Voc-Tech Goes High-Tech

Washington Post Magazine, Sept. 16, 2001, page 34

After several years of positive results, Fairfax County (Va.) Public Schools are expanding their efforts to provide vocational-technology students with a head start in high-tech fields such as computer repair and network maintenance. Fairfax County’s new Chantilly Academy has been mirrored by numerous school systems across the country.

The transformation of the voc-tech curriculum has had great significance for students and high schools, Chantilly Academy administrators say. First, many of the students taking computer-oriented technical training courses plan to continue on to college, unlike traditional voc-tech students.

Second, because they are college-bound, these students are not isolated from their fellow students into a vocation-focused school-within-a-school.

Third, many of the voc-tech students pursue summer internships with local companies, strengthening their schools’ ties to the community.

Employment possibilities for these students remain exceedingly bright, even with the slowdown in the technology sector in the past year. The U.S. Department of Commerce projects that from 1998 to 2008, about 2 million new information technology jobs will be created.

Computer and software manufacturers recognize that they will need well-trained people to manage the systems they are helping to build today. Therefore, these companies often offer their expertise to Chantilly Academy and conduct certification tests for program graduates.

While the program is very popular, outside education experts sounded a few cautionary notes for administrators of these types of programs:

– Make sure the certifications students are seeking will still be valued in the marketplace in a few years, when students are likely to be seeking employment.

– Make sure the teachers of the courses are skilled as educators, not just as IT experts. Students need to learn “why” as well as “what.”

– Watch out for corporations that offer support to the programs. They might be seeking something in return, such as equipment sales.

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Everybody out of the swamp

“Without freedom of speech, we’d all be in the swamp.” That old Bob Dylan lyric leapt to mind as I read our Front Page report on the new study from the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC). The study comes down hard on contemporary internet filtering solutions, but I suspect NCAC’s genuine target wasn’t really the filtering software at all.

More likely, it was the law that mandates filtering—the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). Schools slipped into the CIPA swamp only days ago, when the law took practical effect. Now, NCAC says we’ll all be up to our elbows in alligators. I just don’t think it’s quite that bad.

“Internet Filters: A Public Policy Report” declares that content-control software is flawed beyond redemption. From a technical point of view, that’s too glum an assessment. When used properly, current versions of most leading filtering software perform pretty much as promised.

Trouble is, what the software publishers promised and what the CIPA authors envisioned are two different things, a legitimate point the NCAC report is at pains to underscore.

The lawmakers apparently imagined a magic bullet that, when triggered electronically, would whiz through the classroom, computer lab, and library knocking off unwanted web content left and right (or . . . maybe mostly just left). That didn’t happen, of course, and it won’t. Even with the most sophisticated filtering solution, human intervention and adult supervision are still required. And that’s a good thing.

I suspect NCAC really would much rather have hammered CIPA itself. And because a federal mandate is a poor substitute for local control, there’s merit to that impulse.

But helloooo. The legislation is in place. It’s a done deal, passed by an overwhelming congressional majority. Get over it.

A law can always be repealed, of course. But until CIPA is undone, schools simply must make the best of it. And they are.

Unless you’re in San Francisco. There, city lawmakers recently upheld Frisco’s freewheeling image.

“eRate?” cried the city council, “We don’t need no stinkin’ eRate.” And, in an awesome gesture of defiance, the council members turned down eRate funding with one hand and thumbed their noses at CIPA with the other. (The gesture seemed perhaps a shade less grand when recalling that the city’s schools previously, and on largely different grounds, had decided not to partake of eRate money anyway.)

Even so, what a fine thing it is to take a stand!

Yet the instincts in other cities are just as noble. It’s not that educators elsewhere are so desperate for technology that they’d sell their soul for a Cisco router. It’s probably just that they don’t think the world will crash if a kid can’t get to the breast cancer web site without permission from a grownup.

The target of NCAC should be the legislation, not the software. But as much as I’d love to rail against CIPA and the injustice of censorship in the classroom, I just can’t get my knickers in a knot on this one.

Like the man said, “The times they are a-changin’.”

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Crystal Ball: Five Future Tech Trends to Watch

Technology & Learning, September 2001
http://www.techlearning.com/db_area/archives/TL/200109/trendwatch.html

Here are five trends to watch, as schools move ahead with the technology they have installed to this point:

1. Open-source software movement gains momentum. Schools are increasingly interested in obtaining open-source software for administrative and classroom uses, especially word processing and spreadsheets. Linux is leading the way as a free alternative to Microsoft and Apple operating-system software that must be licensed at costs that often are prohibitive for school districts.

2. Web now covered by federal accessibility rules. Because Congress recently extended government requirements for providing access for the disabled to computer purchases and web sites, school administrators should be aware that their web sites most likely will be expected to meet the statute in the future. Under the provisions of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, federal web sites must work with text-to-speech software (to assist the blind) and photocopiers must be accessible to wheelchair users.

3. Ed-tech still too focused on “how.” Professional development courses at conferences and seminars still seem to be oriented toward showing educators how to use computers, design web pages, etc., rather than illustrating why these efforts will improve student learning.

4. Truants will be tracked online. Soon, school administrators may have information about student attendance and academic performance downloaded to handheld computers. The greater availability of these data may improve administrators’ ability to respond to matters of concern.

5. More dangerous computer viruses arise. Many schools’ computer networks were disabled by computer viruses this past summer, and even far more sophisticated and troublesome viruses are likely to arise in the future.

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Partners Index

ABC-CLIO, of Santa Barbara, Calif., is a leading producer of interactive research materials for schools.
Visit ABC-CLIO’s web site:
http://www.abc-clio.com
(800) 368-6868
See ABC-CLIO’s ad on page 23

AccuWeather Inc., of State College, Pa., is the world’s leading authority on weather, including radar images, satellite images, and 5-day forecasts for around the world.
Visit the AccuWeather web site:
http://www.accuwx.com
(800) 566-6606
See the AccuWeather ad on page 14

Administrative Assistant Ltd. (AAL), of Ontario, is a developer of quality administrative software solutions for schools.
Visit AAL’s web site:
http://www.admassist.com
(800) 668-8486
See AAL’s ad on page 31

Aladdin Knowledge Systems, headquartered in Arlington Heights, Ill., provides complete security solutions for networks through its eSafe product line.
Visit Aladdin’s web site:
http://www.ealaddin.com
(800) 562-2543
See the ad for eSafe on page 7

Apple Computer Inc., of Cupertino, Calif., is a leading provider of computing technology and services to schools and educators.
Visit Apple’s web site:
http://www.apple.com/education
(800) MY-APPLE
See the ad for Apple on pages 24 and 25

AWS Inc., based in Gaithersburg, Md., is a leading provider of hyper-local news, weather, and sports information to schools via the web.
Visit the AWS web site:
http://www.aws.com
(301) 258-8390
See the ad for AWS on page 11

Brainium Technologies Inc., located in Maple Ridge, British Columbia, delivers award-winning learning solutions for use in the classroom and at home.
Visit the Branium web site:
http://www.brainium.com
(800) 663-7163
See the Branium ad on page 8

Chancery Software Ltd., headquartered in Burnaby, British Columbia, provides student information systems that are accurate, timely, and easy to use.
Visit Chancery’s web site:
http://www.chancery.com
(800) 999-9931
See Chancery’s ad on page 10

Classroom Connect, located in Foster City, Calif., sells internet literacy products, online interactive curricula, and resources for integrating the internet into the classroom.
Visit the Classroom Connect web site:
http://www.classroom.com/home.asp
(800) 638-1639
See the ad for Classroom Connect on page 15

Datadesk Technologies, of Bainbridge Island, Wash., provides unique and unconventional approaches to the design of computer products.
Visit Datadesk’s web site:
http://www.data-desk.com
(888) 446-3222
See the ad for Datadesk Technologies on page 40

Dietrich Lockard Group, of St. Louis, Mo., is is a management consulting firm specializing in telecommunications.
Visit Dietrich Lockard Group’s web site:
http://www.dietrichlockard.com/
(314) 961-3211
See Dietrich Lockard Group’s ad on page 42

Encyclopedia Britannica Educational, of Chicago, provides BritannicaSchool, a web site loaded with educational resources.
Visit the BritannicaSchool web site:
http://www.britannicaschool.com
(800) 621-3900
See the ad for BritannicaSchool on page 16

Homeroom.com, from the Princeton Review, is a complete web-based assessment solution, offering an array of products and services designed to improve students’ grades and scores on high-stakes state tests.
Visit the Homeroom.com web site:
http://www.homeroom.com
(800) REVIEW-2
See the ad for Homeroom.com on page 12

International Schools Services, of Princeton, N.J., provides services to overseas schools and meets the educational needs of companies abroad.
Visit the ISS web site:
http://www.iss.edu
(609) 452-0990
See ISS’s ad on page 19

Kyocera Mita America, of Fairfield, N.J., is one of the world’s largest manufacturers and distributors of digital copiers, printers, and scanners.
Visit the Kyocera Mita
America web site:
http://www.kyoceramita.com
(800) 453-6482
See the ad for Kyocera Mita America on page 9

NCS Learn, of Tucson, Ariz., is a leading provider of educational software and learning solutions to K-12 schools and adult learners.
Visit the NCS Learn web site:
http://www.ncslearn.com
(800) 937-6682
See the ad for NCS Learn on page 48

NCS Pearson, of Eden Prairie, Minn., is a global provider of applications, services, and technologies for education, testing, assessment, and complex data management.
Visit the NCS Pearson web site:
http://www.ncspearson.com
(800) 431-1421
See the ad for NCS Pearson on page 5

Nextel Communications Inc., of Reston, Va., is a provider of fully integrated, all-digital wireless service.
Visit the Nextel web site:
http://www.nextel.com
(800) 639-6111
See the Nextel ad on page 47

Riverdeep Interactive Learning, of Cambridge, Mass., designs, develops, publishes, markets, and supports interactive learning solutions for K-12 education.
Visit the Riverdeep web site:
http://www.riverdeep.net
(800) 564-2587
See Riverdeep’s ad on page 13

SonicWALL Inc., of Sunnyvale, Calif., designs, develops, and manufactures comprehensive internet security solutions.
Visit the SonicWALL web site:
http://www.sonicwall.com
(888) 557-6642
See SonicWALL’s ad on page 18

SurfControl, of Scotts Valley, Ariz., provides filtering software that enables schools to manage internet access and provide a productive and safe environment.
Visit SurfControl’s web site:
http://www.surfcontrol.com
(800) 828-2608
See the Surf Control ad on page 3

Upgrade Solutions, of Myrtle Beach, S.C., provides schools with software duplication expertise.
Visit the Upgrade Solutions web site:
http://www.upgradesolutions.com
(843) 215-4333
See the ad for Upgrade Solutions on page 45

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Legislators approve technology block grant

In a partial victory for the Bush administration, a joint committee of House and Senate leaders agreed Oct. 30 to consolidate several federal technology programs into a single block grant. The money would be distributed by states to individual school districts, half through competitive grants and half based on the current formula for Title I funding.

The agreement—which also requires schools to use at least 25 percent of these funds for professional development—was reached as the committee met to ratify key elements in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). ESEA outlines how federal dollars will be spent for various education programs.

A number of issues remain on the table. The committee still must decide, for example, on the fate of the Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Use Technology (PT3) program and the Star Schools program.

PT3 provides funding to consortia of school districts and colleges of education to ensure that teachers-in-training learn how to use technology to improve instruction. Star Schools supports the use of advanced telecommunications technology to encourage improved instruction in math, science, foreign languages, literacy skills, and voc-ed.

The Senate favors keeping these measures as separate programs under the newly reauthorized ESEA, while the House favors consolidating them within the core technology block-grant program.

But the action taken by committee members Oct. 30 marks a significant step toward the goals of President Bush’s education plan, “No Child Left Behind,” which called for a streamlining of federal ed-tech programs.

“Today’s agreements pave the way for completion of this process,” said Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, committee chair. “They reflect the core principles at the heart of this [education] reform effort: greater accountability for results, flexibility for states and local schools, expanded options for parents, and funding for programs that work.

“The agreements … will make the technology portion of this bill more effective than ever.”

The technology block grant would be formed under Title V, Part B of the newly reauthorized ESEA, called Enhancing Education Through Technology. It calls for the consolidation of the current Technology Literacy Challenge Fund and Technology Innovation Challenge Grant programs into a single pool of money that would be allocated to states based on what each state receives under the Title I formula.

Each state then would distribute the funds to local school districts. Half the money would be distributed through competitive grants, while the other half would be allocated by formula according to each district’s share of Title I funding for disadvantaged students.

The funds would be targeted toward:

  • Promoting innovative state and local initiatives that use technology to increase student achievement;

  • Increasing access to technology, especially for high-need schools; and

  • Improving and expanding teacher professional development in technology.

Recipients would be required to use at least 25 percent of the funds to provide “ongoing, sustained, … high-quality professional development” in the use of technology to improve instruction. Recipients that can demonstrate they already provide sustained professional development to the satisfaction of state officials might be exempt from this provision.

Funds also may be used to comply with the Children’s Internet Protection Act, which requires schools receiving federal funds for technology to adopt internet safety policies and block students’ access to inappropriate materials online.

The 50-50 split between competitive and formula grants is a compromise between House and Senate positions. The House had approved a mix that was 60 percent by formula and 40 percent competitive; in the Senate version, all grants would have been distributed competitively.

Although ed-tech advocacy groups also had favored a strictly competitive approach in distributing the grants, most said they were encouraged by the committee’s actions so far.

“We’re pleased the committee targeted funds to Title I districts and … that they concentrated on professional development at the local level,” said Jeehang Lee, senior legal associate for Leslie Harris and Associates, which represents the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) in legislative matters.

Still, he said, schools should not expect much in the way of formula grants for technology.

Lee estimates the average formula grant under this approach would be about $5,000 to $7,000 per district—and many districts would get $1,000 or less. “There’s not much you can do with that amount,” he said.

Total ed-tech funding from the U.S. Department of Education figures to be $1 billion in fiscal year 2002, an increase of $130 million over current levels.

The committee will meet once more to reach a consensus on the remaining issues. Besides the fate of the PT3 and Star Schools programs, ed-tech advocates will be closely watching what happens with “transferability,” a term for a Bush administration initiative that would allow districts that meet certain accountability standards to transfer up to 50 percent of their federal funding from certain programs—including technology—to other uses.

Many school leaders appreciate the flexibility this approach would allow, but ed-tech advocacy groups such as CoSN and ISTE fear this initiative would undermine the priorities set by the federal government. It would mean federal funds intended for technology could be diverted to other programs.

“We hope to try and finish up the [ESEA reauthorization] bill in the next couple weeks. We want to have it done before Thanksgiving,” said Jim Manley, a spokesman for Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.

____________

eSchool News Associate Editor Elizabeth Guerard also contributed to this report.

Links:

Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio
http://www.house.gov/boehner

Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.
http://www.senate.gov/~kennedy

Leslie Harris and Associates
http://www.lharris.com

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Bennett’s K12 Inc. targets elementary schoolers online

Educators and others got a first look in September at the offerings from K12 Inc., the Virginia-based company led by former U.S. education secretary and conservative icon William J. Bennett.

The company aims to profit by delivering instruction via the internet to students as young as kindergartners, but critics question whether students that young can learn as well as older students do in an online environment.

When K12 launched late last year, it drew cheers from homeschooling parents, criticism from some teacher unions, and curiosity from all observers. Now, as the company opens its virtual doors for its first cohort of students, K12 seems intent on expanding into the charter school market while remaining true to its homeschooling customers.

K12 boasts leadership from high-profile individuals and groups. In addition to Bennett, who holds the chairmanship of K12, the company also has attracted Yale University computer science professor David Gelernter as its chief technology adviser. The firm was launched with a $10 million investment from the Knowledge Universe Learning Group, backed by financier Michael Milken.

Although K12 has attracted attention as an online schooling option, its lessons draw more from traditional texts and materials than they do from computer-based sources.

A typical lesson begins with a review of previously learned material. Then, activities that use materials readily available around the home are presented, such as estimating the number of jars in a spice rack in first-grade math or building a river bed out of sand and a baking dish when studying the Nile in first-grade history.

Online examples illustrate the lesson at hand. A graphic of a flooding river overtaking a field accompanies the lesson on the Nile, while a game of clicking on the closest estimate is included in the mathematics lesson.

Most of the lessons, however, are paper-based. The lessons point to specific text and exercise pages in the accompanying books that ship with their purchase. Worksheet pages and answer keys in portable document format (PDF) are available online but are intended for printing and traditional completion. The lessons conclude with enrichment information, such as the history section on the Nile River today.

“Three-quarters of the time [is spent] off line,” said Ron Packard, chief executive officer of K12, who acknowledges that the program involves a variety of delivery methods.

Packard declined to release current enrollment figures, but said the number is “in the thousands.”

K12 has made a deliberate decision to open its doors to just the youngest students—those in grades K-2—this year. Packard says this is because K12 has “very high standards” that exceed those in place by any state in the country. Therefore, the organization prefers to start with a fresh group of students and establish the entry-level lessons first.

The company’s focus on grades K-2 is not without its critics, however.

“I’m not convinced that students that young can learn as well online,” said Jim McVety, an analyst with Eduventures.com. By targeting the youngest students, McVety says K12 is attempting to bring online education to a population that many people feel protective of. “Students are a bit more sacred when they’re younger,” he said.

McVety said K12 will need to be aware of the market to be successful financially. “High school is really where we’re going to see growth” in online education, he said, adding that K12’s approach of starting with younger students may put the company behind its competitors.

He also noted that homeschooling is just a small piece of the education pie. “The homeschool market is growing, but it won’t surpass 2 million any time soon, vs. 54 million [students] in U.S. public schools,” he said.

K12 officials say they’re aware of these figures, and they are making inroads into the charter school market as well.

Before this school year began, K12 signed contracts to supply online curriculum to charter schools across the country, including Pennsylvania Virtual Charter School, Texas Virtual Charter School, and Colorado Virtual Academy.

Ultimately, this school year is critical to the success of K12. Packard says the company will measure its success by “how children do on state assessments and our own final exams,” as well as by its customer retention rate.

K12 “needs this school year to bring examples of success to the fore,” said McVety.

Links:

K12
http://www.k12.com

Eduventures.com
http://www.eduventures.com

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Analyst recommends software switch in wake of Nimda attacks

As the insidious Nimda worm continued to wreak havoc on Microsoft web servers worldwide in late September, an analyst with an influential high-tech research firm said companies and school districts affected by the attacks should consider switching to a new product rather than battling to keep their Microsoft server software secure.

John Pescatore, research director for internet security at Gartner Group, told the Associated Press Sept. 24 that organizations whose web sites were shuttered more than once by the Nimda worm and other similar attacks might not be able to keep their servers safe from future attacks.

The attacks, including Code Red and Nimda, have knocked out thousands of web sites and briefly threatened to wreak havoc on the internet earlier this summer.

They work by wriggling in through vulnerabilities in Microsoft’s Internet Information Server (IIS). The glitches can be fixed by regularly downloading security patches from Microsoft web sites, but Pescatore said any organization hit by more than one attack clearly doesn’t have the technical staff to stay on top of the latest safeguards.

“If you were hit by Code Red and by Nimda, basically you can’t keep IIS secure, you’re not up to the task,” he said. “IIS has a lot more security vulnerabilities than other products and requires more care and feeding.”

Pescatore said Microsoft’s web server product is hard to safeguard because it is more often the target of hacker attacks. He recommended that users switch to rivals such as iPlanet or Apache, which he called more secure and less likely to be hit by hackers.

Microsoft Corp. denied that its IIS software is especially vulnerable to attacks.

“Gartner’s extreme recommendation ignores the fact that serious security vulnerabilities have been found in all web server products and platforms,” Microsoft spokesman Jim Desler said. “This is an industrywide challenge.”

Other analysts contend that Microsoft’s web servers aren’t significantly less secure than other products, but are simply targeted more often.

“IIS right now is so exposed … it is arguably the biggest target in that space,” said Rob Enderle, an analyst with the high-tech research firm Giga Information Group.

Enderle said he’d heard from clients who were switching from Microsoft server products, but he said security alone isn’t to blame.

Many organizations also are angry about a change in Microsoft’s licensing agreements, which they contend will make it much more costly to run Microsoft products over the long term, he said.

Nimda’s wake

Nimda—which is “admin,” the shortened form of “system administrator,” spelled backwards—started spreading Sept. 17 and quickly infected PCs and servers across the internet.

Also known as readme.exe and W32.Nimda, the worm is the first to use four different methods to infect not only PCs running Windows 95, 98, ME, and 2000, but also servers running Windows 2000.

The worm spread by eMailing itself out as an attachment, scanning for—and then infecting—vulnerable web servers running Microsoft’s IIS software, copying itself to shared disk drives on school district or business intranets, and appending JavaScript to web pages that would download the worm to a user’s PC when the user viewed the page.

Although Nimda did not delete data, it did overwrite a number of files and spread to shared computer hard disks, allowing it to wreak havoc on computer networks by slowing them to a halt.

School officials in Fort Wayne, Ind., said the program attacked and disabled library computers containing card catalog information. Though it had little effect on students and teachers, the district’s libraries and their staff members were without access to their electronic card catalogs Sept. 21.

The worm infected 53 library servers and two servers in the school district’s administration building. Computer technicians spent about 100 hours combating the virus, and the electronic card catalogs were knocked offline for about a week, said Jack Byrd, the district’s director of technology.

In Mitchell, S.D., Nimda caused problems in taking attendance and running the district’s food service software, and it also interrupted online exams. Technology director Dan Muck said technicians received a remedy for the problem the same night, and the system was back online Sept. 18.

Other districts reportedly affected by the worm included Pittsburgh, Pa.; New Orleans, La.; Providence, R.I.; and Columbia County, Ga.

Despite the attacks, many school technology directors contacted by eSchool News said they disagreed with Gartner Group’s advice to switch to a new web server product.

“Microsoft servers are attacked by virus creators because there are so many out there,” said Chris Mahoney, director of technology for the Lake Hamilton School District in Arkansas. “Getting rid of Microsoft servers would only shift the focus [of hackers] to other platforms.”

Microsoft responds

In light of the damage Nimda caused and the resulting security concerns about its server software, Microsoft said Oct. 3 that it would offer free customer support to combat computer viruses and streamline the way users can download current software patches.

Previously, large-scale customers had to pay Microsoft to get their virus-related questions answered and were required to check the company’s web sites regularly for any updates.

Beginning in late October, however, Microsoft said it would let customers running the company’s Windows 2000 and NT operating systems, web server products, and Internet Explorer browser download all-in-one patches that fix security flaws the company knows about.

Microsoft also said it would help users shut down unused functions, such as internet printing, that could make their systems more vulnerable to attack.

Customers will have the option of getting future patches automatically downloaded to their computers from Microsoft’s servers.

Brian Valentine, senior vice president for Microsoft’s Windows division, acknowledged that the process for updating virus protection was confusing and may have kept some customers from keeping their systems safe.

“It is a situation where we just have to make it simpler,” he said.

Links:

Gartner Group
http://www.gartner.com

Microsoft’s “Information on the ‘Nimda’ Worm”
http://www.microsoft.com/technet/treeview/default.asp?url=/technet/security/topics/Nimda.asp

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Suspended teacher launches web site against district

A former Hellertown, Pa., teacher suspended for 220 days for insubordination has launched a web site to expose what he calls “malpractice and abuse of power” by school district officials.

Dale Schneck is the proprietor of teacherinexile.com, which claims to stand up to “bureaucratic bullies who are clueless in the classroom.”

The site accuses the Saucon Valley School District in Northampton County of having overcrowded schools, declining standardized test scores, poor security at the high school, and poor morale at the elementary school.

Saucon Valley School District Superintendent Ralph Tarola derided the site as highly inaccurate. “It looks fairly creative and it will certainly be worth its weight in entertainment value,” Tarola told the Express-Times of Easton.

Referring to himself in the third person, Schneck writes on the web site, “The public seldom learns of the double standards that run rampant to the detriment of many students and their parents. Schneck believes ‘enough is enough’ and that it is time to hold public employees and elected school directors accountable.”

Schneck’s dispute with the school district reportedly began in 1998 over an incident dubbed “Pennygate.”

As the adviser to the Panther Press school newspaper and an 11-year district employee, Schneck said he had been checking out a story his students wanted to write about the cafeteria’s alleged policy of not giving a penny change for 99-cent muffins.

School officials wanted to meet with Schneck about an accusation that he had yelled at a cafeteria worker, but Schneck refused unless he could bring two student reporters with him. The district refused, saying it was a personnel matter, and Schneck skipped the meeting, according to court records. He was then suspended and has since left the school district, but he is still embroiled in a legal dispute over back pay and other issues.

It was not immediately known whether the district would take action against the web site.

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Microsoft to ofer student, teacher discounts on Office XP

Microsoft Corp., aiming to broaden the use of its Office suite of business software among students and school districts, said it will begin selling a discounted version of Office XP to students and teachers through mainstream retail outlets.

Office XP Standard for Students and Teachers will retail at $149, nearly 70 percent less than the company’s full list price for other consumers. Despite the steep discount, product manager Scott Bishop said Microsoft would not lose money on sales.

This marks Microsoft’s first attempt to get to a wider scope of young users by offering the product to K-12 users and selling it through mainstream computer retailers.

The Redmond, Wash., software giant previously has offered volume licensing discounts to academic institutions and discounted versions of individual products through accredited institutions such as student book stores.

Those who buy the product will not have to show identification or other proof that they are students, Bishop said. The product’s end-user agreement does, however, stipulate that the version is only for student or teacher use.

Due out Oct. 25, the product includes all the software of the full-price edition, including Word, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint.

It’s geared toward students already familiar with the programs through their schools—a market Microsoft has worked to capture in the last few years.

“Students have access to Office when they’re at school,” Bishop said. “We also think it’s important to have access if they need to work on homework outside the classroom.”

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Boost your grant-seeking efforts with school foundation support

Some of you might be thinking of starting an educational foundation in your district, or you might already have such an organization. An educational foundation can significantly expand the scope of your fund-raising efforts, but you’ll want to make sure you closely coordinate your grant-seeking efforts with the foundation’s work.

While the role of an educational foundation differs from that of grant writers, its overall mission is similar. Grant seeking is a form of fund raising that pursues support from government and foundation sources to fund needs. An educational foundation is also a form of fund raising that usually focuses efforts on raising support from individuals. Typically, grant-seeking efforts and the fund-raising efforts of the educational foundation will overlap in the areas of foundation and corporate support.

It is essential that you coordinate your grant-seeking and foundation efforts so you don’t duplicate efforts. For example, private funders should not receive duplicate proposals from the same district; clear communication between grant-seeking and foundation staff is essential before proposals are sent to private funders.

Keep in mind that district grant writers and staff from the educational foundation are representing the same cause. Both are representing the district, and both should be on the same page with regard to the district’s needs, priorities, and possible projects. Both should share the same funding goals and should share information about sources of support. It’s probably a good idea to have your grant-writing staff and the educational foundation staff meet at least quarterly. Certainly, there should be regular phone contact between the two.

Collaboration between the grants staff and the educational foundation staff also can strengthen fund-raising efforts. Both can share information about funding opportunities and the research that has been conducted about these opportunities. In addition, both can share office equipment and secretarial support.

Gifts secured by the educational foundation might be counted as matching funds for grant projects. For example, if the educational foundation is able to secure a gift of scanners from a business in the community, the scanners could be used in a grant-funded project and could be counted as matching support.

Board members of the educational foundation may be valuable contacts for grant-seeking efforts. Or, a classroom project that is funded through the educational foundation may be expanded and turned into a schoolwide project that can be submitted for support by a state education department grant.

Clearly, the need for coordination between the two staffs is critical to maximize the fund-raising efforts taking place in your district. You might want to consider holding an annual event that recognizes the fund-raising efforts of both the grants staff and that of the educational foundation.

If you are planning to start an educational foundation or your foundation is in its infancy, make it a priority to coordinate its efforts with those of your grant writers. Schedule meetings so that foundation staff members can identify the needs of the district, and develop a plan that will enable both teams to work together throughout the year. Encourage them to discuss fund-raising objectives and share problems, with the goal of coming up with the best solutions.

Promote the idea that although the grants staff and the foundation staff might be in different physical locations and might have different bosses, ultimately they are a part of the same team and should not be working completely independently of each other. Maximizing your fund-raising efforts through the careful coordination of grant-seeking and foundation staff will bring more resources to the table to help you achieve your district’s goals.

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