My buddy the Dalai Lama

The self-publishing guru Dan Poynter has been a close friend of mine almost forever, at least from the time when to set type you had to lift each letter and place it. Think Ben Franklin.

We were sharing some old stories by email this morning, and I thought you might enjoy one that I had forgotten about until Dan asked me to tell him again how I had met the Dalai Lama. Let me also share it with both of my devoted blog readers.

It was some years ago and I was in Santa Cruz, California, where my daughter Kim was living. I was speaking those evenings at Cabrillo College and I often read or wrote in the library, which at midday was quiet and comforting.

By chance, the librarian knew who I was because several of my books were on the shelves there and once when I went to the desk to ask a question she recognized the name and made the connection. I would say hello to her every few months when I was in the library.

One of those days she came up and asked, “Mr. Burgett, may I ask a favor? The Dalai Lama is coming to speak at the Auditorium (almost across the street) in 30 minutes and a man from the city (I forget his name or position) has to introduce him and we don’t know the proper form of introduction. What do you suggest?”

Can you imagine? Who knows that stuff? She might as well have asked me who was King Tut’s third cousin. (Was it Tut-Tut?)

I suggested that the person might just ask him.

And that I remember years ago seeing a list of proper introductions in The Lincoln Library.

If those failed, they might just try “Oh, hello Dalai!” She didn’t know I was kidding. She hurried away, pleased and grateful.

She had piqued my curiosity so I went across the street to see what was really going on. About five minutes later up pulled a caravan of a four or five identical yellow limousines–they looked like Pontiacs. They parked neatly behind the auditorium, and out piled a cadre of monks. I was watching this through a fence that surrounded the auditorium. A cop came up behind me and told me and the rest of the gawking rabble to move back across the street. I said to him, “I’m a reporter!” He was a bit dumbfounded but he let me stay where I was. Then the Dalai Lama passed right in front of me, so I said, in a flash of brilliance, “Welcome to Santa Cruz!” He stopped, came up to the fence, looked right at me, and said, “Thank you. I am pleased to be here.” Then he smiled, put his hands together, bowed, and went to the auditorium.

That’s how I met my buddy the Dalai Lama. Naturally, like all good reporters a few years from the press, I had no camera, pencil, or notepad. But being bowed to by His Holiness was enough novelty, so I went back to the library. I have no idea how he was introduced.

I’ve actually seen him once since, at a distance, through a car window as his yellow cavalcade zipped down a freeway. So the term “buddy” may be a bit strong. Sadly, we no longer chat or bow.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

30 key points about The Art of School Boarding

The Art of School Boarding

Jim Burgett’s just-released book, The Art of School Boarding, is our newest release from Education Communication Unlimited, in both paperback (from us and CreateSpace) and in digital versions(in .pdf from us and in the respective reader versions from Kindle, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and Scribd).

Here are specific ordering details, plus much more about the book’s contents and Jim’s extensive, award-winning background in K-12 education.

Would you also like to read some key extracts from The Art of School Boarding?

Here is a summarized Table of Contents and 30 segments directly from the book.

Summary Table of Contents

1. Boarding Basics
2. Why Does Anyone Want to Board?
3. The Foundational Principles of School Governance
4. Board Roles and Superintendent Roles
5. Boarding Code of Conduct
6. Know the Chain of Command
7. Learn the Art of Receiving and Responding to Complaints
8. Never Forget Who Comes First
9. Money Matters
10. Programs and Growth
11. Relationships
12. School Boarding at its Best
13. Expert Advice
14. Taking Care of You
15. The Ride

* This book should be mandatory reading by every new member of every school board in America. They should read it before they seek election or accept appointment.

* Being a member of a board of education is one of the most important jobs that a person can hold, and it should be reserved for people who have the courage, the fortitude, and the desire to make a difference.

* (Being on a school board) is not an easy job, but it’s a very important one. The lives of every kid in this country, our kids, are at stake. And so is the present and future fabric of our nation.

* Who else should read its pages? Current board members, both as a reminder of the pledge they have made and to provide a unifying language, shared process, and commonly held goal that they and their new followers can seek together.

* I’m writing this book because it needs to be written. It is intended to serve as a guide, a primer, a companion, a training manual, a motivational tool, and a down-to-earth conversation starter about a job that is always, for those involved, a life-changing event.

* “School Boarding” is a verb that captures movement and change. The “Art of School Boarding” is the process that propels and steers that change.

* I think school boards in general are doing a superb job, despite the fact that much of that is done “by the seat of their pants.” And much of that is because too many of the members just don’t know any better. And some don’t care.

* You see, some folks run for the school board without understanding both its importance and its complexity. Some, once elected, simply don’t get it. And some lose their vigor and vision. So maybe a straightforward, common sense, jargon-free book like this can help all of the board members become essential components of a crucial process for helping kids. Perhaps it can provide a shared starting point for boards of education working as cohesive teams, knowing their purpose, rolling up their collective sleeves, and never losing focus while making a true difference. Helping school boards “board” in a positive, effective, and meaningful manner, then, is the goal of this book, the very reason for its existence.

* This book contains the kind of information that board members, particularly beginners or others considering joining, should know, like being a member of a board of education is an act of noble and selfless public service.

* Being a member of a board of education takes time. If done right, it is a time-consuming task.

* There are no board of education members who don’t face difficult decisions, votes, or issues. Nor any who haven’t had to defend his or her decisions many times. This is a job that often includes some degree of conflict.

* (Being on a school board) can be fun and rewarding. It is always life changing. But it can also be taxing and frustrating. One thing for certain, it is not a job to be entered into lightly.

* This is not a textbook. It has no footnotes, nor many statistics. It comes from me (who sat through thousands of hours of school board meetings), mentors, and colleagues with a century-plus of school board experience… The format is casual, like a conversation.

* School boarding isn’t a science—I taught science. Yes, there are some rules, procedures, and recommended guidelines. What makes it an art (as in The Art of School Boarding) is that at the core what we most need to share is thoughtfulness, tact, and the process (really the art) of building relationships.

* School board members mold, direct, and outline the educational opportunities of children and adults. Would it be too theatrical to say that they hold the future of mankind in the palm of their hand? Well, if mankind is composed of one person at a time, one new opportunity, one creative philosophy permitting another, then maybe, just maybe, theatricality borders on reality. You have an opportunity to change the world.

* From the minute you are elected or appointed a school board member you hold a position of public authority. Your vote always counts. You become responsible for huge sums of money, the stewardship of property, and the employment and welfare of many human beings. Essentially, you hold the personal livelihood of people in the power of your vote. And not only the individual, but his/her family.

* Can it be rewarding to be a school board member? You bet. Consider the rewards—permanent ones, each growing with every kid from day one in kindergarten to graduation day from high school, and spin-offs all the days that follow.

* The Pros (of school boarding) are serving mankind, volunteering for the good of society, helping young people have a chance for success, making sure opportunities are fair and appropriate, and being accountable to those who elected you by being diligent in your duties and demonstrating professional and respectable behavior.

* The school board is the “corporate” entity charged by law with the task of governing a legally defined school district.

* School boards write and approve district policies that clearly define delegation. In fact, almost every aspect of a school board’s authority should be contained in a well-crafted set of policies. The board has the ultimate responsibility for every aspect of school governance, but those responsibilities need to be easily understood and well crafted.

* The board of education is the engine that runs the system. The engine transforms power into action; thus, the superintendent is like the transmission, taking the energy and converting it into productive motion.

* The superintendent is hired to do the following: understand, interpret, refine, and implement the vision, mission, goals and policy as set forth by the board of education. That’s one powerful and jam-packed expectation.

* The superintendent’s role is … to take the decisions made by the school board and to implement them, in accordance with both their request, existing policy, and in compliance with legal and ethical restrictions.

* Knowing where you stand in the flow also helps you direct yourself to the right place. Your place in every organizational chart (as a school board member) is at the top, at least within the district. Some charts may put state government or state leaders over you, but within the district you are generally considered the last stop, the head honcho, the buck stopper. And next to you, down the scale only one notch or position, is the person you hired and hold responsible, the superintendent.

* “Who comes first?” The answer is always “the kids.” Call them students, children, young adults, pre-adolescents, adolescents, infants, or whatever, all of these are, in my thinking, “the kids.” If you program your thinking in this direction, then everything, absolutely everything, you do will in some way affect the kids and their opportunity to learn.

* I recommend, without any hesitation, that school board members ask the tough questions.

* Everything in this chapter (about school finances) defines the word “art” in the title of this book. The reason is simple: managing and projecting school finances is not, and never will be, a science. Certainly the cash in, cash out accounting procedures are pure science and legally controlled, but no district will ever know for sure the future of the financial variables.

* I can’t tell you how many times I have told teachers over the years, “Never discipline kids, just behaviors.”

* I have often pictured a board of education as a jigsaw puzzle with eight pieces. Seven are the individual pieces that fit together, each piece representing one of the (board members). The eighth makes up the border of the puzzle. All the inside pieces fit inside the border. The border is the superintendent. He/she holds everything together and provides the boundaries, protection, and (the) shape of the puzzle. When the board is cohesive and working well, all the inside pieces fit nicely together with no binding (or) straining, clearly displaying a comprehensive “picture” of the district.


Jim Burgett is a frequent keynoter, workshop provider, academy presenter, and consultant throughout the United States. His audiences include school administrators, teachers, board members, businesses, and institutions. When his audiences evaluate his presentations, three words frequently appear: passionate, inspirational, and practical. Jim’s mission is simply “To make a difference.”

Jim is the author of Teachers Change Lives 24/7, the coauthor of Finding Middle Ground in K-12 Education (with Brian Schwartz, General Counsel and Associate Director of the Illinois Principals Association), and coauthor of two other best-selling books for administrators, What Every Superintendent and Principal Needs to Know and The Perfect School (both with Max McGee, President of the Illinois Math and Science Academy, and Jim Rosborg, Director of Graduate Education at McKendree University).

Burgett has taught and served as principal and superintendent at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. He was twice named administrator of the year by his peers, and has won many other awards. Burgett serves on several boards for many organizations. Following a full career as a working educator, he is now the lead member of The Burgett Group and focuses on providing exceptional professional development. For details, see

“Treasure Hunt Clues” free book reminder 8/23-5

If you are at all interested, from Friday through Sunday, Aug. 23-25, 100 Ready-to-Use Treasure Hunt Clues will be downloaded free from These are a follow-up to my Treasure and Scavenger Hunts: How to Plan, Create, and Give Them book (in the third edition) that was very popular a few years back. Since folks keep asking if any more treasure hunt clues are available, here they are!

If you forget, or want to be last to get this bonanza, they will also be downloaded free on Sept. 15-16 too. Then that’s it. They cost a whopping $3.99. In the new free book there are enough new clues for 4-5 parties!

Want more details about 100 Ready-to-Use Treasure Hunt Clues? Check here for the the table of contents.

Ebk Cover 100 R-to-U TH Clues-page-001 (1)
We’ve provided the new clues in poetry, code, word play, riddles, and prose. Your role? Send invitations, buy goofy prizes, release the teams, and have fun!

The book also explains how the party, the hunt, and the clues work; how you match them to your town; how they can be customized (if needed), and how the host can select the “best” or most appropriate 15 or 20 clues for teams to simultaneously pursue and solve.

Want to toss in some scavenger hunt items? Here’s a starter list of 25, plus four sample brainbusters. The “Magic Party Checklist” will help all of those invited to easily grasp the simple directions, honor the returning hunt heroes, get fed, and laugh or dance the rest of the night away.

Please tell your friends about the free copies too: plenty available.

If you prefer to send the new book as a gift in paperback, it is yours today for $9.49 from Amazon (Create Space) or directly from us.

All the fun starts with the clues. Here are 100 ready to go, with instructions on how to use them! The rest is up to you…

Hope you enjoy the book and the hunt!

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

The downfall of the mainstream publishers as we know them…

“It’s time that writers and publishers stood up for free speech!” said Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, to some 85 attendees at the ASJA-sponsored free gathering on Sunday, May 15, in the Berkeley Public Library. The topic was “E-Books, Apps, and Clouds: How Writers Are Creating the Future of Publishing.”

Mark said it was paradoxical that only a few blocks away his mother (and he in utero) took part in the Free Speech movement at its peak in the 1960s. And now, finally, with e-books ranked as the #1 format among all trade categories, there is a renaissance in book publishing as firms like Smashwords, offering a free publishing and distribution platform, help give ordinary people the power about what should be said and printed.

“The ‘Big 6’ have judged the worth of writers by the commercial merit of the books they sent for publication. They controlled the printing presses and the venues of mass distribution, but their myth as the arbiters of value is giving way to a new reality as brick and mortar bookstores close, they pass the post-publication PR burden to the writers, their book advances tumble while they still reject almost every submission, they take 18 months to put those few books accepted in print—and if the new book doesn’t sell in the first weeks that it’s in the bookstores, it is withdrawn to be remaindered or pulped.”

“Writers have been exploited. It’s the public who should decide what they want to read. We offer an online, open platform so writers can release their potential. That creates many more choices.”

Coker said that answers to two questions will lead to the downfall of the big publishers (though they will never totally disappear, nor should they):

The first question is, “What can publishers do that I can’t do myself?”

The second, “Will using a traditional (or mainstream) publisher harm my book’s success?”

In response to the first question, any author can use the Smashwords format to create an e-book in nine software languages. Those books are then openly marketed by distributors worldwide, democratically serving all. There is no cost to the author/publisher. And a royalty of 60-85% is paid for every book sold (compared to 5-17% in royalties for the major houses). The books are released as e-books almost the moment they are processed.

The second question, how would a traditional publisher harm a book’s success? By making it unaffordable (in part to pay for their overhead), often selling it at prices double or triple the e-book rates. And by limiting its distribution, geographically or for restricted periods of time. (E-books know no boundaries since they become immediately accessible internationally once they are seen in an online catalog. Readers can also sample a part of the book before buying. And since there is unlimited space in the e-book bookstore, the books will remain available everywhere forever.)

“By self-publishing and having the means affordably at hand, the authors/publishers can take control of their own publishing destiny,” Mark adds. “If they write a good book that resonates with writers, buyers will honor the writer with word-of-mouth promotion.”

But another key question remains unanswered: will the “open press” or “ancillary publishing” process bring authors enough income for their efforts? “Right now we have less than 50 authors earning $50,000 a year,” Mark replies, smiling. But in just three years his firm has helped 20,000 writers publish 50,000 ebooks, and in the process Smashwords has become one of the largest e-book distributors.

Smashwords distributes to the Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo, the Diesel eBookstore, and Scrollmotion. A distribution deal is in the works with Amazon, for implementation late this year.

The firm is on track to surpass 75,000 books by the end of 2011. Smashwords is one of eight self-publishing services (which I call “ancillary publishers”) that help releasing writers’ potential, including CreateSpace, Kindle, PubIt!, Lulu, Blurb, Scribd, Google, and LightningSource.

For more information about ASJA (American Society for Journalists and Authors), contact the President of the NorCal Chapter, D. Patrick Miller at To see the slides of Mark’s ASJA presentation, go to Three Smashwords links, too: Smashwords:, Smashwords Distribution:, and the Smashwords blog:


(This is #1 of a four-part blog series about the “two publishing revolutions afoot.” #2 will appear on 5/23 in which publishing consultant Peter Beren will provide a counter view that ultimately the “big houses” may absorb and dominate the e-book format. In #3 (on 5/25), Berrett-Koehler’s David Marshall will show some of the changes traditional publishers will make to survive and thrive in the future. And in #4, I will add a cranky explanation of how the existence of “ancillary publishing,” as Mark Coker discusses it in #1, and the wee and e-books it facilitates, may in themselves be far more important to their author/publishers than the books’ actual sales records. In my [free] newsletter on 6/7, I will again share #1-#4, with comments, plus add many more immediately applicable insights that Coker shared at a BAIPA [Bay Area Independent Publishers Association] meeting on May 14.)

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett