Don’t let undeleted eMail cripple your network over winter holidays

As the winter holidays approach, school network administrators may cringe at the thought of thousands of eMail messages flooding their mail servers with no one around to read or delete them. As unread eMail piles up like holiday catalogs on the coffee table, disk space on mail servers—which is often at a premium—begins to disappear and can crash servers.

Rapidly growing eMail databases can result in particularly dire consequences, because a full disk drive can render most network operating systems unbootable. I’ve had to restore an entire server from its backup log because eMail filled the system volume and I couldn’t boot the server. Network administrators should examine their mail systems to make sure they can properly handle the potential for unchecked growth resulting from unread eMail.

Because the size of your eMail database can change quickly, a well-designed eMail system should be located on a volume other than the main boot volume for the server. This means not on the “sys” volume on a NetWare server and not on the C: drive of an NT server. Once removed from the system volume of your server, your eMail database might fill up and crash its own volume, but at least a crashed eMail system can’t bring down the rest of the server.

Remember, too, to back up your eMail system regularly. Since your eMail database is open all the time, it can’t be backed up the same way as standard files. You will have to shut down your mail system before each backup or make sure that you have the proper backup agents that correspond with your mail system.

Of course, the better solution is to prevent the need for restoring your system from its backup log by keeping the size of your eMail database under control. You can do many things to accomplish this, but the dynamic and critical nature of eMail means that none of these solutions is perfect.

It wasn’t long after we installed our eMail system that I realized I was going to have to manage our mail users’ disk space aggressively. I was able to create a routine in our GroupWise system that ran every night and deleted any messages older than 60 days. I also had the option to reduce mailboxes based on a size limit rather than a time limit, but I thought an expiration date for messages would be much easier to explain to my users, as well as easier for them to live with. After all, they don’t generally know the size of messages, but they do know the age of them. They have been trained and instructed to archive messages they want to keep beyond the 60-day limit.

Besides automatic deletion of old messages, you can control users’ mailbox size during vacation by taking more active control of their simple mail transfer protocol (SMTP) gateway. Most mail systems enable you to set up access control rules for the gateway, which allow or prevent the transfer of mail to and from the internet based on the sender or the recipient. Generally, we use this feature to block spammers and people who have sent inappropriate mail messages from the outside. A quick change of the default access rule will block all messages by default rather than letting them through. You can then set up exceptions to this rule for teachers and administrators who will be using the system during vacation.

Granted, any solution that interrupts service and prevents use of the system for legitimate purposes is less than perfect. Obviously, students who may wish to access their eMail remotely will be disappointed with this solution. I’d also imagine this would be a problem for seniors who might need to correspond with colleges they are applying to. For a small school whose disk space is at a premium, however, this solution might be a good option—provided the access rule exceptions aren’t too complex.

A less-draconian approach to disk space management would be to leave the deletion of messages up to the user. Most eMail systems have the reporting tools necessary to list the names of users whose mailboxes have exceeded a predetermined limit. Microsoft Exchange, for example, can generate messages to alert users who are over their space limits automatically. Of course, when the user is not at school to receive these messages, they just end up contributing to the problem.

There are also third-party products, such as those from eMail Xtras (see link), that give you more detailed and user-friendly reporting capabilities, so you can contact users personally and ask them to reduce the size of their mailboxes. While this is the safest approach in terms of not losing any important messages, it can be ineffective when users choose not to comply or are out of the office or school on vacation.

Users who are planning to be away from their computers for extended periods of time will need to be a little creative with their mailbox management to avoid coming back to a mailbox with hundreds of messages. Encourage users to adopt any or all of the following mailbox management techniques to better control overflowing eMail boxes during vacation:

• Unsubscribe from or suspend your subscriptions to mailing lists.

• Set up an automated action to forward all mail to your home account and delete it from your school account.

• Set up an automated action to organize mail into folders so that unimportant mail can be deleted quickly upon your return.

• Set up an automatic reply that will alert the people who send you mail that you are away from your computer and inform them of when you will return.

• Set up remote access to mailboxes and encourage users to check mail during the break.

While these techniques can be accomplished using most popular mail clients, not all will be appropriate for your schools. Different sizes, management structures, server space requirements, and school cultures will make some of these techniques more feasible than others. In other cases, more aggressive administrative control will be required to keep unread eMail from choking school networks during vacation.

While no single solution is perfect for all schools, you should be able to maintain some level of administrative control over your eMail system by educating users. This will keep your eMail system from looking like your home mailbox two weeks before New Year’s.

eMail Xtras


Grants & Funding: Bolster your grant application with strong goals and objectives

I hear many people complain about—and say they have difficulty writing—the goals and objectives section of a grant proposal. Sometimes, the problem is merely understanding the difference between a goal and objective, so you don’t confuse the two. In other cases, the problem stems from writing objectives that are too vague.

A goal is an end result and should be written in broad and general terms. It is what you expect the situation will be at the end of the project and should express the project’s ultimate aim or purpose. In many cases, your project will have only one goal. If you find that you seem to be writing a long list of goals (more than three, for instance), make sure you have not begun to write your objectives!

When writing a grant for technology initiatives, remember to keep your goal student- and/or teacher-focused, rather than technology-focused. Stay away from writing a goal that states “every student will have a graphing calculator” or “we will have a fully functioning computer lab.” Instead, concentrate on the skills that students will develop from having access to technology and the impact this access will have on student learning and/or achievement. Funders want to fund projects, not pieces of equipment.

In fact, you may be able to take your goal right from the request for proposals for the grant you are applying for. If the RFP clearly states the program’s goal, use the same wording (with some personalization to reflect your specific circumstances) for your own goal statement.

When writing objectives, on the other hand, there are two key words to remember: specific and measurable. Objectives tell who is going to do what, how it will be done, and when it will be done. Write objectives in terms of learning a skill or behavior that currently doesn’t exist, an increase in positive skills or behaviors that you want to see more of, or a decrease in negative skills or behaviors.

Here are some examples of well-written objectives from technology-related grant proposals:

• “By June 2001, 87 percent of the K-3 students at the targeted schools will demonstrate 80-percent mastery level of the district and state content standards as measured by district benchmarks, TPRI, or TAAS.”

• “Each of the participating school districts will be able to demonstrate four examples during the 1995-96 school year where a seminar or workshop series was offered to students in science, art, sociology, or cultural awareness through interactive television, thus enhancing educational opportunities.”

• “By the end of the 1995-96 school year, 80 percent of the first-grade students will demonstrate the ability to access the online media center catalog and other networked media sources to complete research assignments.”

To determine whether your objectives are measurable, I would recommend the following test. Give your draft of objectives to several individuals and ask them to identify the benchmarks you have set to measure the success of your project. If everyone gives you the same responses for each objective, you are right on the mark! If, however, individuals have trouble identifying the benchmarks or they give you several conflicting answers for the benchmarks of a specific objective, it’s time to go back and revise your objectives before you submit your proposal.

Don’t forget to look at copies of funded proposals to help you design goals and objectives for your project, or to ask for assistance from those who have knowledge and/or expertise in writing goals and objectives. Classroom teachers should take comfort in knowing that designing goals and objectives for grant-funded projects is no different than the process they use to design goals and objectives for their lesson plans.


Redefining ‘privacy’ in the digital era

One should always beware of columnists who reminisce about the “good old days,” because in most cases, the nostalgia ignores the “bad old facts” in favor of rose-colored memories. When confronting the challenges of technology in the 21st-century workplace, it is easy to lose sight of some of the unpleasant things that have been replaced by computers in schools.

When push comes to shove (and it usually does), I would not trade all of the headaches brought about by the internet, cell phones, pagers, or computers in schools for the delights of typing up a master stencil and filling the reservoir on the duplicating machine with noxious fluid. Vivid memories of turning the crank and watching the copies drop one at a time into the tray through eyes blurred by the blinding headache caused by the fumes are sufficient to overcome any Luddite tendencies that might arise after the occasional Windows crash.

This feeling of relief at not having to suffer the mechanical outrages of manual typewriters, handwritten reports, and adding machines (does anyone really remember the slide rule?) is tempered by some factors, however, most notably the loss of privacy and control over information. With the computer and internet age, the fragile boundaries of life seem to be eroding. For example, the creation of in-home offices, laptop computers, and telecommuting has blurred the borders between work and home. Where are the edges of our work and personal lives?

From my two years as a high school teacher, I know that home and classroom overlap a lot. Most evenings included some time in my “home office” grading papers and reviewing the next day’s assignments. If I were teaching today, I might very well be answering eMail from parents and students or working on a PowerPoint presentation on diagramming sentences. But the same technology that allows me to accomplish more today also means that much my life is no longer private or personal.

As the new century begins in 2001, this column will explore some of the legal and ethical issues that arise from new technology, especially those that affect our personal privacy and sense of personal space. Never before has what people do in the workplace been so susceptible to scrutiny and analysis. Sensitivity to privacy issues has spawned dozens of proposed laws and questions about the electronic boundaries of the Fourth Amendment. The cyber workplace has even spawned the ultimate Big Brother phrase: “No reasonable expectation of privacy.”

The statistics do not auger well for employees. A majority of private businesses already perform some form of monitoring, and those activities have revealed that between 30 and 40 percent of internet use “on the job” is not work-related. More than 70 percent of traffic on pornographic web sites occurs during “office” hours (not at night, when workers are at home). Employees are being suspended and fired for violating policies on eMail and internet use (see the Page One story about the Indiana superintendent who resigned 11 weeks into his job). Big Brother is cracking down.

But where are the practical boundaries? Do “zero tolerance” policies that allow no personal use of school-based technology really make sense, just because they might be easier to enforce? Does it make sense to refuse to allow teachers to make a doctor’s appointment from their school eMail account or answer a cell phone call in the classroom from their day care provider? Is this really a legal problem, or more a matter of ethics? Can we learn to share responsibility as well as information—or are we doomed to high-tech watchdog solutions?

What ethical and policy changes are you facing in your school district? Send me an eMail with your dilemmas, hot topics, and policy quandaries. We may not be able to solve all the problems that are arising out of the Information Age, or even fathom the impact of the next generation of computing machines. Nevertheless, we must begin to discuss how these rapid-fire changes affect us as human beings, because the ethical rules and policy boundaries we define now will be with us for a long time to come.


Low-cost web solutions can add pizzazz to school sites

When it comes to web marketing, most of us find ourselves “over-missioned” and under-resourced. We all want snazzy, interactive web sites, but who has the time, expertise, or money?

Not surprisingly, the answer in this increasingly connected world of ours may be just a few clicks away. The web is packed with freebies and low-cost goodies that can boost your online image without breaking your budget—or your webmaster’s back.

Here are a few favorites. If you have some great resources you’d like to share with fellow web aficionados, please eMail me at

Free check-ups

Give your web site a free or low-cost tune-up with the following sites. Most of these sites check for broken links, spelling errors, browser compatibility problems, slow-loading pages, and HTML code errors, and most also contain tools to move your site to the top of the search engine rankings.

NetMechanic: Includes Server Check, a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week monitoring service to make sure your servers are running, and GifBot, which compresses images and speeds up page load times.

Web Site Garage: The Tune Up service includes the ability to find out how many sites link to yours, and Hitometer analyzes your web site traffic with a customizable tracking tool. Targets small businesses, but contains a wealth of advice for boosting traffic to your site.

WebSideStory: The site’s contains free tools for evaluating and promoting your site, shrinking image sizes, and adding search and polling capabilities. Jakob Nielsen’s web site on web usability.


Custom logos, buttons, banners, and graphics can be downloaded from these sites: A totally free online service which provides real-time generation of graphics customized exactly the way you want them.

NetStudio: With this software, you can create web graphics instantly, customize them for professional results, and publish them easily to Microsoft FrontPage and other web editors.

MediaBuilder: Use these free online tools to instantly make 3D banners and buttons online and to optimize your images so they will download faster.

WebFX: A graphics manipulation tool that you use right over the web (no downloads, plug-ins, or Java required).

Love posting school photos, but hate the lengthy download times such graphic-intensive art creates? Compress those images to a manageable size with one of these sites:

GIF Wizard: Reduces GIFs, JPEGs, and BMPs up to 90 percent without sacrificing quality. You can crop, resize, rotate, adjust colors, and compress images in one integrated online editor.

Spinwave: Contains free and fee-based tools for compressing and optimizing GIF and JPEG images.

eMail management

For about $100, ListBot will manage your growing eMail database and make electronic broadcasts a snap.

Teacher tools

Giving parents 24-hour access to their children’s grades and homework assignments improves home-school communication and is one of the hottest services schools can provide right now. Dozens of companies are jumping on this trend, so options abound. Some low-cost, teacher-friendly packages include the following sites:

Teacher’s Toolkit

Web site development and management

FamilyEducation Network (http://, American School Directory (, Lightspan (, wwwrrr Inc. (, School Center (http://www.schoo, Timecruiser Computing Corp.(, and other companies offer a nice suite of services—some free, some low-cost, some expensive—designed to make it easy for schools and districts to have a professional web presence.

While these offers seem tempting, before you sign on the dotted line, just make sure you know what you’re getting into and what you’re giving away. Companies want access to something we have an abundance of: teachers, children, and—most importantly—cash-rich teenagers.

Free sites for schools typically are paid for with corporate advertising dollars. Keep in mind that your “good news” messages about teaching and learning, or a new curriculum initiative, are going to have a hard time competing with a four-color corporate logo or banner ad.

Too many schools spend all their time launching their sites and too little time maintaining or improving them. If you’re suffering from the “If we build it, they will come” web marketing fantasy, get over it. Even Hollywood had a hard time pulling this one off.

Your school or district web site—especially your home page—serves as your organization’s front door to the world. Make sure it says “Welcome,” and make sure it communicates the image you really want to convey.


eSN Career Center


Science Teacher, FL

Certified science teacher for grades 5 through 8 in small Catholic school. Job includes teaching science to four different levels, organizing science fairs throughout the year. Good place for motivated individual. Great working environment.

Please send resume to: Julie Harris, Teacher, Divine Mercy, 1940 N. Courtenay Pkwy , Merritt Island, FL, 32953 or

Science Coordinator, NY

Edison Schools Inc., the nation’s leading private manager of public schools has an exciting opportunity for a Start-up Science Coordinator. The Science Coordinator will implement and support the science program at Edison’s start-up schools. Minimum three years’ teaching experience and strong background in science program development and teacher professional development required to design, implement, and support the science program. B.A./B.S. degree, preferably in the sciences, required. Must be willing to travel frequently. Send résumé to: Edison Schools, Dept. VGSC2, 521 Fifth Ave, 15th Floor, New York, N.Y. 10175 or E-mail:; Website:




Flight Director,VA

Lead groups (primarily 5-8 grade) through exciting, interactive, multimedia activities by simulating space missions. Requirements include: 110% enthusiasm aching students and adults, demonstrated presentation skills, 4-year degree, familiarity with a variety of technical teaching aids (computer proficiency required). Certification in classroom education is highly desirable. Occasional overtime and weekend hours.

Contact: Sarah B. Jastrzab,Human Resource

Administrator,The Challenger Center,1250 N. Pitt Street ,Alexandria,VA ,22314

or eMail:

Freelance Contributor,IL

Help make the leading knowledge and learning destination for the consumer and educational markets. Work from home to build an exciting, dynamic, global resource. Help us create one of the Internet’s top knowledge sites. To succeed, we need outstanding freelance website reviewers. We’re especially looking for top-shelf writers with backgrounds in Education. Candidates must have a minimum of 2 years teaching experience, solid knowledge of current trends in education, good writing skills, and a strong familiarity with the Internet.,

Please contact; Isabel Fiore,Freelance Contributor,,, 310 S. Michigan Ave.,7th Floor, Chicago,IL,60604

or eMail: ,

Instructional Strategies Specialist,NJ

IDE’s Instructional Strategies Specialists consult in client districts in order to bring about substantive change in the teaching and learning process. Using technology infusion as a catalyst for change, they aid teachers and administrators in shifting the traditional paradigm of teaching in order to create enriched learning experiences for students. At least five years teaching experience and a masters or doctoral degree is required for the current opening. As the position is that of a change agent, excellent interpersonal skills are a must. Contact: Katie Kashmanian,Director of K-12 Operations,IDE Corp. – Innovative Designs for Education, 120 North Central Avenue, Suite 4 Ramsey, NJ, 07446,

or eMail:

Instructional Technology Coordinator, CO

Curriculum Implementation Facilitator and Instructional Technology Coordinator Mosaica Education seeks highly qualified and experienced educators for Curriculum Implementation


Technology (cont’d)

Facilitator (CIF) in Wilmington, Delaware, Harrisburg, PA and Denver, Colorado and Instructional Technology Coordinator (ITC) in Jersey City, New Jersey, Wilmington, Delaware, Harrisburg, PA, and Denver, Colorado,. Qualifications: ITC position requires significant independent analysis and problem solving skills, as well as an in-depth working knowledge of di

verse teaching strategies, technologies, and media. B.S. in Math, Science or Instructional Technology. Qualifications: CIF position requires Degree in Social Sciences, Arts or Humanities. Minimum of five years classroom experience (elementary preferred). Media Resource Specialist. Demonstrated mastery in a leadership position. Please submit letter of intent and resume via fax to 415-491-1309 or apply by e-mail at

Instructional Technology Manager, MI

National Heritage Academies, a K-8 charter school management company currently managing 22 schools, is seeking an individual to support the technological needs of the teacher community. The successful candidate will manage multiple facets of the educational technology program. Persons must be self-motivated, organized, possess strong communication skills and must work well in a team-oriented environment. 2 -5 years of prior teaching experience or degree in educational technology or related field preferred. This is a year-round position with opportunity for growth. Salary is competitive and commensurate with experience. This position is based in Grand Rapids, but some travel will be required.



Ability to maintain, manage, and continue to develop the district Network Intranet System; experience with Novell and NT servers (MS Proxy Server, Novonyx Email Server, Access and SQL Server, and Web Server), and web filtering and web design; ability to provide desktop support and trouble shooting; capability of training students and staff with a positive team attitude; ability to adjust to a flexible schedule.

Contact: Priscilla Schmidt, Personnel Assistant, Silver Falls School District, 210 East C St., Silverton, OR, 97381 or eMail:

Professional Developer K-12, NY

An Education Technology Company in Rockland county, seeks a full/time, self-motivated experienced educator with strong technical and organizational skills to develop, deliver, and assist in coordination of K-12 teacher workshops. Some Tri-state travel. Send resume to:

Judy Brendel, Director of Staff Development, The Learning Edge, 111 Route 303, Tappan, NY 10983 or fax: 914-365-3703

Network Administrator – Tech Spt Sp 3, WA

Salary: $16.72 – $19.38/hr BASIC FUNCTIONS: Responsible for maintaining the infrastructure of the North Thurston School District Wide Area and Local Area Networks. Incumbent is responsible for daily operation of routers, premises wiring, fiber connections, TCP/IP configurations and T1 provisioning. PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITIES: Must have or be currently pursuing Cisco Certification. Training/experience in networked systems and server-based or client/server applications. Ability to work independently. Ability to develop positive working relationships with staff and management.


Senior Network Analyst,WA

Assist Network & Telecommunications Services Director in development & implementation of a suite of network services for local school districts within ESD 113’s service region. Wide Area Network management support, Institutional Technical Unit support. Provide services to districts using NT server, Novell Netware, AppleShare, Unix/Linux, Windows 95/98 and Macintosh Operating Systems. $47,835 – $52,778 plus benefits. Contact: Judy Gregorius, Senior Network Analyst, Educational Service District 113, 601 McPhee Rd SW, Olympia, WA, 98502, or eMail:


Information Services Consultant, NC

Information Services Consultant Scope Person will assist and guide the Academy’s staff and students in using the technologies within the school’s environment to the highest level of efficiency and effectiveness. Uses established practices and procedures to accomplish tasks requiring expertise in specific areas. Acts as a resource for the school’s other consultants and educational constituents. Qualifications: -Thorough technical knowledge of Windows NT and networking systems; knowledge of Windows 95 and Macintosh OS a plus. Strong interpersonal, organizational, communication, and planning skills. -Knowledge of multimedia technology, multimedia authoring tools, and use of the Internet and Intranet to deliver information. -A record of successful experience in more than one of the following areas: academic technology, technology training, information systems, programming, consulting, problem solving, networking, and World Wide Web. -Related experience in an academic institution a plus. -Bachelor’s degree or higher in a

technical area with emphasis on information systems, computer science, education, or instructional technology. -Four years of experience in information systems consulting, training or programming, including experience dealing directly with the user community. -Directly related experience or a combination of directly related education and experience may be considered in place of the above requirements. Position in Organization: The Information Services Consultant will function as part of the instructional support staff and will report to the Director of Information Services. How to Apply Interested candidates should submit a cover letter, resume, and the names of three references to: Information Services Consultant Cary Academy 1500 N. Harrison Avenue Cary, NC 27513 Fax: 919-677-4002 Cary Academy is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer. EOE

Librarian/media specialist, FL

Oversee library/media center for small Catholic school, enrollment 300. School is located in Merritt Island, FL. about 45 miles east of Orlando.

Contact: Sister Anne O’Sullivan,principal,Divine Mercy School,1940 N. Courtenay Pkwy,,Merritt Island,FL , or eMail:


Director of Technology, GA

The Bryan County School System is located in Coastal Georgia near Savannah. The school district is comprised of Pembroke and Richmond Hill and serves apx. 5200 students at 8 schools. The Director of Technology is responsible for coordinating the administrative and instructional technology for the school system. Applicants will be screened for the following training and/or experience: Bachelor’s degree in technology, computer information systems, or related field. Three years of experience in the field of technology which included a leadership role in project development and/or implementation. Demonstrated personal characteristics and professional competencies to work successfully with students, teachers, administrators and the public, including communication skills, human relation skills and time management skills., Please contact: Dr. Gary L. Russell, Superintendent, Bryan County Board of Education, 66 South Industrial Blvd., Pembroke,GA ,31324 or Fax: 912-653-4386

Executive Director of Technology, AL

The Division of Integrated Technology Programs and Services is currently seeking a candidate for the position of: EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF TECHNOLOGY. Offering an open and supportive environment, competitive salary and excellent benefits. Position open until December 8, 2000. To make application for our 2lst century technology team, please send letter of intent and current résumé to:

Johnny K. Brown, Ph.D.

Birmingham City Schools

Post Office Box 10007

Birmingham, Ala. 35202


Ability to maintain, manage, and continue to develop the district Network Intranet System; experience with Novell and NT servers (MS Proxy Server, Novonyx Email Server, Access and SQL Server, and Web Server), and web filtering and web design; ability to provide desktop support and trouble shooting; capability of training students and staff with a positive team attitude; ability to adjust to a flexible schedule. Interested individuals, please contact: Priscilla Schmidt, Silver Falls School District, 210 East C St., Silverton, OR 97381 or email:

web / internet teachers

Industrial Technology Teacher,OR

Valid Oregon teaching license. Industrial technology – woods, CAD, design. Temporary position for school year 2000-2001. contact: Carolyn Thorpe,Industrial Technology Teacher, Jefferson County School District 509-J,445 SE Buff Street, Madras, Oregon, 97741, or eMail:

Multi-Media Technology Instructor, IL

Instruct junior and senior high school students in multi-media authoring, computer graphics, animation, web design, and digital video production. Applicant must be eligible for Illinois Provisional Vocational Instructor Certification or hold up to 8000 hours of related work experience. Degree preferred., apply immediately, Jeff Brierton, Assistant Director for Instruction, Lake County High Schools Technology Campus, 19525 W. Washington St., Grayslake, IL, 60030, 847-223-6681, ext. 7, Fax: 847-223-7363


Elementary Teacher, AZ

Arizona Certification to teach in the elementary grades K-8. It is preferred that the teacher have previous success and experience in teaching Jr. High students or Special Education, or other unique experiences that would be of interest to a school of multi-grade classrooms. Contact: Ronald K. White,Superintendent,Tolani Lake Elementary School Academy, HC61-Box 300, Flagstaff, AZ,86047 or eMail:

Program Director, NY

New York City. Highly motivated experienced educator to run teaching apprenticeship program and develop a collaborative master’s program with local college. Minimum five plus years’ experience in urban public school teaching (preferably in NewYork City), experience working with new teachers, master’s degree required. Send résumé and cover letter to: Teachers for Tomorrow, 230 Park Ave., Suite 1000, New York , N.Y. 10169 or Fax: (212) 808-3020.


Online conference urges new thinking for new schools

When modernizing old buildings or designing new ones, school districts should model them after the workplace, make technology centers the focal point, and get input from students, parents, and businesses, according to educators who shared their experiences in an online town meeting sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education (ED).

The meeting, which aired on public broadcast and on the internet, addressed the topic, “Modernizing Schools: Technology and Buildings for a New Century.” The live audience and home viewers were invited to ask questions of panelists, all of whom were experienced at renovating or building schools with technology in mind.

Opening the discussion, Education Secretary Richard Riley said, “We need to equip schools with the latest technology to help teachers and students take full advantage of new and exciting tools for learning.”

We also need to re-imagine schools, he said, increasing their uses by incorporating community technology centers into their design, having them remain open longer, and including all citizens in the school planning and building process.

At first glance, this is not an easy or affordable feat, since American schools are so old.

The United States has 89,000 public schools, 70 percent of which were built before 1970. The average U.S. school is 42 years old. The most recent studies estimate America’s schools need $322 billion in structural improvements, and thousands of additional schools need to be built to accommodate the rising student population.

“We have old buildings,” said Linda Quinn, principal of Emerald Ridge High School in South Hill, Wash. “The wiring is not suitable and even the conditions of the classroom are too cold, too hot, or too damp.”

She added, “We are still using four classrooms constructed in 1916.”

Anthony Amato, superintendent of Hartford Public Schools in Connecticut, said some buildings in his district are 50 years old.

“We had issues with air conditioning, with wiring,” Amato said. “As soon as you poke a hole in the wall, the ‘asbestos police’ show up at your door.”

Creative thinking is necessary when faced with the high costs of installing computer networks in such old buildings, he said.

“Rather than put all of our resources and focus on trying to do what is an almost impossible task, we said, ‘Let’s get out of the box and turn our thinking around,'” Amato said. To avoid exposing asbestos, the district opted for wireless networking with laptop computers.

With its wireless network, students are free to roam anywhere in the school with their mobile computers. As a result, Amato said, both attendance and student work have improved.

Creating a workplace environment

Today’s society needs more graduates with real workforce skills, panelists said. Therefore, some schools are modeling not only the building, but also the curriculum and hours to mirror the typical workplace.

“We know that what students will need to survive [in] university settings or in the workplace is the ability to work in teams,” Quinn said. Her school was designed with workspaces that encourage collaboration. There are “no more chairs and seats bolted to the floor,” she said.

Gary Jacobs, former senior education specialist at Qualcomm Corp., described how a new high school called High Tech High added workplace environments and hours into the school environment.

At this modern facility, located at the Naval Training Center in San Diego, each student has his or her own workstation in addition to classroom, lab, and group workspace. The hours are from 9 to 4, and the day is divided into two blocks instead of 50-minute periods.

“If students feel like they are in a work environment, they’ll feel motivated, they’ll pay attention,” Jacobs said.

High Tech High’s curriculum, which was developed in collaboration with industry partners, is project-based. In one of the projects, students assemble their own computers. These projects interweave three curriculum strands: math, science, and engineering; literacy and humanities; and art and design.

In grades 11 and 12, students attend off-site internships twice a week, reinforcing the school’s emphasis on the high-tech workplace.

“We had to design the school so it looked good, but at the same time you have to get to everything,” Jacobs said. The building’s telecommunications cabling has an open architecture on the outside of the walls, so students can see how it works.

Emerald Ridge High School also uses its building as a teaching tool.

“When we designed our building, we tried to think of it as part of the curriculum,” Quinn said. “It becomes part of the textbook.” For example, she said, the drama students use the light and sound equipment in the auditorium as a hands-on classroom.

Some educators are designing their schools so the technology center is the focal point. “It’ll be the first thing you’ll see when you enter the school,” said Charlotte A. Wright, superintendent of the Weiner, Ark., Public Schools.

Another school used its computer lab to join two parallel hallways, so students would pass through it as they moved around the building. Others created computer-oriented social spaces, such as “cyber cafes.”

“I would like our school to look different. I don’t want Abraham Lincoln, if he were to come back, to recognize it,” Wright said. “A school can no longer be four walls. It has to be there for everybody.”

The technology centers at Weiner Public Schools are equipped with doors and gates so the community can use the computers at night without gaining access to the entire school.

“The modern building: Don’t just think of it as brick and mortar. It’s about clicks and bricks,” Amato said.

Involving the community

In deciding what the modern school should offer and how it should look, the panel agreed that the whole community—including parents, students, and local citizens—should be consulted.

“Don’t underestimate the need for time to plan—time for teachers and administrators and community members to talk together,” Quinn said. “If we don’t do this, we’ll just keep doing what we’ve been doing.”

“We hold hearings in our community. We hold board meetings,” said Reggie Felton of the Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland. He said his district balances what the community wants with theory and research.

“It is very, very difficult to meet the demands to make sure every student has access” to modern technologies, Felton said. Often, schools will renovate one building while another becomes obsolete. He said school districts have to use money efficiently to reduce costs and seek federal and state support.

Jacobs said it’s good to involve businesses in the planning process, too, like officials did at High Tech High—especially because high-tech buildings come with high price tags. In addition to eRate funding and other government grants, businesses can help schools pay for technology.

Amato agreed: “Don’t wait for this money to come from any source.” There are innovative ways of getting computers, he said, such as collaborating with a company.

“There are a number of companies that are willing to give free connectivity [to schools]. Ours happens to be HighFusion,” he said.

The online town meeting has been archived and can be seen in its entirety at the web address listed below.

Modernizing Schools: Technology and Buildings for a New Century

High Tech High



Student journalists turn to web to bypass censorship

It was an emotional act of teen-age mutiny—printing a blank page on the front of the Sidwell Friends school newspaper after administrators had pulled a scathing article about alleged wrongdoing in a math class.

Unsure of what to do with the unpublished story, the staff had an empowering idea: Why not post the story on the internet from a student’s home computer? In fact, thousands of high school students across the country have discovered the same way around school censorship—just post the stories on the web and spread the word.

More than a decade after a 1988 Supreme Court decision affirmed the right of school administrators to censor student articles, many high school newspapers are finding a new and long-coveted sphere of freedom on the internet, transforming the very nature of free speech for students.

The Student Press Law Center in Arlington, Va., estimates that at least 10,000 underground high school newspapers and web pages are floating in cyberspace—and more emerge every day. Some have spunky names, such as “Whatever” and “Words Not Bullets.”

These newspapers are nothing like the innocuous pages of cafeteria menus, winning sports scores, and award columns that school officials peruse and edit before printing, said Mark Goodman, executive director of the center.

“This does open up a whole new world,” said Russ Schwartz, editor of the school newspaper at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va., where some students are thinking of launching an underground paper.

For school officials, though, the online underground paper raises new concerns about how to balance the First Amendment with rising anxiety about school safety.

In the aftermath of the Columbine High School shootings in Colorado, the irreverent and sometimes off-color underground newspapers are haunting reminders of the web pages created by the student gunmen, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, in which they spewed their anger.

“Student newspapers and web pages done outside of school [are] one of the stealth issues for schools, and [the issue is] going to become even bigger,” said Edwin C. Darden, a staff attorney for the National School Boards Association. “The dilemma is that the student is off campus, and they have First Amendment rights. On the other hand, school officials have a responsibility to protect the school and not have those rights cause harm or fear within the school walls.”

Several court rulings have declared that the internet is outside the reach of school officials. Students who publish independent newspapers or web pages on home computers cannot be censored even if they focus on school issues, courts have said.

There are also nonprofit sites, such as WireTap, which act as collective portals where students from across the country can safely post articles banned in school-sponsored publications. The articles cover topics such as teen-agers’ fears that schools are going overboard with “zero tolerance” policies after Columbine.

“It’s incredibly exciting, healthy, and an increasingly necessary outlet for high school journalists who have long been searching for freedom to express themselves,” said Paul McMasters, First Amendment ombudsman at the Freedom Forum. “The fact of the matter is most school officials view their newspapers as fluffy public-relations devices. As long as those conditions don’t change, students are going to find the internet to get from under that cage.”

The range of underground newspapers is large. Some are gossipy. Sometimes the sites are just a chance for young people to have unfiltered, melancholy rants about feeling misunderstood or ignored.

“Our paper covers topics such as stupid school policies, corrupt teachers, youth rights issues, and is a reflection of all-around general youth angst,” says the web page for Pandora’s Box, an underground newspaper in Alhambra, Calif.

Some papers are serious works of journalism, where students question authority and expose problems.

At Dorman High School in Spartanburg, S.C., the underground newspaper scooped the local media with a story about how a businessman was trying to buy the land the high school is on. The paper also reportedly was able to get school officials to put up bathroom stalls in the boys’ rest rooms.

“Some teachers really ended up enjoying the paper and it helped spark school debate,” said Adrian Smith, who created DHS UnderGround in 1997 to give himself and other students the chance to write about issues that were not allowed in the regular school newspaper. “It was a lot of fun and it was a way to get our ideas heard. It’s something I will never, ever regret doing.”

But what does a school official do when a student posts something that appears to go beyond teen-age venting—a comment that could be a threat, even in joke form, against a school?

There have been several cases in which school officials objected to a profanity-laced web page or an underground newspaper that mocked educators.

In one case, Ian Lake, a Milford, Utah, teen-ager posted an underground newspaper that made fun of some girls at his school and called one school official a town drunk.

Lake’s web site seemed like an electronic version of bathroom wall graffiti. But school officials viewed the site as a direct and violent threat, and they suspended the student. Sheriff’s deputies arrested him and seized his computer, sending it to the state crime lab. He spent seven nights in a juvenile detention center.

The charges of criminal slander filed against Lake have since been dismissed and his civil suit against the school is pending.

“I don’t morally approve of what he did. But the reason we are fighting this is because I am a strong believer in the Constitution of the United States,” said his father, David Lake. “It was written as a parody. We see parody on television all the time, and people on Saturday Night Live don’t get arrested.”

In the most recent victory for student rights in cyberspace, a county judge in Olympia, Wash., ruled that public school officials cannot punish a student for speech outside of school.

Aside from fear of dangerous web sites, school officials said, one of their concerns is that students without adult newspaper advisers are missing out on learning how to produce a serious newspaper.

“It’s an important point,” said Sara Cajder, a journalism teacher at James Hubert Blake High School in Silver Spring, Md., where a student has told her that he wants to create his own newspaper online. “I think going online avoids censorship, but there is also a real value to teaching students about libel and educating them about how to practice journalism and express their ideas.”

Some schools, such as Blake and Yorktown High School in Arlington, Va., have found ways to step in and help students run newspapers on the web. Adults are realizing they should stay involved, even if the project is done outside school, Cajder said.

“There is a way to have a happy medium,” she said.

At Yorktown, for instance, Nick Summers, co-editor of the regular school newspaper, worked with school officials and the school’s web master to set up the newspaper’s web site. The site will have its own server that will be out of the reach of school officials.

At Sidwell Friends school, the censorship issue began when the newspaper investigated an incident in which students pretending to be a teacher called a textbook company to get workbook answers. School officials told the newspaper staff that a story about the episode would be needlessly embarrassing to the school, which prompted the students to post the article on the internet.

Since then, Sidwell officials have told the student editors they will try to be more flexible so that students don’t have to resort to using the web, said Jake Jeppson, an editor for the school paper.

“The idea of turning to the web sparked discussion with the administration, and in the next instance, our editors got more control,” Jeppson said. “The availability of the internet ended up helping the print paper.”

For now, cyberspace is a new and protected place to vent frustrations, with or without adult approval.

“Sir Lance A Lot’s Herald,” an underground paper from Wimberly, Texas, High School, has both satire with goofy pictures of the editors and serious articles that have sparked changes in school policy. Last year, the paper reported that a gun was brought to school, a story that the regular school newspaper did not touch.

“No one wants to offend anyone. But there are kids in the journalism department, and they are very talented, but they can’t say what they want to because it’s censored,” said Lance Lipinsky, a sophomore and founder of the online paper. “We have found a way around that.”

Student Press Law Center

Freedom Forum

DHS UnderGround

James Hubert Blake High School

Yorktown High School

Sir Lance A Lot’s Herald


Corporations could get naming rights to tech school

A proposal by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District to fund a new technology school, in part, through corporate sponsorships has some observers questioning the infiltration of commercialism into public education.

Corporations already have placed their names all over the sporting world by paying to name stadiums and arenas. Now, Charlotte, N.C., school officials are considering selling naming rights to classrooms and cafeterias. Could the future feature the Gateway computer lab or the Nike gymnasium?

The school board is considering a policy to allow some campus areas—including a technical high school now under construction in west Charlotte—to be named after a corporate entity that makes “significant contributions” to the school or district.

Until now, Charlotte-Mecklenberg has had a restrictive naming policy for school property, allowing elements to be named only after people who have gained recognition in some way, district officials say.

That policy soon may change, depending on the outcome of a Nov. 28 school board vote.

“In examining that policy and thinking ahead to the future, we now have the opportunity to take advantage of a corporate gift—be it a cash gift, a technology gift, or a services gift—and, in return, allow that company to display [its] brand name in a prominent way,” said John Lassiter, vice-chair of the school board.

Although the proposed policy could apply to any school, Superintendent Eric Smith said it was crafted with the technical high school in mind.

The school’s focus will be preparing students for careers in computer science, manufacturing, transportation, construction, environmental science, and health science.

That means students will need training on expensive equipment that tight school budgets can’t always handle, Smith said. So, the district plans to ask businesses for help. Offering to name a lab, school wing, or other campus area after these businesses may encourage corporate donations, he said.

“In a time when schools have increasing need for revenue and difficulties generating that revenue, this is an avenue that, if properly done, could provide benefits to all involved,” Lassiter agreed.

Lassiter said construction of the new technology high school is not dependent on whether the school board decides to accept corporate sponsorships. “The sponsorships are to provide enhancements and additional things like labs, hardware, and software,” he said.

Such partnerships have triggered a debate in school districts around the country over how involved companies should be with schools.

Officials with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction didn’t know of any examples of schools naming campus areas after businesses, although there are plenty of instances in the Carolinas and elsewhere of schools teaming up with businesses for everything from school supplies to computers to pizza lunches.

“It’s not new at the K-12 level, in the sense that many schools have scoreboards donated by Coca-Cola or computers with the brand name displayed on the box. Branding is not new,” said Lassiter.

Denise Carter, head of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg PTA Council, said the public schools could not function without outside business support. And school board members said they have yet to receive complaints about the proposal.

But some people worry that corporate influences in schools can go too far. The California-based Center for Commercial-Free Public Education argues that children become easy targets for advertising when their schools use scoreboards sponsored by soda companies or cafeterias contract to sell a specific product.

According to the center’s web site, “Commercialism in America’s classrooms is reaching epidemic proportions, with new forms of in-school advertising being discovered every week.”

But branding is not necessarily the same thing as advertising, district officials say.

“We are just talking about a name on a wall. It is not an active situation that asks you to make a decision when a screen comes up on a computer,” said Lassiter. “It would be naive to say that our kids aren’t exposed to broad-based commercialism at all times.”

If the policy receives a majority vote at the Nov. 28 school board meeting, it will go into effect immediately.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District

Center for Commercial-Free Public Education


Eight Web Resources for Rural Schools

“Pulling Together” is a new quarterly journal published by the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL). The journal identifies technology-based resources available to help rural schools improve educational opportunities. In its first issue, the journal includes the following web-based resources of significance to rural districts:

1. Affordable Access, Rural Online ( A database of practical advice and policy recommendations designed to help rural schools meet the National Information Infrastructure (NII) guidelines.

2. Distance Learning Resource Network ( Created through the Education Department’s Star Schools program, this site offers instructional modules, enrichment activities, and courses in science, mathematics, foreign languages, workplace skills, and more.

3. Guiding Questions for Technology Planning ( School district administrators can use this site as a roadmap for planning technology purchases and integration. Includes models of successful programs across the United States.

4. Learning With Technology Course Resources ( Created by the North Central Regional Technology in Education Consortium, this site has 13 online courses about using software in the classroom, evaluating the effectiveness of various programs, and creating courses on specific topics.

5. National Staff Development Council Home Page ( This site provides valuable information on professional development techniques, including tech-related articles and tips.

6. Organizations Concerned About Rural Education ( OCRE is a coalition of organizations—such as the American Association of School Administrators, American Library Association, National Association of Counties, Natural Rural Electric Cooperative, and companies such as US West and SBC Telecommunications—focused on improving rural education. One of the best features on the site is a section on grant and loan availability.

7. Pathways to School Improvement: Critical Issues in Technology ( Created by NCREL, this site provides a roadmap for working through the School Improvement Cycle program for creating systemic change. It also includes news items on improving education through technology and other methods.

8. Putting Technology into the Classroom: A Guide for Rural Decision Makers ( This web site, sponsored by the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, focuses on effectively using the technology that schools and districts have obtained.


Six Essential Elements of a School Web Site Policy

Having an acceptable-use policy for what a teacher or student can put on a school-related web site is essential to protecting school administrators from headaches and legal hassles. To minimize the potential for harm, it’s essential to have a document that spells out in clear language the key policies in a number of areas. Here are the six issues your policy must address:

1. Roles and responsibilities. Make sure that a trained, responsible adult oversees use of the web, as well as the material published on the web sites of the district and its individual schools and classes. A separate person with technical skills should be assigned the task of webmaster.

2. Educational value. Make it clear that school sites support an educational mission and that utmost care must be taken that all information and images published are fair and accurate.

3. Privacy. Don’t give away a student’s privacy by providing information that the student or her parents do not want published. Think very carefully about letting students and teachers link their own home pages to the school’s web site.

4. Copyright rules. These must be emphasized because it is so easy for items to be copied illegally online.

5. Technical standards. Set rules for file size, graphics, etc., so that the system is not overwhelmed. Also, make sure that the webmaster and editor regularly remove old or extraneous information from your sites.

6. Commercialism. What commercial links will you allow? Is fund-raising to be treated differently than advertising? Decide on a policy and decide who will enforce that policy.