School Boards

As a contributing editor for American School Board Journal, I continue to write various features for the National School Boards Association's magazine. I also have a regular column in the magazine.


Safe Zone (December 2019): Recent large-scale detainment and deportation efforts have a profound impact on the children of undocumented immigrants. But caring school leaders can mitigate trauma through relationships, strong routines, and other measures, as evidenced by the work in Morton, Miss. Text or PDF.

Students at Work (October 2019): A look at CareerWise, the statewide initiative in Colorado that dubs itself “first modern youth apprenticeship program in the U.S.” The program targets middle-skills jobs that require more than a high school diploma and less than a bachelor’s degree. Text or PDF.

Southern Discomfort (August 2019): Today, you can’t walk through downtown Durham, N.C., without seeing signs of a huge economic and cultural renaissance. But gentrification has left school board members and administrators facing a complex swirl of issues — some out of their legal and fiscal control — that threaten the district’s long-term future. Text or PDF.

Time After Time (June 2019): Moving start times for middle and high school students is a tough lift for districts, despite medical practitioners saying it can’t happen soon enough. They point to a host of risk factors associated with adolescents who do not get the recommended eight to 10 hours of sleep per night. Among them: increased risk of obesity, high blood pressure, car accidents, anxiety, and depression. Text or PDF.

Segregation’s Legacy (April 2019): Sixty-five years after Brown v. Board of Education, Summerton, S.C. — the community where the first of five lawsuits was filed to end segregation in our nation’s schools — remains the town that time forgot. Text or PDF.

History Lessons (February 2019): In a politically unsettled time nationally, history teachers face daunting barriers amid calls to change how students learn about the past. Critics say the “drill and kill” methods that focus on memorization of facts and people are not giving students what they need to be well-informed citizens. Meanwhile, in an accountability-focused era of “what gets tested gets funded and taught,” history is trailing far behind English, math, and science. 

After It All Falls Apart (December 2018): Helping students and staff deal with trauma and grief, whether it is caused by a single event or a series of less dramatic incidents that build up over time, is critical for school districts because of the potential long-term impact on teaching and learning. The story focuses on Santa Fe, Texas, which endured two significant tragedies (Hurricane Harvey and a school shooting that killed 10 people and wounded 13) within nine months.

Teachers in Turmoil: (October 2018) The nation’s K-12 teachers are not happy—and they’re making their frustrations known. This past spring, they walked out of classrooms in six states to protest years of low pay and poor working conditions. An unprecedented number ran for seats in their state legislatures and for Congress. Add to that a 23 percent decline in the number of people completing teacher preparation programs, and you have a crisis in the making. 

Working Vacation (August 2018): Despite what naysayers believe, the idea that summer is just a two-month vacation for educators could not be farther from the truth. While some take on second jobs to make ends meet, others dive into learning more about their profession so they can come back stronger in the fall.

Generation Why (June 2018): The Valentine’s Day shooting that killed 17 at Florida’s Stoneman Douglas High School could represent a tipping point for student activism and civic engagement. No longer content to sit on the sidelines, these students—led by Parkland survivors —are marching and protesting at a rate not seen since the Vietnam War. 

Preschool Push (April 2018): More than a half century after Head Start was initiated, questions persist about how to best serve young children, as policymakers, parents, and school leaders wrestle with the question, “When should a child’s formal education begin?” A growing research base shows that high-quality pre-k programs have both short- and long-term benefits for students, but bringing those programs to scale remains challenging due to long-standing questions over funding and teacher quality. 

Student Press (February 2018): Student journalists in 13 states have press freedoms and protections, but administrators in the rest continue to review and censor school-sponsored publications under a 29-year-old U.S. Supreme Court decision. But officials say the tide appears to be turning, at least in some areas.

Lone Star Strong (December 2017): An 11-page spread featuring more than 30 of my photographs and reporting on school district recovery efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. The package also includes a 3-minute slideshow with a separate behind-the-scenes narrative about the story. 

13 Reasons Why (August 2017): The popularity of the Netflix show “13 Reasons Why,” which depicts the suicide of a teenage girl and the tapes she leaves behind, caught school districts off guard this spring. This story looks at the phenomenon, the potential legal and ethical ramifications for districts, and what schools can do to help students, families and staff be prepared.

Aftershock (February-March 2017), a story that looks at the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election and its effect on K-12 schools, was published a week before the inauguration. The story looks at how schools dealt with threats to and protests by students, as well as how to ensure traditionally marginalized children are protected in the wake of unprecedented reports of harassment.

Comeback Season (November-December 2015): A cover story (with accompanying photos) that focuses on a New Jersey district's recovery from a hazing scandal that led to the cancellation of its 2014 varsity football season. (For more on this, including a slideshow I produced for, go to my Visual Storytelling section.)

Note: Comeback Season received a 2016 Silver Excel Award from Association Media & Publishing in the Magazine Features category (20,001-50,000 circulation). The story and photos also have been reprinted in the New Jersey School Boards Association magazine.

Cracking the Literacy Code (October 2016): Cracking the code on literacy, especially in majority-minority school districts, is no easy task. Large-scale initiatives are costly and time intensive, and the needle on achievement rarely moves quickly. Earning buy-in and support from community and business leaders is critical, as is the need to provide strong professional development to teachers and a rigorous evaluation system that can accurately determine whether a program is working. 

Early Start on STEM (May-June 2015): Early colleges take on many guises and forms, ranging from separate campuses that serve small groups of students in a targeted manner to schoolwide initiatives that offer college-level courses to all eligible students. Students at the STEM Early College, a partnership between North Carolina’s Guilford County Schools and A&T that opened in 2012, will graduate from high school with up to 60 hours of college credit in their chosen field.

Testing Online (December 2014): At least 33 states offer some form of online assessments, and that number is only expected to grow in future years. This feature looks at the hiccups districts have faced in implementing online testing as they have worked to improve their technology infrastructure and broadband access.

Merging Together As One District (September 2013): A look at the voluntary consolidation of two small Western Pennsylvania school districts, the effect it had on both communities, and how the new systems are functioning now.


Since January 2014, I have written a series of columns focusing on timely and relevant communications, technology, and financial issues for school board members and administrators.


A Department of One (December 2019): A one-person communications department is certainly better than having no one in the position, but you need to be realistic from the outset in terms of what can be accomplished. Trust me, I was that one-person department many years ago. Text or PDF.

Everybody’s Job (October 2019): For school districts faced with competition from private schools and charters, customer service is quickly becoming “next-level school communication.” Text or PDF.

When the Unthinkable Occurs (August 2019): A series of mass shootings over the past two years has left parents feeling unsettled about the safety of our schools, despite federal data that shows violent crime, theft, physical fights, and bullying have declined since 2001. If that’s not a communications conundrum, I don’t know what is. Text or PDF.

Uncharted Territory (June 2019): School districts that embark on one-to-one technology programs face a lengthy and ongoing process of communicating with taxpayers about the benefits of such an expensive — though worthwhile — initiative. Text or PDF.

Key Communicators (April 2019): One way to combat the rumor mill is to develop a group or groups of key communicators to help tell the true story of what is happening in your schools. In fact, developing this cadre of unpaid cheerleaders may be one of the least expensive, most important communications tasks a district can undertake. Text or PDF.

Communications 101 (February 2019): Given the turnover that school boards see each winter following an election cycle, it’s a a good time to look at the do’s and don’ts of communications. Consider this a how to help your board become educated about the norms and protocols of your governance team. 

Safe Messages (December 2018): School districts need to have crisis prevention and “postvention” plans in place to prevent the spread of contagion, or copycat behaviors, in the wake of a student suicide. Leaders also need to be trained in what to do and what to say to parents, students, community, and the media. 

Old Schools Never Die: (October 2018): Closing a neighborhood school is one of the most difficult and controversial decisions boards and superintendents make, even if doing so makes educational and financial sense. Community emotions run high before, during, and after the process, and the blowback is often fierce. 

All About the Money (August 2018): It’s always a good thing for the public to know how tax dollars are being spent. And, given the struggles many districts have faced due to cuts that date back almost a decade, it is incumbent on school leaders to paint an accurate and ongoing picture of the financial challenges they face.

No More Game of Phones (June 2018): The measures schools have taken to enhance security have evolved greatly in the almost two decades since the Columbine High School shooting. However, internal communications when a situation erupts have always been a sticking point. Solutions that work well and easily often are overlooked and underrated, complicated in part by an ongoing unease about what technology can and should do in crisis situations.

Rogue on Board (April 2018): A rogue board member who hogs the spotlight, constantly stirring things up, can derail even the best-run school districts. Time that can—and should—be devoted to more pressing matters is spent addressing issues raised by a member who has no individual power but uses the position as a bully pulpit.

Public Comments (February 2018): The public comment portion of any school board meeting can turn quickly into a communications debacle for the board and district. Over time, however, courts have ruled consistently that the public has a right to raise and air complaints during an open meeting, even when individual employees are named.


Health Tracker (December 2017): Schools searching for ways to curb child obesity rates are turning to wearable devices and software that provide data on student health and fitness. And when the technology is used appropriately, it is working.

Federal Shifts (October 2017): As districts become more invested and reliant on high-speed networks and Wi-Fi access to educate students, school board members need to be aware of how shifts at the federal level could affect the funding and long-term effectiveness of their technology programs.

Building Up STEAM (June and August 2017): A growing belief for many school districts is that art and science “are better together than apart.” In the June and August issues, I looked at how adding an “A” into STEM helps provide children with a well-rounded education, as well as districts that are doing so successfully.

Simple Logic (March-April 2017): Today, only 24 states allow students to count computer science classes as part of their high school science credits. While more than a half million computing jobs are unfilled in the U.S., just 42,969 computer science students graduated into the workforce in 2015-16. The key to solving this problem? Teaching coding and more computer science.

Apprentice Approach (February 2017): How schools in Colorado are adopting facets of the Swiss apprenticeship model through the CareerWise Colorado initiative is the focus of this column. I accompanied a delegation to Switzerland in October 2016. See a slideshow from the trip in the Events section.

Leading the Leap (December 2016): Online assessments are here to stay, regardless of whether your state has embraced the Common Core Standards. A toolkit scheduled to be unveiled in December 2016 will help schools and districts assess their readiness and ability to effectively deliver these assessments.

Technology Evolution (October 2016): In today's device-filled world, the tools students and teachers use can be terrific, but they have proven time and again to be no replacement for quality instruction. The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) is taking on the conundrum with its second revision of its technology standards for students. 

Security Goes High-Tech: Technology and security are inextricably linked in K-12 schools. From dealing with crisis situations to safeguarding student and staff data, how you use the tools at your disposal is critical. (July-August 2016)

Online Learning 2.0: Educators nationwide continue to search for ways to meld traditional and digital learning for all students. It’s a combination that has proven full of promise, with more than a few lessons—and potholes—along the way for school boards, administrators, teachers, and communities. (May-June 2016)

Coming Around Again: A look at the comeback story of Career and Technical Education, which now is firmly entrenched in federal law following Congress’ passage of the long-awaited successor to the No Child Left Behind Act. (February 2016) 

Privacy Protection: A look at how vendors and education groups are working together to protect student data from getting into the wrong hands (October 2015)

Outside the Box: How districts can outsource their technology needs to save money. (August 2015)

Tech Visits (March-April 2015): Any school leader knows that ongoing success is contingent on factors that go beyond who lives and works in your community. When your technology programs are versatile enough to be replicated in other districts, that’s even better.

Testing Goes Digital (January-February 2015): The first in a series of columns focusing on school technology issues, this looks at the challenges districts face as they work to implement the Common Core State Standards.

School Finance

Construction Funds (September-October 2014): How a Delaware school district simultaneously built a $114 million high school while successfully turning around low student achievement.  

Lunch Money (July-August 2014): How the pressure to serve nutritious meals is pinching the budgets of cash-strapped school districts.  

Snow Days (May-June 2014): How the horrible winter of 2014 wreaked havoc on school schedules, maintenance, and student achievement. 

Knowledge Network (March-April 2014): How professional development for school boards can reap benefits for districts in the areas of financial management and, ultimately, academic achievement. 

The Cost of Technology (January-February 2014): My first column as contributing editor at the magazine where I worked for 12 years. The column focused on practical money tips for school board members.