By Jennifer Wohlleb
As school board members make plans to attend KSBA’s 76th annual conference next month, event organizers say attendees will have some tough decisions to make.
“The pre-conference sessions we’re featuring this year are some of the best we’ve ever had as far as the topics and the depth of the information,” said Kerri Schelling, KSBA’s director of Board Team Development. Topics include communicating effectively, providing leadership in changing times, being a 21st century school board member, and keeping school districts protected.
Schelling said another of the pre-conference sessions, the fourth annual Joe England School Safety Seminar, will focus on the flip side of bullying and will offer board members a unique perspective: that of the untreated victim.
“I know from talking to board members over the years, they get a lot of inquiries from their constituents about their children being bullied, but of course there is precious little a board member can do because they don’t have a role in personnel,” she said. “I’ve heard the frustration that they feel too far removed to be able to impact it in a meaningful way. I think this will be a good session if people are looking for something a little different than we’ve offered before.”
Board members will also have a number of Academy of Studies clinic sessions to choose from during the conference.
“A trend I’ve seen in the last year and a half is that more members are actively seeking to progress within the Academy of Studies,” Schelling said. “I get a lot of calls asking, ‘When is this going to be offered; when is that going to be offered?’ Board members are really staying on top of what they need and they are going to have a lot to choose from this year that will meet different requirements within the Academy.”
The conference will officially kick off with opening speaker Murray Banks, who has presented to other school boards associations.
“School boards are one of his primary audiences. He really understands their unique role,” Schelling said. “Board members have told us on their conference evaluations that they want people who can speak to them from the school board perspective and not as if they are just another education audience, and he can. I think they’re going to be very happy.”
Board members also can expect a different approach to the Saturday morning plenary session. The traditional keynote speaker is being replaced by a panel of human resource experts.
“As school boards try to get their arms around what it means to be career ready, frequent and structured dialogues with local employers should be one of their highest priorities,” said KSBA Executive Director Bill Scott. “KSBA is modeling this process with a panel of representatives from three of the Commonwealth’s largest employer sectors: manufacturing, health care and the military. It will be moderated by Doug Whitlock, president of Eastern Kentucky University and a former, longtime Madison County school board member, who is uniquely qualified to moderate the discussion, which promises to be both frank and enlightening.”
Schelling said it’s important to get input on career readiness from the users’ end.
“We’ve spent so much time raising the awareness for board members and providing training on what it is they need to be doing to get kids career and college ready, but we’ve never really had anyone talk to us from the user end to say, ‘This is what we need from you. This is what kids need to be able to do when they leave your schools and go to college or come right to us.’”
For those board members who don’t often stay for the Sunday morning closing session, Schelling said this year’s offering could change their minds. Kentucky native LaDonna Gatlin, sister to country music’s Gatlin Brothers, will lead the session.
“Part of her message will be how she had to make the tough decision not to follow in her brothers’ footsteps even though she does sing beautifully, and she will sing for us,” she said. “But she felt the need to do something different on her own and that took a lot of courage. She is a wonderful speaker, very funny and motivational. I think she’ll send us out in the long tradition we have of very good Sunday morning speakers.”
— Registration information has been mailed. Online registration is available here.