Reading & Resources

School Administrator, April 2017

Book Reviews

Leadership and School Boards: Guarding the Trust in an Era of Community Engagement 
by Laura E. Reimer
, Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, Md., 2015, 168 pp. with index, $30 softcover

Leadership and School Boards, Guarding the Trust in an Era of Community Engagement, organized into 10 chapters, provides a detailed and unique look into the important role of the local school board and school system in establishing and promoting democracy. The book begins with an overview of the current school board structure and then reviews the history and original design of school boards. It ends with research about the superintendent’s role in working with the board and community in “administering democracy.” 

Author Laura E. Reimer is a faculty member at the University of Winnipeg with experience and expertise in policy development, education topics and conflict resolution. She also has served multiple terms as a school board member.

Like the first edition of this work, the second edition, Reimer says, has “the continued goal of developing strong, effective, community-based schools boards.” At the end of each chapter, the author provides a series of followup questions and suggestions for application of her ideas. The followup questions provide an effective summary and give practical suggestions. 

While school boards, school systems and communities vary nationwide, Reimer was effective in identifying key concepts that apply to all situations. From a superintendent’s perspective, I see this book being applicable in multiple ways. It could be used for personal reflection on daily challenges leading a school district. It also would be a great resource to use with school boards to help guide discussions and future planning. 

Reviewed by Justin B. Henry, superintendent, Goddard Public Schools, Goddard, Kan.

Having an Impact on Learning: The Public Relations Professional and the Principal
by Kelly Wachel and Matt Wachel, Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, Md., 2015, 98 pp., $21 softcover
The timing of my reading Having an Impact on Learning: The Public Relations Professional and the Principal could not have been more synchronized. I read this book the same week I began a new job in a new public school district. After 31 years in education, and given the vast array of media venues, the realistic tips, suggestions and scenarios presented by co-authors by Kelly Wachel and Matt Wachel were a perfect fit.

The Wachels are a married couple who work as a public relations director and as a principal. In each chapter, they take turns addressing key topics that are set forth at the beginning of the chapter. I used Post-It Notes and took anecdotal notes throughout the text. Among the questions we can use when framing information for staff, parents and community members are the following: What are you excited about this year? What do we want our schools to be known for? 

Through this text and a webinar I found online, it became apparent the audience goes beyond the principal. Board of education members, teachers, community members and students become a team that can brand their education mission, share it and support each other to authentically foster student learning and achievement. It’s a collaborative creative effort. 

This book could be used for professional learning communities, by graduate students and by leaders of PTOs and PTAs. The authors make an easy-to-understand case for the interplay and the different perspectives related to delivering a message to an audience. The Wachels do not bog the reader down in lingo or jargon. It’s full of practical reading. 

As you look toward the next school year, review your district’s strategic plan, prepare to release test results or face budget votes, it may be just the right time to read this book. Although it’s under 100 pages, don’t let the size fool you. 

Reviewed by Hope Blecher
, director of curriculum and instruction, Secaucus Public School District, Secaucus, N.J.

American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers
by Nancy Jo Sales
, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, N.Y., 2016, 416 pp. with index, $26.95 hardcover
American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers reports in-depth travel-based research on youth culture. The book, by journalist Nancy Jo Sales, centers on the impact of the culture of social media on girls in America.

The book’s portrayal of teenage girls’ lives with social media is culturally defined with vulnerability and fragility. In the book’s introduction, Sales writes that girls are portrayed as being sexualized in popular media, citing findings generated by the American Psychological Association as far back as 2007.  

This may not be a pertinent book for the typical superintendent, perhaps more suitable for others in the schools who work closely with students. Sales previously has written profiles about pop-culture icons, and this work would likely be received well by readers of Elle, Vogue or Glamour magazine. 

Reviewed by Jennifer L. Procopio, humanities instructor, Northeast State Community College, Blountville, Tenn.

101 Answers for New Teachers and Their Mentors: Effective Teaching Tips for Daily Classroom Use
by Annette Breaux, Routledge, New York, N.Y., 2015, 168 pp., $29.95 softcover 
This book interested me as we were searching for an up-to-date tool for our school district’s mentoring program. 101 Answers for New Teachers and Their Mentors: Effective Teaching Tips for Daily Classroom is written by Annette Breaux, international speaker and author best known for her work developing and supporting new teacher induction programs. 

The purpose of the book is to provide teachers and their mentors with discussion ideas on the tenets of effective teaching. A strong focus pervades this book on being respectful, positive and proactive in all aspects of teaching, with students, parents, colleagues and administrators. The book supports continuous improvement for teachers, and anyone reading it can find new ideas for improving the teaching craft, regardless of experience. 
The book can be read from answer 1 through 101, but the value is in the ease of identifying areas where you are struggling and locating strategies to try right away. Each of the 101 answers ends with a reflective question, helping you to determine if you need additional practice in that area. 

There are two bonuses in this book. The first is Bonus 7, reprinted from Seven Simple Secrets: What the BEST Teachers Know and Do! by Annette L. Breaux and Todd Whitaker. The second is the author’s short poems that accompany many of the answers. They are uplifting and whimsical. 

Reviewed by Nancy Wagner, superintendent, Beach Park School District 3, Beach Park, Ill.

Motivating Struggling Learners: 10 Ways to Build Student Success
by Barbara R. Blackburn, Routledge, New York, N.Y., 2015, 166 pp., $29.95 softcover 

In Motivating Struggling Learners, author Barbara Blackburn illustrates 10 ways to build on students’ success. She devotes each chapter of her book to a strategy that educators can use to promote engagement in their students and provides details on how to apply these strategies to teaching and learning. 

The strategies include extrinsic and intrinsic motivation; building relationships; using praise and positive feedback; empowering students; growth mindset and fixed intelligence; high expectations; engagement; scaffolding for success; resilience; and celebrating diverse learners.

Although, at times, the ideas seem to be common sense, they are easily used and adapted to any classroom setting. If educators used all or any of the strategies, their daily interactions with students would be enhanced. 

This book is highly recommended to those educators looking to improve the level of engagement and increased motivation of their students. Blackburn provides a valuable resource to classroom teachers through this book.

Reviewed by Jill Janes, area supervisor of instruction, Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Jefferson City, Mo.

The Transformative Power of Collaborative Inquiry: Realizing Change in Schools and Classrooms
by Jenni Donohoo and Moses Velasco, Corwin, Thousand Oaks, Calif., 2016, 136 pp., $28.95 softcover
This book is written for classroom, campus and districts leaders who consider themselves practitioners combining theory with best practices. 

Co-authors Jenni Donohoo and Moses Velasco are affiliated with the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. This institute often grabs my attention – it is a laboratory for transformational leadership. As a former administrator and professor of practice, I strongly believe our mission is to develop leaders who can empower colleagues to transform schooling at all levels. This book is a guide to facilitate that mission.

The book helps educators assume the role of professional inquirers, embodying the qualities of lifelong learners and fostering professional learning cultures where engagement in deep and impactful problem solving is a habit of mind. If we, as scholars and practitioners, have this focus, we will transform our learning cultures.

This is a must read if you wish to effectively address change, and we know change is our one constant. According to the authors, collaborative inquiry can be understood as a promising way to address adaptive challenges. The inquiry method is powerful because it transforms the learning of teachers by empowering them to lead their professional learning in ways that address the adaptive challenges. The CI mission is about productive process, not a formulated product.

Reviewed by Steve Jenkins, leadership consultant, Beaumont, Texas


Ethical Decision Making
Differences in gender and years of experience have little effect on superintendents’ ability to make ethical decisions, according to a recent Ed.D. dissertation at University of Hartford.

Researcher David M. Pepsoski used a decision-making questionnaire to gather responses to real-life ethical dilemmas from 52 Connecticut superintendents. He compared these responses to two standards: Kenneth Blanchard and Norman Vincent Peale’s three-step ethical dilemma resolution model and AASA’s Code of Ethics.

The study concluded that participants responded ethically 70.5 percent of the time. Female participants and those with more than 10 years of experience scored slightly higher than their counterparts, but the variation never exceeded four percentage points.

Copies of “Decision-Making and Ethics: A Study of Connecticut Superintendents” are available from ProQuest at 800-521-0600 or

Why I Wrote this Book ...

“I believe it is courageous willingness to assume responsibility for decision-making, with all its potential implications that distinguishes leaders from others. Given its incredible significance, I felt it important to explore the complexity of decision-making — not as a prescriptive process, but as the personal, collective and strategic work of leadership.”

Mary B. Herrmann, clinical assistant professor of education policy, organization and leadership, University of Illinois, and AASA member since 1997, on writing Decide to Lead: Building Capacity and Leveraging Change through Decision-Making (Rowman & Littlefield, 2017)


Online Assessment
CoSN, in partnership with AASA and NSBA, released a report, “Online Assessment: From Readiness to Opportunity,” which shares the current state of online assessments, spotlights best practices and details opportunities for K-12 education.

It is accompanied by the Online Assessment Planning Tool, which provides guidance for building effective online assessment strategies. The new resources are supported by Learning First Alliance.

Access the materials at

ESSA Appropriate
The Center for Research and Reform in Education at Johns Hopkins University has launched a website that reviews every math and reading program for grades K-12 to determine which meet the strong, moderate or promising levels of evidence defined in the Every Student Succeeds Act.

The website, Evidence for ESSA, is designed for education leaders at the state, district and school levels.

School Calendars
The National School Public Relations Associations has produced “Resources for Planning the School Calendar 2017-18,” which includes a full selection of holidays and historical events along with websites for more information.

The calendar includes historical dates, cultural and ethnic holidays, all 50 states’ designated legal holidays, an 18-month planning calendar for office use and a listing of national education conferences through 2022.

The calendar is available for $40 plus $10 shipping and handling. Visit

Smithsonian Models
A report for the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access explores the research basis for authentic resources in deeper learning. The white paper provides effective instructional models based on educators’ experiences with the Smithsonian Learning Lab, a free online toolkit.

The report is available to download at

Science for ELLs
Ed Trust–West has issued a report on using science to advance English learner equity in schools.

“Unlocking Learning: Science As a Lever for English Learner Equity” and associated materials can be accessed at