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Thank a police officer, any officer, after five died in Dallas

Category: Education Finance
Published: Sunday, 10 July 2016
Written by Admin

This is a complex, difficult, dangerous world we all live in. Each of us knows this, but despicable acts like what occurred in Dallas on Thursday remind us of just how topsy-turvy it can be.

Thursday, the nation was beyond angry about the shooting deaths of two black men by police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota. Friday, it is beyond angry about the shooting deaths of five officers by a black man targeting "white people, especially white officers" in Texas.

The heinous ambush has echoes of America's worst days: It is the deadliest day for law enforcement in this country since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the officers were killed blocks from where a sniper assassinated President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963. Now, our nation is on edge and at a flashpoint itself. Police departments in Las Vegas, Seattle and St. Louis have already announced officers won't go on patrol alone. Surely and swiftly, other changes will follow.

A day ago, we wrote, "The view of this editorial board and most Americans is that police officers have one of the most difficult jobs in the world and that they deserve respect and admiration. But with every fatal police shooting in which decisions to use lethal force appear to be made cavalierly, impulsively or out of panic, Americans' faith in the system is shaken."

We wrote, "It's more appropriate than ever to wonder what might be wrong with police training or police culture or both."

This country can carry on multiple tough conversations at once. But today the nation should focus less on the institution of policing and more on the brave men and women in it.

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In Dallas, as protesters panicked at the sound of gunfire and fled as fast and as far as their feet would carry them, they were protected by officers who then rushed the other way, toward the shots, some toward their deaths.

Today is a day to thank an officer for all that they do because they do a lot for us. Seriously, stop one on the street and say thank you. Show your appreciation for the complex, difficult, dangerous jobs they do.

In San Diego, as just one example, officers responded so quickly in a series of attacks and murders on the city's homeless population this week that a suspect was in custody less than 24 hours after the police chief had called the crimes "some of the worst I have seen in my 34 years of law enforcement."

Early Friday, Dallas Police Chief David Brown told reporters that most of his wounded officers have been released from the hospital and are recovering. Here's how we help them recover more quickly: Continue showing respect and admiration for all the nation's officers in the days ahead.

Are there bad actors among them? Of course. There are small numbers of bad actors in education, finance, medicine, journalism, in all professions, and we need checks and balances to root them out and to replace them with people of better character. Their character counts. Ours does, too.

"All I know is that this must stop -- this divisiveness between our police and our citizens," Brown told reporters Friday. "We don't feel much support most days. Let's not make today most days. Please, we need your support to be able to protect you from men like these, who carried out this tragic, tragic event."


See also: Arrest in brutal San Diego homeless attacks a relief

Fort Smith school panel recommends continuing free breakfast

Category: Education Finance
Published: Saturday, 09 July 2016
Written by Admin

The Fort Smith Board of Education Finance Committee voted to recommend continuing the Fort Smith School Districts free breakfast program at a meeting Wednesday.

Board member and Finance Committee Chairman Bill Hanesworth said he called the study session to get a better understanding of the financial resources that go into funding the school districts free breakfast program, which provides free breakfast for all students.

It was proposed at the last board meeting, and we didnt have any background information on (the program), Hanesworth said. It was just, Hey, weve done it for the last two or three years. Lets vote. Well, (board member) Wade (Gilkey) and I are both new on the committee, we didnt have any background, so I kind of said, Whoa, lets send it back to committee and lets have a committee meeting and get more information on the financing and how things are tied together and the participation and all that.

According to Hanesworth, the Fort Smith School District served more than 613,000 free meals in general during the 2015-16 school year. Of that number, 80.83 percent of them were served to elementary school students, 13.29 percent were served to junior high students and the remaining 5.88 percent were served to high school students.

Fort Smith School District Deputy Superintendent Gordon Floyd said a proposition for a free breakfast for all students program was brought to the school board about two years ago by Fort Smith School Superintendent Benny Gooden and Fort Smith School Child Nutrition Director Donna Turnipseed. The rationale behind it was that students would perform better in class if they started their day with a nutritious breakfast.

The year that Dr. Gooden and I talked about the free breakfast starting (2013-14), we had to increase the price of our meals, Turnipseed said. This was a federal thing. ... We said, Okay, in view of the fact that theres a lot of unemployment in Fort Smith and a lot of families in need, lets do breakfast free to kind of overcompensate for the fact that we had to increase the lunch price. Thats how it started.

Floyd said the Fort Smith School District paid more than $91,000 out of its operating fund to provide its free breakfast program during the 2015-16 school year. Turnipseed said free breakfast should continue to be provided to all children regardless of whether or not they are qualified to receive free or reduced meals from the school.

Just because a family does not qualify for reduced or free meals, we see a lot of children who do not eat breakfast and/or lunch because they dont have the money, Turnipseed said. From my standpoint, I think its a plus that we continue the free breakfast.

The finance committee voted to recommend that the board of education approve continuing the free breakfast program.

The Fort Smith Board of Education will next meet July 25.

LETTER: Supporting Cann for the Fifth

Category: Education Finance
Published: Saturday, 09 July 2016
Written by Admin

To the Editor:

Last Wednesday the Stratford Democratic Committee endorsed Greg Cann to run as Town Councilperson from the Fifth District. Greg is running in a special election on Thursday Oct. 13th to replace Joe Gresko, who now is our state Representative for the 121st House District.

I first met Greg during the Water Pollution Control Authority petition drive. Greg was a "foot soldier" extraordinaire, going door-to-door collecting signatures from the Fifth District because he is vested in doing what is right for our district.

Mr. Cann has lived in the district for over 28 years, raised four children in Stratford, all of whom graduated from Stratford schools, and has three grandchildren, two who live in Stratford.  His wife, Immacula, recently received her doctorate in nursing from Northeastern University, his daughter Cathy and her family also live in the district.

He is a long-standing community community volunteer and citizen advocate.  Greg has worked with Sterling House, CARES, Clean Sound, Nichols PTA and served on the Board of Education's Finance Committee.  He has expertise in cost/benefit, budget, and financial data analysis, a most needed skill given our Town of Stratford's recent budgets.  He is stalwart in his belief that decisions made by the Town of Stratford's Administration and Town Council be transparent and publically accountable.

Greg has the time and attitude to fulfill this commitment, and over the next several weeks will be knocking on doors to introduce himself and ask "what do we in the Fifth need our councilperson to do?" Sit down with him, have a conversation and get to know him. Once you hear him out you will know why I support Greg Cann and think he "Cann" represent the Fifth District.

Barbara Heimlich

Defining Digital Courseware's ROI in Terms of Student Success

Category: Education Finance
Published: Saturday, 09 July 2016
Written by Admin

Higher education has long faced a new financial normal--including pressure to hold down tuition and fee increases, cuts in governmental support, and increased competition from new players. Changes in the number and mix of students, and higher expectations from states, parents and students exacerbate these tensions.

Unfortunately, the industry's response generally has been to tweak an existing business model that is labor intensive and often inefficient. In addition, higher education has been slow to incorporate technology in ways that would maintain quality, increase efficiency and reduce cost.

Changes to the higher education model will require additional spending. But how might we change the lens through which we view higher education finance, shifting from the current question of "what does it cost?" to a more useful understanding of "what do we get for the resources we spend?" That shift, from spending to return on investment (ROI), is at the heart of rpk GROUP's thinking around connecting mission to margin.

The Digital Courseware Difference

Digital courseware aims to provide personalized online instruction that is built upon research on the science of learning and best practices in interactive web design. Strategy consultant Tyton Partners describes digital courseware as "instructional content that is scoped and sequenced to support delivery of an entire course through purpose-built software. It includes assessment to inform personalization of instruction and is equipped for adoption across a range of institutional types and learning environments."

Digital courseware comes in many flavors, but can be broadly organized into three categories. The most structured option is offered directly from a vendor platform; it includes all course content and assessments. On the other end of the spectrum is courseware that includes a collection of content and assessments tools from various vendors, open educational resources (OER), or homegrown efforts. A popular middle-ground option is digital courseware that interfaces with a college's learning management system (LMS) and can be customized.

Courseware isn't one-size-fits-all, and neither are the costs and benefits. Evaluating the return on digital courseware investment will be influenced by the cost of various courseware options, and how successful these different flavors of digital courseware are in improving student outcomes.

What Exactly Do We Mean by ROI?

Adopting an ROI lens requires three fundamental shifts:

First, we have to remember that we are talking not only about dollars spent, but about people and how they spend their time. Our research shows that the most significant investment that any higher education institution makes is in its people--its faculty and staff. Yet, there often is a very poor understanding of how those people spend their time. ROI demands a better understanding of that faculty and staff time, and how it translates into student success.

Second, we must move from a focus on total cost alone to cost per unit and how that unit cost changes over time. The best example of such a shift is considering cost per credential (degrees and certificates). Using this approach, an institution may elect to increase total spending on learning initiatives such as courseware, while attempting to reduce the more important unit cost per credential completed.

The third component for applying an ROI lens is to tangibly connect student success and financial sustainability. As the various measures of student success--retention, progression, average student credit hour load, increase in credit completion--improve, so too may the net revenue earned by the institution. This increase in net revenue may be further enhanced by adopting courseware that increases efficiency in instructional delivery. The financial return on investment applies to students as well, translating their success into reduced tuition, quicker completion, and faster entry into the workforce.

These three components--a holistic understanding of resources, a focus on unit cost, and a connection between student success and financial sustainability--form the core of an ROI lens.

How Might We Define Success Using an ROI Lens?

With an ROI lens, success for the business model moves from the current emphasis on cutting and spending less, to a more sophisticated understanding of the unit cost for one of higher education's primary tasks--increasing student completion. This ROI analysis for courseware also will need to differentiate between the success of each of the three flavors of courseware noted above. Key ROI research questions include:

  • Are faculty and staff using their time differently under courseware models? If so, how does this variance impact efficiency and cost?
  • How does the courseware model, and its impact on efficiency and student success, affect cost per credential?
  • How does student success, measured as a change in retention, progression, average credit hour load, and excess credits and time, translate into higher net revenue for an institution?
  • What are the startup versus the ongoing operating costs under courseware models? How long does it take to reach an annual breakeven (revenue equal to expense) and a cumulative breakeven (all startup costs paid back)?
Shifting the Conversation from Spending to Investing

Traditional methods of instruction are familiar and often appear low-cost because faculty lecturing in a classroom may require less "tech" and investment than digital courseware models. It appears unlikely, however, that this traditional model could be tweaked sufficiently to respond effectively to permanent changes in higher education's external environment.

While we have focused here on digital courseware, an ROI perspective is appropriate for many burgeoning education technology investments bubbling up across college campuses. These new initiatives include alternate education delivery models like competency-based and OER degree programs, or student-facing degree planning and advising tools. Assessing the success of these initiatives will require a fundamental shift from simply capturing cost, to a deep understanding of how these investments result in greater student success and sustainable business models.

Rick Staisloff founded rpk GROUP after a 20-year career in higher education finance. rpk GROUP operates nationally and internationally, working with institutions, systems and the research community to create sustainable business models in higher education that allow for investments in student success. Donna Desrochers has analyzed contemporary issues in education and the economy for nearly 20 years, with a primary focus on higher education finance and the economic importance of postsecondary education.

Athens Muslims hold Eid prayers at open grounds, stadiums in absence of official mosque

Category: Education Finance
Published: Saturday, 09 July 2016
Written by Admin

Thousands of Muslims in Athens, who still await the Greek governments unfulfilled promise of constructing a mosque for the minority community in the capital, held their Eid prayers at open grounds and stadiums on Wednesday.

Several people performed their special Eid prayers at the SEF and OAKA, two stadiums for which the Muslim community was granted special permission by the Greek government to mark the special occasion. While the Turkish minority in Greeces Western Thrace region and Turks in Athens held their Eid al-Fitr prayers Tuesday, thousands of other Muslims in Athens, including Pakistanis and Afghans offered their prayers Wednesday.

Muslims in Athens lamented the fact that the capital of a major European country still lacked a fully-functional mosque for its large minority capital. They regret being forced to perform their prayers in small halls and rooms used as informal masjids. Several people just end up praying at open spaces such as pavements or parks in the capital.

There are two Ottoman era mosques in the Greek capital, one of which is now used as a museum, while the other remains under restoration. In 2006, the Greek parliament had approved a plan to build a mosque in Athens for the estimated over half a million Muslims in the country.

In June this year, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras yet again promised that a mosque and a Muslim cemetery would be built soon in Athens. Even human rights groups such as Amnesty International has criticized Athens for being the only European Union capital without a functioning mosque. However, according to George Kalantzis, secretary-general responsible for religious affairs, the ongoing political and economic instability in Greece along with red tape involving Greek bureaucracy and pending court cases were responsible for the delay in the construction of the mosque.

Kalantzis said Greece had been wracked by political instability for the last 10 years. He explained that the Greek ministries of education, finance, infrastructure and environment need to coordinate and cooperate to execute the mosque project. [But] as you see, four ministers of four each ministries have been changed every two years, he said, pointing out the level of instability in Greece.

Some pending court cases also hamper the project. I think that the court will give the ruling in the coming months, Kalantzis said. But while Greek officials continue to offer promises to build the much needed place of worship, Muslim community members are beginning to doubt their sincerity.

Ridvan Shargo, who has been living in Athens for the last 28 years, said: It has been promised for a really long time but we see no developments. There are always excuses due to technical issues. Even in the time of Olympic games, they just dodged it...We really need a mosque here for our prayers and funerals.