Monday, June 27, 2011

Reasons to Purchase a Kindle as Your Personal E-Reader

I'm sold. I have  been using my Kindle for about a week now, and I can say it was one of my own best technological investments of the year. I have boldly finished my first book on the device, James Rollins' book Excavation. I realize Rollins' book wasn't exactly educational, but I actually read the book from cover to cover, or should I say from digital file to digital file. I have been experimenting with the Kindle app on my iPad and on my laptops for weeks, but I honestly enjoy reading more from the Kindle. I might also add that I have bought several more e-books since my last posting about the Kindle too. Why should one invest in a Kindle? If you're totally satisfied with the Kindle app on you iPad or on your PC, maybe you shouldn't, but here's some reasons I'm glad I bought one.

Kindle 3

  • Amazon offers a much larger selection of e-books than other e-book sellers. There have been several titles of e-books I've wanted and I just can't find them at Barnes and Noble. The selection of education and leadership books for the Kindle is enormous. It's rather simple: what good is an e-reader if you can't get the books you want for it. The Kindle offers readers a much wider selection of reading material, and this suits this book-reading administrator fine.
  • The Kindle's size is much smaller than the iPad, and trying to curl up beside my laptop to read has proven too problematic. While the iPad is also very portable, and it does lend itself to being a very useful device for reading, the size of the Kindle is perfect. I can easily hold it in one hand. Changing pages is strangely easier too with the the forward and back buttons located in just the right place. The weight of the Kindle along with its thickness makes it easy to handle. I find it even easier to walk and read at the same time than I did with a book. The Kindle's size and design is perfect for this reader.
  • The screen on the Kindle is much better than the iPad too, except in the dark of course. I had read before from several articles how the glare of the iPad screen makes it difficult to read in full light, and that has proven to be true. The Kindle's no-glare screen and lack of back-lighting actually make it much easier to read in the direct sunlight. Just like the iPad or PC app, you can adjust the size of the text and the font to make it even easier to read. The Kindle actually makes reading easier on the eyes too.
  • Right now, getting a Kindle has become rather inexpensive too. Amazon has a Kindle with wifi access for $114 and you can get that same deal at Best Buy as well.  I purchased mine at Best Buy for $50, but I tool advantage of some reward points to get that price. I have found my Kindle well-worth the price.
The Kindle is compact, easy-to-use device. There are still times when the iPad app suits my reading habits the best, but I find the Kindle is an excellent e-reader choice for those who want something just a bit smaller and less expensive.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

E-Reader Wars: The Best E-Book Software for the Educator

E-books are here, at least for me. For the past three months, I haven't purchased a single book in all my excursions to the local Barns and Noble bookstore in my hometown. I have, though, purchased several ebooks instead. In fact, there is great satisfaction for me that I can purchase a book and immediately download it to my iPad or PC. What I have discovered though is that not all ebook readers and ebook providers are created equal, even though most of the readers provide the same basic features. Which e-reader should you buy? Here's my thoughts on the matter.

Kindle and Amazon

I confess that I started using Barnes and Noble's Nook reader more than Amazon's Kindle. However, I've quickly learned that Amazon offers a far larger selection of ebooks than Barnes and Noble. For example, I recently was interested in purchasing Leading 21st Century Schools: Harnessing Technology for Engagement and Achievement by Lynne Schrum and Barabara Levin. I found the book on Barnes and Noble, but no ebook version was available. The ebook was available at Amazon. Amazon offers users a much larger selection of ebooks than any of the other providers. Perhaps Amazon has discovered the secret of the ebook market: it's not the shiny features of the ebook reader that matters, it's the selection of ebooks you offer.

Kindle App for PC Interface

Nook / Barnes and Noble

Barnes and Noble provides an interesting ereading application for the PC in its NookStudy reader. (You can download it for your PC here.) I've really found its features quite useful. For example, you can import PDFs and read them, and you can take notes as you read and then export them as a word processing file. In spite of its bells and whistles though, Barnes and Noble doesn't have the number of ebooks available that Amazon does. That's especially true for professional education books. The Nook reader software for the desktop and the iPad is extremely user friendly, but ultimately it doesn't matter to me how useful it is if they do not offer an adequate selection of books.

NookStudy Screenshot

Apple's iBooks

Apple seems to have spent a great deal of effort developing a slick, appealing application for its iDevices, but like Barnes and Noble, they suffer from selection dearth. The iBook application does allow for importing PDFs, and they also offer quite a selection of free ebooks. However, browsing for those in the iBook app for my iPad is awkward and non-intuitive. I would also add that a major shortfall of the iBook app is that there's currently no PC app to access the books you purchase like there is with the Kindle app and Nook app.

Sony E-Reader

I really have little to say about Sony's e-reader because I've yet to get it to work on my laptop. There is no e-reader for my iPad either, so I have no reason at this point to recommend their product.

At this point, I would recommend highly Amazon's Kindle reader as the best app for ebooks. Ultimately, an e-reader application is only as good as the book selection available, and Amazon seems to be the winner in this category at this time.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Simple Solution for Backing Up Gmail on Your Hard Drive

Every once in a while I stumble across one of those software tools, that I just can't wait to share with others. GMail Backup is one of the applications. I have two Gmail accounts, a personal and my district account, and even though I'm not quite near the storage limit, I have often wondered how I was going to be able to keep accessible copies of my emails in a location where I can access them and manage my storage as it got closer to the limit. GMail Backup is an application that gives me that option.

The software interface itself is simple to use. You do have the option to specific a certain period of time that your email backup covers. I ran the application to back up my district account, which has a substantial number of emails, and it took just about an hour. Now I have copies of my email located on my hard drive and on my portable hard drive. The software also has a restore option, which I haven't yet tried. The software is free to download, but the developer asks for a donation. Check it out here: .

Gmail Backup's Simple-to-Use Interface

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

4 Reasons Google Docs Is a Good Idea for Educators

In a time of tight budgets and few resources, administrators need to find as many ways to save money as possible. In an earlier post, I suggest Google Docs as an alternative to purchasing Microsoft Office as an office suite. Google Docs does provide users many useful features that extend far beyond what can be obtained from a locally installed office suite like Open Office or Microsoft Office. Here's four things that set Google Docs apart from an installed office suite.

1. Create documents, spreadsheets, presentations, forms, and drawings online. With this feature, users can create documents any time and any place they have web access, right through their web browser. Unlike an installed software package on a local computer, there's no need to worry about document compatibility or saving your documents on a portable device. With Google Docs, create your work online, and then save it online. You can also take advantage of these additional features:
    • Save your documents online and never have to use a portable storage device such as a DVD or flash drive.
    • Take advantage of Google's online Template library to create documents.
    • Upload any existing files you have to Google Docs so that you have access to them any where.
    • Use a much simpler user interface than most office suite programs.
2. Share and collaborate with others on your documents. With Google Docs, you can choose with whom you wish to collaborate. You can share your work instantly with others through email. You can also work with others synchronously and asynchronously.

3. Safely store and organize your work.  Google Docs' web access gives users access any where there's an Internet connection. You can access documents stored in Google Docs on any computer. You can also store documents created in MS Office in your Google Docs account. Additionally, you can export documents from your Google Docs account to your desktop or laptop. Finally, you can use folders to organize your online Google Docs documents.

4. Control who has access to your documents. While the documents in your Google Docs account are stored online, you still have the ability to control who can see them and how they see them. You can publish your work as web pages, you can send invites to others you wish to view your documents, you can post your documents to your blog. Finally, you can share your documents internally with only those in your school.

That list describes an array of additional features beyond those found in a regular office suite. If I were to emphasize features to administrators, here's three I have found most useful and worth exploring:
  • Creating Forms: This feature has proven to be quite useful to me as an administrator. I have used it to create a discipline tracking form, parking lot form, new student entry form, and a walkthrough observation form, just to name a few. Google Docs' form feature has been extremely useful for collecting data. It puts the collected data into a spreadsheet for later reference.
  • Sharing Documents: Being able to share documents through Google Docs this year has actually cut down considerably on some of our staff face-to-face meeting time. For example, when we needed to develop a schedule this year, we shared a Google Doc spreadsheet, and all our staff edited, suggested, and made changes until we had an acceptable document. We did the same with our school improvement plan.
  • Two additional programs make using Google Docs even more functional. These programs are: "Syncdocs" and "GoDocs" for the iPad.
    • Syndocs: Syndocs is a free program that allows users to sync and store copies of all their Google Docs documents on their computer. It syncs on start up each time your computer boots. This program also allows you to have offline access to your documents. You can download Syncdocs here.
    • GoDocs for iPad: I tried several iPad apps so that I could access to my Google Docs account on my iPad, and so far GoDocs has been the best solution. It allows me to read and download any document in my Google account so that I have an added layer of access to those documents. It will also allow editing, but that function is done through a browser. It does not work as well as I hoped.
Google Docs is a Web 2.0 solution every administrator needs to learn how to use. It's simple to use, and best of all, doesn't cost anything.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Three Ways to Get the Most Out of Google Reader

Google Reader is a powerful application that permits users to wade through all the information available on the Web, and collect only that which is of interest, or use. It provides users with a goldmine of ideas to share with others, and it keeps them well-informed on current events. I once read the newspaper faithfully each morning; now I read my RSS subscriptions. It is an application every administrator and educator can use to remain well-informed and current on any topics of interest. What is it administrators and educators need to be able to do with Google Reader to take advantage of its capabilities? Here’s my short list of Google Reader  tips.

Set Up Subscription Folders: This feature allows Google Reader users to organize their RSS feed subscriptions into folders. For example, I have arranged my Web site news feeds into a single folder. By having my subscriptions organized into folders, I can better access them, and I can keep my highest interest feeds in a single location. Using folders makes it easy for me to sort items for easy access. Setting up folders will help users get the most out of Google Reader, and customize it to their specific needs.

Review Reader Trends: This feature allows users to review the statistics that capture their RSS reading habits over the past 30 days. For example, my own Google Reader trends tells me I’ve read a total of 300,000+ items since September 27, 2010.  The Trends feature also provides statistics about which feeds get read the most, which items you've clicked on the most, which items you've starred the most, and which items you've shared and emailed the most. You also can review which RSS Feeds are the most inactive and most obscure. This information is useful because it allows users to pare those RSS subscriptions that aren't providing useful information, or are not being read very often. The Reader Trends feature is an excellent tool for getting an overall picture of where a user is getting most of his or her information.

Share and Star RSS Items Read: Google Reader also allows users to share items from their RSS subscriptions too. For example, I recently stumbled on an article about the North Carolina state budget that had some details I thought a colleague might find interesting. Google Reader allowed me to send that article to that person with comments through email. The "Star" feature of Google Reader allows users to mark items for further reading later. By putting a star on them, users can simply click on the star folder and access the items individually. The share feature allows administrators to share resources found in the RSS subscriptions with others, and the star feature provides them with a tool to keep those items available for quick access.

Taking advantage of any RSS reader's capabilities makes the task of being well-informed much easier. There are certainly other RSS readers out there with more features, but Google Reader's power lies in a combination of simplicity, and features that help readers be organized and informed.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Four Features To Help Administrators Get the Most Out Gmail

Gmail is our districts' and my personal email service of choice. It's easy to use interface, any-where access, and customizable features make it an extremely useful email service. What are some of the features of Gmail I find most useful as a school administrator? If I were conducting training for administrators just converting to Gmail, here's some things I think they need to be able to do.

Set Up Labels: Gmail does not use folders. Instead, users have what are called labels. Received email can be provided with a label that distinguishes it from other emails. In practice using labels accomplishes the very same thing users want when they use folders in other email programs. I have found being able to use only two custom labels helps me manage my email. Those labels are: "Follow Up" and "Hold." Emails with the "Follow Up" label involve tasks that I must undertake, and they retain that label until that task is done, at which time I remove it. Emails with the "Hold" label contain short term reference information that I am going to need in the next few weeks. Once I no longer need the information in the email, I remove the label. However, I would caution administrators from going overboard with labels. Using too many makes it really difficult to remember which label you applied to which email. Training administrators on how to use Gmail labels provides them with a tool manage the email load that comes across their desk.

Using the Gmail Search Engine: Gmail provides users with the powerful ability to completely search all their email using specified search options. Users can search by sender, recipient, subject, label, specific words, and within a specified time period. This is extremely useful when trying to track down an email sent or received in the past that suddenly becomes relevant to a current situation. Training administrators on how to effectively mine their own email archive is a must so that they have at their fingertips all correspondence to the larger school community.

Creating a Custom Signature: Like other email programs such as Outlook or Thunderbird, Gmail users can also create a custom signature that contains information wanted at the bottom of every email sent. This can include the sender's name, contact information, and anything else that a user wants to convey with each message sent. Training administrators on how to create their own custom Gmail signature is important because it allows them to customize their email messages and make their contact information more readily available.

Use Selected Gmail Lab Features: While Google provides a disclaimer that says these extra Gmail features are for use at your own risk, some of them do help with email management. My current favorites are:
  • Canned Response: This allows users to create a generic response that can be sent by simply selecting it when composing an email. However, I very cautiously use "canned responses" because it's just not good practice to be so impersonal. There have been a few times though, a good canned response fits the situation perfectly.
  • Multiple Inboxes: This feature allows users to display extra lists to their inboxes. For example, I use this lab to display my emails with the "Follow Up" label so that I can glance at them quickly.
  • Message Sneak Peek: This lab allows users to right click on a message to preview the contents of that message. It is a very useful feature that allows users to peek at the contents of a message without opening it.
  • Right-Side Chat: This lab lets users display the contacts list for Google Talk with a search bar to the right of the email inbox. Right click on a contact's name and you can send an email to them or open a chat with them in Google Talk.
Gmail's simple interface can be deceptive. It provides users with a variety of options and tools to manage email. This list of features is a good starting point for anyone wanting to begin taking advantage of its options.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

My Top 8 Google Apps for Administrators

This post actually started out as a post of my favorite Web 2.0 applications, but once I started examining my list of Google Apps, I knew I could devote one entire post to those apps alone. Google offers so many useful applications to school administrators, I would find it hard to live without those apps now. Here is my most useful Google Apps list. Every administrator needs to know how to use these applications.

Google Apps List for Administrators

Google Reader: I am an avid reader of 230 subscriptions to blogs and RSS feeds. These feeds range from favorite blogs to news web sites. Each day, I quickly scan these feeds for articles of interest. Those which I find most useful are either bookmarked, using Diigo, or I Webclip them into my Evernote account. Google reader also allows me to archive my Twitter feed as well so that any resources there can be accessed later too. Administrators can effectively user Google Reader to engage in professional reading that is catered to their own interests.

Google Docs:  This application has largely taken the place of my word processing software. I have uploaded my school letterhead and other school documents to Google Docs, and it has become my go-to word processor. I also use the spreadsheets to create schedules, and I use the forms to enter and track student discipline data and student interview data. I've also used the simple presentation program in professional development sessions I've conducted. My staff and I have  taken advantage of the collaborative nature of Google Docs too. We share documents all the time as a part of our work. It has cut down on the need to have meetings on several tasks we needed to undertake as a school. Google Docs makes document creation easy and collaborative when needed.

Blogger: As I've written many times before, every administrator needs to take advantage of blogging. My own personal blog has allowed me to make connections with educators world wide and share ideas. I've also used a school blog to communicate with the larger school community. Blogging is a way to connect globally and share what is happening in your school with a world-wide audience.


Google Calendar:  The collaborative nature of Google Calendar makes it one of the best calendars around. I can set up multiple calendars that are only shared with the people I want, with the level of access I want. I can give others permissions to add events to those calendars, or just allow them to read it. Every administrator needs to take advantage of the collaborative nature of Google Calendar. It's anytime-anyplace access is a plus too.

Google Talk: Using Google Talk on all my devices makes me available to the staff at both my schools even when I'm not physically present or near a phone. My teachers can send me a message through Google Talk and I can receive it with my laptop, iPad, or Android phone. If I need to access an earlier chat from Google Talk, all of them are archived and fully searchable. Google talk is an added layer of connection with individuals in our entire district and beyond and it leaves an accessible record for future reference.

Google Voice:  I have used Google Voice to set up an additional voice mail account that my parents, students, and staff can call. If they leave a message, I receive that message right in my Gmail account. Google Voice allows me to provide my parents with a much better way to reach me without having to give out my home phone number, and I get that message any where I happen to be.

Google Desktop: This application indexes my entire computer and my email together so that all data stored in those two locations is fully searchable. For example, if I wanted to find an email and all related data files related to our prom this year, I can enter "prom 2011" into the search bar, and the application will return all hits using that search term so that I can access those items. Google Desktop makes my entire computer and email account one big searchable data base.


Google Alerts: While this feature is perhaps not a specific feature of Google Apps, it is a tool that allows me to follow topics of interest on a daily basis. I enter the search term or terms I wish to follow, and at the interval I designate, Google sends those search results right to my email inbox. I can also set up alerts that are sent to Google Reader as well. Google alerts is a way to track information of interest with ease.

Google Apps provides administrators with some extremely useful applications. Over the summer, I hope to share more and more specifics on how administrators can take advantage of not only Google Apps, but also some of the best Web 2.0 tools available. Google Apps has become ingrained in my daily activities to the point of indispensability.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

NC House Speaker Tillis Gives 27% Pay Raises to His Staff: Cuts Education Severely

An article today on the News & Observer's web site, states that North Carolina Speaker of the House Thom Tillis gave his staff fat raises. He tries to justify it by saying overall he's spending less, but I'm not sure that argument flies with all the North Carolina state employees who have seen their own pay frozen for the past three years. Also. tell that to the thousands of teacher assistant and other school employees who will receive pink slips this week or next.

According to the News & Observer article, here's who got raises in his office.

  • Tillis' General Counsel Jason Kay-27% raise from $110,000 to $140,00
  • Tillis' Chief of Staff Charles Thomas-25% raise from $120,000 to $150,000
  • Policy Advisers Christoper Hayes & Any Hobbs received $12,000 raises, $70,000 to $82,000

According to article, Tillis gave raises to seven members of his 14 member staff, and this was after pledging to have smaller payrolls for legislative staff than their predecessors. What is really disgusting about this whole affair, is that the North Carolina General Assembly refused to be courageous and make all  the cuts in teacher assistants, and instead, passed on that bit of dirty work back to school districts in the form of "discretionary cuts." Apparently Thom Tillis likes employee cuts, salary freezes, and educations cuts, but does believe in rewarding his friends. Hypocrisy abounds in Raleigh, North Carolina. You can't tell the rest of the state government they must sacrifice when those around you are not.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Psychology of Twitter: Social and Psychological Aspects of Twitter

This Australian Broadcast Corporation program on "The Psychology of Twitter" provides an interesting discussion on many aspects of Twitter. The discussion by this panel of users is an interesting look in where we are now with Twitter, its pitfalls, and how social media might evolve. While it is rather than lengthy, the discussion about Twitter is fascinating and worth the view.

Some of the interesting ideas from the video regarding Twitter:
"Twitter is for old people, is the attitude of many young people."
"Twitter allows users to connect with people anywhere in the world, and carry on a conversation."
"Trying to get to the dis-information on social media networks is problematic. Individuals or companies can create false identities to communicate information." 
"Interesting period of time when social media is losing its innocence."
"Use common sense about who you follow on Twitter. If they have a 'Jack-the-Ripper' avatar, it's probably not a good idea to follow them."

Sunday, June 5, 2011

NC House Speaker Thom Tillis Says Educators Don't Care About Kids

Across the United States, politicians have decided that it is permissible to mis-characterize educators and educator organizations instead of listening to them. This past Saturday, and the North Carolina GOP Convention in Wilmington, North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis took an opportunity to take a jab at the North Carolina Association of Educators, and perhaps by default educators everywhere in our state by making the following remarks as described in this Charlotte Observer article.

  • Tillis drew applause also when he said the budget cut one-third of the staff of the State Department of Public Instruction.
  • Tillis also drew applause for bragging about a bill that would bar the state from collecting dues for the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE).
  • Tillis added: "They (speaking specifically about NCAE) don't care about kids. They don't care about classrooms. They care only about their jobs and pensions."

Now I might be wrong, but each of these show a insensitivity and level of meanness that has become just a bit fashionable in the era where politicians promise that budget cuts and more budget cuts will take us to the promise land.
For a state level politician to brag and boast about putting one-third of a department at the state level out of job is just plain mean. Perhaps those jobs needed to be cut, but to gloat about cutting them ignores that there are now more people entering the unemployment line, and the attitude of Thom Tillis seems to be I'll use even the misfortunes of others to push my political cause if necessary.

The second remark about forbidding the state from collecting NCAE dues is a purely political ploy by a party that has long had enmity with the teacher organization. For the sake of disclosure, I am not a member of NCAE and have not been for quite a few years. Like every organization, I have not always agreed with their every stance, but to characterize an entire organization like NCAE the way Thom Tillis does is unfair. I know many, many teachers who are members of that organization who give their all for kids. Across this country, Republican legislatures are dismantling any influence professional educator unions and organizations have over policy. Tillis' remarks makes me wonder if he also had drunk from the cup offered by the American Legislative Exchange Council, who may be the actual author of so many legislative bills introduced across the country in recent months. Still, it is clear from this legislature's actions, it is perhaps they who do not care about kids, or at least they care more about scoring political points and budget cutting. This ploy to remove payroll deductions for NCAE dues is not about kids, it's about the majority party being able stay in power and push its agenda to destroy public schools.

Thom Tillis' remarks should not go unchallenged by those of us who know his mis-characterization of an entire organization and educators is wrong. Perhaps all those educators who do care more about kids than their jobs or pensions should give him a call and inform him about how much they care. To contact Mr. Tilllis, see the link below:

NC House Speaker Thom Tillis' Contact Information

Steps Toward Becoming a Technology Leader: Advice to School Administrators

“Change is a subtle thing. Change is sneaky. Although most of us are aware that something has changed in our lives, it is often very difficult to put our finger on exactly what has happened, how things have changed, or why things are different.”
Ted McCain and Ian Jukes, Windows on the Future

McCain and Jukes wrote that statement ten years ago, and the change they spoke of then is still raging today. Yet, we still have educational leaders and policymakers stuck in the old 20th century paradigms of learning. They still envision learning as knowledge to be memorized and classrooms where the teacher is the sage who imparts knowledge to the students. In other words they walk into classrooms with 20th century teaching expectations. Testing policies do nothing but reinforce those antiquated expectations.

It's past time to move into the 21st century, and the excuse-making needs to cease. As McCain and Jukes said, "It is a complete myth that change takes time.It is making the decision to change that really takes time." School leaders who are still waiting to make the decision to change are left behind. What then is a school leader to do in order to become a technology leader? Here's some steps to take to start that transformation.

  • Be a tech consumer and user. You can't lead others as a technology leader if you aren't a user and consumer. Make it a habit to experiment and try new technologies. Get an iPad, smart phone, and any other tech device and learn how to use them. Lead by example.
  • Learn how to talk the "tech language." You don't need to know everything, but you need to know the cutting edge terminology. For example, you need to know what a wiki, cloud computing, and a flash mob is. You learn these terms by becoming a member of the tech community rather than delegating it someone else.
  • Prepare yourself for messy innovation in the classroom. If you have 20th century classroom expectations, ditch them. The 21st century classroom can look messy, so you won't always see orderliness and desks in rows. You're going to see learning that isn't always compatible to the traditional idea of lesson plan.
  • Be a tech ambassador for the whole community. Proclaim loudly to all who'll listen how your teachers are engaging kids with 21st century technology. Invite them into your schools. Let them see firsthand how your teachers employ technology in the classroom. Bragging and boasting is perfectly acceptable in this case.
  • Show your staff the money. When your teachers want to try a new technology, find the money. Don't dampen their spirit of innovation by saying we just don't have the money. Compromise, bargain and enlist others to make it happen. Leaders can find the resources to make it happen.
If you honestly want to be a technology leader, you must let go of all 20th century paradigms about education.  It's way past time to leave those 20th century classroom expectations behind.

    Wednesday, June 1, 2011

    Charlotte Observer Gets It Wrong: NC Budget Rewrite Won't Save Education Jobs

    The article in the Charlotte Observer entitlted, "Budget Rewrite Saves Teacher Assistant Jobs", is a clear attempt by our political leaders in the North Carolina General Assembly to mask the truth of what their budget cuts are going to do to local school districts. What's even worse, the Charlotte Observer uses a headline that seems to support the idea that the North Carolina Legislature has somehow magically found funds to save 15,000 or so teacher assistant jobs. They haven't. What they have done is shifted the responsibility for making the job cuts back to the local school districts, which now have to find $429 million dollars to send back to the state out of their budgets. Our state legislature is playing the "discretionary cuts" game again, which translates into someone else having to do their dirty work. The public rarely knows or understands the discretionary cuts game.

    Ann McColl, North Carolina State Board of Education lobbyist, calls it like it is when she says, "Some of the really tough decisions about positions and job losses are just being passed down to the local level." 

    With the magnitude of cuts our legislature is asking of our schools, local districts will have no choice but cut positions, either teachers or teacher assistants. It seems some politicians still operate under the delusion that there's millions of dollars still being wasted in schools, but after three years of cutting, there's just not much there.

    The sad part of all this, our legislators are doing this simply so they can respond in the next cycle, "I didn't cut any jobs."

    Update: My partial apologies to the Charlotte Observer; they are only partially wrong. They got the misleading article and story from the Raleigh newspaper, News and Observer. Their headline on this budget reads "School Jobs Saved in State Budget."