By Jennifer Wohlleb
Come for the great speakers, stay for the student presenters and performers.
This year’s 78th Annual KSBA Conference will offer one of the strongest lineups of featured speakers in conference history, as well as the largest number of students directly involved, said Kerri Schelling, KSBA’s director of Board Team Development.
“We have 10 school districts whose students will either be involved in workshop presentations or through performances,” she said. “For the first time there is going to be a pre-conference workshop led by students. Parliamentary procedures can be confusing for even the most seasoned of boards and who better to lead a presentation than students who have already mastered this skill. I think board members attending this session are going to enjoy learning from kids.”
This is one of five pre-conference workshops being offered Friday, Jan. 31.
This year’s keynote speakers feature one familiar face and two with a national presence.
“Our Friday opening speaker, Harvey Alston, is back by popular demand,” Schelling said. “He was our closing speaker several years ago and got rave reviews. He’s one of the few speakers whose name I continually see on evaluations and who people request.”
Schelling said Saturday plenary session speaker Dr. Diane Ravitch, a research professor of education at New York University, education historian, former assistant U.S. secretary of education and author of numerous books, will bring an interesting perspective to several education issues, including standardized testing, which may challenge board members on their current beliefs.
“Not everything she has to say is necessarily going to make the audience comfortable,” she said. “She will challenge views and perspectives; and I think that’s good. I think school boards need to be careful not to develop tunnel vision, we need to have outside voices helping us think through the decisions we’re making so that we can be sure that we’re doing what’s best.”
Schelling said it is a coup to get the high-profile Ravitch to speak at annual conference.
“She is so well known nationally and internationally and to have someone of her caliber speak to Kentucky school boards directly is an opportunity people are not going to want to miss,” she said.
The story of the closing speaker at the Sunday brunch is one most people are probably familiar with, but one that should be heard in person.
“Retired U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Matt Eversmann’s story is very well known by anyone who has seen or read Black Hawk Down, and certainly while the type of leadership he lived is different from the kind of leadership school boards live, there are so many lessons that can be learned,” Schelling said. “He has a compelling story and a touching story. And if participants have not availed themselves of the opportunity to stay over to Sunday during conference in the past, this might be the year to do it. I think in addition to being inspirational, he is going to send any board member or superintendent away really feeling strengthened and empowered in the value of becoming better leaders.”
In between these speakers, attendees will be able to choose from nearly 40 clinic sessions, including at least 10 aimed at the new training requirements for school board members in ethics, finance and superintendent evaluation.
“Because of these new requirements and feedback we’ve received over the past five years from board members, we took the opportunity to revamp KSBA’s Academy of Studies and really strengthen it,” Schelling said. “Every board member who is still working within the Academy will get a new copy in the same mailing as the conference registration brochure. This is important because when they look in the conference brochure to choose their workshops, the requirements will be aligned with the new Academy.”
Annual conference will be the first opportunity board members have to earn training credits in these new requirements, but it will not be the only chance.
“There will be four opportunities to take mandated ethics and finance courses and two on superintendent evaluation,” Schelling said. “But that doesn’t mean everyone needs to take all of those at this event. KSBA will include these requirements as topics in every conference we offer, so there will be multiple opportunities throughout the year.”