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Third General Session

Coleman Gives Rules for Better Schools, Better Lives

High energy and rapid comic delivery were juxtaposed with a Southern accent during Sunday’s closing session as Brooks Coleman Jr. kept his audience laughing while offering his five sure-fire steps to improve education.

Coleman, a former teacher and assistant superintendent who is now the education committee chair in the Georgia House of Representatives, encouraged his audience to try new things by citing lessons he learned from his mother and his ultimate hero, Roy Rogers, who also helped present at the session in the form of a life-sized cardboard cutout.

His presentation capped the three-day weekend of the 2011 IASB/IASA/IASBO Joint Annual Conference in Chicago, sending conference attendees home with a positive message and a smile on their faces. Those accepting the three awards given out at the session had their humorous moments as well as some tears.

Dottie Crews, the 2011 recipient of the Holly Jack Outstanding Service Award for district secretaries, elicited laughter as she spoke of her first calculator taking up half the space on her desk. The audience also seemed to understand Crews’ comment that she would miss her superintendent at New Berlin CUSD 16, Valerie Carr, saying, “You won’t believe what happened now,” when they both retire after this school year.

Both Shelly F. Marks, the 2011 Thomas Lay Burroughs award winner, and Shelly Clark, recipient of the 2011 Ronald C. Everett Distinguished Service Award, fought back tears as they thanked their families for all their support and understanding as they have allowed them to excel in their areas of district service.

Marks, from Homewood SD 153, has been board president for nine years and received her award from Steven Gilford of Evanston, a member of the Illinois State Board of Education, which has presented the Burroughs award each year since 1991.

Clark, the business manager for Benjamin SD 35 in West Chicago, was recognized for the Illinois ASBO service award that she had received in February.

Service to school districts also was a hallmark of the featured speaker.

Coleman, who began his career as a first grade teacher in 1962, later earned two masters degrees and a doctorate before retiring from district work in Gwinnett County, Georgia, and running for the state legislature.

He also spoke emotionally about his parents, his siblings and his grandchildren, encouraging everyone to spend time, not money, on relationships.

“If mommas and daddies would all give their children twice as much time and love,” he said, “we could change education tomorrow.”

Despite the economic and academic hardships many districts are experiencing now, Coleman said we are living in the best time that mankind has ever seen. But he said he worries about the role models that his grandchildren, ages 10 and 7, are growing up with.

That’s why he has developed his five “sure-fire” steps to help schools and their leaders improve.

First, “you need to learn your ABCs all over again,” Coleman said, as he sang the song he originally learned and then gyrated to the rap lyrics that kindergarteners are learning today. Those ABCs, he said, stand for “attitude” (have a good one), “belief” (believe in yourself), and the two Cs of “commitment and communication.”

Second, he admonished people to mind their ‘Ps’ and ‘Qs’ — their pride and the quality in the things that they do — to never disgrace their name and to always keep their word.

Although he would consider himself “old school” in many ways, his third rule was to love technology, to use technology and don’t abuse technology.

Fourth, he asked people to follow the “Golden Rule” — do unto others as they would have them do unto you—because treating people right is the only way to treat them.

And lastly, in talking about doing what people need to do to make their dreams come true, Coleman spoke passionately about the hero of his childhood who is still his hero today: Roy Rogers.

He described how he got to meet Rogers at a banquet and his effort to have a proclamation passed in the Georgia House honoring his hero. His persistence was rewarded by having his picture taken with both Rogers and his wife, Dale Evans, a photo he proudly displayed to the crowd.

And then Coleman closed the 79th conference with Rogers’ signature song: “Happy Trails.”


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