November/December 2016

Ask the Staff: What is the value of attending the Joint Annual Conference?

IASB Executive Director Roger Eddy answers the question in this issue of The Illinois School Board Journal.

I have attended the Conference for — wow, probably 30 years — as a principal, as a superinten-dent, serving on various panels when I was in the General Assembly, and now on the other side of the curtain, so to speak. So I can personally attest to the value the Joint Annual Conference has for school board members.

First of all, there is value in collaboration — opportunities that individual board members have for collaboration with board members from around the state. They see and hear about varied stu-dent demographics and populations. They realize that while they might be different in some demographic, they are very much alike in their goals — to provide children with the best possi-ble education. This collaboration allows a common bond, no matter if they are from deep south- ern Illinois, central parts of the state, suburban areas, urban areas. You get to see your own dis-trict in a different light, but know that we are all facing similar challenges. Sometimes the best solutions are arrived in a casual discussion with other board members from around the state, talk- ing about what worked in their district.

That opportunity for collaboration, I think, is a tremendous value.

Second, is the depth and breadth of offerings. The workshops and panel sessions are vetted and chosen for content and quality by fellow board members and administrators. Each workshop, panel, and session is related to the importance and relevance of the education issues — the of- ferings are unmatched. Also in several workshops, we include legal experts. These are the best of the best in Illinois School law circles providing our members with the latest in legal know-how. Nowhere else can you find this quality, and the breadth and the depth of the information that you can get, all at one place and at one time.

As an example, this year the topics include financial management, long-term facilities planning, legislative panels regarding the latest from Springfield, leadership, quality school governance, data and data privacy, family engagement, risk management, and more. We have the details of contracts and budgeting and the theories of mindfulness and visioning. We cover preschool pro-grams to college and career. We also added a new School Safety and Security Seminar prior to Conference and a series of related panels are included in panel session offerings. By design, all of this provides our members with relevant knowledge regarding specific issues that will assist them, in their roles as school leaders, in making critical decisions regarding their school district.

In our sessions, you will have the opportunity to hear timely panels regarding current proposals on key federal and state initiatives. This year, with ESSA, and the School Funding Commission — those are sure to be lively and informative discussions.

Of course, this conference is known nationally for outstanding keynote speakers who will chal-lenge, inspire, educate, and remind you why you do what you do. They are all of national promi-nence — to get even one such speaker at a conference is great. To get three keynotes in one week-end? This is an exceptional opportunity. We are especially pleased this year to have secured award-winning journalist Joan Lunden as our keynote speaker on Saturday.

The massive Exhibit Hall provides an opportunity for attendees to observe first-hand a wide va-riety of educational products and services. When I was a principal, our 100-year-old high school building was retrofitted with new, energy-efficient windows. This improvement was largely due to a demonstration at the Exhibit Hall that our board members were able to witness. Those win- dows paid for themselves, over a period of years, just in energy efficiency. This year’s Exhibit Hall will again allow our members to witness the offerings of hundreds of providers of educa-tional necessities, including the latest in environmental, architectural, engineering, and transpor-tation services. Whatever your need is as a district, there are multiple offerings that you can wit- ness demonstrations, view the products, and determine for yourself if it is right for your district. And that doesn’t even count the chance to meet with officials from the Illinois High School As- sociation, Illinois Principals Association, or presenting partners IASA and Illinois ASBO — what the Exhibit Hall offers is incredible.

We are always looking for ways to improve your experience at the Joint Annual Conference. New this year is “Homeroom,” the place to experience and learn what your Association can do, after the Conference and throughout the year — to assist and serve you and the needs of your district.

The overarching point here is that to have all of this talent and expertise on all of these topics, all at one time and place with the quality of presenters that we have, is truly an exceptional value for board members, administrators and other education professionals. When you compare it to other such conferences around the country, it is the premier education conference. We hope you agree that attendance is worth the time, effort, and resources, to interact and collaborate with educa-tional leaders, to find the services you need, and to be challenged and inspired in our work as leaders in public education. If you have not yet signed up, there is still time to do so. Visit our webpage at to register or learn more about the details of the 2016 Joint An- nual Conference.

See you in Chicago!