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71st Conference assesses the state of public education

Representatives from 751 Illinois public school districts attended this year's Joint Annual Conference of the Illinois Association of School Boards, Illinois Association of School Administrators and the Illinois Association of School Business Officials, held Nov. 21-23, 2003, in Chicago.

Nearly 11,500 people registered for the Triple-I Conference, as it is commonly known, making it one of the largest state school association conferences in the nation.

This year's registration included 3,667 board members, 3,980 guests, 1,611 exhibitors, and 2,112 administrators, including 670 superintendents, among others.

There was no shortage of subjects or activities for those who attended the three general sessions, five Chicago school tours, seven pre-conference workshops, 116 panels, and 280 exhibit booths of services and products.

Panel sessions included topics in governance and leadership, finance and funding, community relations, facilities, transportation and technology, No Child Left Behind, policymaking, best practices, school law, government relations, and numerous topics for new board members. The three-day Conference drew 8,273 to panel events, for an average attendance of 72.

School finance was the hot topic this year. Five of the most popular panels - School Funding Outlook, School Finance Made Simple, District Financial Health, Steps to Head Off Financial Disaster, and Making Tough Budgeting Decisions - combined to attract 1,121 guests.

Another major panel topic was contract negotiations. Ten Mistakes Not to Make at the Bargaining Table, Collective Bargaining Tactics and Techniques, and the Fundamentals of Collective Bargaining combined for 668 attendees.

Nearly 700 Conference-goers arrived early to attend Friday's pre-conference workshops. IASB staff conducted four of the all-day workshops on school governance, board presidents, high-performing boards and the board's role in a democracy. Three other workshops featured consultants who specialize in referendum strategies, basics of school law and finance, and personality typing.

In addition, the Conference hosted IASB's annual Delegate Assembly, where representatives from 280 districts voted on 10 new resolutions to sharpen the voice of public education before the state legislature. They also amended three existing positions.

School board representatives voted in favor of sweeping reforms in the federal No Child Left Behind Act in two separate resolutions. They also supported a legislative commission to study the effects of salary bumps on the state teachers' retirement system. Other key positions were decided on school board election dates, reducing dropout rates, and mandated accounting practices.

Delegates also elected Ray Zimmerman, Flanagan CUSD 4, as IASB president and Marie Slater, Wheaton Warrenville CUSD 200, as vice president. Thomas Hannigan, Mundelein CHSD 120, is the new treasurer and Christy Coleman, Geneseo CUSD 228, is now immediate past-president.

Among the guest speakers at this year's Conference were Carol Brown, president of the National School Boards Association; M.B. "Flip" Flippen of M.B. Flippen & Associates; Mark Gerzon of Mediators Limited; and motivational speaker LaDonna Gatlin.

Awards were presented for the state's outstanding school board president, superintendent of the year, educational environment designs, and workmen's compensation cost reduction. A silent auction and 50-50 raffle were also held to raise $7,294 for the Alliance PAC.

Other Conference activities included a bookstore and book signings, two cracker barrel sessions, carousel of panels, school attorneys' seminar, school public relations counseling center, IASB hospitality room, and Sunday's Coffee and Conversations roundtables.

Coinciding with Conference on Saturday, Nov. 22, was Chicago's annual Magnificent Mile Lights Festival, which kicks off the downtown holiday season with family activities, Disney parade and fireworks.

Next year's Conference is scheduled for Nov. 19-21, 2004, in Chicago.



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