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First General Session

Moore, Alesandrini, Broderick Address Challenges

The First General Session of the 2011 Joint Annual Conference set the tone for this year’s event. It had a military feel and color to it, from the opening ceremony led by the posting of colors, pledge of allegiance and solo rendition of the national anthem, to the keynote speaker, a U.S. combat veteran.

Joseph Alesandrini, president of the Illinois Association of School Boards, paid tribute to all newly elected and veteran board members, and to IASB’s outgoing executive director emeritus, Michael D. Johnson.

“I was on the board of directors when Dr. Johnson was hired in 2000 and the growth of the Association during his tenure has been remarkable,” Alesandrini said.

He also cited Johnson’s ability to forge partnerships with state and national associations, rally alliances on critical public education issues, and to create an environment that innovates new products and services for its membership.

Alesandrini also urged school board members to stand up to the calls for greater “accountability.”

“These newer and louder threats imply that we are not doing our job. I disagree. The nearly 6,000 men and women elected to serve Illinois’ 866 public school districts are not driven by power. They don’t get paid. And they don’t need to be told that to be effective school leaders they must be trained. We already know and do that,” he said.

That sentiment was echoed by visiting guest, NSBA President Mary Broderick.

Addressing what she termed a nationwide “attack” on public education, Broderick said corporate resources are combining to demonize public education, educators and school board members.

“It’s up to us to be harbingers of hope. Let’s take urgency from these challenges to create a culture of caring. Let’s yell about our successes to our staff, our community, and to our lawmakers and regulators, by drowning out the negative voices,” she said.

“We can’t allow public education to fail. If it fails, the nation fails.”

The keynote speaker, Wes Moore, also talked about national challenges as part of his presentation. “The greatest national security threat right now is that education is not part of the country’s priorities,” said the former Rhodes Scholar and U.S. combat veteran.

“The greatest challenge is not being fought overseas or in uniforms. It’s here at home.”

Moore, who cited his own early problems in school and with the law that led his family to send him to military school at the age of 13, said that the line between success and failure for children is very thin. “For many kids, it’s just one decision or intervention away from failure,” he said.

Moore has written a book about this challenge, with the background of two people with the same name of Wes Moore. “The Other Wes Moore” tells the story of another youth in his hometown of Baltimore, who participated in a jewelry store robbery that ended in the death of an off-duty policeman. The youth was arrested and convicted and remains in prison.

Moore, who has visited his subject and exchanged letters many times, said the tragedy of the outcome was not that one of them ended up in prison, but that it could have been him instead.

“Two things matter: education and expectation. As you move up in education, your friends and networks will change. But we are not a product of our environment; we are a product of our expectations.

“What we expect is what we will deliver. That’s the biggest gap we face. And it may be the most incidental of events that changes those expectations.”

The First General Session is also where the David Binotti Award for Risk Management was presented. Named for her late husband, Joanne Binotti presented the award to Oakland CUSD 5 in Coles County, for the district’s record of virtually no workmen’s compensation or property casualty claims. “Safety is their number one priority at all times,” Binotti said.

Awards of Distinction were also presented Friday to the school districts and architectural firms in the 2011 Exhibition of Educational Environments. Cannon Design of Chicago and the Champaign CUSD 4 won for the design of the new Booker T. Washington STEM Academy. Legat Architects Inc. of Chicago and the Niles THSD 219, Skokie, won for renovations to create STEM labs at two high schools.


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