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Board Secretaries Workshop

Board Secretaries Gather to Learn, Honor Holly Jack

If people believe the research that a baby aspirin a day is good for the heart, then building good relationships in the district office should be a definite priority, according to Mark Schellinger. The research supporting relationship building is seven times stronger than the data on heart research that supports aspirin therapy.

Schellinger, national expansion coordinator for the School Administration Manager (SAM) Project, was the keynote speaker during the 2008 Joint Annual Conference strand of professional development for board secretaries.

About 150 board secretaries registered for this year's program at the Swissotel and panel counts by Saturday were more than 200, according to Anna Lovern, IASB policy services director. The workshop began with a tribute to the IASB administrative assistant who was a driving force behind creation of the learning strand.

Holly Jack, who worked for IASB for more than 20 years, passed away in October following a short illness. Her husband and two daughters were on hand during the Friday opening session to hear that the "Holly Jack Award" will be created in her memory for a board secretary beginning at the 2009 conference.

Michael D. Johnson, IASB executive director, said the award is "long overdue" since the associations already honor superintendents and board presidents with awards.

"I can be gone from work and no one misses me," Johnson quipped, "but an administrative assistant can be gone for four hours and everything falls apart."

Lovern credit Jack with the vision and drive to keep growing the secretary's workshop at conference, which celebrated its fourth year in 2008.

"She's the reason the program exists," Lovern said. "Without her it might not have been any more than a panel here or there at conference."

Feedback on the workshop was generally very positive, Lovern said following the conference. Those who filled out the evaluations liked the change in format and the big combined opening session for this year that featured Schellinger.

"One veteran secretary said she thought we had one of the most informative groups of panels that had been offered so far," she added.

First-time attendee Cathy Coffey of Harrison SD 36 in Wonder Lake agreed. "As a new secretary, I learned many new things and exchanged email with several people that I can turn to for back up," she said, "and even in a few instances learned that I have actually learned quite a bit already."

In addition to Friday's three-hour combined session with Schellinger, secretaries could choose from eight panel sessions on Saturday, four offered in each of two time slots, on topics ranging from preparing for a compliance audit and school board elections to managing a crisis situation and the legalities of e-communication.

Mary Lou Sender, administrative assistant to the superintendent in Wheaton Warrenville CUSD 200, introduced Schellinger as "like one of us," because as a former superintendent he knows what days are like in district offices.

Most of those attending were paid staff, who serve either as a secretary to the board or to the superintendent, rather than elected school board members who might be designated as board secretary. Schellinger challenged them to keep the district office focused on why they do what they do in order to make a difference for children.

"Things go significantly better when support staff can keep things focused," he said. That allows administrators to stay focused on leadership and help keep school board members from micromanaging.

Schellinger, now a coordinator for SAM, came to the workshop through a grant from the Wallace Foundation.

2008 Conference Menu


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