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General Session Speakers

First General Session—Friday
David SchulerDavid R. Schuler, Ph.D., is the 2018 Illinois and National Superintendent of the Year. Known for his ability to inspire and build leaders, he spearheaded Redefining Ready!, the national movement to redefine what it means for students to be college, career, and life ready. The movement began when Schuler served as the 2015-2016 President of AASA, The School Superintendents Association.

Schuler has served 18 years as a superintendent, 13 in his current role leading Township High School District 214, Illinois’ largest high school district. There he has led the development of an innovative instructional philosophy around personalized learning experiences, focusing on career pathways, early college credit, and industry credentials, which enables students to discover their futures while still in high school. The 44 pathways align with 16 national career clusters and allow for students to gain real-world experience through youth apprenticeships and workplace learning experiences. In addition, District 214 now teaches computer science to all 12,000 students, and its six schools were among only seven in the nation to pilot an iOS app development curriculum, initiatives which were recognized by the White House.

Second General Session—Saturday
Ruby BridgesRuby Bridges is an American activist who became a symbol of the civil rights movement when she was six years old and in the youngest of a group of African-American students to integrate schools in the American South. When she was four years old, her family moved to New Orleans. Two years later a test was given to the city’s African-American schoolchildren to determine which students could enter all-white schools. Bridges passed the test and was selected for enrollment at the city’s William Frantz Elementary School.

Of the six African-American students designated to integrate the school, Bridges was the only one to enroll. On November 14, 1960, her first day, she was escorted to school by four federal marshals. Bridges spent the entire day in the principal’s office as irate parents marched into the school to remove their children. On Bridges’ second day, Barbara Henry, a young teacher from Boston, began to teach her.

Bridges’ bravery inspired the Norman Rockwell painting The Problem We All Live With (1964), which depicts the young Bridges walking to school between two sets of marshals, a racial epithet marking the wall behind them.

She is now chair of the Ruby Bridges Foundation, which she formed in 1999 to promote "the values of tolerance, respect, and appreciation of all differences."

Third General Session—Sunday
Darrell ScottDarrell Scott is Rachel’s father. Rachel Joy Scott was the first person killed in the Columbine High School shooting on April 20, 1999. But that was only the beginning of the story. After her death, many students shared stories with the Scott family about the profound impact Rachel’s simple acts of kindness had on their lives; even preventing one young man from taking his own life. They soon realized the transformational effect of Rachel’s story and started the non-profit organization, Rachel’s Challenge.

In the 19 years since the loss of 12 innocent lives, including Rachel’s, her legacy has touched 25 million people and is the foundation for creating programs that promote a positive climate in K-12 schools. Her vision to start a chain reaction of kindness and compassion is the basis for our mission: Making schools safer, more connected places where bullying and violence are replaced with kindness and respect; and where learning and teaching are awakened to their fullest. And it works!

Rachel’s Challenge programs provide a sustainable, evidence-based framework for positive climate and culture in our schools. Fully implemented, partner schools achieve statistically significant gains in community engagement, faculty/student relationships, leadership potential, and school climate; along with reductions in bullying, alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use.


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