2.28.2011

Grafton Girls Win Region I Basketball

Figure I'll throw a changeup here and switch to sports this week. The Grafton HS girls were seeded ninth in their district, but managed to win the whole regional championship and enter the state tournament this weekend with a 24-3 record. This was in last Saturday's WYDaily and made it to air this (Mon.) afternoon.
By Jim McGrath
It’s amazing what one can learn from watching pre-game warm-ups.
Forty-five minutes before last night’s Region I Division 4 Girls basketball championship game at Grafton, while her teammates stretched under the basket, Morgan Heath walked out to a point on the left wing, 40 feet away from the basket and breezily swished a jumper. She then dribbled to the opposite side of the court and swished another 40-footer from the right wing. Later, Rose Mulherin worked five points from outside the three point arc, reminiscent of the NBA three-point shooting contest and practiced her far outside jumpers. The left wing shot seemed particularly favorable.
Imagine if one of them had to shoot an important long jumper.
Fast forward to the last ten seconds of the first half. The Clippers, down 19-16, had been worked over by a Cyclone team that lived up to its nickname. The visitors from Culpeper left little doubt that it was the same team that defeated heavily favored Courtland in the semi-finals. The team showed little fear, whether it was diving for loose balls, wrestling for rebounds or sprinting back down the court to thwart a Clipper fast break. Mulherin, in particular, had one breakaway shot blocked by a hustling Cycloner, much to the delight of the 100 or so fans who made the four hour drive from northwest Virginia.
As the clock ticked down, the Clippers were about to head into the locker room having not held the lead at all, and in jeopardy or seeing their undefeated home season end.
Not so fast.
Mulherin dribbled up the left side as the clock wound down...four…three...two. At one, the junior guard found herself about 40 feet from the basket, in roughly the same spot that Heath had drained a jumper about an hour earlier. Barely stopping to set, she let one fly.
SWISH!!!!
As the home crowd roared, the Grafton players and coaches jumped up and down and the team ran into the locker room, tied at 19 and ready to play with a renewed sense of purpose.
As for her long range shot, as well as Heath’s, Mulherin said is that it is something they do ‘as fun in practice.” However, she added, “it gave us a boost of confidence and we were able to turn it around. It helped loosen us up because we were tense. We weren’t shooting very well up to that point.”
Coach Tommy Bayse agreed.
“A big momentum thing was hitting that three at the half. It kind of got us excited as we went out.”
The feeling was in the Clipper locker room at halftime was one of confidence. Added Mulherin, “It made us realize that they’re just a team, they’re just people.”
Early in the second half, Mulherin’s three-pointer from the left wing, exactly from the same spot she was hitting from before the game, gave the Lady Clippers their first lead of the game at 24-22.
Without question, the Cyclones matched up physically with the usually powerful Grafton team.
“Numbers 33 (Taylor Shanks) and 25 (Courtney Shanks) are real physical and they hurt us on the boards,” said Bayse.
Taylor Shanks was an unstoppable force inside, leading her team with 18 points, many coming from her own offensive rebounds. On defense, she held Olivia Wilson, who had averaged 21.3 points over the past three games, to four points. Shanks’ sister was scoreless, but tenacious on defense. One example of this ended up putting Grafton in the lead for good.
Early in the fourth quarter, with the Cyclones leading 33-32, Courtney Shanks grabbed a defensive rebound and was quickly surrounded by a trio of Clipper defenders. In her attempt to get away she clutched the ball in her hands while swinging her elbows side to side. One caught Grafton’s Hannah Olson in the side of the head and the freshman fell backwards, eventually banging her head on the floor. As Shanks was called for a flagrant foul, Olson was awarded two foul shots which she calmly made to give her team the lead. On the ensuing possession, Wilson caught the inbounds pass under the basket and laid in what would be her only field goal of the game. However, it gave Grafton a 36-33 lead, a lead they would not relinquish despite several spirited runs by Eastern View who were down 40-39 with 59 seconds left before Tiffany Shanks fouled the Clippers’ Savanna Baxley. With the game on the line, Baxley drained both free throws, a sequence which Bayse called “the other turning point of the game. I don’t know how many she scored (four), but those were two of the biggest ones.”
From there, the home team ran out the clock and the celebration began. Riding the crest of a 10-game winning streak as well as completing a perfect season at home (16-0), it was easy to agree with Bayse’s final comment.
“I hate to leave this floor.”
Wilson did a fine job of summing up her team’s season to date as they prepare for the state tournament.
“It’s so unreal. We were picked to finish ninth in the district, but we came together as a team. We had doubts with ourselves, but we started winning and started to flow together and we started winning more and more and our confidence went up and everything started going right.”
The Clippers (24-3) will not have to travel far for their next game, playing against the Region II runner-up next weekend at Kaplan Arena on the campus of William and Mary.


EASTERN VIEW (17-9)    10    9    11    9  -  39
GRAFTON            (24-3)     4    15   11   12 -  42
Eastern View –  C. Jackson 6, Bowles 4, Mills 6, Mauck 3, T. Jackson 2, T. Shanks 18. Team 14 9-13 39. Three pointers (Mills 2).
Grafton – Heath 7, Mulherin 15, Brown 6, Olson 6, Wilson 4, S. Baxley 4. Team 14 11-18 42. Three pointers (Mulherin 3).

2.22.2011

What education can learn from corporate America

In light of the problems in Wisconsin between their governor and the teachers, I have wondered if there is something that legislators could learn from the corporate world. My numbers may not be exact, but it appears that teachers make about $30,000 more per year than the typical state worker in the cheese state. A fairly amazing statistic even if the gap is only half of this. As a teacher by trade, I probably shouldn't complain, although a successful hard line from the Wisconsin governor could have ripple effects in other states, including Virginia, where I am back to looking for a full-time position after a semester as a full-time student at W&M.


There are two sides to the argument regarding the relationship between the educational world and corporate America. Those who are against the two having a relationship argue that the industries have little in common and that a school cannot be run like a business.

On the other hand, we see the influence of corporate America infiltrating itself into the educational arena. Leaders such as Arne Duncan, the current Secretary of Education, and Michelle Rhee, former superintendent of Washington, D.C. schools, cut their teeth in the business world and brought CEO-like qualities to their positions in education. Even more recently, in 2010, Joel Klein, long time chancellor of New York City schools, resigned. Mayor Michael Bloomberg selected Cathleen P. Black, a former CEO of Hearst Publishing, and a business leader with no background in education, as his replacement.

In a 2007 speech to the Athens (GA) Torch Club, Dr. Ronald Simpson, director of Instructional Development at the University of Georgia, spoke of the importance of the corporate and public sectors and how they do not fundamentally understand what the other does. However, Simpson noted that the majority of people on the boards of higher learning institutions were from the corporate or business world, citing the Board of Regents at his own school, with all 18 members coming from the private sector, and 15 specifically from the business industry.

Undoubtedly, members of corporate America are finding themselves more involved with education. The question remains, what is being learned?

Customer Service is Key

In business, the customer is always right. Failure to serve the needs of a customer means risking the loss of business. If enough customers are dissatisfied, the company runs the risk of failing.

While opponents of school vouchers and the No Child Left Behind Act complain of the extra demands being put on school professionals, there is little question that the expectations of educators have been raised and learning institutions are now being treated more like businesses. If a school fails to meet the benchmarks set at the state or national level, it runs the risk of losing students to other schools, and may even close if the benchmarks are not met for several consecutive years.

Incoming Funds Will Decrease

In the past, school system budgets were usually spared from cutbacks because of the importance placed on education. However, with a recent economic downturn, administrators have been forced to learn to “do more with less.” This is a skill associated more with corporate America. Leaders who are business driven and have experience with creating smaller budgets and working through cutbacks are in demand in the education industry.

Plan Ahead

Just as a successful business will conduct research and development to plan for the future, a competent school leader will also develop and maintain a vision. Many learning institutions and school systems have developed strategic plans, usually stretched between three and ten years, and there appears to be an influence from the corporate community with this method of long term planning. This is especially important for both industries as evolving technology is creating new types of jobs for the workforce and the educational system needs to be prepared to train students for positions which may have not been created yet. Informally, it is called having the ability to “see around the corner.”







2.14.2011

Women in Leadership Positions - Must They Work Harder?

Thinking about the influx of females into superintendent positions, I examined the idea of whether women have to work harder, in other words, are the expectations higher. A more cynical question might be, is there less room for error?


In 1909, when Ella Flagg Young became the first woman superintendent of the Chicago public schools, she declared: Women are destined to rule the schools of every city (cited in Blount, 1998, p.1). By 1928, 1.6% of all superintendents in the U.S. were women (Shakeshaft, 1989). However, not much changed over the next 70 years. In 1998, 12 percent of public school superintendents in the U.S. were women (Hodgkinson & Montenegro, 1999). Generally, the superintendency is seen as a male-dominated position (Bell & Chase, 1995), which is unusual considering that 70% of all K-12 teachers are female.

In thinking about the topic of power, influence and authority, I wondered how it worked differently for female superintendents. Although they are a minority among their peers, there are new heads of school districts, both in the city where I live (Newport News) and where I work (Hampton). The question I looked to answer from my readings is, Does the emerging female superintendent look at power, influence and authority differently than a male in the same position?

One interesting position comes from a school of thought that women stalk the position of superintendent. This comes from a system of beliefs forwarded by writer Carlos Castenada (1974, 1981, 1987, etc..), who introduced a system called the seven principles of stalking. The term originally derived from the custom of training Yaqui Indian warriors. In spite of the negative connotation associated with the word stalk, Castenada insists that it should not be taken negatively. In fact, because of the barriers involved with earning the position, they have to stalk it out.

Dr. C. Cryss Brunner of the University of Wisconsin has devoted much time to studying the role of female as superintendent, and has many thoughts to share. In one study, he examines the different ways that women use the power of the superintendency to build stronger relationships and how their feminism works as an asset in the ability to perform the job. Brunner calls it an ethic of care. (Beck, 1994; Noddings, 1984). By relating the topic to Euro-American women who hold the position, Brunner (1995) notes the feminine use of power holds the promise of transformed practice for anyone, female or male, who accepts the challenge.
In another study, Brunner cites the work of Hartsock (1987), who associated gender with the concept of power. While avoiding domination, Hartock says that women adhere to a theory of power which stems from the point of
view of the subordinate. They draw on their own capacities, abilities and strengths to gain empowerment in the superintendent position.

The authors of my readings all appeared to agree on the basic idea that men and women view power, influence and authority in a different way. It is also suggested that women do show awareness of this theory in several ways. First, women interested in becoming the superintendent of a school system will seek out the position and in a sense, stalk for the job. This is not an exercise of using dominating power, but is rather borne from an awareness that the position is male-dominated and that a female will have to make an extra effort to make her interest in the position known to the local school board.

Another point of interest comes from the leadership style of the female superintendent as opposed to her male counterpart. Brunner (1995) believes it is difficult, but not impossible for superintendents to behave in an ethical caring way toward the less powerful, such as teachers and children, and believes that natural female instincts allow these leaders to practice collaboration and consensus-building which relies on positive, less hierarchical relationships between people.

In an earlier study, Brunner (1994) had hypothesized about this gender-specific type of power and found three items. First, when women operate according to the female concept of power, their chances to acquire positions of power decrease dramatically. Second, women are most likely to be empowered in those communities that have pluralistic or diffused power structures. Finally, women who attain positions of power are most successful when they adopt female approaches to power that stress collaboration, inclusion and consensus building models.
In a sense, the argument is a paradox. On the one hand, females are supposed to possess qualities which are beneficial to performing the superintendent position. Yet, the same traits are known to keep one from acquiring the job, leaving potential applicants to stalk the job and go against their normal demeanor. From this information, it would seem that performing the duties of the job is easier for a female than being selected for it.

The author has gone on to research the process by seeking the answer to the question: If women make up over 70 percent of the teacher ranks, then why are only less than ten percent in the ranks of superintendents of schools? While acknowledging that people may find gender-specific research to be offending, it can be useful and help to gain a better understanding of educational administration in the future. The information from these various studies can certainly beneficial to women who are working their way up the pipeline from teacher to principal to central office director, and hopefully on to the top position in their school district.

2.07.2011

Zero tolerance: A contemporary educational ethics issue

(Editor's note: I was going to go with a piece written about the Hall of Fame inductions of two of my favorite Redskins, Darrell Green and Art Monk, but changed my mind after reading some of the derogatory comments about sportswriters in the article. Seeing as I cover high school games these days, my opinion on typewriter jockeys is now a work in progress :) Anyhow, it looks like I'll be taking a seminar on legal issues this summer, so it seemed like a good excuse to go back and examine one or two old writings on educational legal issues. This was a piece on "zero tolerance" composed for a spirited debate for my School Law class at U. VA. For the record, I believe our team won that debate.)

In spite of the negative connotation the two words cause, there is a place for "zero tolerance" policies in schools today. I believe that the three main reasons for this are as follows. First, when one looks at the climate within schools today, it is obvious that a zero tolerance policy is necessary to ensure school safety. Secondly, statistics show that zero tolerance policies are successful. Finally, in awareness of the extreme consequences which have occurred under this policy, court decisions have been made which give school administrators more discretion to enforce the policy while using common sense.

To understand the need for "zero tolerance," one must understand the events which caused its formation. Popular theory suggests that the policy started about 15 years ago, but as a generation celebrates the 40th anniversary of the "Summer of Love," one must remember the behaviors that made the summer of 1967 memorable for its participants. Certainly, the music has left a lasting impression, but others expressed themselves through free love and illegal drug use. When Richard Nixon became president, he took a look at the youth of America, and decided that they were having too much fun. With this in mind, Nixon's "war on drugs" was launched in 1969. As far as schools are concerned, zero tolerance policies began to evolve in the late 1980's. In 1989, school districts in California and Kentucky introduced policies that mandated expulsion for drug possession, or participation in gang-related activity. In Yonkers, N.Y., the program included restricted access to schools, a ban on hats, immediate suspension for any school disruption and increased use of law enforcement. Within a four year period leading into the early 1990's, zero tolerance had become a way of life in educational institutions. With Congress' passing of the Gun-Free Schools Act in 1994, the zero tolerance policy had reached a national level.

The Gun-Free Act required states that receive federal funds to expel any student who brought a weapon to school for at least one calendar year. It also required state provisions permitting the local school superintendent to modify the expulsion requirement on a case-by-case basis. This allowed states, such as Virginia, to enact their own statutes. In many cases, like with Virginia, the altering of zero tolerance policies gave more leverage to individual schools and administrators. Partly because of this newer legislation, which promoted common sense, especially where guns and drugs are concerned, we see several reasons why some form of "zero tolerance" policy is necessary.

The truths are these. Society is not safe. There have been cases of students bringing guns to schools. Students do abuse drugs. Violence, especially with the emergence off gangs such as MS-13 in Virginia, is becoming a more common way for young people to resolve conflicts. This may not be encouraging news, but it is the reality of life in the 21st century school. Zero tolerance policies in schools make them safer, and schools have to provide students with a place that protects them. In the absence of a safe environment, the ability to educate students is compromised.

The important aspect is to continue to realize why we need this policy. Last year, as reported on CNN and other national news organizations, two Long Island teenagers were taken into custody. They were arrested on charges of plotting a terrorist attack at their Suffolk County high school complete with a "hit list" of specific students. Their attack, which would have used guns and homemade explosives, was scheduled to coincide with the 9th anniversary of the Columbine H.S. massacre, and was to occur sometime around April 20, 2008. Columbine's immediate impact on "copycatters" was obvious six "would be" assassins were caught in one ten day period of 2001 alone. The fact that Columbine is still noteworthy NINE years after the tragedy is bone chilling, and should speak volumes about the seriousness of the episode, as well as for the need of zero tolerance.

Does the policy work? History says it does indeed work; unfortunately, the public eye is blinded by visions of overzealous principals.

In Texas, a survey found that from 1993 to 1998, the percentage of teachers who viewed assaults on students as a "significant problem" dropped 22 points, from 53 to 31, after beginning their zero tolerance policy. In Baltimore, an aggressive zero tolerance law produced a 30 percent drop in student assaults on other students and a 50 percent drop in student assaults on teachers and staff IN ITS FIRST YEAR! Also, in its first year with the policy, Granite City H.S. in Illinois reported a 60 percent drop in student expulsions. The National School Safety and Security Services notes the false perception given by zero tolerance critics and comments in its opinion report on zero tolerance that the "vast majority" of school administrators strive for firm, fair, and consistent discipline.

It is important to recognize that the applications of zero-tolerance policies have gone overboard on several occasions and I do not condone a long-term suspension for a six year old who brings a nail clipper or an Advil to school. Admittedly, a few administrators have taken the definition of zero tolerance to extreme levels. But, in almost all cases, this is a successful policy. It is unfair to base a judgment on several rare, but highly publicized events.

However, when the policy has been put to the test in court, decisions have backed up the school administrator. In Brian A. v. Stroudsburg Area School District (2001), a federal district court considered the case of a 15-year-old student who was expelled because he wrote a note stating, "There's a Bomb in this School bang bang!" Being three weeks after Columbine, the matter was taken seriously. In making their decision to expel the student, school officials considered the fact that the student was already on probation because of blowing up a shed on the property of another school. The court held that the schools act of expelling the student was a reasonable response.

In another case, Lovell v. Poway Unified School District (1996), a federal appeals court considered the appropriateness of the suspension of a 15-year-old student who threatened to shoot her school counselor because of unhappiness with her schedule. Like Brian A., the student said she was not serious and apologized for what she called "merely uttering a figure of speech." Still, the counselor felt a real threat and the suspension was upheld in court. In its comments, the court noted "in light of the violence prevalent in schools today, school officials are justified in taking very seriously student threats against faculty or other students."

There are several truths about zero tolerance which the general public may not be fully aware of. First of all, school officials have been held liable for failing to protect students from foreseeable harm (e.g. Eisel v. Board of Educ. 1991). In the Eisel case, a school counselor was made aware of suicidal statements made by a student, who then died in a murder-suicide pact with a friend. Second, the zero tolerance policy is legal. In 1985's case of New Jersey v. T.L.O., the Supreme Court was forced to address the constitutionality of student searches as a violation of the 4th Amendment. By a 6-3 vote, the Court ruled that the rights of children and adolescents are not the same as adults and that school officials have a responsibility to maintain the discipline necessary for education. Third, the flexibility within the policy allows for school administrators to discipline the true offenders while remaining sensible to the less serious and accidental violations. The policy has been altered from the "one size fits all" that many people still believe exists. Finally, the practice of zero tolerance works because the "due process" rights of a student are not violated. One well known example of this comes from Goss v. Lopez (1975), in which the court noted that minimum due process must be provided before a student is suspended for even a brief period of time. Bethel v. Fraser (1986) adjusted the ruling on minimal due process stating that a two day suspension, in this case for a violation of free speech, does not "rise to the level of a penal sanction calling for the full panoply of procedural due process protections applicable to a criminal prosecution."

In short, the zero tolerance policy does work. It ensures the safety in schools, which is needed for a positive learning environment. Also, past history, and statistics show evidence that the policy is successful. Finally, there is little recent evidence that administrators' judgments have been extreme, and court decisions have backed this up.