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Second General Session

Ruby Payne ties neighborhood effects to learning outcomes

PayneEducator, author, publisher, and entrepreneur, Ruby Payne told a capacity crowd at the Second General Session on Saturday that as society has moved toward an economy rooted in knowledge, there are segments of the population that are being left behind.

“We are a knowledge-based economy, but we do not have the infrastructure to support it. Our approaches don’t work unless we build talent and capacity,” she said.

Payne discussed how people tend to gravitate to what they know and where they feel most comfortable. “If you have to choose between taking information from someone that you don’t know, or from a personal experience; you’re going to choose personal experience every time,” she acknowledged.

“How you spend your time determines what you know. We all have 24 hours per day. But how we spend that time is dependent on the resources we have available,” Payne said.

PaynePayne has more than 30 years of experience working with public schools. She has crafted strategic plans, served as a department head and principal, and written K-12 curriculum in a number of content areas. She is also the founder of aha! Process, a professional development company that works across all aspects of a community to address the root causes of poverty.

Payne was born in Indiana, but moved around much of her life between the south and Midwest, spending six years living in Chicago. She grew-up Mennonite and spent time studying poverty in Haiti. She is a graduate of Goshen College and earned her master’s from Western Michigan University. She went on to receive her doctorate in educational leadership and policy from Loyola University.

Before Payne addressed the crowd, Thomas Bertrand, IASA president and Rochester CUSD 3A superintendent, reiterated the importance of this year’s Conference theme. “Leading by learning is what effective school leaders do. We can’t afford not to,” he said.

Bertrand then introduced a school leader that has achieved great success for his district’s six high schools by embracing a continual learning philosophy. David Schuler was announced as the 2018 Illinois Superintendent of the Year.

Also at the Saturday general session, IASB President Phil Pritzker introduced IASB past presidents: Joseph Alesandrini, 2010-11; Carolyne D. Brooks, 2012-2013; Christy Coleman, 2002-2003; Karen Fisher, 2013-14; Joan Levy, 1984-1985; Dennis McConville, 2001-2002; Mark Metzger, 2008-2009; Marie Slater, 2006-2007; and Jay Tovian, 1996-1998.

Acknowledged with them were IASB Executive Director Roger Eddy, along with Hal Seamon (1973-1989) and Michael D. Johnson (2000-2012), who served as previous executive directors for the Association.

Payne began her remarks with a simple statement: “Schools do a great job of educating our kids while they are in school, but many go home to unstable households.” She followed up with a straightforward question to the audience, “How do we begin to bridge the gap?”

She stressed that the key to breaking the cycle of poverty is educate adults about the realities of living in poverty, and work to enable under-resourced adults the ability to build their own resources and capacity.

Payne spoke about how only 40 percent of households in the country have school-aged children, but 50 percent of the children in school come from poverty.

“Without everyone at the table we cannot function as a community,” said Payne. “Our country cannot afford to throw away that many people.”

“Our current programs are compliance based. This doesn’t build talent or capacity. But knowledge does. We can build talent and capacity through our institutions,” she reiterated. “Who is more suited to deal with poverty in our neighborhoods than schools?”

Payne finished her speech by touching on what most consider the foundation of our society and our country as a whole: “You can’t have a democracy without public education.”

After concluding her remarks, a line of attendees waited to meet and speak with Payne outside the conference bookstore, and to get autographs of her book, “A Framework for Understanding Poverty.”


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