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READING Keeping Students & Families Connected Nebraska Retirement System Nebraska Council of School Administrators

Spring 2012



Mike Boden Market Development PERGHQ#1,6%HQHÀWVFRP




2 Three Practices for Improving Reading Comprehension


3 Nebraska Retirement System BY SEN. JEREMY NORDQUIST

5 Keeping Students and Families Connected in the School Improvement Process



National Leadership Conference BY DAVID KRAUS


“Don’t Get Comfortable” BY MITCH BARTHOLOMEW


Welcome New Active Members!


Compelled to Grow BY MARILYN MOORE


Green Design That Can Improve Your Bottom Line BY PAT PHELAN

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NASBO Representatives President . . . . . . . . . . .Dave Kaslon President-elect . . . . . . . .Jill Pauley Past President . . . . . Robin Hoffman NAESP Representatives President . . . . . . . . . . .David Kraus President-elect . . . . . .Ann Jablonski Past President . . . . . .Midge Mougey NASES Representatives President . . . . . . . . . . .Stuart Clark President-elect . . . . . . .Jane Moody Past President . . . . . .Peggy Romshek

NCSA Co-sponsors K-12 Disaster Recovery Planning Workshop

NARSA Representative President . . . . . . . .Robert Bussmann

EHA Board of Directors Approves 2.99 Percent Rate Increase

Survey Summary: Issues Faced by Schools BY DR. MIKE DULANEY and DR. DAN ERNST

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NASA Representatives President . . . . . . . . . . .Greg Barnes President-elect . . . . . . .Tim DeWaard Past President . . . . . . . . .Jack Moles


School Security



Chair . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Jack Moles Vice Chair . . . . . . . .Randy Schleuter Past Chair . . . . . . . . Sarah Williams

NSASSP Representatives President . . . . . .Mitch Bartholomew President-elect . . . . . . Chris Stogdill Past President . . . . .Randy Schleuter





NCSA Mission The mission of the Nebraska Council of School Administrators (NCSA) is to be an effective leader for quality education and to enhance the professionalism of its members. NCSA Today is a benefit of membership in the Nebraska Council of School Administrators, 455 South 11th Street, Suite A, Lincoln, NE 68508. Telephone 402.476.8055 or 800.793.6272. Fax 402.476.7740. Annual membership dues are $325 (active members), $100 (associate members), or $30 (student members). NCSA Today is published quarterly. Send address changes to NCSA, Membership, 455 South 11th Street, Suite A, Lincoln, NE 68508. Copyright ©2011 by NCSA. All rights reserved.

NCSA STAFF Dr. Michael S. Dulaney Executive Director/Lobbyist Dr. Dan E. Ernst Associate Executive Director/Lobbyist Kelly Coash-Johnson Training and Development Director Amy Poggenklass Finance and Membership Coordinator Angie Carman Executive Administrative Assistant Carol Young Administrative Assistant Elisabeth Reinkordt Staff Correspondent The opinions expressed in NCSA Today or by its authors do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Nebraska Council of School Administrators. SPRING 2012




Three Practices for Improving Reading Comprehension BY JAN K. HOEGH, Associate Vice President, Marzano Research Laboratory




window of opportunity—one that receives enhanced focus in many states, including Nebraska, during the spring of the year. I am referring to the timeframe when students must be administered the state test, which in our state is Nebraska State Accountability (NeSA). My experience allows me to draw a confident inference that not all of my fellow Nebraska educators would choose to label the NeSA process an “opportunity.” However, I would challenge that view, stating that this summative assessment provides valuable information to teachers and learners regarding knowledge gain that has occurred through reading, math, and science instruction. I am fortunate to work with educators (a LOT of teachers) across the country and frequently hear similar sentiments related to state testing, especially when it comes to testing students’ ability to read, or glean meaning from text. The frustration is that most state tests require students to independently read lengthy passages of on-grade-level text, either narrative or informational. The negative emotions expressed are understandable, considering the fact that many children are reading below grade level. In 2009, approximately one in three students in America scored “below basic” on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) Reading Test. Reading proficiency among middle and high school students wasn’t much better. On the same test, about 26 percent of eighth graders and 27 percent of twelfth graders scored below the “basic” level. While these statistics come from only one assessment instrument and one year of administration, I believe they epitomize the current situation across the United States (and in Nebraska) regarding the number of students who experience challenge in school because of an inability to read on grade level. While I can’t dispute the political importance of students performing well on tests such as NeSA-Reading, I suggest that the test scores will take care of themselves if/when all children receive the best reading instruction we know how to give. A result of educational research is that we now know more than ever about how to accomplish this charge. Certain practices within the realm of reading instruction don’t require much in the way of time



or money—just the decision to put them in place and then educators’ commitment to ensure fidelity of the practices. Here are three instructional practices that can and will make a difference in students’ reading abilities if encountered each and every day during the learning process: • Require students to choose something to read In an article entitled ”Every Child, Every Day,” Richard Allington and Rachael Gabriel state, “The research base on student-selected reading is robust and conclusive. Students read more, understand more, and are more likely to continue reading when they have the opportunity to choose what they read.” The authors continue to describe a research study (a meta-analysis) that identified the two most powerful instructional factors for improving reading motivation and comprehension as (1) student access to many books and (2) personal choice of what to read. Additionally, Richard Ryan and Edward Deci conclude through their extensive research that providing students choice increases intrinsic motivation. Consider your own motivation level when given the opportunity to choose. The end result is typically a higher level of ownership and enjoyment, whatever the endeavor might be. That is not to say that teachers should never determine the texts to be read, but only that at some time, every day, students should be required to read self-selected reading material. An important consideration with this low-cost reading improvement strategy is that the teacher may initially have to be involved in text selection to ensure that there is a match across reading ability, student interest, and the text. The desired end result is student enjoyment of and success with the selection so that the likelihood that students will read outside of school increases. • Require students to write about a topic that • has meaning to him/her Writing on a daily basis is commonplace in classrooms across the country. This writing is comprised of fill-inthe-blank or short answer responses, responding to a teacher-provided prompt, a series of sentences explain(continued on page 15)


Nebraska Retirement System BY SENATOR JEREMY NORDQUIST, District 7


ebraska policymakers and school employees have a longstanding history of working cooperatively to retain and improve pension benefits while maintaining the strong funding status of the retirement systems for those who serve our public school systems. Over a century ago, in 1909, a defined benefit plan was created for Omaha teachers that was later expanded to include other Omaha school employees. In 1945, at the end of World War II, Senator Jeremy Nordquist, District 7 the Nebraska Legislature estabsponse to the recent severe stock market downturn in lished the state-administered School Employees Retire2009, the state rededicated its commitment by increasment System for Nebraska school employees. Omaha plan ing the .7 percent contribution to 1 percent. Since 1990 members chose not to join the statewide school system, the state has annually contributed an average of $14 and instead retained their separate retirement system. million to the State and Omaha Retirement Systems for The School and Omaha Retirement Systems currently its annual salary compensation percentage, state servserve almost 90,000 active and retired school employice annuity, and purchasing power stabilization commitees. ments. Approximately 30 percent of public pension assets are State and local policymakers have worked together generated through a combination of member, employer with school employees throughout the years to (school district), and state general fund contributions; strengthen retirement benefits while maintaining the the remaining 70 percent are generated by investment strong funding status of the plans. In 1998 the “Rule of earnings. Contribution rates have evolved throughout 85� benefit was passed which allows a member who is at the past 67 years. Initially, members were the only conleast 55 years of age to retire with an unreduced benetributors to the retirement plan. fit when the member’s age and years of total service Contributions from the school districts and the state equal 85. Other important new or improved benefits endid not begin until much later. From 1945 through 1966 acted in the past 15 years include an increase in the formembers contributed a maximum of $120 per year for mula annuity benefit multiplier from 1.73 percent to 2 retirement. Beginning in 1967 the member rate inpercent, the addition of a maximum annual 2.5 percent creased to 3.5 percent and school districts began conautomatic cost-of-living adjustment, and adoption of a tributing to the pension plans. In 1986, the 101 percent minimum floor benefit equal to 75 percent of the purschool district contribution rate match was adopted and chasing power of the member's original retirement benhas remained unchanged. efit. The Legislature made a funding commitment in 1984 Since the creation of the school pension plans, the to both the Omaha and state-administered school plans country has experienced periods of strong economic by enacting a requirement for the state to annually contribute .7 percent of the total annual salaries. In re(continued on page 4)




RETIREMENT Nebraska Retirement System…(continued from page 3) prosperity and significant economic challenges. Because 70 percent of public pension assets are generated by investment earnings, the financial health of pension plans is vulnerable to stock market volatility. For example, when the school retirement plan was created in 1945, the stock market return was 35 percent. Over 60 years later in 2008, the market experienced a 37 percent drop in returns, which resulted nationwide in over a trillion dollars in unfunded public pension obligations. Nebraska’s losses alone were over two billion dollars—a 27 percent decline in defined benefit plan assets. Despite these tremendous losses, in 2010 the Pew Center on the States rated Nebraska as one of sixteen states assessed as a solid performer, meaning the state-administered defined benefit plans had funding levels over 80 percent threshold, manageable unfunded liabilities, and had contributed on average at least 90percent of the actuarially required contribution during the past five years. Nebraska has made several key policy decisions throughout the years that have limited the state’s exposure to growing pension obligations. In addition to Nebraska’s longstanding tradition of funding pension obligations, Nebraska is unique in that it is the only state that does not provide state-funded health care benefits for public employee retirees. Nebraska is also one of only a few states in the country that does not provide a defined benefit plan for its 20,000 state employees who are members of either a defined contribution or cash balance plan. These policy decisions and increased contributions reflect not only fiscal discipline, but are also a tribute to the ongoing working relationship and personal financial sacrifice of public pension plan members who have been willing to accept only those bene-

fits that can be pre-funded by contributions and investments that accumulate during the employees’ public service. However, there are growing pressures to limit public pension obligations. In 2010 two bills were introduced in Nebraska to close the school, judges and state patrol defined benefit plans and place new plan members in cash balance plans (similar to the state employees’ pension plan). With the economic downturn in recent years Nebraska is not alone in exploring alternatives in order to reduce pension costs. The trend in states throughout the country has been to convert existing defined benefit plans to hybrid or two-tiered systems where benefits for new employees are greatly reduced. In the past year, several states have frozen defined benefit plans and converted these plans for new employees to defined contribution plans. The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that in the past three years, 43 states enacted significant revisions to state-administered retirement plans: • Thirty states increased employee contribution requirements (including Nebraska); • Thirty-three legislatures increased age and service requirements for normal retirement moving the age of retirement closer to 65, and increased the minimum amount of service credit for early retirement. • Thirteen states increased vesting requirements from five or six years to eight or ten years. • Seventeen states lengthened the average salary period from a person’s highest 36 months to the highest 60 months. • Twenty-one states reduced future commitments to automatic cost-of-living adjustments. All states, including Nebraska, face ongoing challenges in finding ways to keep public pension plans sustainable, including growing economic uncertainties, budget cuts, increase in baby boomer retirees, fewer new hires, and possible changes in social security benefits—particularly for younger employees. In order to address these concerns, it is more important than ever to continue the strong communication and partnership between policymakers and school personnel. Nebraska's school retirement plans provide excellent benefits for our dedicated school employees and can continue to do so in the future through shared fiscal responsibility and commitment. I

Senator Jeremy Nordquist confers with Kate Allen 4




Keeping Students and Families Connected in the School Improvement Process BY HOLLY HERZBERG, Superintendent, Hampton Public Schools


hile completing final reports in preparation for our school’s AdvancED QAR visitation, it was apparent all subgroups were not as informed as we would have liked regarding our school improvement goal. Hampton Public School’s goal was and still is to increase reading skills across the curriculum. Teachers spend time daily implementing strategies to enhance students’ reading skills, but what happens when they walk out of our school doors? Are families taking Herzberg time out of their busy lives to read at home? Our staff knew the home/school reading connection was lacking, and we needed to do something about it. About the same time, our Title I teacher Deb Carlson, received an email from the Nebraska State Reading Association. She had been looking for ways to build a family literacy connection with her Title I families, and the email contained information on a program called One School, One Book. She immediately knew this could be a possibility to fill the home/school literacy void and enthusiastically presented the details of the program to me. As I listened, it seemed like a perfect fit to increase student and family awareness of the school improvement goal. The One School, One Book program is designed to create a shared reading experience at home within the entire school community. A chapter book from a suggested reading list is selected and each family in the school receives a copy. A tailored reading schedule accompanies the book so families can stay on target at home. The evening commitment Check out the is typically one chapter, taking famiwebsite for more lies approximately fifteen minutes information! over dinner, while on the road to a sibling’s school activity, or just before bedtime. Selecting a book that can be followed and understood by younger readers, yet captivating and stimulating for older readers can be a challenge. Reading professionals actually recommend reading material out loud that is beyond a child’s own reading

level. The benefits of reading aloud include improving listening literacy, building vocabulary, comprehension skills, and a positive outlook about both books and learning. These are all crucial components necessary to successfully achieve our desired school improvement goal of increasing reading skills. A nonprofit organization called “Read to Them” provides One School, One Book members discounted prices on selected literature. This allows schools to purchase books not only for all families, but also for all teachers, administrators, secretaries, bus drivers, cooks, janitors, and support staff – creating a true community of readers. A local church and the Hampton Booster Club also recognized the value of the program and chose to make a monetary donation to support our efforts so everyone could receive a copy of the book to add to their personal library. A variety of activities are used daily with kindergarten through sixth grade students to encourage participation in the program. School-wide assemblies involving local agencies or experts are used to hook students and stimulate their curiosity about the topic to kick-off the literature selection. Daily trivia questions are shared school-wide on the public address system covering the reading assignment to encourage attentive listening, as well as comprehension. A school-wide discussion of the reading material and sharing of the correct daily trivia answer occurs during lunch. Individual classrooms also incorporate various activities, which discuss or explore the book in more detail. A final culminating activity is used to tie all the aspects of the book together and celebrate our reading success! Meaningful experiences for students and families that raise awareness of the school improvement goal are essential for success. The One School, One Book program has helped bridge our home/school literacy gap. Now everyone in school is enthusiastically reading the same book, leading to insightful conversations and wondering what the next book selection might bring. “What excites me about this program is that it incorporates so many of (continued on page 15)





National Leadership Conference BY DAVID KRAUS, President, NAESP; Assistant Principal, Beatrice Middle School




he past two summers, I had the opportunity to attend the NAESP National Leadership Conference in Washington D.C. and meet with our senators and congressmen regarding issues we face in Nebraska. The conference focused on current education issues and gave us talking points to the table and discuss with our state leaders. As each state rallied their group of elementary principals and marched towards the hill, I noticed a difference in the makeup of our Nebraska team. Walking together was a team of Nebraska superintendents, secondary principals and elementary principals. Although our groups had different issues related to our positions, we all had the same goal…what is best for our students Pictured from left: Mitch Bartholomew, NSASSP President; Chris Stogdill, NSASSP in Nebraska. After a long hot day of walking President-elect; Susan Anglemyer, NAESP State Representative; Mike Dulaney, to meetings and discussing differ- NCSA Executive Director; Jeff Ellsworth, NAESP Federal Relations Coordinator; David Kraus, NAESP President; Ann Jablonski, NAESP President-Elect; and Mike ent issues, we attended a reception Wortman, NSASSP State Coordinator. that evening. I had the pleasure of “must” in today’s educational world with high stakes visiting with principals from all over the country and testing and accountability for student achievement. We continually heard comments on how they wished their cannot do this job alone, and need to rely on one anstate administrators collaborated together between all other at all levels to reach these goals. levels like Nebraska does. I guess I have always taken it Belonging to NCSA provides us a strong networking for granted that Nebraska administrators are accustomed system as well as numerous training opportunities. NCSA to working together and are networked through organicurrently has 1371 members and over 50 professional dezations such as NCSA. This is not true across the nation velopment opportunities throughout the year. NCSA and is something we should appreciate and take pride of membership is up 2.8 percent and multiple means of prohere in Nebraska. fessional development such as webinars, conferences, Another example of collaboration is the state princiworkshops, and networking activities are available. I pal conference which is held in Kearney during the month of December. Two years ago, the NAESP and NASSP organizations collaborated and combined individual state conferences into one state conference. The survey results came back with an overwhelming “thumbs up”! It was a wonderful opportunity to visit with principals at all levels, in schools small and large, to share our knowledge and experiences. This collaboration is a




“Don’t Get Comfortable” BY MITCH BARTHOLOMEW, President, NSASSP; Principal, York High School



s you think about your career, I’m guessing there have been specific times that you have been given advice that truly meant something to you. It wasn’t too long ago that I was given some advice that will stick with me my entire career. Sue Cassata, current principal at Lincoln East, was working for Doane College in the Educational Leadership Program. We were in our last class and Sue looked me in the eyes and said, “Don’t get comfortable.” At the time, I have to admit, I was more excited about finishing up my degree and moving on than listening to someone telling me about my comfort level. However, as my career has progressed, I have realized that creating a comfortable level of discomfort produces student achievement results. A little over a year ago, I listened to Dr. Scott McLeod challenge many Nebraska administrators to use the power of Twitter. I was skeptical at first, thinking Twitter had no educational value and was only for “following” popular celebrities. Dr. McLeod’s words to us were: ”Twitter will help you become the leader your kids and staff deserve.” I’ll be forever grateful to Dr. McLeod for pushing me to use the most powerful development tool out there today. Twitter has a unique way of pushing you…it hasn’t allowed me to “get comfortable.” One person I follow on Twitter that pushes and challenges my thoughts and beliefs is Will Richardson (@willrich45). Will was a public school teacher for over 20 years and is the co-founder of Powerful Learning Practice ( Back in January Will wrote a blog about what it takes to be a “bold” school and not an “old” school. Richardson believes “bold” schools are:

1. Learning Centered—Everyone (adults, children) is a learner; learners have agency; emphasis on becoming a learner over becoming learned. 2. Questioning—Inquiry based; questions over answers 3. Authentic—School is real life; students and teachers do real work for real purposes. 4. Digital—Every learner (teacher and student) has a computer; technology is seamlessly integrated into the learning process; paperless 5. Connected—Learning is networked (as are learners) with the larger world; classrooms have “thin walls;” learning is anytime, anywhere, anyone. 6. Literate—Everyone meets the expectations of NCTE’s “21st Century Literacies” 7. Transparent—Learning and experiences around learning are shared with global audiences 8. Innovative—Teachers and students “poke the box;” Risk-taking is encouraged. 9. Provocative—Leaders educate and advocate for change in local, state and national venues. As President of NSASSP, I’ve had the opportunity to meet many new Nebraska leaders and have visited many “bold” schools. But I also know that we all have work to do. We must continue to push ourselves, our teachers, and our students to make sure our buildings are “student-centered, technology-rich, inquiry based” environments. As you finish out the school year and make plans for next year, I encourage you to visit Richardson’s blog and challenge your staff to be a “bold” school and create a comfortable level of discomfort. I

Welcome New Active Members! NCSA is pleased to welcome the following first-time members to our association Brenda Codner: Wood River Rural School, Wood River Gary Czapla: Culler Middle School, Lincoln Cory Gearhart: Grand Island Public Schools, Grand Island Tom Kolbe: Belmont Elementary School, Lincoln

Heather Nichols: Broken Bow Public Schools, Broken Bow Kristen Rosner: Madison Public Schools, Madison Lisa Sterba: Lewis & Clark Middle School, Omaha





Compelled to Grow BY MARILYN MOORE, Associate Superintendent, Lincoln Public Schools




grew up on a farm in Red Willow County in southwestern Nebraska, truly a wonderful growing-up experience. Today, I own a couple of quarters of land from that farm, and I stay in touch with those farming roots in that way, following the weather, the crops, the yields, the markets, usually selling too soon or too late. My brother and my nephew farm the land for me, and I’m grateful they do. They would smile at the thought of me being called a farmer, because I’m not, and I know that, too. Still, there are times that the urge to have things green and growing is strong, something more than a green lawn. That longing is especially strong in the midst of the winter, when it seems we’ll never have growing plants again. Anticipating that February yearning, one year I bought a plant in a box—you know, the box that has a container, some soil, some bulbs in a bag, ready to plant. My plan was to put it all together in late December, so I’d have flowering bulbs in the house in February, the dreariest month of all, in my opinion. Well, I forgot. I put the box away, and I found it in February, in the dark closet where I’d stored it. I took a look inside before throwing it away, and to my surprise, the bulbs were sprouting. With no soil, with no light, with no water, the bulbs were sprouting. Those bulbs had “growth” embedded in their DNA, and they were doing what they were compelled to do. At that point, I planted them; with soil, with light, with water, they bloomed quickly, and the flowers came in time to bring a touch of joy to otherwise dreary February. I think that our students, much like those bulbs in the box, have “growth” embedded in their DNA; they are compelled to grow. With almost nothing, they will grow in some way, gathering nutrients and direction from whatever their environment offers. When it’s an environment that’s constrained, without the equivalent of soil and light and water, the growth will be constrained, and difficult, and limited. But grow they will, in some way, in some direction, to some end. When the environment includes soil and light and water, the growth is full and optimal and beautiful. We have all seen examples of both; we’ve wept over the former, and celebrated the latter. I think about what soil and light and water look like for our students, in our schools. For students’ growth to



be full and optimal, they need to be nurtured by skilled and caring teachers, challenged by a rigorous curriculum, provided support for individual learning needs, and presented with the opportunities to explore and excel and discover their passions for life. They need to be in a safe and stable learning environment, treated with respect and dignity, and know that their minds, souls, and characters are being nurtured. They need to know that if they need help, someone is there to help them. At our best, we provide these for every student every day. Our responsibility here is so very clear; we know what nurtures students’ growth, and we have the obligation to make it happen. I think about what soil and light and water look like for our students, the community’s children. The very basics, a safe home, adequate nutrition, appropriate medical care, and parents who love and care for them, ought to be assured for every child in Nebraska. But they’re not, for all kinds of reasons. None of those reasons make any sense to a toddler or a third grader or a teenager who doesn’t have safety, food, medical care, and love. Whether the reason is founded in policy or poor decisions by a parent, the outcome is still a child without soil and light and water, a child whose growth is constrained. Our obligation here may be less clear. We’re not the social service providers for families, though many times we’re in the best position to create linkages between families and agencies. But we are in a position to speak to the needs of children as we see them, to call forth the best from our community and state, the commitment to its youngest and most vulnerable residents. Like the bulbs in my February box, our children are compelled to grow. It is in their best interest, and ours, to assure that they have the soil, the light, and the water, that develop within them all that they can be. I Editor’s Note: The NCSA wishes to congratulate Dr. Moore and all other school administrators in Nebraska who will retire at the end of this school year. We encourage all individuals retiring this year to notify NCSA so we may include them in the “Retirement Recognition” section of the Summer edition of NCSA Today.


Green Design that Can Improve Your Bottom Line BY PAT PHELAN, DLR Group


hile new schools seem to have the greatest advantage in providing the latest in sustainable, high-performance design, the good news is that older schools also have an equal opportunity to improve energy efficiency. Regardless of levels of investment, schools old and new can increase the positive impact on both the natural and learning environments, directly benefiting operational cost. Setting sustainable goals is the starting point for any size school or district. This recognition leads the way to modernize, renovate, retrofit or rebuild areas of facilities using more resourceefficient systems and strategies. Opportunities are identified to apply no-cost, low-cost, and smart-investment strategies in accordance with a project’s budget. Realized savings from the sustainable improvements can be reinvested into continuous energy conservation efforts or applied toward other operational expenses like curriculum, salaries, and technology. DLR Group has incorporated sustainable strategies in our designs since 1985 with the installation of our first geothermal, ground-source heat pump system for Adel Desoto High School in Adel, Iowa. We also assisted Westwood Community School District in Sloan, Iowa, with the design of their new school in 1987. Both districts have been realizing the financial and environmental benefits for over 25 years. DLR Group led the design of Gothenburg Jr/Sr High School, which was completed in 2004 as a replacement for the original 1925 building. The design creates a comprehensive PK-12 facility by linking the existing elementary school and a community building with the Jr/Sr High addition that includes a 500-seat fine arts auditorium. The energy efficient and sustainable design strategy of the HVAC system allows the Gothenburg School District to realize extraordinarily low annual energy use costs that are well below the average benchmark for gas and electrical utilities. This equates to significant savings to the general fund budget that the District can use for other expenses. A geothermal “pump and dump” strategy also was incorporated into the project design to take advantage of the ground water and high soil permeability conditions at the site. DLR Group approaches sustainability in the first stages of planning and design. Our process starts with sustainable site opportunities and continues through the construction administration phase utilizing a plan that maximizes operational efficiencies and utility cost savings. We recommend

planning options for school facilities that increase energy efficiency, reduce repair costs, extend the life cycle of systems, and lower life-cycle costs. All of the DLR Group school projects in Elkhorn, Gretna, Norris, Bennington, York and Kearney utilize various levels and strategies of energy conservation and sustainable design. The new Omaha Public Middle School scheduled to be completed next summer, is designed to achieve LEED Silver Certification. With 194 LEED Accredited Professional architects and engineers and three decades of experience, DLR Group serves as an educational resource for districts and communities regarding the savings and improved learning outcomes associated with sustainable design. We invite you to attend our annual K-12 Symposium in June at our new office, which is on pace for LEED Gold Certification. Get a close look at the cutting-edge, sustainable features and see where DLR Group works and explores. The Symposium will cover several case studies and discusses the advantages of simple, sustainable design. I

Gothenburg Junior/Senior High School SPRING 2012




School Security BY BOB WYNN, ADT-Education Security


or anyone involved in school security, April 20th, 1999 will always be a day to remember. It was on that day that two Columbine High School students changed how people view school security forever. Besides being a tremendous tragedy it was a wake-up call to school administrators, students, and parents that school life will never be the same. In the 13 years since that day schools across the nation have learned that keeping students and staff safe during the school day is a job that districts must take seriously. In the five years that I have been with ADT helping make schools more secure I have been able to learn a lot about the many hats that school administrators must wear. In addition to making sure kids are learning and the staff are being supported they now must figure out what to do to keep everyone secure from 8-5. I am proud to have been able to get to know and work with so many districts in Nebraska. One of the first schools I met with was East Butler. I have had the pleasure of getting to know Jim Koontz for several years now. His reasons for increasing school security are pretty typical. As Jim states it: “When I arrived at East Butler in the summer of 2006, there was no ‘security system’ in place. It was apparent that other schools, even those of us in ‘rural areas’ were becoming more and more concerned with the concept of security. In November of 2006, a student wrote ‘I’m going to blow the building up tomorrow’ in a girls’ restroom. We did not have school the following day, and brought in bomb sniffing dogs as a precaution. We felt this was a hoax, and it was, but realized at that time building security was needed. We worked with ADT, and now have a total of 32 cameras on the inside and the outside of the building. The cameras allow us to view all the halls and outside doors in the building. Although we have had no major issues since 2006, we are able to check if students ‘lose items’ out of their lockers to see if someone took something that didn’t belong to them. The inside cameras act as a deterrent, and recently helped us solve some minor on-going vandalism incident in a restroom. We were able to figure out the approximate time of the vandalism, and through studying the camera close to the restroom door, identified the person responsible for the problems. Our final step with ADT was to use mag locks on all outside doors, and a doorbell at the main entrance of




each of our three sites for people to gain access. Each teacher was provided with an electronic key that opens any door they wish to enter, and the time of the entrance is saved in an office computer so we know who was in the building and when. This system also allows us to open doors in our elementary sites in Dwight and Prague from the Brainard office. For example, if we have a board of education meeting in Prague that begins at 6:30, we can set the front door of the elementary in Prague to open at 6:00 and lock automatically at 9:00. ADT was most helpful and tailored a program to our needs. They check on us occasionally to make certain things are going smoothly, and are most user friendly and helpful. I would recommend them highly.” Mr. Koontz’s situation is very similar to what I deal with all the time. Quite often I am invited into a school to either do a security walk-through or just give administrators information about what other schools are doing and to offer ideas on how to improve their security. I do not think there is a school in Nebraska that should have their doors wide open all day. I come across many schools that not only have an open main entrance but several other doors are unlocked as well. The vast majority of visitors are well-intentioned, but all it takes is the one bad person getting into the school and harming one child to put the district at risk. I think every school, no matter how big or small should have an access control system be it either card readers, an Aiphone unit or both. These systems allow schools to have their doors locked and are able to control who and when people are allowed to enter. Today’s access control systems allow schools to put their doors on a schedule so that they can be unlocked during movements from one building to another or for a school sporting event. In addition many schools are incorporating camera systems to curb incidences of bullying, vandalism or just as a way to monitor what is going on in the school either during the regular day or afterwards. Camera systems today are much more clearer and have many more features than even systems put in three years ago. Schools can always contact me for a no obligation security walk-through or to see if their system needs updating. I am always honored to meet with administrators to help them make their schools more secure. I


NCSA Co-sponsors K-12 Disaster Recovery Planning Workshop BY LUCAS BINGHAM, Technology Director, Louisville Public Schools


counted his first-hand experience with the LPS district office fire and shared important lessons learned from disaster recovery and business continuity efforts. Participants then were split into two groups: technology coordinators and administrators. Gary Needham, Technology Director for Kearney Public Schools, led the technology coordinators group. This session focused on preparing for a data disaster and inventorying an essential services checklist. Kirk Langer led the administrator group which focused on policies and funding in the midst of a disaster. Over the noon hour, Dr. Steve Joel, Superintendent of Lincoln Public Schools, spoke about his role as a leader in the aftermath of the LPS district office fire. He spoke from an administrator’s perspective and touched on how proper reactions to the events can send important messages. The afternoon consisted of administrator and tech coordinator teams actually working on their plans with materials provided. It also allowed time for disaster recovery partnerships to be developed between schools. Other workshop facilitators and organizers included SuAnn Witt from the Nebraska Department of Education, Tom Rolfes from the State Office of the CIO/NITC, and Lucas Bingham from Louisville Public Schools. On behalf of all involved, we want to thank the sponsors for helping to play a key role in making such an event possible. I

n the aftermath of recent disasters across the United States, and even locally in our own state, many school districts have evaluated their disaster recovery plans. The idea for a statewide disaster recovery planning workshop started with a discussion among state technology coordinators about what their role would be in the event of a disaster and how to best prepare for one. The outcome of this discussion was a fullday workshop focused on planning for disaster recovery. The workshop was held February 29th, 2012 at the Younes Conference Center in Kearney, NE. The event, cosponsored by the Office of the CIO, ESU Coordinating Council, Nebraska Educational Technology Association, Nebraska Council of School Administrators, and the Nebraska Department of Education, attracted representatives from over 60 organizations from across the state of Nebraska. Organizations represented included 49 public schools districts, four non-public school districts, nine educational service units, one higher education institution and one state agency. There were over 130 participants in attendance at the event. Keynote speaker for the workshop was Kirk Langer, Director of Technol- Dr. Steve Joel, Lincoln Public School Superintendent, discusses the aftermath of ogy at Lincoln Public Schools. Kirk re- the LPS district office fire. SPRING 2012



EHA Board of Directors Approves 2.99 Percent Rate Increase BY KURT GENRICH, EHA Plan Advocate




t the March 14th Educators Health Alliance (EHA) Board of Directors meeting, the Board finalized the rate renewal for the 2012-13 contract year and are pleased to announce that medical and dental premium rates will increase by just 2.99 percent for the next year. The EHA plan has more than 35,000 education employees that will be affected by these changes in over 400 school groups. This rate increase follows last year’s zero percent increase and the Board’s decision to have a “no more than four percent” increase for this 2012-13 contract year, beginning September 1st. “Nebraska teachers, school districts and school district employees are getting some real bang for their buck through this plan,” said Neal Clayburn, Chairman of the EHA Board of Directors. “This very modest increase in rates is welcome news for school districts as they begin their budget plans for 2012-13.” Also, as part of the renewal, there will be no increase in the medical rates for the Early Retiree/Direct Bill members. The dental rates will rise by 2.99 percent for these individuals, just like their active member counterparts. The funds that the EHA plan has received from the Early Retirement Reinsurance Fund, a Federal program that is part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), helped allow for the rate relief for EHA Early Retiree membership. Clayburn said the EHA board was particularly pleased that the 2.82 percent overall rate increase is below industry surveys of medical plan rate increases nationally. The plan has now marked ten consecutive years with increases of less than ten percent. There have been several factors that have led to the below national trend increases. The expansion of the EHA Wellness plan that now has over 190 schools participating, lower medical inflation trends, disease management programs, and lower claims utilization of our membership has helped to contribute to the low increase in premium.



Furthermore, the benefits offered through the several EHA medical and dental options will not have any change for the year other than items for Women’s Health that will meet compliance of PPACA. Those items are still under determination by the Federal Government, but will include increased benefits for Well Women visits, Contraceptive methods/prescriptions and many other services. For a complete list of changes, please go to

Clayburn said the EHA board appreciates the financial pressures and concerns facing school districts and individual plan members. “We understand that every penny counts,” said Clayburn. “We think our work to keep costs down, to keep this rate increase at a minimum, is just what our plan members expect.” I


Survey Summary: Issues Faced by Schools BY DR. MIKE DULANEY, Executive Director; and DR. DAN ERNST, Associate Executive Director




he Nebraska Council of School Administrators (NCSA) is an organization of more than 2,100 school administrators who serve in Nebraska schools. We consider ourselves a partner in developing excellence in educational leadership, assisting to provide the “tools” necessary for administrators to be successful. We wanted to take the time in this communication to share with readers the many organizations that we proudly acclaim as educational partners. We understand and appreciate the opportunity to work in collaboration with the many educational-related entities to help make education a great Nebraska value. Let us begin by stating that we sincerely appreciate our relationship with the Nebraska Department of Education (NDE). NCSA works with NDE in planning the NDE Day as part of the annual Administrators’ Days Conference in addition to serving as the Conference Director for three additional NDE conferences. We also appreciate the many opportunities to collaborate with Commissioner Dr. Roger Breed and the NDE staff on educational issues. NCSA also works directly with NDE to provide school improvement workshops for Nebraska schools.

Higher Education NCSA has always appreciated the opportunity to partner with institutions that are in the business of preparing our future administrators and members. We enjoy the chance to speak with graduate students in classes and to assist in helping students complete their graduate studies. Student NCSA memberships are available to graduate students for $30 per year. NCSA provides programs for emerging administrators and superintendents and credits higher education for their support of these programs. NCSA partners with the NeNCSA has always braska Association of School appreciated the Boards (NASB) and the Nebraska opportunity to partner State Education Association with institutions that (NSEA) to provide quality and affordable health insurance for edare in the business of ucators through joint preparing our future involvement and leadership of administrators and the Educators Health Alliance (EHA). The Executive Directors members.

of the three organizations work very well together and meet regularly to collaborate on and discuss pertinent educational issues. The Executive Directors maintain a high respect for one another and yet understand that from time to their respective organizations may share different perspectives on educational issues. The Nebraska Educational Service Unit Coordinating Council (ESUCC) was created in statute to coordinate the activities of Nebraska’s 17 Educational Service Units. NCSA works in cooperation with service units to facilitate their work to initiate statewide educational initiatives. Examples include partnering with the ESU Technology Affiliated Group to conduct Technology Boot Camps to improve technology skills for school administrators the past two years and to meet regularly with ESU Directors and Staff Developers on a regular basis. The NCSA headquarters also houses office space for the ESUCC Executive Director. NCSA provides management services for the Nebraska Speech-Language Hearing Association. This group is composed of 360 school and clinical speech pathologists and audiologists. Our interests are consistent with their mission of providing high-quality professional services to those individuals with needs. As this communication is designed to provide readers with a sense of the high number of organizations that we enjoy active partnerships, it is impossible to discuss the nature and merit of each partnership in detail in this limited space. However, with that said, we do want to share the names of those organizations and acknowledge the importance of working collaboratively to meet educational needs. NCSA partnering relationships include: • Nebraska P-16 Initiative • Nebraska Rural Community Schools Association (NRCSA) • Nebraska School Activities Association (NSAA) • Nebraska Educational Technology Association (NETA) • Nebraska Information Technology Commission (NITC) • Greater Nebraska Schools Association (GNSA) • Greater Nebraska Superintendents (GNS) • Nebraska Association for Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment (NACIA) (continued on page 14)




NCSA REPORT Survey Summary‌(continued from page 13) • Nebraska Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (NASCD) • Nebraska Association of School Personnel Administrators (NASPA) • Nebraska School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) • Nebraska Coaches Association (NCA) This above list and organizations mentioned are a sampling of the those that we work with throughout the course of a year. In addition to the typical partners we also work with foundations and agencies that have an educational relationship to help

them provide information to our school communities. Examples of this partnering would include Nebraska Children and Families Foundation and the Nebraska Foundation for Children’s Vision. It is our hope that we have not missed any of our partners but as you can see the group is quite extensive. Meaningful partnerships require a commitment of time, energy, and resources. We are most appreciative of the efforts of so many to help us meet our goal of building and promoting quality leadership for Nebraska schools and great learning opportunities for Nebraska students. I

NCSA IS NOW ON FACEBOOK • Upcoming Events • Nice-to-know information on fellow members • Download conference handouts

Upcoming Events NASES Spring April 19-20 Lincoln NASBO April 25-27 Omaha NARSA Spring May 10-11 Kearney

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LEADERSHIP ing how an answer was derived, etc. Bottom line, writing is a means to students composing a piece of text, one that requires the use of reading skills and strategies. The wonderful part of all of this is that the student, through writing, is reading for an authentic purpose. Just as choice plays into student motivation regarding reading, students writing about a topic that has personal meaning triggers ownership of a product. When this type of ownership exists, it is more likely that students will use correct conventions of spelling and grammar because it matters that ideas are communicated effectively. This same ownership causes students to consider choosing words that will best convey their thoughts and ideas to their readers. Additionally, punctuation is more likely used in such a way that the reader knows where a thought starts and ends, and what emotion goes with it (Cunningham & Cunningham, 2010). When students write about a topic that has meaning to him/her, the product is a comprehensible text that the student can read, reread, and analyze! • Require students to interact about reading and writing Current brain research supports the idea that human beings are social by nature. Additionally, retention of new knowledge is enhanced when structured opportunities for dialogue about pertinent content are provided. Consider the information from How the Brain Works by David Sousa. Clearly, requiring students to interact with others about critical content that is text-based is a worthwhile process to integrate in the classroom on a frequent basis. When students are involved in literary conversations, the focus should not be on recalling or retelling what has been read. Rather, this dialogue should revolve around focus questions that require students to analyze, evaluate, make inferences or draw conclusions, etc. Practicing such skills leads to higher levels of understanding text, a focus that certainly exists throughout Common Core State Standards. Research conducted by Martin Nystrand

(2006) suggests that even small amounts of peer conversation about reading and writing material (about 10 minutes per day) improves standardized test scores, regardless of the student’s reading level. Instructional time is a precious commodity in every classroom, so it is understandable if allocating time for students to talk about their reading and writing is currently an under-utilized strategy. Yet, think about the benefits! This practice requires student attention on reading comprehension, writing mechanics, and language competence, just to name a few elements of focus. The skills of reading, writing, speaking, and listening are all incorporated in a brief, but potentially impactful, period of time. It is critical for teachers to constantly reflect on current practice in order to ensure optimum levels of student performance. If current practice in your classroom(s)doesn’t include these three research-supported instructional practices, consider doing away with a worksheet or some other activity in order to give your learners time to read self-selected materials, write about a meaningful topic, and talk with peers about this reading and writing. This decision will benefit your students, as it will lead to improved ability to comprehend text—an essential skill that we know is paramount in the ELA classroom and also for success in life as an adult. I References Allington, R. L., and Gabriel, R. E. (2012). Every child, every day. Educational Leadership, 69 (6), 10-15. Cunningham, P. M., and Cunningham, J. W. (2010). What really matters in writing: Research-based practices across the elementary curriculum. Boston: Allyn and Bacon. Nystrand, M. (2006). Research on the role of classroom discourse as it affects reading comprehension. Research in the Teaching of English. 40, 392-412. Ryan, R. M. and Deci, E. L. (2000). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations: classic definitions and new directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25, 54– 67. Sousa, D. A. (2001). How the brain learns. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Keeping Students and Families Connected…(continued from page 5) the characteristics of a great reading program: excellent, timeless literature; family involvement; a great ‘hook’ to get students motivated to participate; friendly competition; and a check for comprehension! It is also encouraging to listen to and participate in conversations about the book we are reading with my 5th graders, Title 1 students and miscellaneous students at lunch and recess,” states Deb Carlson, Title I teacher. Parents, students and staff at Hampton have wholeheartedly embraced the One School, One Book program. Third grade parent Barb Parsley shares, “I have treasured the time I get to spend with my nine year old reading these selections. Two days

ago he was questioning why the author entitled one of the chapters the way he did. It led to good discussion of the overall main idea of the chapter and though I agreed with him a little (that it might not be the BEST title), he was able to gain a better perspective of a ‘summary’ and why the author decided to name the chapter the way he did. It’s ‘teaching’ and ‘learning’ moments like this that make me so excited about this program.” A program’s success is oftentimes difficult to judge, but with One School, One Book the time families spend together creating a love for reading that will benefit their child for a lifetime is priceless! I SPRING 2012



CALENDA R OF EVENTS April 2-3 3 3 4 17 18 18 19-20 25 25 25 25 25 25 25 26-27 27

NDE - Data Conference NASA Region V NSASSP Executive Board NCSA Executive Board NAESP Region IV NASA Region I NSASSP Region IV Breakthrough Coach/NASES NSASSP Region I NAESP Region II NAESP Region I NAESP Region III NSASSP Region III NSASSP Region II NASBO Golf Tournament NASBO State Conference NASBO General Business

8:00 a.m. 12:00 p.m. (MT) 4:00 p.m. 9:00 a.m. 12:00 p.m. 1:00 p.m. 2:30 p.m. 8:30 a.m. 5:30 p.m. 5:30 p.m. 5:30 p.m. 5:00 p.m. 5:00 p.m. 5:00 p.m. 12:00 p.m. 8:00 a.m. 8:00 a.m.

Younes Conf. Center Quality Inn – Convention Center TBD NCSA TBD Hillcrest Country Club ESU #10 Embassy Suites Evening with Friends Lo Sole Mio TBD Norfolk Country Club Norfolk Country Club Bel Aire Banquet Hall Dodge Riverside Golf Embassy Suites Old Mkt Embassy Suites Old Mkt

Kearney Ogallala Lincoln Lincoln Hastings Lincoln Kearney Lincoln Milligan Omaha TBD Norfolk Norfolk Omaha Council Bluffs Omaha Omaha

NARSA Executive Board NASES Region II NARSA Spring Fling NASA Region II NASES Region I NASES Region III NCSA Executive Board

10:00 a.m. 8:30 a.m. 1:00 p.m. TBD 9:30 a.m. 9:30 a.m. 9:00 a.m.

NCSA Central Office Kearney TBD NCSA TJ’s NCSA

Lincoln Gretna Kearney TBD Lincoln Norfolk Lincoln

NCE Conference NCSA Golf Tournament

8:00 a.m. 12:00 noon

Younes Conference Center Yankee Hill

Kearney Lincoln

May 2 4 10-11 15 25 31 31

June 5-7 20

National Convention Dates ASBO - October 12-15, 2012 - Phoenix, AZ ASBO - October 25-28, 2013 - Boston, MA ASBO - September 19-22, 2014 - Kissimmee, FL

Upcoming Webinars Networking with New Principals Series —Elementary Principals – April 18, 2012 – 9:30-10:30 a.m. —Secondary Principals – April 24, 2012 – 9:30-10:30 a.m.




School Law Webinar Series —Parent Rights – April 17, 2012 – 10:00-11:00 a.m. —Special Education – May 16, 2012 – 10:00-11:00 a.m. —Employee Rights - June 20, 2012 – 10:00-11:00 a.m.

Gold Sponsorships ADT

DLR Group

Bob Wynn 8719 S. 135th Street, Ste. 300 Omaha, NE 68138 402-935-5470

Pat Phelan, Whitney Wombacher 400 Essex Court Omaha, NE 68114 402-393-4100


Engaging Technologies

Al Eveland & Jay Spearman 5900 O St., 1st Floor Lincoln, NE 68510 402-467-6968

John Baylor Test Prep John Baylor P.O. Box 30792 Lincoln, NE 68503 402-475-7737

Blackboard Jeff Enoch 4000 Westchase Blvd. Suite 190 Raleigh, NC 27607 919-841-0175

Dustin Frank 6157 S. 178th Street Omaha, NE 68135 402-677-6366

Horace Mann Cindy Dornbush 10612 Monroe Street, #4 Omaha, NE 68127 402-680-9382

Learning Together Alexandra Lemke 5509 B W. Friendly Ave., Ste 201 Greensboro, NC 27409 866-921-0000

Silver Sponsorships Awards Unlimited Larry King 1935 O St., Lincoln, NE 68510 402-474-0815

Jostens Don Bartholomew 309 S. 8th St., Broken Bow, NE 68822 308-872-5055

D.A. Davidson & Co. Dan Smith 1111 N. 102nd Ct., Ste 300 Omaha, NE 68114 402-392-7986

Nebraska Public Agency Investment Trust Becky Ferguson PO Box 82529, Lincoln, NE 68501 402-323-1334

Humanex Ventures Katie Shanahan 2900 S. 70th St, Park One, Ste 100 Lincoln, NE 58506 402-486-1102

Siemens John Hay 8066 Flint St. Lenexa, KS 66214 913-905-6723

National Insurance Mike Boden 9202 W. Dodge Rd., Ste 302 Omaha, NE 68114 800-597-2341

NLAF Barry Ballou 455 S. 11th St. Lincoln, NE 68508 402-705-0350

SchoolFusion Brett Sievert 999 18th St., Ste 2150, South Tower Denver, CO 80202 800-906-0911

TRANE Danny Szegda & Dave Raymond 5720 S. 77th St. Ralston, NE 68127 402-935-9040

Wells Fargo Jenni Christiansen 1248 O Street Lincoln, NE 68508 402-434-6188

Bronze Sponsorships Benchmark 4 Excellence Rick Imig 1411 Rodeo Bend, Dickinson, TX 77539 281-910-0113 Educator’s Virtual Mentor Woody Ziegler 2206 Rd. 20, Waco, NE 68460 402-362-8663


Nebraska Council of School Administrators 455 So. 11th Street, Suite A • Lincoln, NE 68508-2105 RETURN SERVICE REQUESTED

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Profile for NCSA

NCSA Today Magazine, Spring 2012  

NCSA Today Magazine, Spring 2012

NCSA Today Magazine, Spring 2012  

NCSA Today Magazine, Spring 2012

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