January/February 2017

James Russell is IASB’s associate executive director for communications/production services. Robert Levy is a corporate and conference photographer based in Chicago.

Click here to read the complete digital edition and see the Conference photos, social media comments, and more.

More than 82 percent of the state’s 852 public school districts were represented at the 2016 Joint Annual Conference, held Nov. 18-20 in Chicago. They were encouraged by keynote speaker Mawi Asgedom, “You (already) have the power to change lives. Stay on mission and stay out of the traps.”

Featuring a “Leadership Starts Here” theme, this was the 84th meeting of the Illinois Association of School Boards, Illinois Association of School Administrators, and Illinois Association of School Business Officials. Total attendance was 9,677. Those registered included 3,705 guests, 3,031 board members, 948 administrators, and 1,075 exhibitors, as well as board secretaries, school attorneys, regional and state education officials, state lawmakers, and other representatives.

Professional development is the primary purpose of the Conference, offered through 262 exhibit booths, 105 panel sessions, 33 “Carousel” panels, nine IASB workshops, nine panel sessions for school secretaries, four school tours, three Illinois ASBO workshops, three general sessions, seminars for school attorneys and superintendents, as well as the IASB Delegate Assembly, bookstore, and other learning and networking opportunities.

New features at this year’s Conference included a School Safety and Security Seminar, displays of student artwork, a student music performance, a public hearing by the Illinois Attendance Commission, a fellowship and prayer event, and the debut of the IASB Homeroom and a conference app.

The safety seminar, held on Friday, was sold out. Open to school officials and local safety professionals, the event covered safety procedures and the School Safety Drill Act, physical plant and school building design, as well as school climate and culture perspectives. In addition, eight panel sessions covering related school safety and security issues were featured throughout the conference.

The IASB Homeroom was in session on Friday and Saturday. Located in the “hub” of the conference headquarters hotel, Association staff and directors engaged with members and guests about IASB products and services. The Homeroom kept them informed with a prominent display of conference tweets and photos, and encouraged visitors to add their own messages and photos. The Illinois chapter of the National School public Relations Association and the Illinois Channel greeted guests, who also were invited to participate in mini clinics, photo booth, contests, and drawings.

Panel sessions – this year pared from 90- to 60-minute presentations in five different time slots over the three-day event – are the staple of the Conference. This year’s panels drew 7,986 people. The topics and their attendance included the following: governance and leadership (21 panels; 1,085 attended); school law (9; 1,007); governmental relations (7; 919); finance and funding (11; 822); best practices (13; 768); community relations (11; 733); student learning (12; 434); current issues (9; 396); facilities and technology (4; 246); and newer board members (5; 199).

The largest panels by title and attendance were: Legislative Issues Impacting School Districts (340); Ed-Tech Student Success Stories in TED Talks (295); 2016 Legislative Session Review (260); 2016 Legal Update on Supporting Transgender Students (215); and Collective Bargaining in Uncertain Times (200). The popular Carousel of Panels on Saturday afternoon had a total attendance of 783.

Many of the panel sessions provided online handouts and PowerPoint presentations, some of which are available to download from the IASB Members-Only tab on the website.

Other training opportunities included an all-day school law seminar for school attorneys and workshops for Illinois ASBO members, including collective bargaining, leadership practices, and school finance. Two days of specialized training were offered for 211 school board secretaries, including information on IMRF benefits, FOIA and OMA requirements, Google Drive, collaborative conversations, agendas and minutes, social media, legal Q& As, and two keynote speakers.

IASB also offered nine Pre-Conference Workshops in 11 half-day or full-day options that drew 794 participants. Workshop topics included basics of governance, PDLT/PERA (mandatory board training), board presidents, superintendent evaluation, Myers-Briggs type indicator, community engagement, collective bargaining, and school finance. A new workshop this year focused on race and its impact on achieving equity in schools. Presented twice, the attendance for “A Courageous Conversation about Race and Its Impact on Achieving Equity in Schools” drew a total of 210 attendees.

Licensed Illinois teachers attending as guests or as board members were also able to qualify for nine Professional Development Clock Hours, and 178 participated.

This year, 357 districts sent representatives to the IASB Delegate Assembly to vote on 16 resolutions and changes to the Association Constitution. They also elected officers and heard reports from the Association president and treasurer, and heard from the Illinois FFA state champion parliamentary procedure winner, Zach Becker, a 2016 graduate of Amboy High School.

Thousands of members and guests attended General Sessions on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. This year’s keynoters were Asgedom, an Ethiopian war refugee and education leadership advocate; television personality Joan Lunden; and national safety expert Michael Dorn. The general sessions were also where awards were given out for school design, risk management, and individual awards for superintendent, school board president, school business official, and school board secretary of the year. Special guests included the NSBA executive director, and IASB past presidents and executive directors.

Social media played a significant part at this year’s Conference, as a Tweet message board was prominently displayed and promoted in the IASB Homeroom. More than 200 individuals and organizations participated by tweeting and retweeting via the hashtag #ILjac16, and adding their own messages and photos.

Links to an online gallery of photos taken at the Conference and at the IASB Homeroom photo booth have been posted, along with full coverage of the 2016 Conference, at

The 85th Joint Annual Conference will be held Nov. 17-19, 2017 in Chicago. A Call for Proposals is now available for local school districts and related organizations that want to make panel presentations next year. Information for exhibitors will be posted in February, while housing and registration will be posted in early June 2017.