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A School for the Underprivileged

An intense desire to serve the underprivileged and her love for children prompted Ms. Ruchie Mittal to spearhead a humanitarian effort. Moved by the plight of labourer’s children at one of the construction sites of a residential project by CHD Developers Ltd., she initiated and conceptualized the setting up of a special Crèche to provide basic amenities for these children.

Her dream has finally taken shape. The crèche was started in June 2011 with an aim to provide a shelter for the children who used to loiter around in the construction site earlier. The crèche provides shelter to around 22 children and this number is expected to grow.

The crèche not just provides a safe haven to these children; it also offers them basic amenities. Indoor toys and games which was a far-fetched reality for these children have been provided to them. The swings outside the crèche can be seen with smiling faces playing blissfully.

Being the Director at Aadyant School, Ms. Mittal understands the importance of education in these formative years when the shape of the kid’s future is moulded. Taking note of this she felt that education for these children was a priority. The students are provided with stationary, reading and practice books (Hindi, English and Math). A number of teachers have been employed to impart knowledge to these children.

She says, “I have always believed that it is our duty to reach out to the underprivileged sections of the society in any way we can. These children of our labourers at our projects have been provided with loving care and shelter. I truly believe that the children should not be deprived of the basic necessities and a good education. This effort will definitely bring about a positive change in the lives of these children”

Taking this commendable step to another level, Ms. Ruchie Mittal is now initiating setting up more such crèches at the construction sites of other projects which is bound to spread more smiles and bring a ray of hope in the lives of many other such children.

Some information about Ms. Ruchie Mittal

The young and dynamic Ms. Ruchie Mittal is the Director of Raodmaster Cycles Ltd. It is India’s largest exporter of cycles and the first to set up a manufacturing unit in Africa. At the helm of affairs, she has been instrumental in redesigning of the brand identity and has played a key role in the expansion strategy.

She also essays the role of Director at the Aadyant School, Vasant Kunj, which is an established name in pre- primary education in Delhi. She generates new policies to enhance the development of the school and handles school management tasks like financial, personnel and school facilities.

An alumnus of the prestigious Lady Sriram College and a Fashion management graduate from London school of fashion, Ms. Ruchi Mittal finds time to take up initiatives for the welfare of the society. She is actively involved with a Blind School and is an active volunteer at various Senior Citizen’s Clubs in Vasant Kunj. She has been instrumental in conceptualizing and initiating the idea of a Crèche at Avenue 71, a project by CHD Developers at Sohna Road Gurgaon, for the children of labourers at the site.

She is married to Mr. Gaurav Mittal, MD, CHD Developers Ltd.

Make the School Marketing Budget a Necessary Part of Any School Marketing Plan – 4 Key Strategies

A successful School Marketing Plan (SMP) needs a well funded School Marketing Budget (SMB). This is probably the most controversial aspect of any School Marketing Plan.

1. Make the Budget Realistic

Various people within each school community have differing views on the amount which should be afforded to the School Marketing Budget. School Principals and School Managers need to be aware that the implementation of a good SMP would inevitably drive up community engagement and enrolment numbers!

In today’s dollar values spending $20 000 – $40 000 on an average SMB for an average sized independent school (of between 600 and 900 students) would be a good investment. This would need to be proportionately reviewed according to overall School Budget, the number of enrolments and the overall need of the school to build and maintain enrolment numbers.

When the SMP is being developed for a specified year, key stakeholders, particularly the School Principal, School Manager and the School Marketing Manager, need to assess the budget requirements. The budget will have a significant impact on a SMP for any year. The SMB includes all areas of the SMP which incur expenses.

2. Invest During Good Times

Good times are the best times to invest. This enables the school’s reputation to be enhanced considerably. Resting on the laurels of the past can become an expensive exercise when the reputation is forgotten or when a new challenge comes from other competing interests, including other schools and distractions within society.

3. Invest in Difficult Financial Times

However, all schools need to market themselves at whatever stage of the success cycle at which they find themselves. Don not give up in the tough times – all schools will experience these throughout their history. It is a most important time to market, fight for the dollars so you don not get left behind in the marketplace.

4. Shared School Marketing Budgets – Regionalized or Localized

Shared SMBs across a number of schools may be another way of efficiently budgeting.
This could be regionalized e.g.:
• a combined regional budget to be shared amongst schools or
• a RMM (Regional Marketing Manager) implementing the whole marketing plan for the region and individual schools, which are only required to develop their own essentials such as newsletters.

Or it may be a number of localized schools working together and sharing the budget.

A shared budget may see different schools marketing specific aspects for the cluster e.g.
• one may concentrate on Arts / Sport Education within the cluster
• another may market the varying sorts of key curriculum and extra-curricular areas on offer and differing times for each
• another may emphasize the pastoral, welfare and social justice aspects within the cluster.

For some schools this may be the only way to begin marketing or to maintain a SMB in any form what-so-ever.

Caution – even though this may appear to save financially, it takes away from the individual uniqueness of each school. Marketing is often more successful when emphasizing a uniqueness.

A professionally run school will always allow for an appropriate marketing budget to assist with promoting the school – both in good and difficult times.

Is ELearning For Teachers One Answer to School Reform?

School leaders face many challenges in today’s education environment. As school districts are just coming to grips with the accountability components of No Child Left Behind, our new administration promises to create even more requirements for public schools. Meanwhile the realities of improving student achievement remain as prevalent and underfunded as before. School superintendents and school principals do admirable jobs pursuing school reform and keeping up with the needs of their teachers and students, however with their lack of resources and changing federal expectations, this challenge can appear overwhelming.

One component of effective school improvement and reform is teacher professional development. Oftentimes schools need to completely overhaul a curriculum based on declines in student achievement necessitating costly and time-consuming training. Other times, curriculum directors are forced to train and retrain on existing curriculum due to the inconsistency of its application in the classroom. And each year, many teachers are new to the profession and need significant training above and beyond what they receive in their teacher college programs. These realities require school districts to invest heavily in the continuing education of teachers. Indeed this is one of the most important components of any school reform program.

New research introducing innovative teacher techniques and facts about how and why students learn are another factor driving the incessant need for teacher training. Most educators are so driven to see their student succeed that they are prone to lack of focus. With so many teaching and learning approaches, how are educational leaders to choose? The research-based requirements of No Child Left Behind have helped provide a high bar for new initiatives to achieve prior to serious consideration. But even so, superintendents and curriculum directors need to maintain a razor-like focus on their own district improvement plan as they select from these educational best practices. Each new practice can only be successful if properly deployed to the teaching staff with an appropriate focus on teacher training.

Once selected, deploying these best practices into America’s classrooms is difficult for any number of reasons. The cost associated with deployment can be prohibitive. Education consultants brought in to teach typically require high daily rates and associated travel expenses. And even internally taught classes require pulling teachers from classrooms resulting in the expense of substitute teachers and loss of teaching time. Even the best intended professional development plans often end up with inconsistent implementation. It is not uncommon to see two teachers, who attend the same class, implementing (or not implementing) very different versions of what is supposedly the same methodology.

School districts use job-embedded staff development and rely on full time internal coaches to help deal with some of these issues. While this is routinely effective, school districts are still constrained with how much change the system can absorb. And, like it or not, oftentimes successful school reform centers around how much change a school district can enable in a relatively short amount of time.

One solution to help work within the constraints of teacher schedules and school district budgets is more online delivery of teacher professional development. The case for online delivery is as compelling for teacher training as it is for supplemental or primary student teaching. The schedule issues are greatly reduced as technology relieves us of the requirement of getting all participants in a room. Technology also allows us to extend the class size as appropriate. Whereas a classroom-led training session is difficult when done in large groups, it is not necessarily so for online teaching. The facilitation of conversation can, in some instances, be of a much higher quality with online platforms as participants are – depending on class format – allowed to chime in with the benefit of more time and more contemplation versus a live classroom.

The reason for why online learning hasn’t been more prevalent are diminishing rapidly. Until now, schools and school districts suffered from a lack of online content that was tailored toward their specific needs. Now content is becoming increasingly easy to generate bringing development costs down significantly. Previously online content was static or not engaging (or very expensive if it was) but, again, with technology advances, the cost of engaging content is accessible to all districts even for internally generated course content. And given the availability and capability of ready-made learning management systems, the ability of participants to easily and productively interact is automatically enabled – all at a fraction of the cost required just a few years ago.

One technology that has made this happen is Moodle (www.moodle.org). Moodle is an open source learning management systems that can be easily and quickly deployed to address the specific needs of staff developers. Because Moodle is open-source there is no cost associated with purchasing the software. And as with many open-source platforms, there is an extensive developer network with whom to borrow and share ideas and modification.

Moodle has most, if not all, of the capabilities required of a learning management system. It is easy to implement and can be managed easily from a robust administrative back-end interface. The emphasis was to develop a secure and easy-to-manage system that did not require technical management. The course components allow for unlimited numbers of classes. Classes can utilize a range of activities including forums, quizzes, glossaries, resources, choices, surveys, assignments, chats, and workshops. The system supports and facilitates collaboration across the learning community as defined by the system user and administrators.

While the core software is certainly compelling, what makes Moodle so interesting is the user and developer communities that support the platform. Add-on modules include everything from the ability to integrate social networking platforms into your Moodle platform to the ability to seamlessly include and publish podcasts into your lessons. These add-ons are also available under the GNU General Public License which means they are also free to use and modify.

To be sure, there are many learning management systems available beyond Moodle. Most have a significantly higher cost to license and to develop. That said, in some cases these other platforms may be better suited to the needs of the individual school or school district. Regardless of the platform, online delivery of teacher training is a cost-effective solution that should be part of any professional development program.