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Second General Session

Burgett: Stop the Roller Coaster, Get to 'Zoom'

“No more threats. No more politics. No more insanity. “It’s time to step up to the plate and realize the importance of education.”

And to do that, Jim Burgett said school board members and administrators will need to tell lawmakers to fix the current budget mess in Illinois and invest in the technology necessary to put student learning and achievement into a zoom mode.

A former Illinois superintendent who is now a writer and educational trainer, Burgett said it will take a different mindset to change “the doom” that education leaders currently feel today to “the zoom” that they need to prepare students for the future.

Burgett was the keynote speaker at the second general session, held Saturday, Nov. 20, as part of the 2010 Joint Annual Conference of the Illinois Association of School Boards, the Illinois Association of School Administrators and the Illinois Association of School Business Officials.

Gary Grizzafi of Valley View CUSD 365U in Romeoville, 2010 president of Illinois ASBO, opened the general session. He used his time at the podium to challenge education leaders to adopt the “now more than ever” theme he has chosen for his year as president. Grizzafi said that means doing their jobs to the best of their ability and working toward finding solutions to common problems.

He encouraged everyone to take back ideas and information to their communities so that everyone will be able to see that the money spent to come to a three-day conference is money well spent.

Also speaking Saturday was Earl C. Rickman III of Mt. Clemens, Michigan, current president of the National School Boards Association. He acknowledged how discouraging it must be to come to a conference, get invigorated and then go home to face the same problems. But, he added, “There’s no limit to what can be accomplished if it doesn’t matter who gets the credit.”

Rickman made a reference to the documentary film, “Waiting for Superman.” He acknowledged that the film is provoking some long-overdue conversations about education, but said it promotes an “us versus them” perception of education while being “misleading with simplistic solutions.”

“As school board members, we know first hand how urgently change is needed,” he said, “but not from teacher bashing and test-based accountability. This [movie] just pours gasoline on the public education bonfire started by NCLB.”

“There’s no such thing as a superman,” Rickman concluded. “It must be ordinary men and women doing extraordinary things for children.”

Rickman’s theme for his presidency, “Teamwork, dream work: together we can,” provided a nice segue into Burgett’s message of working together to demand an end to the roller coaster effect of education financing in Illinois.

“Kids are paying the steep price of financial doom,” he said. “You had to let a lot of young, promising teachers go and save some old tired ones. When we had a chance to clean the house, we didn’t clean the right part.”

Burgett described “zoom” as what he experienced when riding in a car on vacation with his wife and five of their grandchildren. He was writing on his laptop in the back seat as his 10- and 11-year-old grandsons were creating cartoons on a hand-held video system; two of his 8-year-old granddaughters were watching a video; his 16-year-old granddaughter was texting and looking up information on her iPad; and his directionally challenged wife was able to drive to their destination with the help of a GPS device.

“It doesn’t take a degree in rocket science to get into the zoom mode,” he said, adding that teachers will need to get in that mode or get ready to get out of the way.

Regardless of how long it takes to clean up the current fiscal mess in the state, Burgett said lawmakers could make it easier for school districts if they would just tell them what their income will be for the next five years. “While you make it solvent,” he said, “allow us to plan and meet the needs of kids without a roller coaster ride.”

Burgett, who was born and raised in Illinois and was attending his 36th Joint Annual Conference, said this was the “most depressing and discouraging year” he could remember in Illinois.

“This is one of the best conferences in the country,” he said. “You should be proud that you’re here and taking responsibility for your professional development.”

In other business, IASB past presidents were recognized for their contributions and Gregg Worrell, former business manager in Yorkville CUSD 15 and assistant superintendent in Valley View CUSD 365U, was recognized as winner of the 2010 Ronald E. Everett Service Award.

Worrell is a 30-year member of Illinois ASBO, a former trustee, treasurer and chairman of the Illinois School District Liquid Asset Fund Plus, and currently works for PMA Financial Network.

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