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First General Session

Leaders challenge leaders to step up

The audience at the First General Session of the 2017 Joint Annual Conference did not shy away from questions and challenges posed by the presiding officer and keynote speaker.

The opening session, held on Friday, Nov. 17 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, often helps to set the tone for the leadership conference of school board members, superintendents, and school business officials. This year’s session did not disappoint.

PritzkerIASB President Phil Pritzker was the first to challenge the crowd. “Do you stand up for public education; will you stand up for public education?” he asked, before encouraging the 1,000-plus audience members to rise in support.

Pritzker , who has represented Wheeling CCSD 21 since 1989, noted that not everyone who desires to lead is called. Quoting (in part) from U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt, Pritzker stated, “It is the not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena,” later adding, “by virtue of being here, you have entered the arena.”

Show ChoirHis remarks were preceded by a colorful performance of the Classics Show Choir from Wheaton-Warrenville South High School, and followed by a presentation of colors by the Phoenix Military Academy, the national anthem performed by the Honors Choir of Wheeling CCSD 21, and welcome from NSBA Executive Director Tom Gentzel.

Citing the challenges posed by the current Congress, president, and federal regulators, Gentzel said that school boards must be prepared to protect and defend public education. “Public education is a birthright, but it’s not guaranteed,” he said.

Tim KightThe keynote speaker, Tim Kight, continued the drumbeat. Citing his own athletic experience and exposure to nationally renowned programs and coaches, Kight said that the effort to reach elite performance is not limited to athletes. Rather than relying solely on talent, such performance is within reach of anyone who wants to build and portray “the best version of you.”

The pathway to reach that level requires daily, incremental improvements, he said. But it also requires a different mindset regarding culture, behavior, and results. His message to the school leaders in Chicago was to focus on behavior. “Nothing improves unless behavior improves. The ultimate purpose of culture is to generate and sustain winning behavior,” he said.

Using a PowerPoint to illustrate a series of equations, Kight described the “BBO” of culture as a combination of beliefs, behavior, and outcomes. Another acronym he used was eliminating the attitude of “BCD,” or blaming, complaining, and defending. Reducing or eliminating that attitude requires leaders, and students, to understand a formula he called “E + R = O,” i.e., event plus response equals output.

“Success is not determined by events; it’s determined by response,” said Kight, who uses the same themes and formulas in a program called Focus 3.

The First General Session also saw awards given out for risk management and school design. The David Binotti Award for risk management was presented by Gary Kelly, president of the Illinois School District Agency to Channahon SD 17. A video was also shown before the Award of Distinction was given to the school districts and architects that developed the John C. Dunham STEM Partnership School in Aurora.


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