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Conference provided learning opportunities

Dear Editor:

More than 7,000 school board members, administrators and vendors attended the National School Board Association’s annual conference held in San Antonio, Texas, April 5-9. I was fortunate enough to attend along with fellow board member Lori Savoy and our superintendent, Scott Collins.

The national conference is an incredible opportunity to broaden our knowledge, learn from other districts and hear about new approaches and technology. It enables us to bring fresh ideas and new approaches back to our own school district. These conferences are also great opportunities to learn how other states are addressing some of the same challenges we are facing as a community in Indiana so that we can gain new insights and ideas to better support our students.

Just for a brief background: NSBA is the leading advocate for public education. For more than 75 years, NSBA has been leading the effort to support and enhance public education, and represents more than 90,000 school board officials from across the United States.

Each of us attended workshops related to our own interests. Lori attended one titled More Prevention, Less Intervention: Stop “Band-Aiding” The Reading Issue. A Texas school district formed a six-week summer program called Camp Summit to improve reading levels for students who struggle with reading in grades K-2 and decrease the “Summer Slide” some students experience when entering third grade. The camping theme allows fun activities in a non-traditional way to keep students engaged and at same time improving reading skills. The program has only been in place a few years but has proven to be overwhelmingly successful for the time, effort, and funding required to make possible. Lori also enjoyed a session presented by a school board in the state of Washington that incorporates student voice into their school board and through a process, allows the school district an avenue to listen to their students.

One session I attended involved community and school board partnerships, presented by a school district in Pennsylvania. This session explored how districts can develop relationships with their community through consistent collaboration including annual joint meetings to discuss the positive work they have done over the previous year, develop a way to start 529 education funds for every incoming kindergartner, positive marketing strategies, and including a student advisor as a part of their board. I also enjoyed a session on school board governance and working through difficult decisions, managing difficulties that arise with personalities, and how school boards can effectively impact student achievement.

Scott enjoyed a session on college and career readiness, and how schools are focusing efforts on career preparation and readiness, not only focused on college readiness for all students; rather, looking at pathways for students that we can provide and then try to make these fit students rather than trying to fit students into pathways without individualization and flexibility. Of course there were many more workshops on school safety, government cuts to programming, mindfulness, crowd funding and much more.

Attendance at the national conference is continuing education for board members and it never disappoints! Lori and I were even able to participate in a drum circle. Besides being energetic and fun, it is also used as an educational piece with children in some schools, as it promotes focus, builds camaraderie, reduces stress and empowers student success. All I know is that it took a lot of focus but, boy, it was fun!

We want to take the time to thank the Fayette County School Corporation, our superintendent and our constituents for supporting the opportunity for board members to attend these events. It was truly a wonderful opportunity.

Leslie Jacobs, president, Fayette County School Corporation School Board of Trustees