This issue of eSchool News is a tale of two perspectives: problems and progress, obstacles and opportunities, shortages and strategies for overcoming them.

It’s true. A decidedly Dickensian quality envelopes this month’s editorial lineup.

Best-of-Times department: The Federal Communications Commission has announced it’s funding the eRate at $2.25 billion, the maximum level allowed (Page One). Worst-of-Times department: That maximum eRate funding level falls $2.47 billion short of what our schools actually need.

Best of Times (also on Page One): Schools are devising creative strategies for recruiting and retaining qualified information technology (IT) professionals. Worst of Times: Those strategies still are woefully inadequate to attract and hold IT pros in the numbers needed by our schools.

Best: Two-thirds of our teachers now are using technology in their classrooms, according to a brand-new study from the U.S. Department of Education (page 8). Worst: Less than half of our teachers feel “well prepared” or “very well prepared” to integrate technology into their lessons.

Good thing: Science and industry develop a great new software program known as Napster to capture music electronically and transmit it via the internet. Bad thing: Students and others promptly deploy Napster to purloin copyrighted works, touching off a legal storm (page 20) and bringing a heavy metal band crashing down on the likes of Yale and Indiana University. (Witnessing Metallica’s Lars Ulrich striding into a California courthouse like some old-line industrialist in high dudgeon probably should be counted as one of the month’s brighter moments.)

Yin: Virtual high schools blink to life in an increasing number of states. Yang: These ventures encounter serious accreditation challenges, and some bricks-and-mortar schools begin to worry whether this virtual trend represents an all-too-real threat (page 42).

Even one of our favorite, purely upbeat stories can’t escape a darker doppelganger. The quite terrific news of a first-time-ever supercomputing win by a trio of freshman girls in New Mexico (page 12) is muted just days later by a catastrophic man-made fire that devastates Los Alamos, the scene of the supercomputing contest.

And, of course, the uninitiated might be tricked a time or two. They might be tempted to move some of this month’s news squarely into the Best-of-Times department. Take NetDay, for example, the volunteer drive to get schools wired. This movement has been such an untrammeled success that its new boss is taking the program in fresh directions (page 76). (Just don’t tell her about the National Education Association’s report on the state of school wiring—Page One).

And so it goes. Two steps forward and one step back; sometimes just a step-and-a-half ahead. But keep on shuffling. One day we’ll all look up and see there’s been real progress after all.

I know this to be true. Just look at this month’s issue of eSchool News. The newspaper you’re holding in your hands right now is heavier than usual—literally. And, no, it’s not sagging under the weight of a weary world.

It’s bulging with advertising, features, and news—100 pages worth.

Your encouraging words, gentle criticisms, and paid subscriptions have enabled us to expand the volume and—we hope—the quality of coverage for you. In this issue, for instance, you’ll find not one but two Special Reports—plus, more columns, departments, and case studies, and best of all, a larger than usual contingent of breaking news.

In fact, it’s the largest issue we’ve published yet. And that’s entirely thanks to you. So on behalf of the entire eSchool News team, let me stop right here and express our genuine gratitude:

Thank you very much!

So that’s my good news. The actual news is something else again.