By Dr. Harry Tennant


by Harry Tennant
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Entries with keyword: cost savings
Posts 1 - 7 of 7

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Volunteers: Project Appleseed's Survey of Volunteer Interests

In yesterday's post I mentioned Project Appleseed (http://www.projectappleseed.org/). It's an organization whose goal is to improve parental involvement in schools.  One particularly useful contribution of Project Appleseed is their Survey of Volunteer Interests. It brings to mind a broad range of ways that volunteers may help the school. That's good for dealing with budget-induced staff reductions and for higher student achievement through parental involvement.

Survey of Volunteer Interests

Volunteering in the classroom

·         Tutor a student

·         Work with individual students.

·         Work with small groups of students.

·         Listen to students read

·         Translate for students. Language:

·         Help with teacher's clerical work.

·         Prepare materials

·         Attend field trips

·         Help students with dramatic performances, special events

·         Help out in class with art projects, science experiments, etc.

·         Appear as a guest speaker to share my professional experience, travels, culture, talent, skill or craft. Explain

Volunteering in other areas

·         Organize or help with school security (bus, school grounds, etc.)

·         Building maintenance

·         Carpentry

·         Gardening or yard work

·         Work in school library

·         Photograph school activities

·         Videotape school activities

·         Provide transportation to parents for: conferences, events, etc.

·         Type or do clerical work

·         Prepare newsletters

·         Prepare posters, displays, etc.

·         Do copying and laminating

·         I am interested in working with children on computers and supervising children while they surf the World Wide Web on the Internet.

Helping by working at home

·         Recruit parents, citizens and local businesses to participate in special reading programs for students.

·         Call parents, organize phone trees for attendance and special projects

·         Enter data on a computer

·         Gather resource materials

·         Sew

·         Provide snacks

·         Correct papers

·         Cut out letters

·         Prepare bulletin boards

·         Stuff envelopes

·         Distribute brochures door-to-door

·         Become a block home

·          I am interested in improving our schools by working with other parents on site-based councils, and projects and issues concerning our schools.

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Keywords: volunteers, cost savings, parental involvement


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Volunteers: Expanding participation

Who volunteers? Often, it’s the same few parents who volunteer while the majority hang back or offer excuses about how their kids would rather that their parents not be seen around the school.

One solution for more satisfying volunteering (for teachers and parents) and more individuals volunteering is better information.  Project Appleseed (http://www.projectappleseed.org/) is an organization whose goal is to improve parental involvement in schools.  Part of what they advocate is more volunteering.  They recommend collecting information from parents on the kinds of volunteering that they are willing to do.  That way, teachers have a database of potential volunteers to call upon when they need particular skills, knowledge or experience.  Project Appleseed collects information about volunteering in the classroom, volunteering in other parts of the school and volunteering from home.  You might use their list of volunteer activities as a starting point and, with the help of your teachers, create your own.
Create a Web form on your website to collect potential volunteering activities and ask parents to enter their preferences.  This way parents get to volunteer for activities that they would enjoy doing.

Going the other way, many schools list specific volunteer opportunities on their website and allow parents to sign up.  The parents can be prompted at PTA meetings or through newsletters or just through the website.  The more thought teachers give to the volunteers they need, the better. Are you looking for people who can talk about how they use algebra or trigonometry in their lives? Ask for it. Would you like someone to speak about the culture of Mexico or Hong Kong? Ask for volunteers.
Encourage parents to ask how they can help. Attend a career day? Help in a classroom? Help prepare a special event? Some schools advocate volunteering goals: Encourage parents to decide to volunteer at least three hours per year, and then find ways to help. If they can't volunteer during school hours, ask what they can do from home or in an evening or on a weekend. Parents can find at least three hours. Volunteering helps parents get firsthand experience at the school and that can help them better understand their child and the school.

Volunteering is part of a larger idea: providing support for teachers and the school. Other forms of support include participating in the parent-teacher organization, attending school board meetings or getting involved in ideas for school improvement.

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Keywords: volunteers, cost savings, parental involvement


Monday, March 28, 2011

Volunteers: Doing more with less

As education budgets fall and class sizes increase, educators need to innovate to do more with less. Parent volunteering is a great way to augment the available staff, for parents and teachers to get to know each other and to become more comfortable.  Volunteers who assist with field trips and extracurricular events provide valuable extra help. Volunteers in the classroom demonstrate to students that adults put a high value on education. Students may also benefit from exposure to adults of various ages, races, ethnicities and with a variety of experiences to share.

Volunteers helping teachers can free them for other tasks such as more individualized attention to students or more planning time. Or, the volunteer might provide individualized attention to students by listening to one read or reading stories to a small group.

One of the unique contributions that volunteers can make is to bring professional or life experience into the classroom, especially as it relates to lessons being taught. This can enrich the lesson and puts a human face on it. Many teachers are rushing to cover material specified by the curriculum and state standards so they have little time left to prepare enrichment material. Volunteers can provide enrichment while adding more variety to the classroom. Volunteer speakers also give a lot more adults an opportunity to volunteer but presents a logistical challenge to the teacher. If a teacher were to invite one visitor per week for a 15 minute talk, that’s 36 visitors a year, so keep the schedule simple. Collect your volunteer signups and then send a reminder email to the list regularly, say, every week or two. That keeps the commitment in their minds and reminds them that you’re counting on their participation. However, periodic emails require little more effort than sending the same message periodically. And, just as you depend on your volunteers to show up when scheduled, avoid rescheduling their visits.

Teachers sometimes resist having volunteers in the classroom. Teachers may view volunteers in the classroom as more of a problem than a benefit, largely due to potential conflicts. Volunteers may disagree with how a subject is taught or how the classroom is managed. Volunteers may overstep their bounds as classroom helpers and feel they must take over the classroom.

Problems are best averted with proper orientation of volunteers either by the school or by the teacher. Let them know the rules: what to call adults, confidentiality rules and discipline procedures. If volunteers are to work with students, let them know the objectives of the lesson and how they will be carried out.

Make sure that volunteers understand their commitment. Can volunteers be relied upon by the school?  Teachers can't expect to rely upon volunteers if the volunteers, in fact, don't show up.  It must be made clear to the volunteers that volunteering is not a “maybe” kind of thing.  Volunteering implies a commitment and the expectation that the volunteer can be relied upon to finish the job.

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Keywords: volunteers, cost savings, parental involvement


Monday, March 7, 2011

Online Money Saving Ideas for Schools and Districts

Lots of schools and districts are coming under financial stress. From our perspective of working online, we've pulled together some suggestions of money saving ideas and revenue generating ideas that might help.

Also, if you think of any web-based systems that might help schools and districts get through tough economic times, we're eager to see them. Please leave a comment or contact me directly.

  • Move online for cost savings
    • Use email newsletters. They're free. No copying cost and no postage cost. Send snail mail only to those without email addresses. Also consider that when funding is threatened, it is particularly important to keep the community informed of the great work you're doing.
    • Don't print what can be viewed online.
    • Use your website for posting employment opportunities.
    • Publish course materials and handouts online. Save copy expense.
    • Open an online school store for supplies, spirit items, event ticket sales, lunch money payments, etc.
    • Hold an online book sale of books donated by the community. Link to book descriptions by barcode.
    • Use online staff development and training courses to save travel costs.
    • Maintain alumni association for donations, volunteer support and project support. Enable alumni members to update their own information and to contact other alumni.
    • Consider virtual field trips to museums, the White House and other online destinations.
    • Use VoIP thru computer lab and email for alumni donation campaigns.
    • Ebooks for libraries with readers on computers and phones.
    • Use online payments and email billing to save mailing and processing costs.
  • Do more with less
    • The greatest share of school expense is the salaries and benefits for staff. Unfortunately this means that if states are going to impose large budget cuts, staff layoffs are inevitable. The school's challenge then becomes, how to do more with less?
    • Share resources more efficiently by sharing information about times of use and times of availability.
    • Encourage greater collaboration among teachers by sharing online lesson plans and materials.
    • Make the discipline process more effective by tracking discipline referrals, assigned consequences, detention rolls, discipline histories and notifications to parents.
    • Have easy-to-administer online discipline consequences for students who misbehave only rarely.
  • Share knowledge for efficiency 
    • Use wikis to build knowledge bases for tech support.
    • Use faqs, wiki knowledge bases and short online how to videos for self service solutions to technology questions. Link to YouTube videos when available.
    • Use the local media for publicity for opportunities to be found on the website.
  • Increase volunteer service by students and the community
    • Use tech-knowledgeable students for tech support.
    • Create a student community service requirement. Include school service among the opportunities.
    • Advertise on your website for volunteer help and part time help.
    • Use online signup sheets to make it easy for parents and others to sign up to help on everything from bringing potato salad to a picnic to enrolling in a parenting class.
    • Coordinate student projects with area businesses. Use website to match education needs with community needs.
    • Organize volunteer security for events thru the website.
    • Solicit donations of unused laptops for student use. 
    • Set up a nonprofit local education fund (LEF) for donations.
  • Find new revenue sources
    • Website ads and sponsorship.
    • Rent out building space for community events. Use online facilities reservation system for internal an community event reservations.
    • Offer online adult courses and email tutorials for revenue generation.
    • Sell surplus equipment on eBay.
    • Consider school branded credit cards which return a donation.
    • Negotiate multiyear contracts with vendors.
  • Share information to coordinate with other schools and districts for cost savings
    • Co-op buying with other schools for lower per-item cost.
    • Consider an asset management system for efficient use of equipment.
    • Block booking of speakers and events for lower per-school cost. Use shared calendar for coordination.
    • Enrich classroom experience by sharing Internet video connections with other classrooms across town or around the world.
  • Keep looking for ideas
    • Solicit money saving ideas from staff, students and the community. Offer an incentive such as 10% of the savings to the submitter.

Do you have some money saving or revenue generating ideas for schools and districts? Please leave a comment. We'd love to see them.

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Keywords: cost savings


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Ads on school websites: Forms of ads

With budget stress for schools, many are looking for new sources of revenue. Website advertising is an option. There are lots of ways to advertise on school websites like ours if you choose to do so.

Forms of ads

Do you want to find advertisers yourself or use ads from a broker?

Broker ads: Google AdSense
By far, the easiest way to start advertising on a website is to include ads from a broker like Google. They have lots of advertisers and will match the search terms they have bid for with the content of the page where the ads appear in order to select ads relevant to the readers of that page. As an example, I have created an AdSense account to embed ads on this blog post. It took about two minutes to fill out the form on the Google site. They then do some sort of verification on you and then send the instructions for embedding the block of ads. You paste them into the HTML code for your page and then wait for the ad revenue checks to roll in. Couldn't be easier.

Finding your own advertisers
Another approach that is far more difficult but which gives you greater control over what ads appear is to find your own advertisers and serve them yourself. Here's what's entailed:

  • Determine what sort of ad you're selling. Is it a short text ad like those that appear on the Google search results? Is it a banner ad in which you define a rectangular area of fixed dimensions which the advertiser can fill however he chooses?
  • Are you selling time, exposures or click-throughs? If selling time, you agree to display the advertiser's ad for a fixed number of days. If you're selling exposures, you're selling the promise that your ad will continue to appear until the page it is on has been viewed by a predetermined number of website visitors. If you're selling click-throughs, the advertiser is only charged when a website visitor clicks on the ad. Depending on how you're selling your ads, you must keep track of whether you're fulfilling your side of the bargain. Selling time is the easiest to track, followed by selling exposures and selling click-throughs is the most difficult to track. So why go to the trouble of selling click-throughs? It is usually the most attractive to advertisers because they don't have to pay anything unless a person clicks to visit their website.
  • Next, you have to sell ad space to advertisers, possibly help them to create ads and then run the ads.
  • Finally, advertisers are typically going to be interested in the demographics of your audience and statistics about their ad exposures.

Finding your own advertisers and managing ad serving (meaning making the ad appear when and where it should) is obviously a lot of work.

Another approach is, rather than selling ads as such, you might sell the opportunity to sponsor a website or a portion of the website. In this case, instead of an ad you might have a statement in the footer of each page to the effect, "This website is sponsored by Fred's Pizza" with a link to the Fred's Pizza website. This is far easier to manage than selling regular ads but still more difficult than inserting ads from a broker.

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Keywords: ads, cost savings


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Ads on school websites: How to advertise

With budget stress for schools, many are looking for new sources of revenue. Website advertising is an option. There are lots of ways to advertise on school websites like ours if you choose to do so.

How to advertise

Ads can be intrusive and annoying or can be useful and beneficial. For example, popup splash screens, animated banner ads and unsolicited commercial emails (spam) are generally considered instrusive and annoying. They interrupt and distract one's attention. Typically they are thought to add little benefit to a website visitor. And spam email clogs our mail readers, wastes our resources, and is seldom viewed as beneficial.

On the other hand, sometimes we want to see ads. Consider the yellow pages: nothing but ads, but we find them useful because we go to the yellow pages (or did in the old days) when we want to find products and services. People get fashion magazines like Vogue for the ads. The ads communicate what the fashion leaders are doing. When you're looking to buy new tires, tire ads become fascinating. Ads are useful and beneficial when they present information that we want to know when we want to know it.

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Keywords: ads, cost savings


Monday, February 21, 2011

Ads on school websites: What to advertise

With budget stress for schools, many are looking for new sources of revenue. Website advertising is an option. There are lots of ways to advertise on school websites like ours if you choose to do so.

What to advertise: Think "useful"

Targeted advertising attempts to present only those ads to readers that are likely to be of interest to them. That's how the ads work Google. Two factors determine when and where Google ads will appear. First, advertisers bid on search terms. The bid is for how much the advertiser must pay if a user clicks on the ad link. He pays nothing if no one clicks. So, if an advertiser bids on the search term "football" and someone does a search for "football," his ad may appear along the border or above the search results. But where?

The second factor that determines where an ad will appear is the number of clicks it has attracted. Ads that get lots of clicks are considered to be the most useful to people searching for that search term, so Google places them closer to the top of the list. Those with fewer clicks are placed lower on the list or on later pages of search results. Google doesn't disclose exactly how the two factors, bid and click frequency, are combined to determine placement, but they use both.

The point is, like Google, it's best to think of advertising as a way to offer useful information to your website visitors. The alternative is to think you only serve the advertisers and any kind of disruptive or annoying junk they want to put on your page is fine as long as they pay the price. That attitude is a quick way to lose website visitors.

What might your school website visitors find useful?

  • Educational material such as National Geographic, tutoring services, gymnastics schools, martial arts schools
  • Colleges, summer schools, experience vacations
  • Non-school organizations like Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts
  • Counseling services
  • Local businesses
  • Vanity ads like the ones that many yearbooks include where parents congratulate their kid's accomplishments
  • Personal ads

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Keywords: ads, cost savings

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