Saturday, June 30, 2007

Something Worthy of Our Consideration

U.S. Innovative Teachers Forum

September 27-28, 2007

Updated: June 8, 2007

Rewarding 21st century learning teams

The 2007 U.S. Innovative Teachers Forum will recognize and reward learning teams practicing the elements of 21st century learning in their own professional learning and then incorporating these skills into the student learning environment.

The 2007 Forum, supported by the National Staff Development Council and the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, will bring together exemplary K-12 learning teams for two days, September 27-28, 2007, on the Microsoft corporate campus in Redmond, Washington.

The Forum will provide learning teams with the opportunity to share expertise and engage collaboratively with their peers from around the country.

Apply for your learning team to have a chance to attend the 2007 U.S. Innovative Teachers Forum. Applications must be submitted using the online form by midnight Pacific time, July 11, 2007.

Focusing on teaming and the elements of 21st century learning

The flattening forces driving change at an exponential rate have redefined the necessary skills required to be successful in the 21st century. In order for today's students to acquire these skills and be competitive in a still-evolving global economy, learning environments within schools must become seamless and emulate the characteristics and behaviors of the outside world. Furthermore, a learning environment which is conducive to enabling students to acquire 21st century skills must not only exist for the students but also for the educators tasked with preparing the students, as they themselves must be well versed in and practicing these skills as professionals. Given the norm in U.S. education where teachers are working alone in isolated classrooms, (behavior attributed to our factory-era schools), how are educators expected to acquire these skills, let alone infuse them into their teaching and learning with their students?

Microsoft, the National Staff Development Council, and the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future support the growing consensus that teaching, even good teaching, is better when teachers have the support of their colleagues and opportunities for continual reflection, inquiry, problem solving and learning together. Groups of teachers engaged in this kind of work on a regular basis are the learning communities that make good schools great and enable sustained professional growth for educators in the 21st century.

About the 2007 U.S. Innovative Teachers Forum

An independent panel of nationally recognized education leaders will select up to 25 learning teams, based on team applications, to participate in the Forum. Up to three teachers plus a principal or vice-principal from each team will be invited to attend the Forum. The Forum will be held on the Microsoft corporate campus in Redmond, Washington, September 27-28, 2007.

Following the U.S. Forum, a subset of attendees will be selected to represent the United States at the Microsoft Worldwide Innovative Teachers Forum in Finland in November 2007.

Each learning team will be reviewed on the following criteria which demonstrate learning teams practicing the elements of 21st century learning in their own professional learning and then incorporating these skills into the student learning environment:

Application CriteriaWeight

21st Century Learning Teams Part I: About the Team

5 points

21st Century Learning Teams Part II: Goals and Team Time

Team goals

Common norms, agreements and learning beliefs

Team meeting time, duration and frequency

Team communication tools and strategies

10 points

21st Century Learning Teams Part III: Teamwork in Action

How does the team organize its work to stay focused on student achievement?

How does the team use best practice strategies to foster professional growth and student achievement?

20 points

21st Century Learning Teams Part IV: Team Success

How has the team directly contributed to improved student achievement?

What has been the most significant team learning thus far?

How has the team impacted the school structure and culture?

What are other indicators of success?

Team challenges and solutions

How does the team demonstrate 21st century skills?

Anything else that your team would like to share

15 points

Implementing 21st Century Projects Part I: Project overview

5 points

Implementing 21st Century Projects Part II: Project Development

Idea source and design steps


Essential questions

Core subject area integration


21st century content

Learning and thinking skills

Life skills

20 points

Implementing 21st Century Projects Part III: Project Implementation

Student learning strategies

Required resources

Information and communication technology

Implementation steps

Implementation tips

10 points

Implementing 21st Century Projects Part IV: Project Results

Assessment strategies

Student products/performances

Students' most significant learning

10 points

Implementing 21st Century Projects Part V: Project Artifacts

Student work samples

Project descriptors and rubrics

Other key project files, links, etc

5 points

Total Value

100 points

Applications will be accepted through midnight Pacific Time, July 11, 2007. Learning teams selected to attend the 2007 U.S. Innovative Teachers Forum will be notified by August 15, 2007.

If you have questions about the Forum, please send e-mail to

Friday, June 29, 2007


Banning Student "Containers"

By Alan November
June 15, 2007

from Technology & Learning

Education is digging in its heels against students' personal tools.


When my 17-year-old son, Dan, comes home from school he shouts hello, heads right to his laptop, and logs on to IM. His buddy list is maxed out. His syntax and grammar would make most English teachers recoil in horror. While he's sending quick notes to his friends he adds photos to his blog, checks the comments from his global audience, and snaps mini earphones into his iPod.

Later he switches his mini earphones for some serious sound-canceling ones, picks up his guitar, and Skypes with his buddy the drummer, who lives across town, for a live jam session. Both musicians can record the session on their own laptops for immediate feedback. (Skype certainly saves gas and the exhaustion of hauling amps or drums.) When he is not creating entertainment and publishing for the world, Dan taps YouTube for his favorite Monty Python skits. He is in his zone.

After playing and recording his music, Dan is allowed to play nonviolent video games. He studies the moves of his own draft picks on the soccer field in EA Sports FIFA07. Any adult would have to look twice to make sure it's not a live televised game—the animation is awesome. You can hear Dan from two floors down: "Did you see that goal?!" He is totally engaged and in charge. He even directs his own instant replays.

With Xbox Live he can play in online leagues with soccer fans anywhere in the world. He puts on his microphone and headset, signs on, and the games begin. Twenty-four hours a day, Dan can find players who would just love to beat him. While they play they share hot tips on movies and the latest CD releases. Getting to sleep with all of this stimulation is a problem.


Dan has five basic tools, or digital containers, for managing his content, communicating with the world, and accessing his entertainment: blogs, his iPod, Instant Messenger, YouTube, and video games. Of course he also has a cell phone, which he often sneaks into school to text message me about how debate went that day. Otherwise, he has no access in school to the tools he loves to use. In fact, he has been taught that they have nothing to do with learning.

At home he picks his applications and easily moves from one to another. He is self-taught, self-directed, and highly motivated. He is locally and globally connected.

School as "Reality-Free" Zone

But it is safe to say that Dan is not totally engaged at school. He is not self-directed or globally connected. For instance, he isn't allowed to download any of the amazing academic podcasts available to help him learn, from "Grammar Girl" to "Berkeley Physics." He is not connected via Skype to students in England when he is studying the American Revolution, for example,which might create an authentic debate that could be turned into a podcast for the world to hear.

He cannot post the official notes that day so those who subscribe to his teacher's math blog via an RSS feed can read what's going on in his class. His assignments do not automatically turn into communities of discussion where students help each other at any time of the day. His school has successfully blocked the cool containers Dan uses at home from "contaminating" any rigorous academic content. It is an irony that in too many schools, educators label these effective learning tools as hindrances to teaching.

No Containers Allowed

What have we done? We, as educators, have decided that the tools or containers that Dan uses when he is home are inappropriate for school and learning. We have decided that because we do not like the content students produce on blogs without adult supervision we will not let them near a blog, even with adult supervision. What do we think would happen to student motivation if we actively tapped the containers our students want to use? Educators should co-opt them. What if we had blocked all use of paper at one point because, early on, a student had written some inappropriate content without a teacher's guidance?

If we could get past our fear of the unknown and embrace the very tools we are blocking (which are also essential tools for the global economy) then we could build much more motivating and rigorous learning environments. We also have an opportunity to teach the ethics and the social responsibility that accompany the use of such powerful tools. For example, many students do not realize that once something is on the Internet it has the potential to follow them for the rest of their lives.

The Movers

As is always true with breakthroughs, a few pioneers are leading the way. Log on to Bob Sprankle's Web site, where third-grade students inWells, Maine, are teaching the rest of us how to turn eight year olds into teams of powerful digital editors, researchers, and publishers—doing it all during snack time on Mondays. Darren Kurupatwa's pre-cal and calculus students at Douglas McIntire High School inWinnipeg, Manitoba, are authoring daily notes being accessed by people in six continents at NatalieWatt has taught her third graders in New Orleans how to deeply understand the inner-workings of Wikipedia by organizing the class to publish an article about a local historic mansion, the Pitot House, on the site. At Washington International School in Washington, D.C., a high school student spent a good part of his summer building an amazing three-dimensional computer model of the library being planned by the school. This is just a sampling of what happens when we tap the containers our students want to use.

The ability to harness the power of Web 2.0 tools wouldn't be as critical if it were not for the fact that we are educating our students to succeed in a globally connected economy. People around the world have access to our job market via the Internet (read The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman for more on this). We should all be feeling a sense of urgency.

As we provide our students with models of how to use their digital containers for learning, the role of the teacher will be more crucial than ever. The fact remains: These tools can be a major distraction from learning or they can be a major catalyst to it. It will be the courageous educator who works with students to explore the power of these tools and in turn empowers students to be lifelong learners and active shapers of a world we cannot yet imagine.

Alan November is an internationally known ed tech leader, author, designer, consultant, and speaker. For information on his Building Learning Communities Summer Conference, visit

An END to a beginning.........and a NEW beginning with no end.....

Click here to return to the The Oakland Press

Pontiac superintendent decides to retire

Report citing host of district failings raised pressure on chief

Of The Oakland Press
In a decision that brought neither fanfare nor outrage, the Pontiac Board of Education unanimously accepted a retirement notice from embattled superintendent Mildred Mason on Thursday.

Board members voted on the matter without discussion during an open meeting that began two hours later than scheduled. Attorneys representing both the board and Mason had accompanied them in a closed-session discussion that accounted for the delay.

"We're very excited about the opportunity to move the district forward," Board President Letyna Roberts said after the meeting.

Mason left the district administration building before the conclusion of the board meeting and was not available for comment concerning her decision to part ways with the district.

The superintendent had one year remaining on a three-year contract.

Roberts said attorneys are working on details of a settlement relative to how Mason will be compensated for that time. During the 2006-07 school year, she received a salary of just over $155,000.

Private discussions on Mason's future with the district have been taking place for months, and some board members have publicly called for her resignation, retirement or termination on several occasions.

During her nearly four-year tenure as superintendent, Mason oversaw curriculum alignment efforts that led to most district school buildings meeting state and federal requirements for improving student achievement levels.

At the same time, she has come under fire for alleged financial mismanagement, divisive operational management practices and still significantly lagging academic achievement.

Fran Fowlkes, co-founder of the Truth for Children education advocacy organization, said Thursday night's decision was critical to overcoming a host of problems that have long been criticized by people outside the district.

She argued that the board and others inside the district must have courage to address these problems earnestly.

"You came close, if this had not happened, to getting a double black eye."

Fowlkes also challenged district teachers and administrators to approach the coming school year with optimism and renewed commitment.

"When you go back to your job, I want to see new motivation," she said. "You will have more support that you've ever seen."

Roberts said the board has already agreed to use consultants with the Chartwell Educational Group to organize a nationwide search for Mason's replacement. The process is expected to take six to eight months.

Meanwhile, Assistant Superintendent for Business Services Calvin Cupidore has been appointed to serve as interim superintendent. He said he is looking forward to assisting the board in district management reform efforts during the search process.

Noting that he is not interested in pursuing the superintendent's position on a permanent basis, he said, "When that period is over, I'll look forward to coming back to my old position."
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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Pontiac Community Visits AIM Program in Detroit / DAY 3

Are WE Having ANY FUN YET?

Cultivating High Performance

by Gordon Quick

In larger organizations, how do you sustain the high performance magic that seems to come naturally in a well-managed entrepreneurial environment?

A number of years ago, I got a call from my friend Jack. Jack had started his own company and by the late 90s he had built a very successful $40 million business. It had grown very quickly and was profitable -- but Jack had begun to feel uneasy.

As we discussed his concerns, Jack's first words were "it just isn't fun anymore." When I replied -- "who said it's supposed to be fun"-- there was a long silence on both ends of the phone. The comment was intended half in jest, but we were both struck by its implications. It wasn't long before we had framed the question that would occupy our discussions for months to come: As a company grows, does it have to stop being fun?

Our early discussions focused on the point at which it stopped being fun for him. Although Jack could not identify the precise point at which it began to change, he clearly knew when he was enjoying it most. Despite the usual life and death struggles of an early stage company, he felt that the early years were the most fun. I can remember his words clearly, "Without a doubt," he said, "those were the most trying times -- but they were best times as well."

Having had a similar experience some years earlier in a company I built from a business plan, I knew exactly how Jack felt. We too had grown rapidly and were very profitable, but my unease was caused by something else. We had built our business through an intentional focus on continuous innovation. We were involved in a rapidly growing industry and we were constantly out in front of our customers in meeting their needs. Innovation propelled us to the dominant position in our market.

But as we approached $50 million in revenue, I sensed that we had lost the innovative edge that was the hallmark of our business. To recapture that magic, I tried a number of different things. And although we had some success, the results did not get us back to where I had hoped. As Jack and I discussed my situation, we wondered if his concern and mine were caused by the same problem.

At this point we began to frame the question more broadly: Do you have to be a small company to have that entrepreneurial spirit -- a spirit that makes it a fun place to work and where people's creative juices flow best? Yet we both knew of larger companies where that entrepreneurial spirit existed -- although it always seemed to be in a small, early stage division. The theme that seemed to be common in all these situations was the existence of a small, close-knit group of people tightly focused on a common objective.

Neither Jack nor I had a clear sense of the exact nature of the problem -- and we certainly didn't have all the answers. But from then on this issue was on my radar screen. As I read books and articles by the great minds of business, I found some good ideas and tried many of them. Yet I couldn't find what I felt was a complete description of the problem, much less a comprehensive framework for the solution -- if in fact there was a solution to this dilemma.

Years later I was thinking about this again when I remembered something Jack had said that didn't sink in at the time. We were talking about how he felt when he had just 30 employees. Jack believed that everyone knew what they were trying to achieve and everyone was a part of it. His comment was, "All the employees felt like it was their business as much as it was mine -- it was as personal for them as it was for me."

My most vivid recollection was of his comments about performance. He said, "Our performance as a group of 30 people was staggering. We were a well-oiled machine, producing at an exceptional level." Jack continued by using a sports analogy. "We felt like we were the underdogs in the NCAA Finals of basketball. We didn't necessarily have the best athletes, but we got the most out of every person, and as a team we were all focused on one thing -- winning the championship."

But the statement that resonated best with me was, "If I got proportionately as much out of the hundreds of people who work for me now as I did when we were 30 employees, our performance would be off the charts."

Bingo! Finally, I think I understood the nature of the problem that caused Jack to stop having fun and caused my company to lose some of its innovative edge. The problem is -- how do you create (or sustain) the high performance that seems to be a natural result of a well-managed entrepreneurial environment?

To address this problem, we first have to define what we mean by a high performance environment.

Jack's sports analogy suggested the answer -- a high performance environment is one in which every employee willingly and enthusiastically contributes the maximum of their energy and talent to the objectives of the company. While it sounds simple, this definition presents two fundamental challenges:

  1. How do you get every employee to willingly and enthusiastically give his maximum effort -- and do it in a way that best capitalizes on his unique capabilities?
  2. How do you align all those efforts toward achieving the goals of the company?

Now I am neither egotistical nor naïve enough to think that I have all the answers to these questions. But I am now convinced that it is possible to regain and sustain the magic that seems to come much more easily in an entrepreneurial environment. After much thought, I can confidently state that I believe there is a set of actions that will get any company very close to the ideal. However, the only person who can pull this off is the leader of the business -- whether that's the CEO, president, division president or whomever -- it is the person with overall accountability for the business.

But what does the CEO need to do to achieve this result?

Cultivating high performance is not about doing that one magical thing -- rather it is about putting all the pieces together in a way that allows you to most closely replicate the environment found in entrepreneurial organizations.

My model for cultivating high performance in larger, more complex companies has three principal elements: 1) creating an environment that draws out the best in people, 2) creating a clear and compelling roadmap that becomes the framework against which people's energies (and other resources) are applied, and 3) ensuring consistent execution against the roadmap.

If you think about the dynamics of an entrepreneurial organization, it's much easier to achieve the three elements noted above. First, the employees who sign on with a new company are always highly motivated and enthusiastically work to do whatever it takes. Second, the group is of such a manageable size and the goals so uncomplicated that everyone easily knows and understands what needs to be done. And third, having that shared vision and working in close proximity helps keep everyone on track. It's a natural environment for high performance.

But doing it in a larger organization is another matter.

Creating the ideal environment takes a CEO who is willing to lead by example -- one who follows a set of principles while instilling them throughout the rest of the organization -- top to bottom. Providing the framework for applying everyone's best efforts requires the CEO to lead his or her management team in the "thinking" part of managing a business -- these are the activities that produce the roadmap for the business. Then, with the roadmap explicitly defined, the CEO must focus on the "doing" part of managing the business -- shaping and motivating the team, defining the actions called for by the roadmap, ensuring that they are carried out and communicating all of this with the passion found in an entrepreneurial environment.

Cultivating high performance is not about some new magic bullet -- rather it is the discipline to put all the pieces together in a consistent, coherent manner. As companies grow everything gets more complex. And it is the subtlety of ensuring that all the pieces are in place that gets lost in the heat of battle -- that is what stops them from being fun places to work or causes them to lose their innovative edge.

In a series of articles in the coming months, I will explore each of these three elements in more detail. It is my hope that this series will help you identify some number of opportunities, both small and large, that will give your company that extra push toward creating a high performance environment. The good news is that the path is not complex -- you don't need an advanced degree to get there. What you do need is an open mind, thoughtful reflection, and a personal commitment to see it through.

LEADERSHIP: Curiosity, Pattern Recognition, Mastery of Subject-matter, Compelling Shared Future-Picture!

Lessons from a Great Thinker

by Margaret Heffernan

A master at recognizing patterns and avoiding reductive career structures, Alfred Chandler ensured his business success by recognizing that you can’t understand a business by simplifying it -- you have to master its complexity.

Last month, a great man died: Alfred Chandler. Aged 89, his passing didn't cause much of a stir, but it should have. Because like all great thinkers, Chandler set himself a huge question and devoted himself to exploring it. For Chandler, the question of our age was: how do businesses work? What are the relationships between the times, the technologies and the people that make corporations dynamic and self-sustaining?

A former professor of business history at Harvard Business School, Chandler tended to study the titans of the American economy -- General Motors, Dupont, Standard Oil and Sears -- but the lessons he extracted from those studies could be, and were, applied to businesses around the world. One business leader compared The Visible Hand to The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Chandler's book had shown him everything about how organizations succeed or fail.

I met Chandler socially on a number of occasions and was always struck by two things. First was his immense youthfulness. His most recent book came out in 2005, at the age of 87, and he died in the midst of the next. He must have been eighty when we first met and yet he was the liveliest, best informed, most provocative conversationalist I can remember. Installing himself in a comfy seat, hubbub always formed around him; parties went into full swing when Chandler was there. And that was because of his second quality: curiosity. He wanted to know about everything from everyone. The people gathered around him weren't just business people; he befriended writers, musicians, artists, scientists, anyone with a lively mind. He understood that, at a certain level, you can't understand business by simplifying it. You have to master its complexity. It was no accident that he was married to an artist.

Chandler did what great thinkers do -- which, it turns out, is what great business leaders do too. When studies of thousands of top executives at companies around the world were analyzed, only one cognitive ability alone distinguished star performers. It wasn't technical expertise, schooling or IQ. It was pattern recognition, the big picture thinking that allowed leaders to pick out meaningful trends and to think far into the future.

Chandler was an ace pattern recognizer -- starting with his time in the Navy during World War II, when his job was analyzing aerial photographs of Japanese and German territory before and after bombing raids. He did as a young man what he would do for the rest of his life, and what, I would argue, all business leaders must do: survey the terrain, identify significant changes and figure out what they mean.

This is the most important thing that CEOs do and is almost always what spurs entrepreneurs into action. Business success is all about identifying patterns -- in product development, consumer tastes and social trends. To perform pattern recognition at a high level, you need to be curious, and you need to know a very wide range of people who are curious too. You can't know everything yourself, so you have to know a lot of people who know a lot. You have to place yourself in the midst of the hubbub.

Business failures occur when that pattern recognition stops, when business leaders fall for their own publicity or when the business itself becomes too narcissistic -- more concerned with internal politics and processes than with markets and customers. Many of our reductive career structures contribute to these failures. We start as generalists, and then get increasingly specialized until all we know is our area of expertise, and other people in it. We hang out with people just like ourselves who work in our industry, drive cars like ours, live in houses like ours, speak and think like us. The higher we get in the corporation, the more skills we need -- and yet our careers narrow our horizons at each step along the way. This reductivism is just the opposite of what we, and our companies, need.

One trend in leadership development seems to recognize this problem. More and more of the executive leadership conferences at which I speak feature experts and thought leaders from vastly different walks of life. Filmmakers talk about leading teams that must disband the minute work is complete. Religious thinkers discuss the spiritual dimensions of leadership. Scientists explain how to identify, from a sea of problems, those that you are capable of solving today. This is the opposite of old-style reductive thinking. It embraces the complexity of the business world and seeks to develop the talents to master it, not deny it. It stimulates the curiosity and enrichment true business leaders crave.

So what does that mean for individual careers? I think it means that the best employee, like the best leader, must at once be both narrow and deep. There's no substitute for knowing your business inside and out. But context is crucial and your ability to read the world around you is no longer an optional extra. This may feel like work has become harder than ever. It has. It's no longer enough to know just your job, to live it and breathe it eighteen hours a day. Now you need to have a life too.

The Center for Creative Leadership found a correlation between excellence at work and commitment to activities outside of work. This often comes as a surprise to corporate executives who think excellence and reductivism come together. But it comes as no surprise to women who've always had to combine a career with outside commitments. It serves as a significant wake up call to men who are just beginning to see fatherhood as a career asset. But Chandler, I suspect, would not have been surprised at all.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Monday, June 25, 2007

"LIVE the YAPO Computer Learning Center DREAM!

"Dream lofty dreams, and as you dream, so shall you become." James Allen

Paul Potts was a cell-phone salesman who dreamed of spending his life "doing what I feel I was born to do." Watch him as he takes a huge step toward that dream.

WARNING: This video may cause goose bumps and even tears. Watch at your own risk...and then get your dream out...polish it off....and put it back on the mantle so you see it every day.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Beyond the "Brutal Facts" to the NEXT STEPS!

Pontiac Schools "Brutal Facts" revealed! Now to the Task at Hand!

Click here to return to the The Oakland Press



Report assails Pontiac schools, urges reforms

Recommendations could save district up to $8M now, $5.6M over next few years
Of The Oakland Press

Whether it's spending $1 million per year in district legal fees, failing to adequately monitor service contracts, allowing unethical practices such as nepotism to guide personnel decisions or failing to maintain consistent curriculum throughout the district, Pontiac faces formidable reform challenges in nearly every aspect of its day-to-day operations.

These were among numerous less-than-complimentary findings of the Chartwell Education Group, a consulting firm headed by former U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige and hired by the Pontiac school district late last year to evaluate management practices.

On Tuesday, the group released to the public a 292-page report containing hundreds of reform recommendations. If enacted, authors suggest, these measures could not only improve academic achievement and rebuild languishing community trust and confidence, but also save the district up to $8 million immediately and an additional $5.6 million over the next two to five years.

Board of Education President Letyna Roberts told about 50 community members gathered for Tuesday's report release that the board is committed to "revolutionary change" namely taking whatever measures are necessary to stem the tide of lackluster student achievement, rapidly declining enrollment, the loss of millions of dollars in operational funding each year and many other problems.

"If we keep going like this, this school district will not be around much longer," she said. "We mean business, people. I hope, I encourage and I urge you to become part of the team."

Based on five months of site visits by educational experts, interviews with individuals in every part of the district, a detailed community survey, facility inspections and other research, Chartwell consultants found both flaws and some commendable aspects of board governance, district management practices, school leadership, community support, financial operations, technology management, personnel services, school safety, instructional practices and student engagement.

At the top of the leadership structure, consultants found considerable disharmony between Board of Education members and top district administrators.

"It was something that was evident in almost every interview we had," said Scott Jenkins, a Chartwell consultant.

Additionally, the report suggests, some board members look to micromanage day-to-day operations rather than set policy, and some make decisions based on community political pressure, rather than the best interests of students.

District executives and other school community members also took heat for decisions made without regard for the best interest of students.

"The district is plagued by a variety of unethical behaviors "particularly nepotism" when it comes to personnel matters, promotions, awarding contracts and the retention of employees," the report states. "Enough examples were provided and confirmed by various sources that it is clear the district faces serious issues regarding unethical behavior at all levels."

Principals are said to be left out of a variety of district planning processes, despite the fact that they are considered vital team members in many other districts. "Those are frontline leaders in every school. They need to be part of the central planning," Jenkins argued.

Shirley McClendon, principal of Owen Elementary School and a member of the Pontiac Association of School Administrators, said she and her colleagues are eager to become part of that process.

"Whatever it takes, we will be there," she told board members Tuesday. "We have the energy, the talent and the time."

It may take considerable efforts to convince the Pontiac community that reform recommendations can bring about tangible change to will benefit students.

A Chartwell survey revealed that 67 percent of local residents believe the district is either failing or beyond repair. Even more, 69 percent, said they would put their children in other schools if given the choice.

Among prominent community concerns is the district's failure to prepare many students to be successful beyond high school.

Just one example of that, Chartwell consultants found, is the fact that less than 5 percent of Pontiac graduates qualify for state scholarships awarded to students meeting basic learning benchmarks. This compares with 45 percent of students at average Michigan high schools doing so.

"The (Pontiac school district) must discontinue practices which clearly hinder high-quality teaching and high student achievement," report authors suggest. "These practices are what contributed, in large part, to the district's low test scores and a widening achievement gap with the rest of the state."

School safety is yet another community concern. Though the district has made efforts to address safety issues in the schools Ñ such as installing metal detectors and hiring security officers consultants found no districtwide safety management system.

"This lack of a comprehensive plan is clear, particularly in the high schools, where several violent outbursts and gang-related activities have made it necessary to involve local and state police." the report states.

"What the (Pontiac school district) must realize is that if the safety of the school system is not effectively addressed, it will be at the risk of the students, the district and the entire Pontiac community."

Despite these and many other unflattering findings revealed by the five-month investigation, some community members expressed confidence that an inclusive, community effort to review and implement report recommendations can help turn the crisis-ridden district around.

"I think there's everything we need right here in this community already," said Evelyn LaDuff. "We are the solution to the problem."

With the report now released to the public, school leaders plan to begin prioritizing report recommendations and developing a strategic plan for renewal. Though some changes are expected to be in place by the start of the coming school year, others may take years to complete.

District officials said a synopsis of the Chartwell Education Group situational analysis will be available on the district's Web site starting today. The address is

The full, 292-page report will be distributed free of charge to 75 key community stakeholders to be determined in the near future by Board of Education members. Others interested in obtaining a copy can do so for a $10 fee. They will be available at the district administration building, 47200 Woodward Ave., starting Monday.

Contact staff writer Dave Groves at (248) 745-4633 or Ê Article View Links
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Tuesday, June 12, 2007