Tag Archives: MA Administration


When I lived in Boston, I remember longing to be part of a community. I managed restaurants then. I went to work against the flow of traffic and worked weekends as my job was to serve the regular folks. I wanted to be regular. I moved back to New Jersey and went to graduate school (all this is documented elsewhere, I believe, somewhere around here).

I am now part of the community. When I began teaching, I quickly realized that the free time I used to have in abundance, was less available. Then I met my wife. That time was cut even shorter. Along came Beetle and I realized that storing up my free time for big caching days had to be done differently or I wouldn’t get to see my daughter at all.

But all that pales in comparison to the schedule now. Wife and daughter are still there, but this second graduate program has placed a demand upon me that is greater than any I have had before. I am running ragged and still do not feel as though I am accomplishing what I need to do.

Drained is the best I can do to explain it. I knew writing the thesis this time around was going to tax me.

Core Content Standard

Reflection submitted on 7 April 1999

As a fourth grade mathematics teacher, I am quite familiar with the Core Content Curriculum Standards for my level. The 16 standards span the spectrum of mathematics. Each one is written, even at the fourth grade level, to apply to life beyond the classroom. That is important to note since the core content is to provide the student with proficiency in the real world after his schooling has ended.

Developing the ability to pose and solve problems, reasoning ability, number sense, and being able to connect mathematics to other learning by understanding the interrelationships at work are examples of the content that is taking place in my mathematics classroom. Computation is no longer the emphasis � not that it is forgotten. Being able to multiply 5,724 by 39 is meaningless if the student has no understanding of what the factors and the product represent.

The re-alignment of the district curriculum to the state content has provided the standard in which to model complete mathematics. The core content provides a focal point in which to lead learning. We approach our work from a realistic framework, break it down into its components, and then analyze the mathematics at work. This structure provides students with the necessary link to why the material is important. At that point, students have intrinsic motivation in which to build their mathematical paradigm.

The school district that I work for is in New Jersey. We are an Abbott district. As such, we are scrutinized more closely than other districts. We have been a leading district in the area of core content standards. We have field-tested various components of the ESPA. In order to prepare our students with the necessary background in which to become fruitful citizens of New Jersey, it is imperative that the district engages the students mathematically. The state will monitor the students’ progress throughout their schooling with the ESPA, GEPA, and HSPA.

Since accreditation and funds are linked to the students’ scores on these assessments, the district needs to provide for its students mathematically—the sooner, the better. My position, along with all of the other elementary mathematics teachers, is necessary to provide the learning opportunities to our students. A successful experience will provide for a rich life outside of school for the students as well as for exemplary results for the district on the state assessments.

Are School Vouchers Constitutional?

School Law for Administration and Supervision: 0827.559
Paper submitted 16 December 1998

In Wisconsin, the answer is clearly, “Yes.” Elsewhere, who knows. The issue is contentious, political, and current. Where it will eventually settle is not clear. An examination of case law provides an interesting mix of reasons to believe one way or the other. The issue is whether or not school vouchers violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution. It reads,

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. . .

This is made applicable to the states via the 14th Amendment:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Would the state establish religion if it provided money to religious schools to educate students? Let’s take a look at the relevant case law and see if we can figure this out.

Pierce v. Society of Sisters
The first case on our journey is the 1925 Oregon case of Pierce v. Society of Sisters. The case had the Court weighing the public’s right to educate all children versus with parents’ rights to educate their children as they deemed appropriate.

Oregon had put into place a compulsory education law. The law was written that only public schools met the criteria for educating children. Students who were educated at private schools were in violation of the statute.

The Court ruled that the Oregon law deprived the Society of Sisters of their property by putting them out of business, if this law were to be enforced. By doing so, the Court used the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. The Court found that a parent’s liberty of sending his child to a school of his choice was more important that the state’s right to require public school attendance.

Some will argue that as soon as the state looses the right to require public school attendance, religious school proponents will argue for ways of offsetting the cost of private education.

Cochran v. Louisiana State Board of Education
Five years later found the Court dealing with the first of many attempts at setting what can be provided for by the state to private, religious schools. Louisiana passed a law to provide secular textbooks to all children, regardless as to whether they were public school students or not. It was challenged under the Due Process Clause, that the state was spending taxpayer’s money to fund religious schools.

The Court ruled that the religious schools didn’t really benefit from the purchase of these textbooks, the students did. Therefore, it upheld the law. This was the groundwork for the child benefit theory that was to come.

Did the Court make the right decision here? Perhaps the students do benefit from the textbooks—we would hope so. However, the school benefits too. Without having to pay for the cost of the textbooks, the school has money available for other supplies it may want – perhaps even Bibles! Perish the thought. . .

Everson v. Board of Education
In 1947 the Court got around to the Establishment Clause and funding religious schools. A challenge was made to a public school district’s decision to provide buses for transportation of private school students. The Court developed the child benefit theory, in which it argued that it is to the child’s benefit to go to school safely, therefore, providing buses does not establish religion as much as it benefits the general welfare of society.

Again, private schools save a big expense. Money may now be available to refurbish the chapel. One might also argue that this decision favors religions that have schools. Would that be establishment of religion?

The Court did allow for a public school district to refuse providing transportation to the private school children, if it so chose.

Board of Education v. Allen
The child benefit theory continued. The Court upheld a New York law that required the state to provide sectarian schools with secular books. This is Cochran all over again. The Court ruled that giving the books did not benefit the schools, but rather the students. It did not find this violated the Establishment Clause.

Lemon v. Kurtzman
From here, states tried to put in plans that would pay teachers to teach secular subjects in parochial schools. This pushed the Court too far on the Establishment Clause. The Court ruled that doing the above would excessively entangle the states with religion. Who would review the teachers? Who would monitor the lesson plans? Oh, the nightmare of keeping all of that straightened out.

The Court now had its test for Establishment Clause cases:

  1. Does the law have a secular purpose?
  2. Is the primary effect of the law to advance religion?
  3. Does the law excessively entangle government with religion?

The Lemon Test is the deciding factor on Establishment Clause issues. At least it was. Many have taken their shots at the test. In the Lamb’s Chapel case, Scalia’s dissent signals displeasure with this benchmark the Court has provided:

Like some ghoul in a late-night horror movie that repeatedly sits up in its grave and shuffles abroad, after being repeatedly killed and buried, Lemon stalks our Establishment Clause jurisprudence once again, frightening the little children and school attorneys.

The debate waged on. Challenges continued to provide parochial schools with all sorts of benefits, such as grants (Nyquist), tuition reimbursement (Sloan v. Lemon), and testing services (Levitt). Each was held to violate the Establishment Clause.

Does any of this sound like school vouchers? This is the Constitutional argument against vouchers. Just like tuition reimbursement et al, vouchers will advance religion and excessively entangle government with religion. Given these cases, it’s a relatively compelling case. Why should taxpayers fund parochial schools on any level?

Wheeler v. Barrera
It wasn’t long before the Court was back allowing aid to religious schools. Title I came to be and the Court ruled that to provide this aid to handicapped children in public schools, government must also provide it to the handicapped who are privately schooled. States did have the option of refusing Title I money for all of its students, but needless to say, that was a realistic option.

Meek v. Pittenger found the Court prohibiting aid in the form of equipment. The private schools just might show Lord Baby Jesus filmstrips if it had a projector. All other aid in Meek was prohibited (except loans of textbooks) as the primary effect was the advancement of religion. Wolman v. Walter got rid of instructional field trips (can you say, “I’m going to Bethlehem”). However, state-prepared standardized tests were provided to private schools in Pearl v. Regan.

Mueller v. Allen
This case brought back the question of whether tax benefits that reimburse parents for tuition and transportation could be extended to parochial school parents. Because the state was providing this tax break to all parents, the Court held that it was not to benefit the parochial schools.

But doesn’t the religion benefit from this? Public school parents are not normally required to pay tuition or purchase books. The counter-argument is that the primary intent of the law is not to advance religion. The Court is looking at each little thing separately, which is now giving mixed signals as to what is appropriate aid and what is not. In light of Allen, are we ready to accept school vouchers as a constitutionally-protected program?

The Court was soon back to separating church and state.

Grand Rapids v. Ball
The Court ruled in this case not to permit public schools from offering classes to non-public school students in leased classrooms at the non-public school and taught by public school teachers. This program failed the Lemon Test miserably: the teachers might promote religion, and because of the close relationship the schools would have with one another, the public school (government) would be excessively entangled with religion.

Aquilar v. Felton
Title I provided challenges as to how services would be implemented. New York wanted to pay public school teachers to go into parochial schools and service their Title I students. The Court held that these practices violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment because they excessively entangled the public and religious school systems (Lemon Test). Hence, the practices violated the requirement that church and state remain separate.

Zobrest v. Catalina Foothills School District
The Court again dealt with a challenge to public aid for private schools. In Zobrest, a deaf student requested the public schools provide a sign language interpreter for him at his Catholic high school. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Court ruled, based on their decisions in Allen and Witters, that an interpreter would not benefit the entire Catholic school, as he would only service the student in need.

Confused? Well, the Court sounds reasonable in all of its decisions (good for them). The problem is the totality of the decisions. They have now nick-picked so much, few to no generalizations can be made. And it gets better. . .

Rosenberger v. University of Virginia
Just three years ago the Court tackled whether or not a public university, UVA, had to provide printing costs for a student-led Christian publication. What more could advance religion than publishing? Yet, the Court ruled that because UVA provided the funds for other student-led publications, it could not deny doing so based solely on the viewpoint of the publication (Lamb’s Chapel). The Court has now gotten itself into a neutrality position towards religion in its effort to break from Lemon. Instead of just addressing whether something is advancing religion, the Court is now taking the stance that government should be neutral to religion. This allows for the arguments that an act should not inhibit religion from benefiting.

Agostini v. Felton
The neutrality argument permitted a revisiting to the Aquilar case. Since the Court had banned public school support for Title I in New York parochial schools, services were being provided in bizarre ways. The Court overruled itself and vacated the judgment in Aquilar. It reasoned that providing supplemental, remedial instruction to disadvantaged children on a neutral basis did not violate the Establishment Clause.

The Court seems to be more interested in the reality of the law rather the potentiality. Instead of relying on Lemon and hypothesizing, the Court is now looking at what the law is actually creating. It’s a far different approach than was used just a handful of years ago.

Jackson v. Benson
After all of that, the Court refused to hear this case. That alone has muddled the issue, but so would have accepting it. I can only imagine Scalia railing all over Wisconsin’s reliance on Lemon as to the constitutionality of the school voucher plan.

However, it is the only case law published (Cleveland’s case is impossible to get as are some of the other pending suits) which addresses the issue directly. The opinion is a history lesson of Establishment Clause case law. It is the law in Wisconsin. That much is certain. Is it constitutional? In Wisconsin, it is.

Will it be elsewhere? I believe it will eventually be found to constitutional. Even with the Court’s mixed bag of opinions in the field, the trend seems to be moving towards providing aid. However, as a recent George Will commentary spoke of, if you do the right thing for the wrong reason, you’ve done the wrong thing. Will Scalia have his way and bury Lemon? If he does, will the Court be able to find school vouchers constitutional or is its reliance on Lemon still too strong? Only time will tell.

Jackson vs. Benson

School Law for Administration and Supervision: 0827.559
Brief submitted 16 December 1998

Jackson v. Benson
Wisconsin Supreme Court
97-0270 (1998)

Establishment Clause – school vouchers

Relief Sought:

Jackson seeks to strike down a Wisconsin statute that provides a school voucher system that incorporates private religious schools.

Does a state school voucher program violate the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution?

The Wisconsin legislature enacted the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) in 1989. This program has been challenged and amended constantly since. In 1995, the program was amended to permit nonsectarian private schools, among other things. The amended Act was challenged on this issue.
Findings of the Wisconsin Circuit Court:
Granted summary judgment for Jackson.

Findings of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals:

Affirmed, 2-1. Found the voucher program as it was amended was in violation of the Wisconsin Constitution because it “directs payments of money from the state treasury for the benefit of religious seminaries.”

Findings of the Wisconsin Supreme Court:
Reversed. The Court concluded that the amended MPCP does not violate the Establishment Clause because it has a secular purpose, does not have a primary effect of advancing religion, and does not excessively entangle the state and the religious schools.

The Court wrote a ten-page history of Establishment Clause case law. In it, the three prongs of the Lemon Test were analyzed and applied to the amended MPCP. The purpose of the program is to provide low-income parents an opportunity to have their children educated outside of Milwaukee. The program provides this option to the parents, who choose where the benefit to their child will be spent. Because the State Superintendent already monitors the performance of the secular business of the schools, the state will not be excessively entangled with the schools.

This is the first published court challenge to the current issue of school vouchers. The US Supreme Court let stand this decision by refusing to grant certiorari in November.

I concentrated on the First Amendment issues and stayed away from the Wisconsin-specific issues.

Zobrest vs. Catalina Foothills School District

School Law for Administration and Supervision: 0827.559
Brief submitted 9 December 1998

Zobrest v. Catalina Foothills School District
United States Supreme Court
113 S. Ct. 2462 (1993)

Freedom of Religion – public personnel provided to a religious school

Relief Sought:
Zobrest was seeking to reverse the local school ditrict�s decision not to provide a sign language interpreter because he was a Catholic school student.

Does a state violate the Establishment Clause if it provides a sign language interpreter for a child attending a Catholic high school?
James Zobrest is deaf. He asked the Catalina Foothills [Public] School District to provide him with a sign language interpreter who would accompany him to classes at a Catholic high school. He believed that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) required the district to provide the interpreter. The school officials denied the request. It claimed that the placement of a public employee in a religious school would violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment (Meek v. Pittenger).

Findings of the US District Court:

The District Court granted summary judgment to Zobrest. This decision was based on the idea that the interpreter �would act as a conduit for the child’s religious inculcation, thereby promoting his religious development at government expense in violation of the Establishment Clause. �

Findings of the US Court of Appeals:
The Court of Appeals affirmed.

Findings of the US Supreme Court:
Reversed. In the Nyquist decision, it was found that the Establishment Clause requires government to be neutral towards religion and to refrain from action that might be deemed to constitute state sponsorship of a religion. As for education, Mueller v. Allen allowed states to provide tax deductions to parents whose children attend religious schools and Witters v. Washington Dept. of Services for Blind gave vocational assistance to a blind person studying at a Christian college. In the Allen case, textbooks were provided to religious schools. The Court has disallowed programs that provided equipment and remedial teachers to religious schools (Wolman v. Walter, Meek v. Pittenger).

The Court held that providing a sign language interpreter did not constitute state sponsorship of religion. It based its decision on Allen and Witters, The Court decided that distributed benefits without regard to religion (neutrally). The Court also stated that providing an interpreter was different than providing a teacher because an interpreter, unlike a teacher, would not add or subtract from the overall environment of the school. The dissent disagreed, arguing that the Establishment Clause prohibited the provision of a public employee who would serve as a conduit for the transmission of religious views.

The Court drew a fine line between the provision of state benefits and the endorsement of religion. The Court is splitting hairs as to what it is allowing/disallowing to religious schools. There is no clear-cut rule being followed that will allow us to determine if something is permitted or not. This 5-4 decision shows the Court�s confusion as well.

Reflections of Change-Making Materials

Educational Organization and Leadership: 0828.546
Paper submitted 7 December 1998

There used to be a regular skit on Saturday Night Live in which a character, Stuart Smalley, held his daily affirmation. Smalley, who suffered from low self-esteem, would talk himself up in a mirror by chanting, “I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And gosh darn it, people like me.” It was a spoof of the psychobabble that is purported to help us so much. Reading the studies in this section of our course reminded me of that skit.

Margolis dishes out a wordy essay that is nothing more than common sense. Yes, talking with those who will be responsible for the work before a change is good business. Yes, have those workers be part of the decision-making process. A perceptive administrator indeed should consider the perspective of his subordinates. It is understandable that workers may resist change. Was this to have been news? Was Margolis paid for this? My goodness, these are some of the basic tenets of work.

He states, “Thus, teachers need clear, observable, short and long-term objectives which they value and believe are achievable. These objectives should use criteria they believe accurately measure success.” Besides offering troublesome pronouns, Margolis would have us believe that teachers are just like the students they teach. If this is indeed the case (spoon-feeding faculty), then I suggest we spend some time researching whatever happened to the work ethic in our society. Yes, it is better to be informed as to what is happening and why it is. Absent that, workers need to understand they are employees.

Neck and Barnard offer no better. They suggest that we should, “Observe and record [our] existing beliefs and assumptions, [our] self-talk, and [our] mental imagery patterns.” My existing beliefs have taken decades to establish, let alone the effort involved. How would these folks suggest I record them? It sounds as though the suggestion is we put ourselves into therapy. This is one of the steps to inner leadership. Earlier, the pair discuss the classic optimist/pessimist argument as if it were the result of their study. Perhaps I suffer from their all-or-nothing thinking in that either their conclusion is lucid or I dismiss their entire paper.

The same can be said of the Navigating the Seas of Educational Innovation paper in which the authors seem to be quite unaware of the current state of affairs. More psychobabble is thrown about. It seems as though they would have us believe that we are inept in our comprehension of the expanding information load. They offer, “Many have chosen to deal with this increasing tension by teaching less about more, rather than opting for the less common, but more meaningful path of teaching more about less.” What seems to be missing from the discussion is not teaching more about less, but rather realizing that we are amid a paradigm shift in our society. Rather than squabble over it, we need to accept it. We are moving out of the mechanistic world and into an information world. No longer can we master material. We will need to change what is learned, therefore, to be educated. We need to learn how to sort, classify, and evaluate material these days. It is not more about less. It is a fundamental shift in how we approach the material. Rather than proposing asinine theories, our authors would do well to catch up to the rest of the community. A thorough reading of Capra’s The Turning Point is suggested.

Attitude is the emotion of the evening, eh? I do agree with the introductory paragraph to the page named Change, “. . . the primary work of the principal is to facilitate change in such as [sic] manner as to lower the fear and anxiety of staff while maintaining a focus on the overall systematic goal and policing the integrity of the change process.” Here we discuss the reality of the job before us. Yes, it will entail much of what Margolis suggested. However, as we have covered earlier, a true leader will need to do this in an innovative manne

Rosenberger vs. University of Virginia

School Law for Administration and Supervision: 0827.559
Brief submitted 2 December 1998

Rosenberger v. University of Virginia
United States Supreme Court
115 S. Ct. 2510 (1995)

Freedom of Speech/Freedom of Religion – viewpoint discrimination

Relief Sought:
Rosenberger was seeking to reverse the University of Virginia’s denial of funds for his group’s student-led religious publication.
Can a public university that pays printing costs to several student publications deny paying for a student-run religious publication?

The University of Virginia collects a $14 per semester activities fee from each full-time student. This money provides for a student activity fund. The student activity fund pays off-campus businesses to print publications of 15 student groups. The SAF denied a request for printing costs from students who published a Christian magazine. The SAF based its decision on its guidelines, which do not permit the funding of religious activities.

Findings of the US District Court:
Held that the denial did not constitute unconstitutional discrimination against the Christian magazine.

Findings of the US Court of Appeals:
Affirmed the US District Court. Even though UVA practiced viewpoint discrimination when it denied payment (that violates the Speech Clause), it was in order to comply with the Establishment Clause.

Findings of the US Supreme Court:
Reversed. A public university has no obligation to provide benefits or facilities to student groups. But once it chooses do so, it may not discriminate based upon the viewpoint their speech (Lamb’s Chapel). No government entity, the university here, may impose a tax/fee in order to support religious activity (Roemer v. Board of Public Works of Md.).

The Court has held that government may neutrally supply benefits to religious organizations without violating the Establishment Clause (Lamb’s Chapel). The Court found that the distribution of SAF money was a neutral supply of benefits. The dissent claimed money provided to a religious organization should be considered an unconstitutional tax for the benefit of a religious activity (Establishment Clause).

The Court was confronted with a direct conflict between the First Amendment freedom of speech and the First Amendment prohibition against the establishment of a religion. While all of the Justices in the majority and dissent agreed that these types of cases require an individualized analysis, the majority’s decision appears indicative of a willingness to come closer to, if not encroach upon, the wall between church and state.

Reflection of Decision-Making Materials

Educational Organization and Leadership: 0828.546
Reflection submitted on 30 November 1998

Although we have not discussed the newspaper article A Question of Character, but Whose?, I find it a clear statement that we are in a state of chaos! I am certain that this article is re-printed here for us to discuss the decision-making process and the consequences of doing it one way as opposed to another. Oftentimes, reflection bears that to be the case. However, this is not one of them.

The National Honor Society is an exclusive group. It is a privilege to be a member, not a right. An honor society holds good character as an example to be emulated. Leaving school without permission and under-aged consumption of alcohol (on school grounds, it appears) is not behavior that needs to be exalted. Although certainly we could all envision circumstances in which leaving school premises would not be a break in judgment, this one does not appear to rise to that standard.

Miss Taylor is a loud mouth. She is an instigator. Far be it from me to offer those as criticisms. However, who we are and how we behave dictates a lot of what happens to us. Perhaps those admitted to the National Honor Society, although still minors, have demonstrated adult behavior and adult thinking. Perhaps these individuals have learned that life has its lessons and sometimes the example of those lessons is found in the mirror. Perhaps the attitude displayed in the statement, “If I think things are being done in a dumb or inefficient way, I’m going to say something about it,” displays too much character for admittance to an honor society.

What appalls me about this situation is not so much that Miss Taylor is an emotional child, but rather that her parents are supporting the public tantrum she is throwing. Worse yet, Miss Taylor’s parents are waging the battle with her, “The big issue here is that someone has slandered her character. When people assault her that, she doesn’t accept it. And I don’t blame her,” Mrs. Taylor commented. The big issue, Mrs. Taylor, is that the lesson being taught/learned here is not that sometimes life isn’t fair (you’ve got to go along to get along, etc.), but rather, if a child has a complaint, any manner in which it is offered is okay.

I agree that the three passes in the situation offered are ridiculous. Nevertheless, it is not for a child to say. Honey does catch more flies. Perhaps demonstrating knowledge of how the system works by presenting a solution along with the critique in the proper forum would have allowed the Society to see citizenship, a necessary facet of character for admittance.

Other thoughts
The Tree Diagram tool for decision making appeals to me. Of course, it is not appropriate for all occasions. However, it is appropriate for major decisions (whatever they are). It validates my approach to collaborative decision making. Our district is in the process of evaluating Whole School Reform programs and making recommendations for establishing the program for each building. I have volunteered to evaluate the programs. This fits well with Appendix A of Leadership for Tomorrow’s Schools in that:

  • value placing decision making as close to the point of implementation (ugh!) as possible
  • value decisions being made by those who are directly affected by them
  • employees who have expertise and/or interest can make decisions that are relevant to them

Then again, one might ascribe to the old way of talking about this subject by stating the only way to effect change is to have the power to do so. If one is not on the committee, team, etc. that evaluates these programs, one is not in a position to know these programs. The building team will be presenting the programs (read: recommendations) to the faculty. That presentation should set forth an educational path for the next several years for the building. Although decision making will be shared, it will be shared more equally among some than others.