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Attendance jumps at 73rd Joint Annual Conference

Representatives from 750 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. 18-20, 2005, in Chicago.

This year's attendance exceeded 11,500 members and guests, which represented a 7.7 percent increase over last year's Conference turnout. The Illinois event, held annually on the weekend before Thanksgiving, is one of the largest state education conferences in the nation.

Attendance increased among board members, 3,711 attended this year; administrators, to 1,582; guests, to 4,635; and IASB service associates, to 25. Also registering this year were 1,469 exhibitors, 24 IASB directors, 18 school attorneys, 14 state board representatives, and 43 others.

As in most years, a wide variety of subjects and activities were abundant for those who attended the three General Sessions, five Chicago school tours, eight pre-conference workshops, 117 panels, and 218 exhibit booths of school products, services and vendors.

Panel sessions included topics on governance/leadership, student achievement, finance and funding, community relations, facilities/transportation/technology, current issues, school law, governmental relations, best practices, and special topics for newer board members.

The three-day Conference drew more than 8,200 people to panel events, for an average attendance of 70 persons per panel.

The hot topic this year was governance and leadership, with 19 different panels showcasing a wide variety of subjects. Of the 1,713 guests attending these topics, three of the panels – "Twenty Questions Boards Must Ask," "Learning How to Assess and Improve," and "Board Self Evaluation" – drew near capacity crowds topping 570 people.

School law was an equally popular topic, with 14 panels drawing a combined 1,208 visitors. The three largest panels – "Superintendent Employment Contract," "What Every Board Member Needs to Know about Pension Legislation" and "Business Issues Facing Board Members" – collectively welcomed 470 guests.

A staple of the Conference panel tracks is school finance. Two of this year's 17 panels – "Balanced Budget Act" and "Costing Salary Schedules" – combined to attract 280 of the 1,186 people attending finance and funding panels.

Two of the six governmental relations panels drew the largest attendance of the entire Conference. The "2005 Pension Reform Bill" and "Legislative Issues Impacting Schools" panels reported attendance of 300 and 200, respectively.

The 2005 Conference also offered 12 panels on No Child Left Behind; eight panels on facilities/transportation/technology; 12 panels for newer board members; 11 panels on current issues; six panels on community relations; and 12 panels on best practices.

A total of 694 Conference-goers arrived early to attend Friday's pre-conference workshops. Six 5-hour workshops focused on school board leadership (102 registrations), school law and finance (110), monitoring district performance (82), study circles (82), finance elections (61), and board presidency (75). Two other half-day workshops featured consultants who specialize in board policy (98) and parliamentary procedure (84).

Returning from 2004 was the popular board secretary's seminar. This all-day event on Saturday attracted 169 participants, comprised largely of district employees, including many superintendents' secretaries. Organizers said the workshop was created to assist many new board secretaries with their increasing workload and responsibilities.

In addition, the Conference hosted IASB's annual Delegate Assembly, where representatives from 330 districts voted on nine new resolutions to sharpen the voice of public education before the state legislature. They also amended or reaffirmed six existing positions.

School board representatives voted to push for a statewide constitutional convention in order to obtain school funding reform. The convention would put into voters hands a proposal requiring the state to fund a majority of public education in Illinois. The delegates at this year's Conference also voted to urge federal lawmakers to reconsider how military recruiters are permitted in schools.

Board representatives also elected as IASB officers: President Marie Slater, Wheaton Warrenville CUSD 200; Vice President Mark C. Metzger, Indian Prairie CUSD 204, Naperville; and Treasurer Joseph Alesandrini, Pekin CHSD 303. Ray Zimmerman, Flanagan CUSD 4, became Immediate Past-President.

Among the guest speakers at this year's Conference were Joan E. Schmidt, president of the National School Board Association, and general session speakers, Erik Wahl, Jennifer James, and Vickie Sanderson.

Awards were presented for the state's outstanding school board president, superintendent of the year, school building designs, and workmen's compensation cost reduction efforts.

Other activities included the Conference bookstore and author book signings, the Carousel of Panels, 19th Annual Seminar on School Law, the Invitational Exhibition of Educational Environments, and the School Public Relations Advice Center.

Another popular event was the IASB Comiskey Room, where Association benefits and services were explained and demonstrated. Guests there met with IASB officers, executives and staff, and the Illinois State Board of Education and State Superintendent Randy Dunn.

Coinciding with the Conference on Saturday, Nov. 19, was Chicago's annual Magnificent Mile Lights Festival, which kicked off the downtown holiday season with free stage performances, a parade, fireworks and more.

Next year's Conference will be held Nov. 17-19, in Chicago.



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