A Look Ahead

2012 isn’t easy to predict, but the future isn’t necessarily bleak. Carrying on our beginning-of-the-year tradition, here is what we can look forward to during 2012, from the viewpoint of several people who dedicate their time and talents for the purpose of improving our education system in a variety of ways — energy and environment, legislation, planning, safety and technology.


THE AGE OF THE “PAD” IS HERE TO STAY

The rumors of the personal computer’s death are highly exaggerated. Its form factor is what is dying. The “Pad” factor will be the interface for the next few generations. After all, we all watched Jean-Luc Picard on Star Trek use one! This goes back to a client quote from a number of years ago… “If it’s on TV, it has to be real.” The tablet craze is being driven by cell phone and battery technology. Faster, brighter, longer is the mantra. I will still carry my tablet PC to mark up drawings because the “apps” for red lining and document transfer are not there yet. When manufacturers develop a pad that is a little bigger (working area of paper about 15-inches diagonal), with a pen-type device and a connection that lets me move my data back and forth without a network connection, they will be getting closer to a true business tool.

Now, which device (iPad, Kindle, Slate, Galaxy Tab, tablet PC) gets the most use in our house/business? Hands down it is the Kindle. For what it is — a reader and only a reader — it wins. The drawback is that I cannot clip, fold or copy a page of the book to share or file for a research topic. As this thin-panel interface/display matures, it will be really useful.

So what would that ideal software system be? First, a display that responds to tactile touch, that lets me turn the page, and size the page by touch alone. Second, it should let me use a pointing device — pen, pencil, chalk — to make notes on the page. Finally, it should let me store or share that image, page or file with others in an ad-hoc fashion with those around me in the office or classroom. Think about it. Projection systems will not be required; classrooms and how teachers work would change significantly; and how neat that could be for business meetings.

The other big thing I anticipate to change is how we move video and audio around our networks and interact with it visually and aurally. IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) ratified a standard know as AVB: audio video bridging. It has taken almost seven years to get this far, but professional audio manufacturers have products out that use this technology. In my crystal ball, we will have video manufacturers following closely behind. And in this case, it will be the video conferencing, tele-presence and security companies that will be leading the charge, with computers and flat-panel display manufacturers following up. So what does this mean to you? In my example above, AVB will allow us to easily have that adhoc meeting — it will be built into the network you use every day.

What I love is that this is an industry standard, not what a manufacturer dreamed up on its own. All things will work together — we can share data between each other. Think of where we would be if we could not share data between the Mac and PC and Android and Linux machines. We have not tolerated it; why would or do we want to do that with a manufacturer’s proprietary system? Standards, standards, standards.

As our computer networks have expanded and gotten faster, it would seem that the audio/visual industry would have embraced network solutions. Unfortunately, due to the lack of standards, this has not happened. However, as we move to 100-gigabit networks, with new switching and routing gear, this standard will give us a chance to save cabling and end-point costs. This is clearly the sunset for analog and digital video as we know it today. More information on AVB can be found at www.avnu.org. 

Steven J. Thorburn, PE, LEED-AP, is co-founder of Thorburn Associates, Inc., a technology systems, acoustics and lighting design firm with offices in California, Florida and North Carolina. He can be reached at SJT@TA-inc.com or 510/886-7826.



MISSION IMPOSSIBLE
As your school district enters the second decade of the 21st century, you are facing the economic impacts of the nation’s economic downturn, of new healthcare legislation and new regulations on our nation’s coal-fired electrical generation plants. This is in addition to the impacts on our economy from the economic growth in developing nations around the world. These factors are impacting your district’s ability to fulfill its mission to educate students and your ability to provide healthy, safe and energy-efficient (HSEE) facilities.

These events resulted in: 1) a decreasing tax base (local funding); 2) increasing energy and personnel costs; 3) decreasing state and federal funding; and 4) a portfolio of aging buildings and their systems. Your mission, if you accept it, is to develop new strategies, “thinking out of the box” (TOOTB) in providing HSEE facilities. As resources decrease without decreasing requirements, you have only two areas in which to reduce costs — personnel and utilities.

In the area of personnel, the only way to reduce costs is reduce the number of maintenance personnel and find alternative means to maintain the level you have established. The following alternatives are available to maintain HSEE while reducing costs: 1) increase use of service contracts for major systems — HVAC, controls, electronics, etc.; 2) increase use of service contracts of major functions — grounds, custodial; 3) use on-call contracts for plumbing, roofing, building shell, electrical systems, paving, etc., with local businesses; 4) reduce the number of maintenance personnel who manage contracts and emergencies.

Success of these strategies will be based on the education of the school community — administrators, teachers, parents and the local community — and on their merits and value to the overall education program of the district.

School districts, over the past decade, have improved utility efficiency: water, HVAC and electrical systems. But has this effort included an energy management program with continuing energy education? Energy education/awareness is key. Do school personnel know: 1) what are phantom and plug loads and how to control them; 2) how to operate the lighting and the limitation of the HVAC systems and controls system in their classroom. It’s the “little things” that generate big energy savings. Remember, “Buildings do not operate themselves, people do.” $$$$

Success of your mission will not only be measured by the dollars saved and maintenance level maintained, but the awareness/education level the school community will have achieved in energy efficiency and sustainability. 

Larry Schoff has more than 47 years of background in facilities management, over 26 years with K-12 schools. He is currently assisting schools with energy efficiency evaluations. He has assisted with writing the LEED for Schools document, ASHRAE’s Advanced Energy Design Guide for Schools and the California Grid Neutral document.


POLITICAL ARENA MAKES IT UNCLEAR WHAT WILL TAKE PLACE

2012 will be an interesting year to watch some key indicators for the immediate future. CEFPI will be particularly focused on issues that will affect the state of U.S. educational environment markets in the near term. As we know, 2012 is a presidential election year in the U.S., and most media eyes will be focused on the political arena. However, while the political pundits, who can’t seem to get enough of the Washington Drudge reports, keep their sights on the White House and Capitol Hill, the real action affecting the education markets will take place at the state and local legislatures. In 2010, we saw a very large national shift in political party power (to Republican) at the state and local level.
 
Due to the shift in political influence, emergent trends included systematic tax decreases in many areas and accompanying bond failures. We have also seen operational budgets slashed and higher-than-usual numbers of staff layoffs in most states. The 2012 elections, at the local level, will demonstrate whether the general public will continue to tolerate a further decline in overall local government spending, including schools in general.

A shift in power from one party back to the other may indicate the general public’s desire to reign in some of the cuts we’ve witnessed in general fund spending. However, if there is no referendum near the level that we saw during the 2010 election, we can anticipate a continuation of what is being deemed “the new norm” in overall educational spending. This undoubtedly translates to a continued downward shift in educational environment spending for the short term.

As we at CEFPI have evaluated previous recessions and economic downturns and their effect on educational facilities, this one does not appear out of the ordinary, other than by its sheer magnitude. CEFPI leaders and members have weathered this storm for the past few years, and our present focus is to help prepare our members to embrace not only the current situation, but position themselves to have an advantage when the economic climate improves. 

John K. Ramsey, CAE, is the CEO of the Council of Educational Facility 
Planners International (CEFPI).

 

BUDGET CUTS THREATEN SCHOOL SAFETY AND SECURITY
As we continue to navigate our way through the beginning of the 21st century, one thing is very clear: school safety continues to be a critically important issue. According to the National School Safety Centers report there were 468 students who lost their lives as a result of school-associated violence over the last 10 years. This report also included instances of suicide. We also know that deaths resulting from bullying are up over the last few years.

The most significant threat to school safety may well be budget cuts. There is no doubt that we are experiencing difficult times financially as a nation. However, school officials should exercise caution when thinking about making severe cuts to school safety programs. Since the 1990s, a great deal of attention has been given to school safety and significant improvements have been made in this area.

In the spring of 2011, John Rosiak of the National Center for Mental Health Promotion and Youth Violence Prevention wrote an article entitled, “Sustaining the SRO Position in Tough Financial Times.” The article was published in The Journal of School Safety, which is the official publication of the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO). In the article, Mr. Rosiak offered valuable information regarding the funding of school based police officers. He suggests the following. “For more information on financing the SRO, see ‘A Guide to Developing, Maintaining and Succeeding with Your SRO Program,’ (www.cops.usdoj.gov/files/ric/Publications/sroguidelines.pdf). Chapter Seven is called Identifying Sources of Program Funding and includes, Who Pays for the Program, How to Find the Money and Case Studies. Chapter Eight deals with Maintaining Program Funding and includes How to Motivate Law Enforcement Agencies to Maintain Funding, How to Motivate the Schools to Contribute Funding, How to Motivate Public Officials and What Motivates Everybody.”

The presence of properly trained and armed school-based police officers has had a very positive impact. NASRO has been involved in the training of school-based police officers since 1991. With more than 20 years of experience in this area it has become very clear to us that there are three key components to a successful School Resource Officer Program.
  1. It is critical that the agency select the right officer for the job.
  2. Specialized training is a must regardless of the officers overall level of experience. School-based policing is one of the most unique elements of law enforcement and it is certainly not for everyone.
  3. A well-written and signed memorandum of understanding between the law enforcement agency and the school district. This helps to eliminate misunderstandings between both agencies and leads to improved communication.
NASRO remains committed to our goal of “Safer Schools, Safer Kids.” We stand ready to assist any school district or law enforcement agency to that end. 

Mo Canady is the executive director of NASRO (National Association of School Resource Officers). He can be reached at mo.canady@nasro.org.


LOOK FOWARD TO POLITICS WITH A CAPITAL “P”
Last year, I stated that if anyone knew what would happen during 2011, it would require special powers and vision. If you think that it will take reduced super powers this election year, then you have not been living on Earth the last 12 months.

I was right on nine out of my 12 predictions. Just dumb luck. Unfortunately, some of the issues and problems will continue in 2012.

What I foresee for the coming year is politics with a “capital P” and lots of political posturing. Given how Congress left for the holiday recess with the House Republicans being forced to agree to a two-month payroll tax extension, and Congress having to come back in January to address the issue again, gives one pause to think what they can accomplish, if anything, prior to the November 2012 presidential election.

The polling numbers on how the public feels about Congress continue to plummet. And no one questions the results. Bipartisanship is out the window for at least the next 11 months, and most likely longer. There maybe a slim chance that one or two issues will arise where there will be agreement because neither party wants to be saddled with being on the wrong side of a popular policy in an election year.

One positive sign is the participation by and cooperation between states to continue to implement the Common Core and assessments, and to work toward a national (not federal) education improvement strategy.

So, here are some things predicted to occur during 2012 in education:
  • Pell Grants will continue to be a sore spot for Republicans, and they will try to continue to reduce the minimum grant and put more restrictions on who can receive them.
  • Efforts will continue in earnest during the first three to four months of the year to reauthorize ESEA, but it is very doubtful the two houses can come to an agreement even though staff are working hard to bridge the differences.
  • With reduced funding for Race to the Top, the Administration will fund districts and not states to push school reform and transformation. What happens in the states without funding?
  • Even though all Republican presidential candidates want to abolish the U.S. Department of Education, it will remain a federal cabinet agency no matter who wins in November.
  • Issues will be raised concerning how the two consortia now developing national assessments are conducting business, and with which organizations and companies the consortia are in conversation.
  • There will continue to be a stalemate over budgets and appropriations, which is a result of the different deficit reduction strategies and approaches. Again, there will be an omnibus appropriations bill or continuing resolution for FY 2013 funding except for defense and maybe a few other agencies.
  • Common Core will remain strong in states. The phrase college- and career-ready will continue to be used, but will begin to get some pushback since it has yet to be fully defined and described for students.
  • Greater efforts will be made by postsecondary education institutions to be more involved in elementary and secondary education policy, practice and programs.
  • Teacher preparation, training, certification and support will be a central issue during 2012, as well as teacher evaluation and compensation.
  • Data and instructional management systems in states and local districts, including charter schools, will become increasingly prevalent. These systems focus on student learning and improvement, instructional management and other reforms as a means to better measure student performance on a regular basis and adjust instruction to meet student needs.
  • No new funds will be appropriated for school construction on the federal level, but the demand for new and modernized buildings will continue. The U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools awards will raise interest in and saliency with the issue, and possibly funding and programs in FY 2013.
  • People will be very surprised with the number of upsets in congressional races if things don’t change on Capitol Hill. This will be a “rude awakening” for many. Also, these changes will affect education policy, budgets and programs.
Sorry, no presidential election prediction — to remain non-partisan. Although I do have a sense of what will happen!! 

Fritz Edelstein is a principal in Public Private Action, a consulting group. His work focuses on strategic government and constituent relations, business development strategy, advocacy research and policy analysis, strategic planning and resource development, and advocacy, outreach and public engagement. This work includes producing Fritzwire, the education Internet newsletter providing timely information on education and related issues. Read Fritzwire, Education’s Water Cooler, every day to keep up with what is happening in education around the nation and in Washington, D.C. To subscribe write: fritz@publicprivateaction.com.

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