California school law is extensive. The Education Code is littered with sections that are detailed with logical rules and policies. The primary purpose of these rules is to keep order so that students can focus on learning. As mentioned by Kemerer and Sansom (2013), the school campus is a “microcosm of society,” so students should learn to understand cause-and-effect of their behaviors in such a setting (p. 340).
Under school law, specifically Education Code Section 35291, “School districts must prescribe rules for student discipline,” and this is constitutionally necessary to uphold due process (under the Fourteenth Amendment) (p.340-342). These rules are worded such that consequences for violations include in-school discipline policies (detentions, participation points, etc.), suspensions, involuntary transfers and/or expulsions (p. 345-361). If there is no established policy, then what standards to students have for correct versus incorrect behavior? And with students who have Individual Education Plans (IEPs), particularly those with behavior issues, they are afforded the right to a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) within the language of the IEP. More importantly, every student is afforded the right to learn in a safe, civil environment, so order is necessary, and that’s the sole intent of implementing school law and governance policies.
True educators agree that it is sad to learn about students who enter into self-destruct mode and choose to defy the policies set before them, both inside and outside the school setting. Such students are not only losing out on opportunities for becoming life-long learners and developing critical thinking skills, but are also setting a negative precedence for their own future lineage, as well as other peer influences.
The best type of intervention is preventative action. As Plato says, ““Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.” I’m a firm believer in treating students with dignity and respect, first and foremost. This enables me to establish a learning environment that is safe, and I practice being firm with my expectations (which I establish the first few weeks of school), fairness, consistency. I call it the “Treat everyone as though your grandmother were watching” idea, in which the Golden Rule becomes more personable by having students truly understand the power of respect. Students take part in establishing these group norms, and that is also instrumental in creating buy-in to my classroom rules and procedures.
In the event that students choose not to abide by my own classroom rules, then intervention needs to move up to school-wide policies (which reflects district code). As an example, the Avalon K-12 school website outlines a code of conduct and discipline plan for parents and students to understand (http://goo.gl/lJ9wL3), and this is to be read and signed by students and parents in the opening days of school. Our K-12 staff hold meetings to discuss a tier system of infractions and the appropriate action plan for such events.
Although Long Beach Unified actually employs school personnel to work specifically with interventions with students who are regular offenders of school policies (https://goo.gl/KaF4Jv), Avalon has a unique situation. In considering the consequences outlined in California Education Code for discipline, our school has enlisted several community partnerships specifically for interventions. These partners include the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department, Catalina’s own Citizens Helping Our Island Children End Substance Abuse (CHOICES) program, Peer Mediation, Outward Bound, Opportunities for Success, and a host of island-based counseling centers. We simply cannot resort to involuntary transfers within our district, as we are literally isolated in the Pacific Ocean and that would create family hardships. Expulsion is also something we have never had to resort to, since I have joined the staff in 2008.
When schools conduct interventions with students, what are the intentions? To “intervene” is really to help get students back on the path toward success, right? When considering that California Ed Code is often rigid and strict, this idea can be used as a motivating factor for students during intervention meetings with staff, students and parents. As a result, Avalon K-12 has implemented quarterly intervention nights, where all staff and students who have issues with discipline or academic needs meet in the school library for a 3-4 hour block of time to truly brainstorm solutions with the students and families. We want the best for our students, so we need to make them aware of the consequences for their actions with timely meetings and follow-through on a consistent basis.
One particular example with Avalon that still resonates in my mind is an incident involving an entire sports team. Not only did the incident extend to California Ed Code Section 44807, which “extends the discipline authority of school personnel to student conduct on the way to and from school,” but it also ventured into the California Scholastic Federation (CIF) governance (http://goo.gl/G0fvfn) and the student athletic packet’s code of ethics that were agreed upon (p. 359). The team decided to host a party on the morning of the first day of school at one of the popular attractions on the island. Because our town is only one square mile, word spread fast, and sheriffs were on scene, along with the school administration. This was huge. Parents were involved, the town mayor was concerned, and students were brought to tears. Decisions were made to enforce disciplinary measures that subjected students to counseling, community service, and suspension from their sports team. This also went onto their disciplinary file in the school’s tracking system. While some of these offenses might have implemented Ed Code more severely in a mainland school setting, Avalon has to be mindful of the repercussions of such actions. The culture of this island community plays a major factor in the intervention process of the island students.
The ultimate disciplinary infraction in schools is expulsion, and it is complex in nature, especially in Avalon. California Ed Code Section 48915 recommends the procedure for expulsion, but such events seem to be very uncommon, even in the large school district of Long Beach Unified (p. 361). But in Avalon, to which school would a student be expelled? In Avalon, involuntary transfers and expulsions are nearly impossible and we are left to work with parents and the aforementioned community partners to work out intervention plans for rogue students. When “the presence of such students endangers the physical safety of others,” inhibiting learning from taking place, our administrators have done a great job working with the local law enforcement and other counselors to seek authentic help (p. 368). Avalon students are often not expelled, but our district works closely with our unique situation and is willing to freezes student grades for student “leaves of absence” in these types of cases. I can’t stress enough how important it has been to keep in mind the well-being of all students, even these who have gone astray.
As we have read, there is a lot of Ed Code that dictates the rules and discipline policies that are to be enforced in public schools. While these rules are important, it is much more important that teachers, who are on the front lines of much of the student interaction, are fair, firm and consistent with their own class policies and exemplify true teaching that leads students to choose paths of success and not destruction. When students are treated with respect and dignity, they will rise to great expectations.
Kemerer, F & Sansom, P. (2013). California School Law (3rd ed.). Stanford University Press.
Planning curriculum for an online or blended course should be viewed as an art form, as there is limitless creativity and freedom to design. Our diverse audience of students is not bound by a set language, culture, gender, religion, and sadly, not every student in the audience has been afforded the same opportunities to learn. To have one curriculum be accommodating to students with unique stories is to have something that isn’t rigid in nature, something that celebrates diversity, and is innovative and meaningful; that’s the only way to reach students in our emerging culture of change.
As online teachers, we must have an open mind. We must be sensitive to the needs of all our students. That doesn’t mean we sacrifice our high expectations for great work; we just have to scaffold for every student. That means we celebrate the individuality that each student brings. And not that phony façade we see the first couple weeks of school sometimes, but every positive characteristic that we can get each student to exude. Our curriculum must be inviting, though, so that students are willing to ask honest questions during the inquiry process. Regardless how trivialized each student might feel his or her story is in comparison to one another, we must design our curriculum so that it is empowering and not exposing weaknesses. As a former camp counselor, I recall having campers who were wealthy mixed with students who were poor and broken. Both types of students, when presented with the same, rewarding environment took away different intrinsic experiences, but both were positive and life-altering. Our camp curriculum was designed to not praise any one individual over another. That is key.
Diversity in students means diversity in needs. With such diverse needs, we should avoid explicit, mechanistic teaching and invite the students to do the thinking by asking authentic questions. For students who come to us broken, who might not have the best understanding of group norms or language skills, or those who are resistant to putting forth genuine effort, it is a challenge that we, as some of their only allies, must take on willingly. For us to be able to elicit the tacit knowledge that our students bring to the classroom and to get them to express that in their online collectives is the first step in getting their buy-in to life-long learning. As John Seely Brown and Douglas Thomas (2011) say, students should “experiment with what they already know how to do and modify it to meet new challenges or contexts” (Brown & Thomas, 2011, p. 76). No student should ever be ashamed of their story, but should use it as empowerment for forging his or her own voice in the context of online collectives. And we teachers must consider those stories and seize every opportunity to teach digital citizenship. Some students might try to test just how free their individual expressions are allowed to be, but we have an ethical responsibility to protect them from harming themselves, especially online. By not having a structured, safe, and focused learning environment for our students, we are doing them a disservice. Respectful collaboration and diligence must be exemplified for our students; the last thing we want is for a damaging website to be created, using the tools and platforms we have taught our students to use, as was the case with a Missouri public school teen (Kemerer & Sansom, 2013, p. 234). Those sorts of things aren’t easily removable from the Internet and can be haunting for life.
I think many teachers forget to teach every student with dignity, and not wear the authoritative hat all the time. Students of all backgrounds respond well to teachers who really listen and talk with their students. If you think of your favorite teachers growing up, there’s a good chance they showed how much they really cared for the students. When we take the time to get to know every student for who he or she really is, to build that positive rapport, I think we learn to naturally scaffold for each one. We can always demand excellence from our students, though, and that should never be forsaken. And for those who have issues with accessing the technology tools at home, we must advocate for those students. Again, we might be the only resources for those students to turn to in fighting for equity.
So, in planning our online curriculum, we teachers have much to consider. In essence, we must fight for equity and access, academic freedom, citizenship, creativity, innovation, as well as celebrate all the diverse needs that each student brings to the classroom collective. Once that has been accomplished, we won’t need to reach the students; they will be reaching alongside us as cohabitants of the new, emerging culture of change.
Thomas, D & Brown, J.S. (2011). A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change. Lexington: CreateSpace.
Kemerer, F & Sansom, P. (2013). California School Law (3rd ed.). Stanford University Press.
The culminating project of the EDL 600 course is to propose a sustainable project idea, centered in technology, that would directly benefit a school or district, as well as students. This is only to be done after a needs assessment survey has been completed, questions have been posted to interviewees, and collaboration between cohort members has taken place. Following necessary feedback, a presentation of the proposal will be drafted for an authentic audience.
Vanitha Chandrasekhar, the LBUSD Technology Curriculum Coordinator, and I video conferencing via Google Hangouts on 7/2 from 12-1 pm. Vanitha continues to give me feedback on my proposal, via e-mail correspondence. I'm pursuing two avenues for getting my proposal to fruition: a 2-3 minute prepared presentation to the LBUSD board members, and using grants through the Catalina Island Conservancy, the same entity that is funding my NatureWorks curriculum development, which the use of Chromebooks could enhance.
Prompt: If collective bargaining agreements are grounded in a common language, what might we as technology/school leaders, understand to ensure a sustainable program launches?
I love sports. I love playing, watching, and all that comes with sports. In most professional sports, collective bargaining and player associations and unions are essential for ensuring that athletes are treated equitably and are then able to focus on their job—playing their sport to the best of their ability. But what happens when a team owner tries to pull a fast one on the athletes and jeopardize the rights of an athlete, or entire team? That’s when the players associations (such as that of the NBA) with the specified language in their collective bargaining agreements, can stand up for their athletes. It’s something that most fan-bases don’t really care to think about, but I love it. If you follow the NBA at all, you may know what I’m talking about.
So what does that mean for the business of education, specifically technology and school leaders? The common language of collective bargaining agreements is—as it should be—that which protects and defends the rights of a governed body of employees in a financially responsible and equitable manner. We all want equity and a perfect working environment in order to maximize our performance. And in our profession, we want what’s best for all students; that includes the launching of sustainable technology programs that are relevant for preparing students to be ready for the future. If we as educators cannot feel secure in our roles in the classroom on a daily basis, any implemented programs, regardless of their level of success, are jeopardized, as well.
According to Kemerer and Sansom (2013), the stages for collective bargaining include unionization, contract negotiation (using a bilateral employer-employee relationship), and contract administration (p. 135). Furthermore, “collective bargaining is about group rights, not individual rights, though the provisions of the contract serve to protect individual rights” (p. 135). We must collectively bargain and agree upon those rights we would like to have protected. I want to go to work knowing that I am being fairly compensated for my service, that I have specific agreements to what that service entails, and most importantly, that my students are able to rely on the sustainability of all great programs that are implemented under my tenure; they don’t deserve to have to worry about their teachers not having a secure position to facilitate and advocate for such programs due to contract agreement issues (as this is an issue with many charter and private schools that aren’t represented by collective bargaining).
As future technology and/or school leaders, we must also understand that curriculum development and administrator selection is an aspect of “permissible subjects of negotiation” under collective bargaining (p. 136). We must advocate for obsolete instructional materials to be replaced with innovate programs that foster true student learning and critical thinking for the 21st century. One aspect of collective bargaining is that employees must be loud and proud, and not weak. In collective bargaining, there is “no guarantee that management can preserve enough authority to direct the organization and prevent worker demands from becoming an impregnable wall against needed innovative change” (p. 137). When we unionize as a school and district, we must have a vision that includes our students as the end-product. This profession is not about the teachers, but about our future leaders. Sure, it’s great to have job security and the confidence to be able to enlist our unions to stand up for equity, when necessary, but we must think about effective, equitable, and sustainable programs when we think about the language of these contract agreements.
Technology and school leaders should also understand that collective bargaining agreements should promote academic freedom for teachers to have the confidence and assurance of sustaining a successful program for their students. We need to always keep in mind that as changes occur in standards, demands in the global workplace, and student diversity, the collective bargaining contract should be renegotiated to amend such details. In the complex yet massive business of education, we are surrounded by policies that affect the way our classrooms function. It is our job to ensure that such policies promote sustainable and appropriate teaching practices, or we will become part of the problem and not a part of the solution.
I will argue that the most important feature that exists with collective bargaining agreements is the fact that they’re bilateral and must adhere to the governing bodies of Educational Employment Relations Act (EERA), as well as the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) (p. 137-141). I’m so grateful that although I don’t always agree with every written word within my own collective bargaining agreement under the Teachers Association of Long Beach (TALB), I know that the union is there to advocate for my rights as an employee of LBUSD. This allows me to focus on my creative teaching and still exercise my individual voice by approaching my school board to fight for the implementation of new and improved technology, blended learning opportunities and equity issues. And I know that my union is on my side because union “advocates point out that having public policymakers, bureaucrats, and school administrators make decisions about curriculum standards and student assessment leaves out of the loop the valuable input of teachers who face the students every day” (p. 162). I look forward to experiencing more change on the landscape of education reform with unions on my side.
Kremerer, F & Sansom, P. (2013). California School Law (3rd ed.). Stanford University Press.
Turner Broadcasting System, Inc: A Time Warner Company (Producer). (2012). Board of Governors News Conference: David Stern and Adam Silver address the media after finalizing a 10-year CBA with the NBPA. The National Basketball Association. Podcast retrieved from http://www.nba.com/video/channels/nba_tv/2011/12/08/20111208_bog_presser_full.nba/
Long Beach Unified School District Board Meeting:
June 18, 2015
This board meeting was the kickoff meeting for summer in LBUSD. Students began their summer vacation the day before, June 17th. The meeting began with the standard Pledge of Allegiance and call to order, where the board members—very astute with the Parliamentary Procedure—proceeded to begin the first item: public hearing. There was no public hearing on this occasion, but the call for agenda items consisted of amending the number of graduates from LB Polytechnic High School (a whopping 1,019 students from Poly alone, with a total of over 5,900 graduates in LBUSD this year!). The board then quickly approved the minutes, and then began the communications part of the meeting. In doing so, the board recognized some decorated retirees from LBUSD. It was amazing to hear about the length and diversified service that each employee contributed to the district. Even our own Teachers Association of Long Beach (TALB) president, and LBUSD teacher, Virginia Torres retired after 34.5 years of dedicated service. Everyone present felt the warmth of those recognized. My great mentor and colleague, Anita Rockwell, who retired this year from Avalon, was also supposed to be recognized but may wait until the July board meeting. The second part of communications was the recognition of the Long Beach NAACP ACT-SO Program, where six high school students were present and recognized for their accomplishments in a particular discipline (which ranged from the arts to sciences); they’ll travel to Philadelphia next month to compete on the national level in their particular discipline. It was great to hear the board members speak on behalf of the program and its success over the years.
The meeting then transitioned to public testimony of items not listed on the agenda, and this got interesting. The first was a special education teacher who spoke on behalf of her school community regarding the access to IEP features that have been minimized on our district’s Synergy computer system (the new database we use for attendance and making notations of student information, where IEPs are also visible for students who have one). I think it might have been more appropriate for her to have called our tech support through her school administration, as we at Avalon seem to get great feedback when seeking help this way.
Then a parent stood up to speak about her daughter being a newcomer to the district and her possible denial of access to an accelerated program through her neighborhood school. It was obvious the mother was trying her best to be diplomatic with the school board, but was a bit aggressive in her tone. She commended the district for its structure, but then threatened to return if policies regarding new students in the district don’t change. I have seen a lot of consistencies with the demeanors of those making complaints to school boards. Most of the public testimonies seem to do with protecting the rights of the students, and are not always presented in a professional manner.
Following public testimony was business items (action items). It was amazing to hear the number of personnel mentioned due to the vast number of certificated and classified employees in our district (also 11 pages in the agenda!). The board quickly moved to approve these action items (personnel, instruction, finance report, business department report, purchasing and contract report), which are all shown in detail in the agenda. The instruction action item ranged from approving the Single Plan for Student Achievement (SPSA) for 2015-16 (which we use significantly in our WASC critical learning goals/action plan) to adopting the AP World History textbook.
The last three action items for business that were quickly approved were the finance report, business department report, as well as the purchasing and contract report. All three of these items were created, scrutinized (and ratified), then initially approved by Superintendent Christopher Steinhauser and Yumi Takahashi, our district’s Chief Business and Financial Officer (as noted at the bottom of each report).
The finance report is astounding. Beginning on page 18 of the agenda, almost $73,000,000 was issued for salary and a variety of other warrants in our district. Then the business department report listed over $115,000 in gift money, which was noted for multiple schools, followed by a lengthy list of authorities for the district CBO to accept or reject claims (such as the authority to authorize routine budget revisions, adjustments and transfers). The list was very thorough and impressive. The list of purchases and contracts showed project contractors that ranged from site geologists to human resource contractors. There were a total of 48 detailed items on that report, alone. I work in a massive school district that represents thousands of students and partnerships, so it’s no wonder there were so many details in this report.
One thing that stood out to me in the approval of these financial reports was a question for our CBO, Yumi Takahashi. One of the board members asked what type of equipment is disposed of, and Yumi responded, “Very old items that no longer have a useful life,” which includes computers. There must be some way for our large school district to dispose of such items, rather than have them simply sit in a warehouse for a few more years. The parts alone could be sold and that money could be used to buy other equipment. Or those old computer parts can be used to teach an elective course on computer components, as many of the components still function and are educational. Another board member noted the generous donations that are received this time of year, including 80 iPad Air tablets (pg. 20, item 6)! I want to quickly create my proposal to show evidence of such technology implementation in the classrooms, which “disrupts” our student learning in a good way. I hope I can create a sound budget and proposal/argument that can gain support for my proposal. And not just for my students, but district-wide. I even went as far as to contact someone I know who works alongside Yumi, our CBO, to see if there’s a chance I could present my proposal at the July board meeting.
Superintendent Steinhauser, who is very proactive with students and staff across all sites in our district, then gave his report. Sadly, two students were expelled (which is a very low number, given the population of LBUSD), but it was also great to see new principals be assigned throughout the district. Two of these principals were friends, so it gives me hope when (or if) I decide to be principal one day (since I know many great administrators within our district).
And the part of the meeting that pertained to our course most was proposed budget and the LCAP goals for 2015-16. I liked how the board thanked the School Site Councils for their input for money expenditures for 2015-16. This shows that it was a true collaboration of input, and that was echoed by Steinhauser’s comments that the budget is readily readjusted, with input from stakeholders, as changes in need and expenditures occur throughout the year. General details regarding the budget are listed in the agenda, but the thorough report is listed on the LBUSD website. One interesting note that Superintendent Steinhauser made while the board approved items is that title-1 funding is decreasing each year due to the increase in low-income students across the nation (the funds are being depleted rapidly). Another note is that the remaining 14 schools in our district that are not yet year-round schools are given a one-time grant to convert to that system, which is being pushed to happen. Lastly, I liked that Steinhauser was authentic enough to acknowledge how strenuous the state pushed for verification that CCSS-related funds (a total of $16.4 million) were correctly utilized. He mentioned the textbooks cost close to $7 million, the PD was over $1 million, and the remaining $8 million went toward the computer-adaptive labs across the district. Lots of accountability, and it shows.
Overall, the LBUSD school board is genuine, and I’m proud to be an employee under their leadership. They are open, transparent, honest, and I think they truly care about all stakeholders. I truly appreciate their professionalism and ability to acknowledge business items, as well as celebrations. I hope to one day be a member of this school board, as I’m inspired to be in a leadership role.
Garden Grove Unified School District Board Meeting:
June 2, 2015
The Garden Grove began the same way the LBUSD meeting started, with the Pledge of Allegiance and approval of the minutes. The board decided to change the agenda items a bit, and it seemed more relaxed than the LBUSD setting. Some students were recognized as Simon’s scholars for the district, which is a positive note. Following those recognitions, the board opened the floor for public comments, and there were many more than there were at the LBUSD meeting (partly due to the fact that school was still in session, I think).
One of the public comments was a follow-up of a previous board meeting I listened to with this school district (May 19th). This speaker followed up with his complaint regarding the opt-out process for the SBAC-testing for Common Core. He seemed aggressive at the last meeting, and this time was on the defensive. I think he initially let his emotion get the best of him when addressing the board and made personal allegations toward the superintendent. Another public comment was a student vouching for his school teacher-librarian to be reinstated, as she has had an invaluable impact on the school’s culture. It was heartwarming.
The board then closed the public hearing, but it didn’t seem that the Parliamentary Procedure was being adhered to in the same manner as the LBUSD board meeting. Just the sound of the gavel was heard during the public hearing, which included an opportunity for the public to address the LCAP goals for the 2015-16 school year. Mr. McAmis, the Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Schools, who was also speaker for the board, transitioned to the DROPS Grant introduction.
The DROPS grant, which provides $2 million to select Garden Grove schools to help replace lawns with turf and other drought-friendly items, was approved by the board. A few board members discussed the fact that Garden Grove Unified maximized their grant opportunity, but wanted to continue to expand this type of opportunity in future years for all schools in the district. They even joked that it is a major accomplishment to receive a $2 million grant, as LAUSD only received $5 million, and it is a much larger district.
After listening to this recorded meeting, I realized how much shorter the agenda items were, as well as how quickly the board moved through the items. Following the public hearings and the announcement of DROPS, the board quickly approved items for administration, programs, business items, and personnel. There were hardly any business items noted, and the board even acknowledged it was probably the shortest business items list they’ve had. Following those approval items and discussions, the board meeting came to a close (the meeting lasted about an hour).
To be honest, I was disappointed the GGUSD board didn’t provide as much detail regarding its budget or LCAP goals at this meeting, or even direct access to each. If you look at their June 2 minutes, LCAP goals are briefly mentioned, but not emphasized. Because I almost worked for this district, I’m so glad I chose LBUSD over it, as I feel LBUSD—maybe due to its great size and revenue—has more competent people representing its schools and students.
There are many support systems that are necessary to providing a safe, healthy and educationally conducive learning environment for students such as transportation, child nutrition, maintenance and risk management. How can these systems support an online learning environment?
I think sometimes students and school staff take for granted the many support systems in place that do make educational environments conducive for learning. From the school janitors and maintenance staff, cafeteria staff, to the bus drivers who bus in students every day, school systems are a functioning organism. And all of these entities do play an important role in supporting online or blended learning environments in modern schools.
When most Americans imagine public education, the yellow school bus is often an accompanying image. Long Beach Unified School District, a very large, urban district, has taken major cuts in its bus transportation system since the recession of 2008. I know this firsthand, as I coach sports and talk with many of the drivers regularly. Fewer LBUSD buses are being utilized, as more “First Student” contracted buses are replacing them. Mr. Miller, a lead driver who retired a decade ago but is still contracted for field trips and sporting events, keeps me updated on the impacts of such cuts. Even our own Catalina Island bus driver—a veteran LBUSD employee—informs me of the reduction in staff in his department. Nonetheless, each district’s LCFF “retained a separate funding for school transportation” (Townley & Schmieder-Ramirez, 2015, p. 133). This plays a major role in our small Avalon K-12, located on Catalina Island, in that several students rely on bus transportation for their commute across the island each morning and afternoon. It’s a long, windy, bumpy ride, but vital for their access to education.
When students arrive to school, many by bus, they usually enter school facilities or playgrounds. In general, school maintenance staff ensure the upkeep of school facilities, grounds and equipment, as well as facilitate necessary repairs in a timely fashion (p. 144). Again, students and school staff can easily dismiss the magnitude of this work done in the background within school sites. In addition, school sites are taking some wear and tear with the ever-increasing population of students in California schools. California “needs to build 12 new classrooms and modernize 20 more each day for the next five years to keep up with the increase in student population and address substandard classrooms,” which will cost $12 billion or more (p. 170). Proposition 13 prompted the organization called the Coalition for Adequate School Housing (CASH), which helps fund new school and facilities construction (p. 169). This means maintenance staff will always have job security, but their job should never be dismissed as insignificant if teachers and students are to appreciate the ability to have classrooms where education, blended or not, can take place.
Education is constantly experiencing change; change in policies, demographics, and implementation of technology. But one thing that hasn’t changed is the need for nutritional services so students are able to concentrate in class and remain healthy. In fact, “health educators, nutritionists, and physical education experts point to study after study showing that good nutrition programs result in better classroom achievement and higher academic performance” (p. 151). But what does this have to do with supporting blended or online learning, or any other pedagogical method? Everything! It’s no secret that when students don’t fuel their bodies adequately, they aren’t able to focus very well. Alarmingly, a “recent survey of more than 500 fourth-graders in Maryland found that 20% of these children skipped breakfast or lunch at least four days a week,” and this isn’t an isolated statistic (p. 150). Hunger is a serious issue in our country. Thankfully, studies in California have shown that “higher achievement was associated with higher levels of fitness at the fifth, seventh, and ninth grades,” and fitness is directly correlated with healthy nutrition habits (p. 152). In addition, President Truman’s National School Lunch Program (NCLP) in 1946, as well as the School Breakfast Program (SBP) of 1966, have advocated for students to have proper nutritional habits. And free and reduced-price meal plans have enabled our most “food insecure” families—about 15% of all American families—to have fed, happy children who can focus on academics and athletics (p. 154).
All of these support systems, including the many others not mentioned, are in place so that schools are able to function as an organism. As educational policymakers are focusing on curriculum, standards and the implementation of blended/online learning practices, we educators must acknowledge and appreciate our ability to focus on the fight for educational reform and the modernization of pedagogical practices. It is already a daunting task to focus on the authentic learning and well-being of our students.
As my school completed its closing staff meeting this morning, we took time to acknowledge the hard work of all of these services. We thanked our nutritional services staff, our custodial and maintenance staff, as well as our amazing bus driver (who, by the way, has only missed one week of service in 15 years, and that was to attend his daughter’s college graduation last year). Because of them, as well as our amazing district CBO, I am able to focus on my students and appreciate the fact that I have a beautiful classroom, healthy students, and the enthusiasm to implement new blended learning practices throughout our school.
Townley, A & Schmieder-Ramirez, J. (2015). School Finance: A California Perspective (10th ed.). Kendall Hunt Publishing Company.
What is the role of the CBO? How can the CBO be a resource to a technology leader?
The Chief Business Officer is a district-hired official who manages the district’s financial resources (Townley & Schmieder-Ramirez, 2015, p. 48). The CBO is so important to large school districts in assisting with financial matters pertaining to enrollment increases that “this need typically takes precedence over hiring a staff member to manage personnel or instruction” (p. 48). It’s alarming reality that because California public education is such big business, priority is placed on financial matters. It does make sense, however, because in order to successfully implement operational costs of teachers, curricular materials, facilities, as well as technology, a district needs to have its financial matters in order. And due to the complexities of our state’s educational financial system—the LCFF, LCAP goals, restricted and unrestricted spending, ADA, as well as bond measures (such as the recent facilities bond initiative)--it is wise to seek out the assistance of a professional CBO (“Ballotpedia,” 2015).
According to Townley and Schmieder-Ramirez, the CBO’s role has shifted dramatically, “from that of a bookkeeper to the increasingly complex and technical responsibility of accounting for the many programs offered by a school district” (p. 49). Such tasks that most business officers must complete include “strategic planning; financial planning and budgeting; information technology; collective bargaining; fiscal accounting, reports and auditing; payroll; purchasing and warehousing; insurance and risk management; facilities management; and providing fiscal information to the board of education” (p. 49). Large districts, such as LBUSD, have very complex tasks broken down into many subcategories, for which the CBO is responsible.
To briefly elaborate on each of the aforementioned tasks that a good CBO role should fulfill, I’ll begin by discussing the very important task of strategic planning. Strategic planning can get very messy for the CBO. Because of all the “what if” scenarios that may unfold after a plan has been drafted, a CBO and/or superintendent could be stuck having to rearrange monies to meet certain needs (p. 50). Financial planning and budgeting allows the CBO to make sure all LCAP goals are being met with the appropriated funds determined by the LCFF (p. 51). The CBO’s role also entails being digitally literate, as extensive data needs to be analyzed, prepared and presented to stakeholders (p. 51). Collective bargaining is a major responsibility in today’s educational system, as “the vast majority of California school district employees are members of a labor union” (p. 51). A good CBO regularly reports the condition of the district’s finances to the superintendent and school board (p. 51). Because approximately 80% of a district’s budget is allocated to payroll of employees, the CBO must have sound procedures in this area (p. 52). And let’s not forget the benefits of those employees! A good risk management and insurance system, also the responsibility of the CBO, “reduces injuries and losses” [for the district] (p. 52). The CBO is responsible for overseeing facility maintenance, construction and use, and this might include frequent visits to various school sites within the district (p. 53). Cost-effective transportation systems for students is another issue that requires delegated oversight from the CBO and/or superintendent (p. 53). If transportation wasn’t a large enough issue for the CBO to handle, food service probably would be. Both transportation and food service are “highly regulated by state and federal legislation” (p. 53). Lastly, but not least of all ,the CBO must oversee purchasing and warehousing (p. 52).
To reiterate, successful CBOs “are responsible for developing and managing the technical details of the budget, monitoring fiscal activities, and advising the school board and superintendent on the district’s fiscal health” (“Keeping California School Districts Fiscally Healthy, 2007). The CBO can be an excellent resource to technology leaders in any district because of the last task of the CBO mentioned in the paragraph above: purchasing. As stated by Townley and Schmieder-Ramirez, “…the purchasing staff needs to go beyond legal requirements to provide instructional supplies for classrooms in adequate quantities and in timely fashion” (p. 52). Technology leaders can and should plead their case for the types of instructional supplies that are relevant in the ever-evolving world we, and our students, live in today. In order to satisfy the inequities that currently exist across various districts throughout California, it would seem easy for technology leaders and CBOs to brainstorm purchase orders for appropriate technologies, as well as quantities of those devices for the sake of educating our students. Effective inquiry-based learning is often accompanied by appropriate technology for the use of collaborating, documenting, and sharing learning that has occurred.
My ultimate goal while in this cohort is to really learn and abide by the correct protocol for proposing technology-based expenditures for the betterment of our students. I believe that technology awareness and implementation is spreading exponentially, which adds to the support of the case I have argued. In addition to the spending on the physical needs of improved and appropriate technology, technology leaders should also advocate for regular, efficient and effective professional development for school staff so that consistent teaching can take place in the classrooms. This is a dream of mine, and I hope to accomplish it in the near future.
Townley, A & Schmieder-Ramirez, J. (2015). School Finance: A California Perspective (10th ed.). Kendall Hunt Publishing Company.
California Public Education Facilities Bond Initiative. (2015). Ballotpedia. Retrieved June 11, 2015, fromhttp://ballotpedia.org/California_Public_Education_Facilities_Bond_Initiative_(2016)
Keeping California School Districts Fiscally Healthy [PDF document]. (April, 2007). Retrieved June 11, 2015, from http://edsource.org/wp-content/publications/Districtfiscalhealth.pdf
If money does matter, then why must there be "mandates" to ensure equity in our school financial system?
We’ve all heard the adage that money is the root of all evil (which is always an incomplete statement). In the case of education, the evil is the inequities that money seems to create. Money matters. According to Townley and Schmieder-Ramirez (2015), “the national recession that started in 2008 presented the most difficult challenge for states’ financial management since the Great Depression” (Townley & Schmieder-Ramirez, 2015, p. 32). This financial crisis ultimately led to the elimination of school staff, programs, and increased class sizes (p. 32). Coupled with the fact that recession hurt California schools (and all schools, for that matter), California’s large population leads to our expenditures-per-pupil being ranked 42nd nationally (p. 34). Furthermore, “the monies available per pupil affect the number of students per classroom, the amount spent on teachers’ salaries, and other items that directly alter the learning experiences of students” (p. 34). I know it’s difficult for me to monitor and adjust my teaching after formatively assessing large classes, yet there seems to be no objective measurement in place that analyzes small class sizes and performance throughout all grade levels (p. 37). One thing is clear, though, and that is that policy surrounding education needed some serious change after the recession. Even President Obama implemented his famous “Race to the Top” campaign to encourage states to find solutions (“School Finance,” 2011).
Inalienable Rights to Equality
Last time I checked, Palos Verdes High School, a public high school across the water from Catalina to the mainland, comes complete with more innovative programs and technologies, not to mention athletic facilities, than many small colleges. Compare those things with the facilities and programs that Avalon K-12 offers and the contrasts outshine the similarities. Both schools are located near paradise, have high property values, but different school districts with varying revenue limits. My point is that schools and districts are far from equitable to all students. But isn’t that against what our government is striving to achieve, when “the central assumption is that state finance systems should be designed to provide children, regardless of where they live and attend school, with equal opportunity to achieve some constitutionally adequate level of outcomes” (“School Finance 101,” 2015). Districts that rely on state aid to supplement revenue limits are affected greatly by economic downfalls, while excessive revenue districts that receive basic aid from the state are hardly affected and can continue to focus on their innovative programs (“A Guide to California’s School Finance System (before LCFF),” 2012).
Money Matters…and so does Governor Brown
Governor Brown, in his third term in office, really loves California. He also truly cares about education. In addition to Propositions 39 and 30, which are tax measures to fund education, Brown initiated the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) (“School Funding Undergoes Major Reform,” 2013). The LCFF—a feature of Assembly Bill 97—is currently implemented in every California school district and aims to provide “more money to school districts that serve high-needs students” and “give local school districts more authority to decide how to spend education dollars” (p.1). The LCFF eliminates dozens of categorical programs, but gives the power back to the schools and districts. But the power must be controlled (“Changes to California’s K-12 Education System,” & “Understanding the Local Control Funding Formula,” 2015). Brown aims to provide equity by targeting eight state priority areas via the Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) (“School Funding Undergoes Major Reform,” 2013, p. 3). Having worked with my school’s WASC self-study, I had the opportunity to analyze Long Beach Unified’s LCAP goals while creating our school’s Action Plan (“LBUSD Local Control and Accountability Plan and Annual Update Template,” 2015). The goals seem very extensive, but also reasonable and attainable. We need these measures of accountability in order to show that we’re fighting for equity within our school financial system.
LCAP—a Fresh Start!
Before any Local Education Agency (LEA) or school district can approve its annual budget, which the LCFF will then allow to be utilized as it wishes, it must first have approved LCAP goals for which those funds are to help achieve (“Accountability for Local Control Funding Formula,” n.d.). The fact that LCAP goals and LCFF expenditures must focus on the needs of every student shifts the attention to student-centered education, despite the obvious discrepancies in district revenues (“Changes to California’s K-12 Education System,” 2015).
Closing the Achievement Gap
As aforementioned, the way money is spent needs to have mandated regulations to ensure that all students have equal access to the same public education. No child deserves to be underserved because of lack of school funds. The LCFF is designed to target areas of need that enhances educational equity, improves student achievement, ultimately closing the achievement gap. The LCFF is designed so that as a district’s proportion of English-Learner (EL) and Low-Income (LI) increases, “so does its total funding allocation” (“An Overview of the Local Control Funding Formula,” 2013). Linda Darling-Hammond, an advocate for educational equity, addresses issues that lead to a widening achievement gap in American public education in her talk given at Stanford University (Darling-Hammond, 2012). She goes on to mention a quote by Adam Urbanski, which partly states that “excellence without equity is not excellence; it is privilege” (Darling-Hammond, 2012). The message powerfully describes the effects of inequity in education that will undoubtedly occur if we do nothing to address these issues.
Critics will be Critics
The problem with apathy is that it is contagious. Some critics argue that “the detailed nature of the content standards in combination with state-approved curriculum materials diminishes the autonomy of the school district and the classroom teacher, as well as dampens classroom spontaneity” (Kemerer & Sansom, 2013, p. 65-66). This is where creative teachers must flourish and rise to the challenge of expanding their mindsets in the classroom to inspire students that CCSS isn’t the enemy; it’s apathy. With new policies, new mandates, new initiatives, we must retain our focus on the students. The law will always be there, and we must abide by it. We must also find ways to innovate, while also following LCAP goals, utilizing LCFF funds, thanking Governor Brown for fighting for education, and speaking out for our youth.
Townley, A & Schmieder-Ramirez, J. (2015). School Finance: A California Perspective (10th ed.). Kendall Hunt Publishing Company.
School Finance. (2011). Education Week. Retrieved June 5, 2015, from http://www.edweek.org/ew/issues/school-finance/
A Guide to California’s School Finance System (before LCFF). (2012). Retrieved June 2, 2015, from http://www.ed-data.k12.ca.us/Pages/GuidetoCaliforniaSchoolFinanceSystem.aspx
School Finance 101. (2015). Retrieved June 5, 2015, from https://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/2015/03/01/on-school-finance-equity-money-matters-a-primer/
School Funding Undergoes Major Reform: An Essential EdSource Guide [PDF document]. (November, 2013). Retrieved June 3, 2015, fromhttps://blackboard.sdsu.edu/bbcswebdav/courses/EDL600-K4-Summer2015-ExtEd/LCFF%20Compromise_ed_source_summary.pdf
Changes to California’s K-12 Education System. (2015). Retrieved June 2, 2015, from http://www.ed-data.k12.ca.us/Pages/K-12-changes.aspx
LBUSD Local Control and Accountability Plan and Annual Update Template [PDF document]. (2015). Retrieved June 4, 2015, fromhttp://www.lbschools.net/Services/EACCR/Local_Control/Docs/2015-18%20LCAP%20-%20Draft%20English%20150529.pdf
Understanding the Local Control Funding Formula. (2015). Retrieved June 2, 2015, from http://www.ed-data.k12.ca.us/Pages/LCFF.aspx
Ward, C. (2015). Accountability for Local Control Funding Formula [Adobe media]. Retrieved June 2, 2015, fromhttps://blackboard.sdsu.edu/bbcswebdav/courses/EDL600-K4-Summer2015-ExtEd/EDL600_budget_act_part_2_LCFF_Accountability.swf
An Overview of the Local Control Funding Formula. (2013). Retrieved June 2, 2015, from http://lao.ca.gov/reports/2013/edu/lcff/lcff-072913.aspx.
Darling-Hammond, L. (2012, July 4). Challenges to equity in American public education [Video file]. Retrieved June 5, 2015, fromhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d69wjTZTivg
Kemerer, F & Sansom, P. (2013). California School Law (3rd ed.). Stanford University Press.
Organizational and Systems Leadership