Tuesday Tidbits, October 12, 2010

Last week I spent three days working with a school district in South Dakota, a place with which I’ve worked for about three years, and I was struck by something that the school board president said near the end of our Thursday meeting. He told me that the district had advertised for a job opening and that it had received one resume for that opening – just one. I was thunderstruck. Sure, it made sense – this opening needed a person with a somewhat specialized background, and the district is in a very rural county – but I was still thunderstruck, given that job openings these days attract hundreds of applicants.

It’s interesting that this anecdote flies in the face of recent research on attracting principals to rural settings, which showed that “superintendents of rural school districts in at least two states…are not facing a shortage of applicants for vacant principal’s positions.” Wonder if those findings can be extended beyond the principal, to other positions in these districts.

On September 29 I wrote about Race to the Top (RTTT), and an astute reader (and good friend!) asked why Montgomery County schools had not signed on to the Maryland application, missing out on about $12 million. This article stated that the “school system’s lack of support for Race to the Top centered on how teacher evaluations might differ from what the county uses and the nature of the tests that would be administered to students.” The state’s application even stated that “Maryland determined that the…County’s [teacher] evaluation system does not calculate student growth, and therefore would not be aligned with the statewide system.”

In Rhode Island, another RTTT winner, two school districts were not part of that state’s app, Chariho Regional and Little Compton, and this article said that the state left Little Compton out since it had answered negatively to several questions on the memorandum of understanding that each participating district completed as part of any state’s app. Guess the state had no room for nay-sayers. As of September 17, Little Compton is appealing to the state to have that action reversed, so that it might get part of Rhode Island’s overall award – about $71,000.

Finally, I was reading this weekend’s New York Times Magazine, the Food Issue, and got thinking about school lunch and the last lunch I had that was actually cooked by the people in the cafeteria, not something delivered to the school from a central kitchen and then warmed by a Cafeteria Manager. It was a delicious casserole prepared by three women at Magazine Public Schools in Arkansas, with fresh rolls and topped off by a very decadent, piping hot peach cobbler, the fruit fresh and local.

As you might imagine, there are many sites and blogs out there about school food. Farm to School lets you find a farm-to-school program in your state; here’s the blog Better D.C. School Food, with great links and resources; and I am fascinated with s’Cool Food, which “focuses its efforts in the public school districts in Santa Barbara (CA) County.” At s’Cool Food’s Commonly Asked Questions page, see this question, “How do I get more information about what my child is eating at school?”, and its answer: The US Department of Agriculture, “which administers the National School Lunch Program, encourages all parents to have lunch with their children at school at least once a year. Actually seeing what food is being offered in your school cafeteria, and what foods they are choosing, is the best way to become accurately informed about what your child eats at school.”

I have never bought and had lunch at school with our son; now I need to.

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