack Johnson, kindergarten
T.C. Roekle has virtually done it all during her career in education. Roekle has taught every grade level—from kindergarten children to university students—and has served as an assistant superintendent, a principal and a curriculum director.
Now, through her company T.C. Roekle & Associates, Roekle continues to make an impact on education. Roekle & Associates provides consulting, instructional leadership, and assistance in school improvement and integration technology for schools. As a keynote speaker at education events, Roekle generally shares her “innovative strategies to raise student and staff performance at the district, state and national levels.”
However, the primary focus for her presentation at MSBA’s Summer Seminar will be a “Focus on Learning.” “As a policymaking board, (board members) make policy decisions and then listen to teachers and administrators to make other school buildingbased decisions,” Roekle said. “Board members should be asking teachers: ‘How can we find more (teachable) minutes, how can we have students learn better?’ How can we better focus every minute on learning?’” Roekle poses these questions as examples: “Are the bus schedules run so there’s more teaching time in the classroom—or are they run so we pay the bus drivers less or for other reasons? Is the district’s
code of conduct absolutely based on learning? What is your focus? If you have a discipline plan or a progressive discipline plan, is it based on learning?” “Often we have a tendency to focus on how much teaching is going on rather than learning taking place,” Roekle adds. “A learning-focused school is one where all decisions—from technology purchases to student code of conduct—support learning. We have to model every day for those students, and they and their parents will model for the community, that learning is our focus.” Likewise, Roekle said, board members must have their own learning filter when they are engaging the community or listening to a presentation during a board meeting.
Keep on learning Roekle stressed the importance for board members to continue to focus on their own learning, citing a quote from John F. Kennedy: “Leadership and learning are indispensible of each other.” Kennedy’s quote made Roekle think about MSBA. “Because MSBA provides leadership and advocacy, and structures meaningful events and trainings to help them become better school board members. Organizations that support learners need to be celebrated.” Roekle said she fears that budget cuts could derail board members’ continuing education. “That’s something that they need to keep focusing on: their own learning. We have to re-nurture ourselves.” She used the mask-on-theairplane-in-case-of-an-emergency analogy: “You have to put the mask on yourself first.”
“That’s the whole idea,” she said. “How do you make those decisions? You do it through learning, through communication, through groups like MSBA that bring them together.”
Leaving a legacy Roekle worked closely with her school board during her five years as an assistant superintendent—and she has nothing but positives for all school board members’ work and dedication. “Board members are the heart and soul of any community,” she said. “They are the eyes and ears of their community. Everyone works tirelessly. I am always impressed at the amount of giving that school board members do. They enter into it and remain there because they not only value learning, but they want to make a difference. They power up the community to make a difference.” Roekle said one question she plans to pose to school board members is this: “What will your legacy be?” “Whether they know it or not, board members are ‘leaving a legacy’ every time they walk into a school, a boardroom or an office, or visit with a fellow parishioner at church,” she said. “Any of us who take time to identify and articulate the personal and organizational impact we would like to have stand a better chance of leaving the legacy we intend. We all have to decide what our highest priorities are and say ‘no’ to other things. We need to find the BIGGER YES burning inside . . . then, create a ‘short list’ of clear ideas that make a difference. Because, we all know, ‘long lists’ never get done.” “School board members see the change they effect and it’s pretty cool,” she said.
Roekle said school board member training is vital because board members get fresh ideas and new perspectives when they learn together.
A native of Michigan, Roekle currently lives in Rochester Hills (approximately 25 miles north of Detroit).
“Finding solutions, with support of others around the state, is such a critical piece,” she said. “It’s about finding new ways of doing that important work—I call that important work ‘preparing our kids for the future.’ . . . Your ‘futureview’ will determine the future you. The way we view the future shapes our actions, and our actions shape the future.”
Roekle still does some teaching at Michigan’s Oakland University, and her teacher preparation book is used by student teachers at the University of Michigan.
Melodie Olson, kindergarten
Roekle said that a school board’s view of the future— from all six or seven members of each individual board— has to come together.
Roekle is scheduled to speak at 9 a.m. Monday, August 7, at the MSBA Summer Seminar. For more information, visit her website at www.tcroekle.com. Bruce Lombard is the Associate Director of Communications for the Minnesota School Boards Association. To comment on this article, you can reach him at email@example.com. JULY/AUGUST 2012
If You Focus on Purpose, You Can Light Up the Room Dr. Joe Martin MSBA Summer Seminar Closing Speaker Monday, August 6, Minneapolis Marriott Northwest Author of: Good Teachers Never Quit; Street Smart Strategies for Acing College; When Students Just Won’t Listen; and more at www.ProfessorMartin.com
Ella Bruckelmyer, first grade
Dr. Joe Martin isn’t going to tell you the answers to questions about how to be successful. But he will put you in a position to have YOU find the answers for yourself.
Martin, a keynote speaker for the Minnesota School Boards Association’s Summer Seminar, won’t be telling you what to do. “I want people to come up with their own answers,” he said. “That change lasts longer than me telling you what to do.” Based on his own life, he said the key is to find your purpose and never lose sight of it.
Ethan Swartout, first grade
“We all have dealt with budget cuts, bureaucracy, lack of state funding—you name the problem, we have it,” he said. “But in that same system, there are people who are succeeding in life despite all of it. Why is that? How come two people facing the same circumstances end up in different places? One excels. The other one says I can succeed if only I didn’t have all of these problems.” One person is focused on purpose. Another is focused on the problems. “My job is not to tell you the answers. My job is to remind you about why you’re here. Why you chose a career as a public servant,” he said. “My job is to make you look in the mirror.” At a young age, Martin looked at himself in the mirror. And after much trial and error, he realized what his personality “blind spots” were and found a purpose. From there, he rocketed to success. At age 24, he became the youngest faculty member ever hired to teach at a state university in Florida. He became the youngest professor ever to be nominated twice for the “Distinguished Teacher’s Award.” He’s worked as a sales trainer for a Fortune 500 company, as a public relations professional for the state and federal government, and is now an author and founder of RealWorld University, an award-winning college success website designed to help students meet their personal and professional challenges.
“What makes a successful person different? They see those personality ‘blind spots’,” he said. “If you don’t recognize you have the problem, you can’t overcome it. I give a scenario and ask people the questions. Only they know the answer.” And if any school leader is looking for a starting point, he’ll ask this question: “Do you brighten a room when you enter?” To Martin, if you do brighten the room, you are leading. And the key is to see how many people you are bringing up with you. If you don’t brighten the room, maybe you ought to look in the mirror and see if YOU are the problem. Look at what your purpose is. Look at how you can help bring people up. “If anything, I hope to get people to think.” Greg Abbott is the Director of Communications for the Minnesota School Boards Association. To comment on this article, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dollars for Student School Board Member Scholars 2012 MSBA Student School Board Member Scholarship awarded to Waseca, Lewiston-Altura students
MSBA Student School Board Member Scholarship winners 2009: Ethan Lang (Hopkins High School) and Kendra Lynn (Cambridge-Isanti High School). 2010: Kai Fei (Duluth East High School) and Tanwaporn Ohl (Cass Lake-Bena High School)
Gretta Frankowiak, second grade
2011: Marguerite Haggerty (Cannon Falls High School) and Maraki Ketema (White Bear Lake High School) 2012: Michael Gaytko (Waseca High School) and Heather Rolfing (Lewiston-Alutra High School) Greg Abbott and Bruce Lombard
For the fourth consecutive year, MSBA has awarded two outstanding student school board members. The 2012 recipients of the MSBA Student School Board Member Scholarshipâ€”which comes with $3,000 for postsecondary educationâ€”are Michael Gaytko of Waseca High School and Heather Rolfing of Lewiston-Altura High School.
Michael Gaytko (Waseca High School) Michael Gaytko is the first-ever student school board member for Waseca Public Schools. The school board created the student representative position last fall, and Michael was an obvious choice.
MSBA President Kent Thiesse and MSBA Director Jodi Sapp present Waseca student board member Michael Gaytko with a $3,000 Student School Board Member Scholarship.
Michael’s credentials and accomplishments are staggering—to name just a few of many: student council, Minnesota State Bar Association Law Team, choir, Spanish Club president, multi-sport athlete, American Legion Boys State representative, mission worker and a seemingly ubiquitous volunteer within the Waseca community. Academically, Michael compiled an impressive 3.89 grade point average while taking pre-college and Advanced Placement courses. Michael has always been active in student leadership and said he saw serving on his school board as a new learning experience. “I was interested in how the school board works,” he said. “I had been to a few school board meetings prior to being on the board and it always interested me. The opportunity to be a part of something and make a difference was appealing to me.” Coming in, Michael had a slightly different perception of how school boards generally operated. “I was expecting the things you see on TV, like the courtroom action,” he said. “But it’s really a lot more of the attention-to-the-smallthings. That’s just as interesting as the big stuff. Overall it was just as amazing and more important than I assumed it would be.” Michael experienced firsthand one of the things board members like to do least—budget and staff cuts. “All those are such hard decisions when you’re working with faculty members and budgets,” he said. “All those decisions are so incredibly hard to make money-wise and mentality-wise . . . to have to cut someone who has worked here so long after getting to know them. It was stressful.” Michael said he believed he made a difference as a liaison between the school board members and his fellow students. He wasn’t afraid to voice his concerns on how an issue would affect the student body.
“There were a few times (at meetings) I raised my hand and said, ‘This really affects the students in this way,’ and (the board members) sat back and thought about it,” he said. “It made me feel a lot more important and showed that sometimes the view—the ‘small view’—you don’t consider before could actually be the most important and most influential. Waseca Superintendent Brian Dietz gave Michael a flattering assessment. “Michael understands that the path to success starts with education and service,” Dietz wrote in his scholarship application recommendation letter for Michael. “Regardless of what path he takes in life, Michael will be successful because he is motivated, intelligent, personable, and a shining example of what you want your own child to be.” The next path for Michael will be in either Indiana or Minnesota. His first choice for college is the University of Notre Dame. (At press time, he was on Notre Dame’s waiting list.) His second choice isn’t shabby either—the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, his parents’ alma mater. Michael plans to study pre-medical coursework to work toward his aspirations to be a physician. He said he wants to go into orthopedic surgery. Michael said he would “absolutely” recommend his peers take part in the district’s student school board member program. “I’ve already talked to some of the younger students on the student council and suggested that they do it,” he said. “It was a great experience and it taught me a lot. It’s got me involved; everything related to the school now I pay more attention to. It was a great experience all around.” Michael said he would be open to running for a school board in the future if the opportunity presents itself. “Education is always an important part of whatever community you are in . . . so it is something I would consider,” he said. JULY/AUGUST 2012
DOLLARS FOR STUDENT SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER SCHOLARS
Heather Rolfing (Lewiston-Altura High School) When Heather Rolfing’s father, a township chairman, decided to attend a Lewiston-Altura School Board meeting for a tax discussion, Heather tagged along. A sophomore at the time, she was interested in public boards and wanted to see how they worked.
Heather Rolfing is surrounded by her colleagues on the Lewiston-Altura School Board, MSBA President Kent Thiesse and MSBA Director Kathy Green. Heather also won a $3,000 MSBA Student School Board Member Scholarship for her work on the board.
After the meeting, then-principal Jeff Apse asked her how she liked the meeting. She told him that she found it very interesting and would probably be back for more. He then asked if she would like to be the student school board member for their board. For the next three years, she attended board meetings, system accountability meetings, policy review meetings and even superintendent selection meetings when the board named Apse as superintendent. “Some of the skills I learned are how to appropriately and effectively communicate with other board members, faculty and the community on issues that not everyone agrees on,” she said. “Also, how to come up with solutions and use whatever resources we have to try to solve problems.” Her work hasn’t gone unnoticed. Superintendent Apse said she has been a strong voice for students and a good resource for the board. “She understands what it means to give back to others, and she inspires and motivates others to strive for success.” Apse is also impressed that in spite of taking challenging PostSecondary option classes at Winona State University (accumulating 73 credits), she made an effort to stay active and involved in school sports and other extracurricular activities. Board member Anne Sullivan said Heather could be held up as an example of what board members should strive for – coming to meetings prepared, participating in discussions, asking tough questions and participating in training for board members. (She went through MSBA’s Phase I training with her board.) “Heather is an excellent example of a young woman who has set goals for herself. She is eager to learn and
try new experiences to enrich her life as a student,” said Sullivan. Rolfing juggles school, her higher-education courses, a part-time job, social life and her work on the school board with grace and efficiency. As she prepares to enter Winona State University, she’ll come in as a junior in the nursing program. That’s after leaving high school with a 3.85 grade point average, and taking challenging classes while still participating in cross country, basketball, track, and band. Before leaving, Heather also helped recruit two students to take over as the next student school board members. Sitting in on one of her final board meetings, she thanked everyone for making her feel part of the team and said she’ll miss the board meetings. “I’m kind of weird like that—I really do like seeing the process of how boards work and reach decisions.” MSBA President Kent Thiesse thanked the board for making room for student board members at the table. “When we talk about student achievement, it’s important to have student input,” Thiesse said. “We may think we know something on an issue, but a student’s voice can really help us out.” Next scholarship application coming in January 2013 A committee comprised of five MSBA Board Directors selected the two award winners from 28 applications in 2012. Applications for the next MSBA Student School Board Member Scholarships will be available first at the 2013 MSBA Leadership Conference in Minneapolis. Greg Abbott is Director of Communications and Bruce Lombard is Associate Director of Communications at the Minnesota School Boards Association. You can reach them at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Reflecting on a powerful evening: Jamie Nabozny,
In April, I spent two powerful hours with Jamie Nabozny www.jamienabozny.com) and others on the issue of Bullying in the Schools at a forum attended by more than 150 people.
We could have spent far more than two hours had we divided into table groups to discuss what we had absorbed, and my sense is that many would have stayed for the extra time, but the program itself gave us an excellent background on what is today a high profile issue, but which has a history as long as there have been people gathered in community.
Mention the word â€œbullyingâ€? these days, and there is near universal recognition of the term as it applies to children and schools. Suicides increase the awareness, for a time, at least. But the greater crisis is in the silence of the victims (far more numerous than those who die by suicide) and in communities unwilling or unable to face up to their own responsibility in the matter of allowing bullying to exist. Bullying is a societal problem, even in these days when attention is called to it. 16
Jamie Nabozny’s story of bullying Jamie Nabozny was an unfamiliar name to me when we in World Citizen (www.peacesites.org) arranged for his presentation last fall. Jamie grew up in Ashland, Wisconsin, and now lives in Minnesota. He is the subject of the 38-minute film BULLIED. Jamie’s ordeal began in 1987-88 when he was a seventh grader in Ashland. This was long before Facebook (founded 2004), YouTube (2005), Twitter (2006) and even e-mail as social network vehicles for bullying. Jamie’s abusers were fellow students, and little apparent attention was paid to his plight. The reporting chain stopped at the middle and later high school office level. This was in the time when expressions like “act like a man,” or “boys will be boys,” and similar advice for girls were still easy escapes from a community taking responsibility for dealing with the bullying problem. BULLIED is available free to schools through the organization Teaching Tolerance, http://www.tolerance.org/bullied. It is an excellent teaching tool in itself. It shows why an institution, the Ashland Public Schools, found itself in serious legal jeopardy. The possibilities of doing something positive and constructive about the problem of bullying came from Jamie and others in the post-film discussion, which also involved the panel and those who asked questions or made statements from the audience, which seemed to well represent the community at large. In preparing this article, I asked Mr. Nabozny if there was any specific information he’d like to share with the readers of the Journal.
Mr. Nabozny offers these suggestions: Focus on Prevention: Every school needs to put time and resources into preventing bullying, and empathy training must be at the heart of this effort. Need for a Comprehensive Approach: Schools need to address and help all students when bullying occurs, not just the victim. They need to give bystanders the tools and permission to stand up to bullying. They need to make sure they do not just punish the student who is doing the bullying, but they need to get to the bottom of why bullies are doing it and give them the help they need. They also need to make sure the victims are not internalizing the messages they have received. Students should be involved in every stage of developing and implementing any and all bullying programs.
Attention to Environmental Factors: Students don’t come to school and learn how to be bigoted and intolerant. They learn these behaviors from many places including home, places of worship, and society at large. A school’s responsibility is to help students unlearn these harmful attitudes and set them up for success in the very diverse world we live in.
Thoughts from other schools on preventing bullying Melanie Dewitt and Sandy Curry are Bully Prevention Coordinators from Clear Springs Elementary School in Minnetonka. They called the forum “inspiring and thoughtprovoking.” Their school, Clear Springs, has been an International Peace Site for over 20 years (information about peace sites at http://www.peacesites.org/sites/about). “Being a Peace Site means that we are a ‘safe school’ that embraces nonviolent conflict resolution, believes in caring for our environment, celebrates diversity and demonstrates that we are kind and respectful citizens where all people feel safe and included. These core beliefs reinforce our anti-bullying policies and further our prevention efforts. We are aware of the severity of the current bullying in today’s world. Jamie’s story touched us deeply as faculty because we feel we have the responsibility to keep all kids safe.” “Knowing this, at Clear Springs we have implemented additional strategies to help students feel safe and included. o We have rules posted in all school areas. o The rules are clear and consistent, and the rewards and consequences are followed through. o We have a positive behavior system where we give out golden tickets for expected behavior. o We have a ‘Pancakes For Peace Breakfast’ monthly for students exhibiting superb citizenship and leadership. o We have a firm anti-bullying policy and procedures in place to deal with bullying. o All staff have been trained through the Olweus Bully Prevention Program http://www.violencepreventionworks.org/ public/index.page). o Parents have also been trained and are partners in our anti-bullying efforts. o We do whole school community building activities, weekly classroom meetings, and celebrations annually for our commitment to making this a safe, peaceful school.”
Summary thoughts after Nabozny’s presentation Writing one month after the presentation, and 12 years after retirement from a lifetime in public education (including growing up with parents who were career public school teachers), I have these observations and recommendations:
Reflecting on a powerful evening: Jamie Nabozny, BULLIED
1. We adults have grown up in a system that has fostered bullying, and as a consequence we might best leave the process of change to the children, who are not yet overly influenced by society at large. We have all learned well the ways of the “good old days.” Today’s children can more easily break the cycle of bullying more effectively than we. We simply need to empower them. 2. Bullying is more a system than an individual problem. It is a part of the soul of every community (however the term ‘community’ might be defined). For Minnesota, our community is over 5 million people, over 800,000 of whom are students in public school, in over 300 school districts. These days in particular, with things like Facebook, etc., “community” does not end at arbitrary boundaries. 3. The public school in any community reflects the diversity of the community as a whole better than any other entity, largely because it is “home” to everyone. There are no walls in public schools, making public schools the ideal vehicle for leadership. 4. Social networking is unfamiliar to many of my generation, but is ubiquitous and will not go away. Some might say the medium is in its infancy. It is both a force for good and for ill and an integral and universal part of contemporary life. We need to understand and appreciate how it can work in positive ways rather than simply focus on the negative parts. 5. There are endless victims of bullying, most of them invisible, including family, friends and others. Those who commit suicide are only the most visible part of the problem. Good friends of mine, whose seventhgrade daughter was mercilessly bullied by girl “friends” a half
dozen years ago, actually sold their house and moved to a new town far away to restore their daughter’s sanity. I invited them to the program, and they came, but very nearly cancelled. They were not ready to face the issue, even as it was presented. Their daughter, now midway through college, and living within a short distance from the program, declined to attend. Once there, they appreciated the program a great deal, but they almost missed it. 6. Punishment of perpetrators is a poor second to positive relationship development. An empowered group can positively handle the bully problem better than a system of punishments. In Jamie’s case, the chief perpetrator later ended up in prison for related incidents as an adult, and 25 years later still doesn’t get it. Punishment, even prison, hasn’t worked. 7. The system needs to have in place means of monitoring and remedying negative human behaviors such as bullying. In Jamie’s case, in Ashland, reporting ended at the school office level. No one higher in the hierarchy was sufficiently aware to act. Jamie was back in Ashland in 2010 and made his presentation there. The Ashland system now has a requirement that such incidents must be reported to the school board so that the board knows what is going on. 8. Any opening to encourage true community dialogue to open conversation should be taken. Open groups without hierarchies, rules or roles can often talk through complex issues that are more difficult to resolve in formal structures. Every citizen, from student age through elder, would benefit from a program similar to Nabozny’s presentation.
Dick Bernard is current VicePresident of World Citizen, and a career-long advocate for teachers and public education, with a website at www.outsidethewalls.org. To comment on his article, you can e-mail him at email@example.com.
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Eight quality indicators that make a great school
From a group of 75 school board members around the state, the No. 1 indicator of a quality school is: Trained teachers who believe that all students can learn. That indicator crossed all boundaries of urban, suburban and rural. It crossed levels of small schools to large-enrollment schools. It crossed male-female, new board member and experienced board member. During MSBA’s recent Phase 4 community engagement sessions, board members not only had a chance to walk through a community conversation model of engagement, but also were asked to choose eight quality indicators for a great school. Those eight choices were from a four-pages-long list of indicators. Each board member had to then work with their board teams of seven to 11 people to agree on their top three indicators. So if you’re looking at ways to improve school quality and attract students to your district, here are a few quality indicators that board members in Minnesota ranked the highest:
Teachers who are well-trained, effective and believe all students can learn
Jayva Jordan, fourth grade
By far, this was the highest ranked indicator of quality schools. Nine groups out of 24 listed this indicator in the top three. And research shows there is a good reason why: Effective teachers can look at the room and tell the students who aren’t getting a concept and those who mastered the concept and are waiting to move to something more challenging. Effective teachers are quick to give the highachieving students a more in-depth challenge on a concept while working with those who lag behind to try to teach the concept in a different way. Though effective teachers and teachers who care about students were two different criteria, most board members realized that the two indicators were
inseparable. If a teacher believes all students can learn, and really cares about each student, the teacher will find a way to make each student achieve, make sure everyone is challenged and make sure nobody falls behind. Board members in the group were also quick to realize that if they listed well-trained, effective teachers as a top priority, maybe cutting teacher in-service time wouldn’t be the best idea. Board members were also quick to realize that getting rid of ineffective teachers is also a must—something that the Last In, First Out bill could have helped, if it had not been vetoed. It also puts much more focus on the state’s teacher evaluation task force and the recommendations coming to the Legislature.
Technology is available for instruction
vocational classes for students, donating computer equipment or simply working with the board to offer training that is essential for the local employers. When the community supports a school, the resources are usually there to provide students with a quality curriculum, solid teachers and high-achieving graduates.
A wide range of academic offerings After a decade of No Child Left Behind and massive testing on reading and math, board members are now aware of the toll it took on other programs. When money is focused on two areas of the curriculum, other programs start to hit the chopping block.
Gone from many districts are Here is a summary from 24 small groups of elementary band 7 to 11 participants in our PHASE IV Two years ago, MSBA did the same exercise and music, art discussion about what the top indicators are for quality indicators; only one group programs, theatre, for a quality school. mentioned technology. But it’s a different history and world today. Schools are starting 1-to-1 geography courses. • Teachers and staff who are welllaptop programs, purchasing iPads for all In high school, trained, effective and believe all students, going to e-textbooks, and trying electives are students can learn. (9 groups) flipped classrooms with YouTube video disappearing for • Technology is available for instruction lectures that are viewed at home. home economics, (4 groups) shop class, That’s why this year, technology ranked languages and • Community, parental and business second as the quality indicator for schools. more. Some involvement in the schools (4 groups) But as the discussions on the table evolved, districts are caught everyone realized that getting money for • Wide range of academic offerings in a Catch-22 that the technology was only the first step. Just (3 groups) if they cut a as costly, and important, is TRAINING program, a group • High graduation rates (2 groups) teachers how to use the technology of students open effectively in their classrooms. That means • Clean, safe, state-of-the-art, wellenroll in a district staff development time and not just a maintained school facilities (1 group) that offers the training session at the beginning of the program. The • Strong principals (1 group) year for teachers. Schools that are money supposedly successful with technology have mentors “saved” by cutting and “go-to” people to help others and show the program is how different teachers are using eventually lost when students open enroll to get the technology in their classes. The district also has top-notch program at a neighboring school. “people-oriented” technology staff who are willing to bend over backward to help a teacher with a technology hurdle. To meet testing standards, some schools have long blocks of time dedicated to English and math, with the few afternoon hours scattered “for everything else.”
Community and business involvement in the schools
Two groups thought quality schools reflect the investment of parents, the community and the business community. If districts are not garnering support from the community— whether from parents or local business owners—it’s time for the board to make the effort. Many board members brought up partnerships between the schools and a local business in town—whether it is in the form of a scholarship program, offering employees to teach
A parent, looking at what curriculum is offered by a district, soon realizes what district is offering a well-rounded education and what district has cut so much of its curriculum that it has become two-dimensional. So board members are again faced with the dilemma that quality curriculum and multiple offerings will cost money. And if a district can’t afford all of the offerings, the board needs to explore Post-Secondary Education Options or offering online versions of the curriculum.
Clean, safe facilities, high graduation rates and strong principals
Eight quality indicators that make a great school
Rounding out the quality indicators were high graduation rates; clean, safe facilities; and strong principals. Obviously, a sign of a quality school is how well-prepared the students are at graduation. No parent wants to send their child to a school district with a high drop-out rate. No parent likes to see a high percentage of school graduates not qualifying for or bothering to go on to college. It is a school’s ultimate goal to see students graduating successfully and going into some type of higher education or landing a job in the marketplace. At least one group also hit the importance of having strong principals. Sometimes one dynamic leader who can motivate and work to improve a teaching staff can change the entire dynamic of a school and the success for its students.
Where to go from here? At your next work session, have your own board members pick eight quality indicators of a great school. Then see if they can agree on three of them. It might then be time to ask yourself: “Does our strategic plan match what we see as quality in our district?” “How are we going to improve quality if the district comes up short on the top indicators the board picked?” And if the board is really brave, maybe it’s time to try a community engagement project in your district to see what your community thinks a quality school should have. Greg Abbott is the Minnesota School Boards Association Director of Communications. He has offered community engagement training as part of MSBA’s Phase 4 program for 10 years. If you have a comment about the article, feel free to e-mail him at email@example.com.
And one group also mentioned the importance of having safe, well-maintained school facilities. Overcrowded, run-down buildings don’t entice many people to think that education is a high priority for the community.
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MSBA’s VENDOR DIRECTORY MSBA’s Vendor Directory helps connect school districts with the products and services they need. The directory is always at your fingertips. You’ll find it printed in the back of every Journal magazine as well as on the MSBA Web site at www.mnmsba.org. Most listings in the Web version of this directory include a link so you can head instantly to a Web site or e-mail address. The directory includes everything you need to know to contact a company quickly—phone numbers, fax numbers and addresses—in an easy-to-read format. If you have a service or product you would like included in this directory, please contact Sue Munsterman at 507-934-2450 or email@example.com. Architects/Engineers/Facility Planners Architects Rego + Youngquist inc. (Paul Youngquist) 7601 Wayzata Blvd., Suite 200 St. Louis Park, MN 55426 952-544-8941, Fax 952-544-0585 www.aryarch.com firstname.lastname@example.org ATS&R Planners/Architects/Engineers (Paul W. Erickson) 8501 Golden Valley Rd., Suite 300 Minneapolis, MN 55427 763-545-3731 Fax 763-525-3289 www.atsr.com email@example.com Cuningham Group Architecture, Inc. (Judith Hoskens) 201 Main Street SE, Suite 325 Minneapolis, MN 55414 612-379-3400, Fax 612-379-4400 www.cuningham.com firstname.lastname@example.org DLR Group (Jennifer Anderson-Tuttle) 520 Nicollet Mall, Suite 200 Minneapolis, MN 55402 612-977-3500, Fax 612-977-3600 www.dlrgroup.com email@example.com GLTArchitects (Evan Larson) 808 Courthouse Square St. Cloud, MN 56303 320-252-3740, Fax 320-255-0683 www.gltarchitects.com firstname.lastname@example.org Hallberg Engineering, Inc. (Rick Lucio) 1750 Commerce Court White Bear Lake, MN 55110 651-748-4386, Fax 651-748-9370 www.hallbergengineering.com email@example.com ICS Consulting, Inc. (Pat Overom) 5354 Edgewood Drive Mounds View, MN 55112 763-354-2670, Fax 763-780-2866 www.ics-consult.com firstname.lastname@example.org 24
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QUESTIONS ABOUT THE FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE ACT School districts must comply with state and federal employment laws, and many of these laws are constantly changing and may even overlap. One such law is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The FMLA provides eligible employees of covered entities job-protected, unpaid leave for specified family and medical reasons (all school districts are considered covered entities). This column addresses a few questions MSBA staff have received relative to the FMLA.
S Amy Fullenkamp-Taylor Director of Management Services
The FMLA provides eligible employees of covered entities jobprotected, unpaid leave for specified family and medical reasons.
Question: Because the school district is a covered entity under the FMLA, do all employees qualify for FMLA leave? No. In order for an employee to be eligible for leave under the FMLA, he/she must work at a location or within seventy-five miles of the location in which at least fifty employees are employed; be employed by the school district for a total of twelve months; and have worked for the school district at least 1,250 hours during the twelve months prior to the start of the FMLA leave.
The twelve months of employment need not be consecutive; however, “employment periods prior to a break in service of seven years or more need not be counted unless the break is occasioned by the employee’s fulfillment of his/her National Guard or Reserve military obligation (as protected under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)), or a written agreement, including a collective bargaining agreement, exists concerning the employer’s [school district’s] intention to rehire the employee after the break in service” (29 CFR § 825.110). Question: Can the school district require an employee to “substitute” paid leave for unpaid FMLA leave? Yes. Further, because the school district is responsible for designating an employee’s leave as FMLA-qualifying and can require an employee to “substitute” paid leave, it should designate all qualifying time as FMLA leave and count that time against an employee’s FMLA leave entitlement in order to prevent “leave stacking.” According to the FMLA regulations,
“‘substitute’ means that the paid leave provided by the employer [school district], and accrued pursuant to established policies of the employer [school district)] will run concurrently with the unpaid FMLA leave” (29 CFR § 825.207). Question: How does an employee know the school district has designated his/her leave as FMLA-qualifying? Once the school district learns of the employee’s need for FMLA leave (and the employee need not specifically say he/she needs an FMLA leave), the school district must notify the employee of his/her eligibility to take FMLA leave and provide a designation of leave notice to the employee. School districts should refer to 29 CFR § 825.300 for the specific requirements of each notice. In addition, the United States Department of Labor provides sample forms on its website – http://www.dol.gov/compliance/laws/compfmla.htm. As an aside, school districts covered by the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA) should also consider including “Safe Harbor” language on their “medical-related” forms. Such language can be found on the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s website – http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/regulations/gina_qa nda_smallbus.cfm. The FMLA regulations provide additional “special rules” that apply to “instructional employees” (29 CFR § 825.600). The special rules include limitations on intermittent leave and leave near the end of an academic term; duration of leave; and restoration to an “equivalent position.” More information regarding the FMLA may be found in the MSBA Service Manual, Chapter 13, Law Bulletin M and on the United States Department of Labor’s website – http://www.dol.gov/compliance/laws/compfmla.htm. As an aside, school districts may have negotiated specific language in master agreements or included language in personnel policies, employee handbooks, or individual employment contracts which may provide additional requirements relative to the above questions.
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