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Select Panel Reports

As it has for the past several years, IASB has posted selected reports that make up the Panel Reports of the Joint Annual Conference. The aim is to make some of the most vital information presented at the conference available to a wider audience of school board members and administrators.

With more than 100 panel sessions scheduled at the conference each year, no individual can hope to attend all of them. In navigating this document, you will be able to click on any of the panel titles to read the contents of the report on that particular session or you can simply scroll down to read all of the reports.

Among the reporters who drafted these session summaries were conference "interns," comprised of education administration students from several Illinois university graduate programs. Each intern was assigned to cover a panel selected for its lasting value to school leaders.

The panels chosen were among those presented as part of the Joint Annual Conference of the Illinois Association of School Boards, Illinois Association of School Administrators, and Illinois Association of School Business Officials. The annual conference is the state's largest yearly meeting of public school leaders. It features speakers, panel presentations, exhibits, and informal discussions about a wide array of school leadership topics. The 2017 conference was held Nov. 17-19 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, Sheraton Grand Chicago, and the Swissotel, and attracted nearly than 10,000 school board members, administrators, school attorneys, and guests.

Creating Real Family Engagement

Illinois Report Card: A Snapshot Beyond Test Scores

Balancing Funding Priorities When Money is Tight

Public-Private Partnerships and High-Achieving Students

From the Barrio to the Boardroom

Restorative Practices that Work: A School Wide Approach

DIY Professional Development in Fiscally Restrained Times

Dealing with Conflict on your Board, Part 2

Creating Real Family Engagement

Panelists :
Brian Minsker, President, Illinois PTA
Kristen Kramer, President-Elect, Illinois PTA

Reporter:   Ashley Carlson, Principal/Curriculum Director, Iroquois West CUSD 10

Current PTA President Brian Minsker briefly discussed the value of family engagement as well as the fact that it is a vital component to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). He challenged districts to decide if parent involvement choices are being made based on what can be measured. Is the data simply being collected at events such as parent teacher conferences and open houses? Real family engagement is more than that.

The PTA has a national set of standards which are very similar to the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) Family Engagement Framework. Both can be wonderful resources for districts to assess their family engagement practices. The PTA standards and rubrics are listed on their website ( and include an implementation guide with action steps.

The six PTA standards are:

  • Welcoming all families
  • Communicating effectively
  • Supporting student success
  • Speaking up for every child
  • Sharing power
  • Collaborating with community

Minsker broke down each standard, defining it further and offering suggestions. A great emphasis was put on the need for PTA to be more than a fundraising organization. They have to be a parent education and advocacy group, working in conjunction with the district to support and engage families.

Kristin Kramer, PTA president-elect, spoke about the School of Excellence Program. This is a recognition program that celebrates schools and PTAs working together to enrich experiences for students. Schools enroll, making a yearlong commitment to identify needs and create an action plan for improvement using the PTA standards.

She discussed the enrollment process and the need to work with school administrators to choose from the three pathways (Family Engagement, Health and Safety, and Arts in Education). Schools are then honored in the early fall with the distinction as a School of Excellence.

The session was then opened up to audience questions. One audience member brought up the concern of a lack of volunteers. Minsker expressed that this is a problem throughout the state. He shared that through experience, they have found that young parents will get involved if a cause is identified which they feel passionately about. He went back to his point that it has to be more than fundraising, and he challenged districts to seek opportunities for educating and empowering.

Kramer concluded with the point that PTA is a resource and that districts are not alone.   They want to be supportive and help in any way they can. They have many programs and contacts in various districts that can be helpful.

Illinois Report Card: A Snapshot Beyond Test Scores

Panelist :
Marilyn Bellert, Associate Director, P-20 Center, Northern Illinois University

Reporter:   Ashley Carlson, Principal/ Curriculum Director, Iroquois West CUSD 10

Marilyn Bellert shared with the audience the ins and outs of the Illinois Report Card system, which is now funded by ISBE. The goal of this system is to make data available for community members, board members, and other stakeholders. The site allows a deeper dive into district data that can then be used in strategic planning and district decision making.

Due to the deadline for presentations slides, her discussion used 2016-2017 information and website pages. The site has since undergone some revisions. Bellert indicated that changes to the site take place for several reasons, including state law, suggestions from users, and media requests.

Her presentation was centered on site navigation ( Most of the time was devoted to walking attendees through the various pages and data available. Tutorial videos are also posted in Spanish and English on the website. She walked users through the many offerings, including the student demographic data, district financial information, and the 5 Essentials Survey.   

Because it is recognized that a district is more than test scores and various data points, Bellert stressed the importance of administrators filling out the “school highlights” page. This is where principals get to share a deeper story of their district, including items such as academic offerings, athletics, awards, and career development. This is a valuable tool for districts and one often underutilized.

Lastly, Bellert demonstrated the “comparing districts” capability. Using this tool, districts are able to compare data with up to eight other schools at one time. This allows for some deep discussions about current achievement levels as well as allocation of finances when looking at comparable districts. It encourages questions such as, “How are we doing” and “Are we being ambitious enough?”

At the conclusion of the session, Bellert mentioned the ability of district educators to access another side of the system, granting them access to student individual data. This can then be used by teachers and administrators to make data driven decisions for instruction.

The session concluded with a few brief questions regarding the system navigation and some aspects that had since been removed from site, particularly the “chutes and ladders” graphics, which had been a popular component but was removed for a reason that is unknown.

Balancing Funding Priorities When Money is Tight

Moderator: Adrienne Booker, Municipal Advisor, Ehlers & Associates, Inc.

Panelists :
Todd Drafall, Chief Financial Officer, Proviso THSD 209
Kyle Harding, Partner, Chapman and Cutler LLP
Leigh Lewis, Superintendent, Triad CUSD 2

Reporter: Lon Abrams,Director of Transportation and Food Services, Olympia CUSD 16

In the wake of the “Great Recession,” panelists Todd Drafall, Kyle Harding, and Leigh Lewis offered practical advice on financing and funding options for tight times. School are faced with lower EAVs, maximum individual tax fund rates, and higher taxpayer dissatisfaction. Additionally, before the passing of the Evidence-Based Funding Model, bond markets were basically closed for financing school debt. Fortunately, the “hold harmless” provision of the Evidence-Based Model reopened the bond market to schools. Alternatives to new bonds do exists for schools.

If school districts find they have fund accounts low or out, the first step is to look at their other fund balances and working cash fund. School should start here and not at the bank.   School code section 10-22.33 allows school districts to move funds from the Education Fund to the Operation & Maintenance (O&M), Transportation, or Life-Safety accounts, funds from O&M can be moved to the Education, Transportation, or Life-Safety fund, and Transportation funds can be moved to Education, O&M, or Life-Safety fund.

However, Life-Safety funds may not be moved to the other funds. School Code section 20-4 does offer the option for school districts to move to other fund accounts in anticipation of tax levied and/or CPPRT. When used this way, a board resolution is required, and the funds must be repaid when taxes or the CPPRT is received. School code 17-2A does offer a permanent funds transfer between the Ed, O&M, and transportation funds, as well as from the Tort Immunity fund to the O&M fund. Once again, a board resolution is required; furthermore, public notice similar to that of a bond notice is required.

School districts may consider borrowing. Options include tax anticipation warrants, lines of credit, and Working Cash Fund Bonds. School code 17-16 allows schools to borrow from banks in anticipation of receiving taxes levied. School districts may borrow up to 85 percent of anticipated taxes levied but not yet collected, setting the repayment date as close to the tax collection date as possible.

School Code Article 20 allows school districts to create or increase their working cash fund without state legislative approval. A BINA hearing is required, and the proposal is subject to a 30-day petition period. If 10 percent of voters petition, a direct referendum vote will be needed to issue the bonds. Additionally, school districts may look to free up funds by restructuring their debt. School Code 19 supports school districts that wish to refund bonds in order to gain savings from lower interest rates or take advantage of targeted tax rates based on lower EAV projections.

When creative financing has run its course, many school districts turn to cutting programs, letting go of staff, and/or asking their school community to pass a referendum. One such district was Triad Community School District 2. This district was faced similar financial challenges as many school districts in Illinois. Challenges such as a multi-million-dollar budget deficit, proration of general state aid, delayed categorical payments, and a stagnant EAV. Through community engagement, the superintendent and board of education knew the community did not want to lose staff or cut programs or services. The reality was in order to save the district from financial ruin, the district would have to reduce expenses while asking the tax-paying community to pass a referendum.

With no guarantee of a budget referendum passing, Triad took proactive measures and created a budget reduction committee. This committee was comprised of a board member, school administrators, teachers, educational support staff, and key community members who represented the three communities that make up the Triad district.

The budget reduction committee was charged with reducing the $2.4 million deficit by one million dollars before an April deadline. Realizing that the Triad district was already financially lean, the committee recommended a “share the pain” approach where all departments of the district would share in the cost saving measures in order to close the budget gap. Additionally, the board approved that special interest groups could not self-fund. By “sharing the pain” and denying self-funding, more transparency would be provided to the greater school community, thereby placing more emphasis on passing the Education Fund referendum.

The creation of this committee and the actions that the team took enlightened the public that the district had already been fiscally responsible; publicized that the one million-dollars in new cuts would only reduce the deficit and not eliminate it; and the “share the pain” approach established a common goal for the district. In the end, the proactive and transparent actions taken by the superintendent and school board resulted in the passage of the referendum. The reduction of spending, coupled with the referendum, resulted in the Triad School District achieving a clearer financial picture.

In closing the session, lessons learned were shared with the attendees. The first was the topic of districts facing limited resources for which the recommendation was to return to the basics as the best option. For example, administration needs to make certain the organization is mindful of its mission, vision, and goals which will guide the use of resources. The second lesson was focused on the planning for the use of resources, with the recommendation to be realistic. There is no magic potion; districts need to know where revenue comes from in comparison to their expenses. If a district is forced to create a deficit budget, the administration needs to know, or have a plan for, where the money will come from to pay off the debt. They should never reduce funding for classrooms as classrooms should always be funded first; therefore, the administration should always seek out non-classroom budget savings first.

Finally, as the last lesson learned, communication to stakeholders is key. Districts need to be transparent with their financial position and provide reasoning and data to back up any financial reduction that must occur. In doing so, this may mitigate the risk of negative press and loss of community support.

Public-Private Partnerships and High-Achieving Students

Moderator: Stephen Murphy, Superintendent, Carbondale CHSD 165.

Marsha Ryan, President, Garwin Family Foundation
Michele Mekel, Associate Director, Garwin Family Foundation
Mary Kathleen Ryan, Associate Director, Garwin Family Foundation
Erinn Murphy, Counselor, Carbondale CHSD 165, Board Member-Carbondale ESD 95

Reporter: Lon Abrams, Director of Transportation and Food Services, Olympia CUSD 16

Many school districts can boast about the number of graduating seniors receiving scholarships to pursue their higher educational goals. Few, like Carbondale CHSD 165, can boast about the number of freshman, sophomores, and juniors receiving scholarships to take part in summer enrichment programs. This is made possible through the generosity of the Garwin Family Foundation, located in Carbondale, Illinois.

Leo and Ruth Garwin founded the Garwin Family Foundation in 1993 in order provide merit-based education opportunities to students who strive to pursue excellence in education. In carrying out its mission, some of its benefactors are the students at Carbondale Community High School. The goal of the foundation’s patronage to Carbondale CHSD is to assist gifted students with the ability to grow academically, blossom in leadership, and achieve their professional goals.

During this seminar, attendees were provided a fast-paced overview of the establishment of the foundation, the foundation’s connection to Carbondale, and the process employed in determining and awarding scholarships. After being provided a brief history and the origin of the foundation, attendees were also provided insights into why the foundation is successful; due to the commonality between the school district’s administration and the foundation’s vision.

The Garwin Family Foundation, in partnership with the Carbondale Community High School (CCHS), created a summer scholarship program for gifted freshman, sophomore, and juniors so they can help high-achieving students from this district compete with other high-achieving students around the world. Recognizing that there is a general loss of knowledge for all types of students over the summer and wanting to inspire leadership qualities, the foundation provides financial support for summer enrichment. The scholarship recipients are students from lower socio-economic families who may be overlooked for these summer enrichment opportunities.

As important as the summer enrichment is for the recipients, the application process is a valuable learning experience for all students who apply. The process includes letters of recommendation, a resume, their transcript, and a portfolio of prior work exhibiting excellence. They must meet every deadline, follow the rigorous process of selection, provide letters of intent, and even be interviewed for the scholarship. Throughout this process, students are receiving valuable experiences that relate to the real-world scenarios of applying for college and their career; helping them become college and career ready.

Once a student is chosen to receive the scholarship, they then attend their chosen enrichment program, which is nothing like a typical summer camp. For example, students may attend Juilliard Summer Dance Intensive, Iowa Young Writer’s Studio, or a Butler University Community Arts school, all with the intent to help students of modest means “level-up” and improve life skills. In turn, this will help them compete at the highest level at the most prestigious schools and universities.

Upon completion of the enrichment program, the rigor of the scholarship does not end for the student. They are required to complete a reflective paper that expresses what they learned and gained from the experience. They are also required to take part in a post-program interview where they verbally describe their learning experiences. As a result of this experience recipients willfully volunteer their time to mentor and coach students who are interested in the scholarships and share with others the benefits of the foundation and summer enrichment programs.

The relationship between the Garwin Family Foundation and CCHS is based on providing summer enrichment scholarships to gifted students in need. Together, they share a common vision and goals for the CCHS students. A key takeaway for all the participants was centered on the fact that while this may seem unique to this community, any community can partner with their school to create a foundation to support their students. Though the road to developing a successful foundation may be difficult, and the funding minimal, the likelihood of success is dependent upon a shared vision and common goals.

From the Barrio to the Boardroom

Robert Renteria, Civic Leader and International Award Winning Latino Author

Reporter: Saundra Russell-Smith, Principal, Carl Sandburg School, Joliet PSD 86

Robert Renteria has many accomplishments to his name, including being recognized locally, nationally, and world-wide as an award-winning author, civic leader, and first Latino in the world to receive two Martin Luther King, Jr. awards for his work as a civil rights leader and a Latino voice in educational reform. His book From the Barrio to the Boardroom was turned into a play and produced and performed by inner city youth and funded by After School Matters. His graphic novel, “Mi Barrio” was voted best comic book in Latin America, and a screenplay, The Barrio Project, has been written.

Renteria introduced himself by telling a powerful story of his survival of extreme poverty, hopelessness, abandonment, substance abuse and physical abuse, life-threatening mental and physical illness, bad choices, and finally, restoration. His reality check came during a drug deal gone bad and someone put a gun to his head. In that moment, he promised God that if he let him live, he would “sin no more.” The gun misfired, and this reprieve led him down a path of redemption.

He joined the military and credits it with saving his life. He served his country for seven years and in that time, he learned about honor, character, service, and commitment— things   he was never taught at home. After being honorably discharged, he went home and found the same temptations that were there when he left. Through hard work and perseverance, after five years   he was recruited and became vice president at a Fortune 500 company. A few years into his tenure at the company, he believed that he could do better, and formed one of the largest laundromat chains in the country, eventually becoming the number one distribution company in America. He tells his story not to brag, but to empower us. He wrote From the Barrio to the Boardroom to share his life story to keep others from going down the same path he did.

Soon after the book was published, Arne Duncan’s (former Secretary of Education) company came calling. A curriculum was created based on his book that addressed social and emotional learning. (If you email him, he will send the curriculum for free.) More and more people read his book and contacted him to speak at various events. He’s worked with all kinds of social services including shelters, churches, prisons, and others, but he wanted to get into elementary schools.

He believed that if he could cut the umbilical cord to the gangs, it could save kids. Mi Barrio was written for 5 th grade students and up, while Little Barrio was written for K-4 students. His story resonates with youth by addressing social capital, critical thinking skills, and social/emotional learning skills. He asked himself; “How do I reach more kids?” He partnered with Gloria Estefan, award-winning musician and performer. A cartoon titled “Little Barrio” is in the works.

Wanting to expand his platform beyond books, plays, and cartoons, he met Dr. Louise Eggert-Nevins, a retired CPS principal and now executive director of Teacher Training of Curriculum for “From the Barrio to the Boardroom.” She told him that he had helped change the landscape for kids for the next 10-15 years. Together, they have now partnered with the Boy Scouts, Ben and Candy Carson, the Library of Congress, and others, including the Black Congressional Caucus.   He went on to say that our kids don’t know color, they know love. He is living proof that dreams can come true.

After a rousing round of applause, he took questions from the audience.

Question: What prompted you to write the book?

He was at a neighborhood store and some gangbangers told him that his car was “ phat.” He took them out for a beer and he was asked how did he get a car like that. He told them “hard work.” He wrote From the Barrio to the Boardroom as a blueprint for other young boys who, like him, struggled to picture themselves in a better place, but didn’t know how to get there.

Question: Is the curriculum run during class hours or is it after school?   Are teachers trained?

(Dr. Nevins answered) I was invited to a Mexican fiesta at a local school and they introduced the book. The school that used this curriculum invited the community to see what they learned. The students were trained. My own background is similar to Robert’s. I saw this book and I thought this book should be read by everyone in the whole world. Can someone come out of all of these situations and still be alive? The barrio is not an extra activity; it should be embedded every day.   Students are so hungry to talk about the tough questions that are a part of their lives.

Renteria once worked with a high school in a gang-infested neighborhood where, because of gang violence, students are afraid to speak to each other. He said, “If we can bring the elementary schools together under one roof, we can talk about how we can cross the streets and talk to each other. They can’t because they are afraid of being killed. 30 students from each feeder school could talk about their experiences. Under one roof, students were comrades, sharing ideas about what this book meant to them. One teacher talked to a principal to get this conversation going.   But it only takes one person.”

Renteria continued by saying, “We are content-and process-oriented but what do we bring in terms of the heart of these kids who are facing problems. ‘ Those kids?’   Those kids are our kids.   Nobody is immune to hard times. The kids who think they are alone, there is a way out. Not reading this book is hurting the kids and robbing them of an experience. When I get pushback, I find sponsors to feed it. There is always a way. Leaders don’t just talk the talk. Somebody do something about those kids. You are the somebody! You do something!”

Question: The majority of my district is Hispanic. How do we get kids and parents to come forward? As a board member, that is my biggest challenge. I’m trying to break that barrier to tell parents to get their kids to come to school. Without the help of the parents, kids, and us, we can’t turn them around. Most of our kids are struggling. What can you suggest?

We have to break the cycle of poverty. The Barrio book is a good start. We need to build bridges, we have to unite. I believe in my lifetime that we will see the first Latino/Latina president. My book is in the Library of Congress, what’s your excuse? It’s not a Latino book, it’s a people book. It’s a hard story and it’s a heart story.

“Don’t let where you come from dictate who you are, but let it be part of who you become.”

            -Robert Renteria

Restorative Practices that Work:   A School Wide Approach

Moderator: Elaine Shpungin, Conflict Consultant and Coach, Conflict 180

Panelists :
Donald Owen, Superintendent, Urbana School District 116
Matthew Stark, Principal, Urbana High School
Erin Ludwick, Assistant Principal, Urbana High School
Eric Morrow, Urbana High School Dean
Travis Courson, Associate Principal

Reporter:   Saundra Russell-Smith, Principal, Carl Sandburg School, Joliet PSD 86

Elaine Shpungin: A restorative pyramid construct was presented with three main ideas: relate, repair, and restore. These ideas were connected to the image of a garden, with relate (healthy soil) as the first piece of building high levels of connection, trust, mutuality, and mattering. This is a critical piece of restoration. The second part, repair (weeding the garden) addresses rifts caused by misunderstanding and mistakes. The third part was restoration (healthy roots), bringing back dignity and community by getting to the roots of painful conflicts.

Examples given for relating practices were having a base: check in practices, gratitude practices, celebrations, ice-breakers, breaking bread, bowling leagues, and more. Examples given for repair practices were: effective apologies, debriefing circles, and listening underneath. Examples given for restoration were use of the S.O.R.R.Y. acronym: self-soothe, observational comments, regrets, responsibility with no excuses, and “You make it right.”

When working with students, conflict circles or problem solving circles involve multiple people. Restorative conversations generally only involve two people. We do these things randomly and accidentally all the time. We need to build these into the fabric of our system so that it becomes automatic and a part of our culture.

Stark: The objectives of restorative justice are to improve the effectiveness of staff responses, teach social-emotional skills, build mutual learning and responsibility after harm, ensure classroom and school climate fidelity, heighten engagement among students, staff, and families, and facilitate collaboration across roles. Restorative justice seeks to decrease repeated disruptions and conflicts, repeated acts of harm by the same people, time out of class and school, family, student, and staff disengagement, discipline gap for students of color, and the perception of not mattering.

Courson: To make these practices work, you must develop positive relationships with people before you start this process. It makes a difference. Do check-in circles: teach how to listen and teach how to be heard. A sample check-in round includes questions like: how are you feeling (in two words) and what brought you to this session.

To show how this works, conference attendees were asked to turn and talk about how we were feeling and why we were here.

Morrow: Repair. When this skill is used, a self-reflection sheet is given to students. One example of this skill, “I have been listening to others give their side before giving thoughts and opinions.”

It’s making students and people in my life feel like their feelings are just as important as mine when conflict arises, suggested a teacher.

Ludwick: I have been part of formal restorative circles and feel very positive about them. Have as many circles as you need to keep the students from conflict with one student over another. The groundwork for that kind of circle is laid during person to person conflict.

We tell students if your behavior warrants a one-day suspension you have a choice, you can either be suspended or you can participate in a restorative circle. Students often want to get sent home, but we as a school will say “we want you here.” We ask “what would you like” and the conversation centers around their feelings and what one heard the other person say. What do you want heard? What did you hear?   It can be exhausting and it’s not perfect and it takes time.

We’ve trained our support counselors, social workers, and others. When a request comes in, a team comes in and starts the process. Students are starting to run these circles in the absence of adults. I believe that kids are capable of doing it but adults need to feel comfortable giving up power.   Adults need to understand the impact that their presence has on the success or failure of the circle.

Stark: Outcomes? Results? Fights, suspensions, referrals are down. Kids are “talking it out.”   Kids and teachers are having “restorative conversations.” This process has had a positive effect on climate data. Students interested in being circle-keepers. Their action plans are often better than ours. When kids feel heard and they are heard, you know the circle is working. It takes time.   For the 2015-16 school year, out-of-school suspensions were down by 65 percent.   Fighting referrals were down by 13 percent.   During 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 referrals were down by 24 percent at Urbana High School.

We continue to believe in this process. We need more training on the process, but we have just jumped in and given it a shot. You’re not going to break anything. In the end if you get it all wrong and no one is listening to each other, you’re back where you started from. This isn’t the silver bullet, but it becomes another piece of our discipline puzzle. We’ve seen our discipline numbers go down and our engagement numbers go up.

Shpungin: Free tools are available online at

Q and A:

What was the reaction to starting the circles in your school?

Morrow and Ludwick started the circles first, training people to be responsive to circles. Some teachers weren’t eager to get into it. It was presented as an option first and teachers didn’t initially buy into it. Morrow was the first person to do a circle at the high school two weeks after the winter training.   Students were initially resistant to it but the fact of the matter was that they got better at it. The less the adults talk the more kids talk. They tried a traditional circle and it didn’t work the first or second time, but as more time was given, it continued to work. He gave an example of three girls who were in conflict and it ended up being about a boy. Once they got their anger and frustration out they were eating lunch together soon after. You may not have an opinion on how the resolution works itself out. The district put a lot of resources into this and participate in a collaborative focus group. They asked people what is working and what is not working. People talked about suspension, racial disparity, and other problems. They asked them what would it look like it if was working?

How did you go about building trust?

Some teachers wanted to jump right in without much training because they built a lot of trust and relationships with the students and families. The admin team had that trust and they were able to start sooner. They allowed the students to talk first. This forced the teachers to use the listening muscle in order to maintain the trust that was necessary for the process.

This is also done staff-to-staff, student-to-student, and student-to-teacher. Some have been successful and some have not been. You have to be there and be ready to hear those things.

This can be used in lieu of a longer or shorter suspension. It can be challenging to find the time to bring people together while honoring their various time commitments. During semi-circles with the dean, it may take 15-20 minutes. Students are okay with you making a mistake, they just want you to follow through. What are you feeling? Why are you feeling that way? It can be very impromptu. Circles can be done during lunch or even on conference calls if the parties are not ready to meet face-to-face. They also have contract agreements, formal understandings with both parties. The process has to be shared because some people may not be available.

Have you seen this model work with students who have traumatic emotional issues?

Yes, when done with fidelity and trauma-informed practices. This can also be done with students who have autism. The practicality and implementation can take longer especially to take a teacher out of the classroom.

How do you get a student who doesn’t want to participate with a student who does?

It is not mandatory, and we let them know that they can choose not to participate. Once they find out that the circle will go on without them, they sometimes want to participate anyway.

Owen shared a story about a student during his first year teaching who was verbally abusive, physically threatening, and very disrespectful toward him. The social worker told him to take care of it before the principal heard about it. He met with the student and a mediator, the student met with the social worker and they worked together. She missed five days of his class but no days out of school and they ended up creating a great relationship. The bottom line, restorative practices work.

DIY Professional Development in Fiscally Restrained Times

Panelists :
Doug Ford, Board President, Geneseo CUSD 228
Nathan O'Dell, Principal, Geneseo Middle School, Geneseo CUSD 228
Brian Hofer, Principal, Southwest Elementary School, Geneseo CUSD 228
Alex Kashner, Principal, Northside Elementary School, Geneseo CUSD 228

Reporter: Laura Ferrell, Assistant Principal, Oak Lawn-Hometown SD 123

This panel discussion reviewed the professional development program at Geneseo CUSD 228.

Panelists began by outlining how all major stakeholders in the district collaborated on a program that is both effective and fiscally conservative. They attributed tough decision-making, the hiring of good leadership, a robust planning process, and an internal support structure, including a development program for employees, as key components of this successful shared growth model.

The panel outlined the vision of the district and the core expectation of “learning by all.” They strongly believe in teachers making decisions for their schools and the creation of robust professional growth plans. From this core belief, the idea to develop targeted professional development was born.

First, the group created a “strengths and needs” survey to better define the needs of their learners and to create professional development programming with intention. The panel addressed the issue of mutual trust. They recognize the fact that for such a model to be effective, a significant amount of trust must exist between all participants. The panel showcased a trust cycle infographic, defining what factors break down trust.

Panel members next spoke about the development of a District Leadership Team (DLT) and

Professional Improvement Committee (PIC) which was negotiated through the last teacher contract. Both structures include cross-sections of stakeholders from across the district. Other professional learning and leadership teams developed include a Teaching and Learning

Team (TLT), a Mentoring Team, Building Leadership Teams (BLTs), and an Elementary

Leadership Team (ELT). The panel noted the flexibility in the model and the goal to not expect perfection.

Having multiple structures supporting learning also required a communication plan that connected every group. The district used multiple tools including the Google platform, the “Rubicon Atlas” curriculum, various websites, agendas, and individual growth plans developed between administrators and teaching staff.

The panel further expanded on the development process for individual growth plans. To garner staff buy-in, teachers were given a significant amount of choice in both topic and method. A PLC Google calendar of choices was created. Various learning methods were implemented, including more traditional structures such as in-services, while Ed Camps and “10 minute Tuesdays” were also employed. During “10 minute Tuesdays,” teachers selected and volunteered to lead professional learning of their choice in alignment with their individual growth plans. Further, the team used Learning Walks and “Ghost Walks” (empty classrooms where observations focus on the environment) to structure learning in a non-evaluative way.

The panel stressed the importance of feedback and how this impacts future systems. They previewed a Google form developed as a method for gathering input. It was noted that the focus should be on building momentum, and that not all participants were satisfied.

Dealing with Conflict on your Board, Part 2

Panelists :
Laura Martinez, Director, Field Services, IASB
Larry Dirks, Director, Field Services, IASB

Reporter: Laura Ferrell, Assistant Principal, Oak Lawn-Hometown SD 123

This session was a continuance of a previous session titled, "Dealing with Conflict on your

Board, Part 1.” In session 1, participants examined the leadership role board members play and the charge to be a functional team. In this session, Martinez and Dirks sought to better define the last two primary sources of conflict board team's experience, “opinions” and “personalities.” Essentially, how can a board harness diversity and work through differing opinions?

Dirks begins with a question: "Which of you got up this morning and wanted to be on a dysfunctional board?" After several chuckles, he reviews the job description of a board member as defined by the tenets in "Role of the Board: 6 Foundational Principles of Effective Governance.” He shared a graphic that outlined the roles of both the superintendent and the board. The ultimate goal is trust and communication.

Dirks proceeded by defining the word "opinion" as an evaluation; judging the worth of something. He states, "As a board member, you value certain things, and as boards make decisions, these values play a role." He validates that all people have personal opinions but cautions that a board member’s decision making is still "about public things.”

Dirks then reviews the work of Dr. Phil Boyle, a renowned public leadership consultant whose work centers on the mission of school officials and their role in governance. Dirks quotes Boyle, "Just because schools are filled with children doesn't mean schools are about children. Public schools are about society." He then identifies how opinions applied in a public forum center around four tenets: liberty, prosperity, equality, and community. Dirks goes on, "This is what public decisions are all about." In reference to Boyle’s latest book Preserving the Public in Public Schools, Dirks says, "Conflict is the essence of democracy. School boards are a democratic process.”

Dirks then examines the aforementioned four tenets through the lens of typical board discussions, such as school dress code and student drug testing. He reminds attendees that they may have private opinions but were elected to serve publicly. He notes the fact that often these two ideals are in conflict with each other.

Dirks then offers the following pointers for board in conflict:

  • Public leaders govern collectively.
  • Not everything in life is subject to a majority vote.
  • Leaders do more than just choose sides.

Martinez then took the podium, centering her conversation about the third common source of conflict: “personalities.” She identifies the work of the mother-daughter duo Isabel Briggs Myers and Katharine Cook Briggs, the creators of the personality inventory known as the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Martinez proceeds to discuss that the test is forced choice divided into four parts, and is meant to show results about people's preferences and tendencies.

She states, "The better you know yourself, the better the results will be.” Martinez creates a correlation between the MBTI and the people on a board. She explains that the more similar a board is in personality type, the sooner understandings will be reached about topics. However, errors may happen. On the contrary, different types result in slower decisions but better ones. In sum, knowing this information can help a board better work with each other, understanding that different personalities need different things.

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