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December 2011/January 2012 | Volume 69 | Number 4
The Resourceful School
As a grade 11–12 business teacher, I used to photocopy important notes and worksheets to distribute to the students. When I calculated the cost of all these photocopies, I was shocked to find that each student was receiving about 1,000 photocopies a year in my classes alone. With four classes of 30 students each, I realized that my photocopy expense each year was about 120,000 Indian rupees (around $2,685 in U.S. dollars). Other teachers in my school followed the same practice, incurring similar expenses. We needed a solution.
Cloud computing was the answer. I decided to create an e-classroom in which all notes and worksheets were uploaded to a free website, allowing students to access the documents whenever they wanted. There are more than 60 teachers in the secondary section in my school. If each teacher can save approximately 120,000 Indian rupees in a year, we will be able to save 7,200,000 Indian rupees (around $161,000 in U.S. dollars). Moreover, I have passed a valuable message about looking for solutions and optimizing resources on to my students, who will be entrepreneurs in the future.
—Bijal Damani, grade 11–12 business teacher, Galaxy Education System, Rajkot, India
For me, it's not about doing more with less—it's about doing the right things and forgetting the resource-depleting initiatives that have not yielded results. Right now everybody understands that resources are limited. This may be the opportunity school leaders need to remove pet programs or initiatives that are not producing positive results for students.
For secondary school leaders, nationwide data indicate that the 9th grade deserves more resources. Especially for our at-risk populations, 9th grade may be our last, best chance to catch kids before they fall. How can we afford to not budget for extensive interventions, teaming possibilities, and social-emotional support for those students? Cutting programs is never easy, but in unfavorable economic times, leaders must make the appropriate, albeit difficult, decisions in how to allocate resources. At the high school level—show 9th grade the money.
—PJ Caposey, principal, Oregon High School, Oregon, Illinois
Soon after I became superintendent, we prominently displayed a three-part survey, still in use today, on the district's website, which asks, What can we do to save money? What can we do to raise revenue? What will you do to help? We activated a citizens' financial task force to harvest and dissect ideas.
In two years, $26 million was cut from the budget. Our teachers voted to waive some supplemental wages to keep more people employed. A new energy conservation program saved $2.4 million and resulted in 12 Energy Star Schools. Consolidation of buildings saved $1.6 million. Fees became standard. Staff have worked harder and longer, but also smarter.
A 2010 study by Augenblick, Palaich, and Associates found Burke County to be among the 14 "higher-achieving" and "lower-spending" districts in North Carolina. A 2011 national study by the Center for American Progress identified Burke as one of the five "most productive" districts in the state. Amid all the budget slashing and layoffs, virtually every indicator of student achievement has risen. As superintendent, I am blown away by the character of our employees. They have maintained caring relationships with students, and student achievement has kept rising. Although additional revenue would help, money can't buy the big hearts of our staff members.
—Arthur Stellar, superintendent, Burke County Public Schools, North Carolina
We reorganized our district and school leadership. Vertical teams with specific duties form into three teams based on the organizational framework of the UCLA Center for Mental Health in Schools' comprehensive systems of learning support system: instruction, management, and learning supports. Working in teams has resulted in distributing leadership throughout the district, so we need fewer people and get more positive results. Leadership personnel view their jobs as fluid and based on student needs instead of on a title and fixed position.
—Merrianne Dyer, superintendent, Gainesville City Schools, Georgia
We are an independent school in the 10th year of our 1:1 laptop program. It started with a 7th grade pilot 10 years ago, slowly expanded to 10th grade—and stopped. The economic crisis kicked in, and we had to rethink our program. Although the hardware we were using was professional grade, it wasn't realistic to expect a student to use a laptop daily and make it last through middle school and high school. We decided to switch to inexpensive netbooks in middle school while still using professional grade tablets in high school. We're now in our third full year of netbook tablets in grades 6–8 and are piloting them in 5th grade. We had to add an annual tech fee to recoup some of our costs, but the program has been able to expand; and combined with infrastructure and professional development investments, we're transforming and improving teaching and learning for our students.
—Tami Brass, director of instructional technology, St. Paul Academy and Summit School, St. Paul, Minnesota
In an effort to be green and limit copying costs, we gave the teachers in my building just one piece of paper to fill out and return at our opening-day meeting—emergency contact information forms. Opening notes, schedule templates, lesson plans, meeting reporting sheets, and all other forms that were previously placed in folders for teachers are now found digitally on the building's shared drive. We also developed a wikispace to guide faculty meetings. This not only saves paper and reduces copying costs, but also provides one place for teachers to go to find information on anything we discuss throughout the year. We have become more efficient as well as effective by implementing these small and simple changes.
—Davonna Rickard, principal, Weigelstown Elementary School, Dover, Pennsylvania
In Alberta, Canada, high schools are funded using a credit-completion model—the more courses a high school student takes, the more revenue a school receives. Jasper High School has an unusual model that involves teaching many option classes after the normal school day has ended. This gives students the opportunity to take a complete range of traditional academic courses, such as physics, chemistry, biology, and calculus, during the regular school day while still having time for electives after traditional school hours. As a result of this schedule, the school has had the highest average credit count per student in the district for many years, and students are graduating with a well-rounded and balanced education. The school receives more money, and the students receive more options. It's a win-win situation!
—Mark Crozier, principal, Jasper Junior Senior High School, Jasper, Alberta, Canada
To ensure quality education for our students in a high-poverty setting while coping with significant funding cuts, we've turned to community partnerships. Local businesses and colleges have become vital assets, providing donations of instructional materials and volunteering their time for mentoring, tutoring, and parent outreach initiatives.
—Steve Sieller, assistant principal, Tyson-Schoener Elementary School, Reading, Pennsylvania
The Batesville Community School Corporation uses the Baldrige Criteria for Excellence. Simply put, Baldrige's Plan–Do–Study–Act (PDSA) process drives high performance. For the last 11 years, this is the way Batesville Intermediate School has done business. Teachers illustrate this by their leadership within the school, the classroom, and the school district. Student data, curriculum, instructional practices, assessments, and grading practices are firmly in teachers' hands. As a result, Batesville Intermediate School has been named a four star school and an exemplary school by the Indiana Department of Education.
—Jere Schoettmer, principal, Batesville, Indiana
Copyright © 2011 by ASCD
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