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66th annual NSBA conference

Guests enthusiastic about Chicago location

For the first time since 1960, the annual conference of the National School Board Association was held in Chicago. And by all accounts, especially among first-time visitors, the event was a major success.

The 66th annual event was held April 7-11 at the McCormick Place Lakeside Center in Chicago. The four-day event drew more than 7,700 paid registrants, or about 14,000 board members, superintendents, exhibitors and guests.

The 2006 conference had been scheduled for New Orleans, one of four cities that NSBA rotates the conference among every four years. However, devastation to the Gulf Coast last fall from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita forced the move to a new city.

Many guests were first-time visitors to Chicago and were impressed with the city's size, pedestrian access, accommodations, dining and entertainment venues, and hospitality.

"I enjoyed the conference," said David Daigle, school board member from Iberville Parish, La. "Chicago is a great city; very clean, easily accessible, kind and helpful people, not to mention a magnificent conference center. Thanks for such an enjoyable conference. Hopefully we will have the opportunity in the future to go again."

Another board member from Smyth County School Board, Marion, Va., was attending her first national conference.

"I'd heard so many great things from my fellow VSBA board of directors that I put it on my list of 'things to do.' I was like a child at Christmas; my eyes were all aglow watching the presentations, student performances, and I welcomed the gifts of relevant information," said Laura Hall.

"I enjoyed Chicago, the town, as well. Everywhere I went, the people were friendly, receptive, pleasant and helpful."

A board member from New York even suggested that Chicago be included as part of the regular rotation for NSBA conference.

"I have been to many national school boards conventions and this was one of the best yet.  I think the location, first of all was superb.  I had never been to Chicago and I found it to be a wonderful, beautiful city and I would love to return to see more of it," said Beverly Levine, of the Southern Westchester Board of Cooperative Educational Services.

"I heard many people say that it was the first time the convention was held in the middle of the U.S. and it should happen more often. Many of them don't go to any held on the east or west coasts because their boards cannot afford them.  I have been to New Orleans (my favorite), San Francisco and San Diego. I have never been to Orlando and will probably never go there. Perhaps Chicago could substitute for San Diego so that California is not represented twice."

Mayor Richard M. Daley was on hand to welcome the crowd at the First General Session on Friday. He made an impassioned speech about the value of school boards and school board service, and what Chicago SD 299 has accomplished since he took office in 1989.

Illinois representation was substantially higher than last year's attendance of 427 individuals, representing 118 Illinois districts. Proximity to Chicago and a special one day-only registration fee helped to boost in state attendance, said NSBA officials, who were still sorting out on-site registrations and cancellations to determine final figures.

Guests, exhibitors and presenters were housed in 45 hotels scattered throughout downtown Chicago and bused to the lakefront convention center. A portion of the hotel registration fees was donated to a Hurricane Katrina relief fund to aid the New Orleans hospitality community.

Another fund-raiser for Gulf Coast school districts impacted by last fall's disaster was held April 10 at Morton's, The Steakhouse. IASB executives, officers and other board members hosted several hundred guests at the "Hearts for Hurricane Relief" benefit dinner.

"This was icing on the cake for people's enjoyment of the conference," said IASB President Marie Slater. "We were delighted to have this as a concluding event. I'm so grateful that we can do something to benefit those who suffered so much."

C.H. "Sonny" Savoie, NSBA Southern Regional Director and a board member in St. Charles Parish, southwest of New Orleans, addressed the group to give heartfelt thanks from the region. "We will be forever indebted," he said.

Like most years, the 2006 conference included workshops, panels, exhibits, delegate assembly, regional caucuses, education fair, roundtables, boot camps and various social events to keep everyone busy. This year's general session speakers included former Secretary of State, Gen. Colin Powell, Pulitzer Prize-winning author David McCullough, conservationist Jane Goodall, and fitness entertainer Richard Simmons.

Illinois Association of School Boards staff, executives and officers were involved in many of these activities.

Pre-conference workshops

IASB staff members were involved in one of the eight half-day and full-day pre-conference workshops on Friday.

Angie Peifer, Senior Director, School Board Development, and Cathy Talbert, Associate Executive Director, Policy Services, Targeting Achievement through Governance, facilitated "Targeting Student Learning: Focusing on the Real Work of Boards." This workshop, familiar to past participants at IASB events, is designed to address the standards-based environment of public education.

About 80 board members and superintendents attended the paid workshop.

And in one of a series of Board Member Boot Camps, Peifer and Talbert reprised a shorter version of the Targeting Student Learning process on Monday. Nearly 200 people attended that session.

And in one of the Meet the Experts panels, Barb Toney, consultant to IASB's Targeting Achievement Through Governance program and Mark C. Metzger, board member, Indian Prairie CUSD 204, Naperville, shared their thoughts on "Top Ten Questions Board Members Ask," regarding board member roles, responsibilities, relationships, and effectiveness.

Toney estimated the attendance to be 185 people. "We were pleasantly surprised, especially for an Monday panel," she said. This was the second time Metzger and Toney have presented the panel, which is designed for new board members.

Executive Job Fair

Representatives from Illinois and 17 other state associations participated in a job fair for prospective superintendent candidates.

Donna Johnson, Dawn Miller, David Love, and Larry Dirks, IASB directors of field services, met with candidates to discuss certification requirements, the application process and strategies for job placement. Association representatives also attended the annual meeting of the National Association of Superintendent Searchers.

Improving the search process, including the use of "paperless" applications and screenings, was part of their discussion. Miller also made a presentation to Ken Scott, Kentucky School Boards Association, for his "vision and continuing commitment." Scott was a founder of NASS in 1996.

Share the Success

Panels to showcase local districts and their successful strategies included five Illinois districts. Program tracks included topics under: accountability, alignment, climate, collaboration, community engagement, continuous improvement, school law, standards and assessment, technology, and timely debate.

Illinois districts, panel titles and presenters included:

  • SD 45 DuPage County, Villa Park, Classroom Accountability: Using Data with Teachers and Students, William Schewe, superintendent; Susan Schwicardi, assistant superintendent; and board members Matt Kerr and Linda Nystrom
  • Orland SD 135, Orland Park, Win at the Polls by Taking your Campaign to the Streets, Linda Anast-May, superintendent; John Paul, board president; and Barb Rains, director of community relations
  • Elem SD 159, Matteson, Integration of Technology with Professional Learning Communities and Extended-Day Learning Opportunities, Tobin Mitchell, director of IT; and Robert Klemp Jr., technology coordinator
  • Marion CUSD 2, Keep Kids Healthy and Ready to Learn: A Collaborative Approach to School-Based Health Centers, A. Sue Easton, school improvement facilitator; Carroll Phelps, consultant
  • Wheaton Warrenville CUSD 200, School Community Crisis Preparedness and Training, Lori Belha, assistant superintendent; Kevin Kane, retired principal; Marie Slater, board member; Andrew Johnson, board president; Mary Lou Sender, administrative assistant to the superintendent; and Deputy Chief Joe Grimaldi, Winfield Police Department.

National Affiliate Roundtable

Illinois districts also participated in roundtable events held at the National Affiliate Center. This meeting room offered networking, socializing, refreshments and programming to stimulate informal discussions. Illinois districts, roundtable topics and presenters included:

  • Danville SD 118, Catching Them Before We Lose Them: Helping High School and Middle School Students Stay in School, Nanette Mellen, superintendent; Mark Denman, associate superintendent; David Groves, board president
  • Joliet SD 86, How Mentoring Programs can Retain and Support Quality Teachers, Administrators and Staff, Troy Whalen, assistant superintendent; Nannette Ochs, principal; Deborah Ziech, board member

Exhibition of School Architecture

Thirteen Illinois school projects were among the 119 showcased in the annual Exhibition of School Architecture. Sponsored by NSBA and the American Institute of Architects, the juried exhibit featured innovative ideas in school construction and design in new and renovated school facilities.

And the Grand Prize winner in 2006 featured an IASB member district — Aurora West USD 129 — for construction of Greenman Elementary School. The jury found this project "exemplary on all levels." Its flexible learning environment, multiple use hallways, performance centers and other features were cited as "what all school projects should strive for."

Cordogan Clark & Associates Inc. and Architecture for Education Inc., Aurora, were the designers.

Other IASB member districts represented and their architects were:

  • Hope Academy, Decatur SD 61; BLDD Architects Inc., Decatur
  • Fisher Grade School, Fisher CUSD 1; Farnsworth Group Inc., Bloomington
  • Aspen Elementary School, Hawthorn SD 73; Legat Architects Inc, Waukegan
  • Robert L. Hergett Middle School, Aurora West USD 129; Cordogan Clark & Associates Inc., Aurora
  • Mannheim Middle School classroom addition, Mannheim SD 83; SPM Architects Inc., Palos Heights
  • Lake Park High School East campus, Lake Park HSD 108; ARCON Associates Inc., Lombard
  • Learning Resource/Student Center, Hinsdale THSD 86; Dahlquist and Lutzow Architects Ltd., Elgin
  • Indian Prairie High School, Indian Prairie CUSD 204; DLR Group, Chicago
  • North Grand High School, Chicago SD 299; OWP/P Inc., Chicago

Walk of Excellence

Formerly known as the Education Excellence Fair, the event featured 10 districts from around the nation that demonstrated the benefits of successful academic programs at their schools. Two Illinois districts were among this year's participants:

Flanagan Unit 4 showcased its Discover the Dynamic Drama of DVD Documentaries, a project that allows students to demonstrate their use of technology to show what they learned about Salem witch trials, Shakespeare, World War II, and other topics. Beverly Hart, teacher, and Dean Lanckton, technology coordinator, made the presentation.

A project that joined students from Elm Place Middle School, North Shore District 112, Highland Park, with students from a school in Mobile, Alabama, depicted information about Hurricane Katrina. Nessa Higginson, an eighth-grader, and her sister Charlotte, a seventh-grader, presented for their middle school.

School Attorneys Council

In addition to business meetings, school attorneys attended law seminars, receptions, and general sessions. Illinois attorneys represented approximately ten percent of the total participants in the National Council of School Attorneys' Legal Seminar.

Melinda Selbee, General Counsel for IASB; Cathy Talbert, Senior Director for Policy Services; and Kimberly Small, Policy Consultant, participated in the all-day State Association Counsel Committee meeting on Thursday. Among the topics discussed at length were intellectual property rights and the expected-anticipated impact of the new justices on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Board/staff events

One of 13 state meetings was held Sunday, when IASB hosted about 500 guests at the Hyatt Regency, according to Pat Culler, IASB Director of Meetings Management.

Marie Slater, IASB President, Ray Zimmerman, Past President, and Mark C. Metzger, Vice President, along with IASB executives and staff, greeted about 500 board members and guests from Illinois and other states.


"This was just a wonderful event, and the Illinois delegation really enjoyed getting together informally," said Culler. "I don't recall a more delightful or better attended Illinois reception."

Delegate Assembly

At this year's Delegate Assembly, E. Jane Gallucci of Pinellas County, Fla., took over as president of NSBA for the 2006-07 term. Pennsylvania board member Barbara L. Bolas succeeded Norman D. Wooten of Alaska, as Secretary-Treasurer, and Wooten was approved as President-Elect. The Delegate Assembly was opened with a welcome from Slater.

Zimmerman serves on the NSBA nominating committee, while North Cook Director Barbara Somogyi serves on the credentials committee.

Among the assembly's key actions was the adoption of a belief and policy statement that opposes any political jurisdiction to remove, diminish, or interfere with the authority of local governing boards and districts. The statement says local civic leaders need to support students and schools by ensuring safe neighborhoods, expanding community and parent outreach centers and supporting teacher recruitment efforts by addressing obstacles, such as housing costs.

Magna Awards

At an awards luncheon Monday, the American School Board Journal presented its 2006 Magna Awards to 21 school districts.

Organized to advance student learning through school board leadership, the Awards "recognize student achievement and community engagement efforts." Judges look for programs that are: developed or actively supported by school boards, the result of appropriate board involvement, promotes the district's mission, capable of being replicated by other boards, the result of collaboration between the board and others, and successful in meeting their primary objectives.

Three districts were named Grand Prize winners in the 12th annual contest that attracted nearly 300 entries: Croton-Harmon, N.Y., School District; City School District of New Rochelle, N.Y.; and San Jose, Calif., Unified School District.

Among four winners in the under 5,000 enrollment category was Geneseo CUSD 228, which won for its "2010 Initiative." Seeking to make its students competitive with those from larger, wealthier districts, the district launched the 2010 Initiative. It allows students to graduate by the year 2010 with a diploma and an associate's of arts degree from a nearby community college, by increasing access to college-level courses and vocational programs.

Among four winners in the over 20,000 enrollment category was City of Chicago School District 299, for its "Power of Parents Initiative." The objective of this program was to engage more parents in children's education, create viable programs to involve parents, and to increase student achievement by involving parents.

Another Illinois district, THSD 214, Arlington Heights, earned an honorable mention for its "Newcomer Center." The focus of this program is to assess the language, math, reading and writing skills of incoming immigrant students and to act as a community outreach to immigrant families.

Other conference highlights

Four IASB Service Associate members were among the 300 exhibitors participating in the three-day NSBA Exposition. Participants included:

  • BLDD Architects Inc.
  • Dahlquist & Lutzow Architects Ltd.
  • OWP/P
  • Perkins & Will

IASB staff also manned a booth where they displayed books available through the IASB bookstore, and other Association materials and services.


5K run/walk

The Conference's 6th annual 5K Run/Walk drew 385 participants on Sunday morning. The fastest time was by a 48-year-old superintendent from Arizona, Frank Davidson, who finished in 18:10. The top woman runner, Christine Smith, 39, finished 23rd with a time of 22:12. Other winners in age categories were:

  • Females 20-29: Stacy Beattie, 27:13; age 40-49: Susan Ibarra, 23:45; age 50-59: Carmi Paris, 22:33; and age 60 and over: Muriel Olsen, 35:44
  • Males 20-29: John Moyher, 20:51; age 30-39: Mike Wells, 18:25; age 50-59: Calvin Baker, 20:36; age 60 and over: Tom Parker, 23:17

Overall results are available at Results by age bracket are available at

Proceeds from the event help support the National School Boards Foundation, which partners with private sector and educational leaders to support NSBA's Center for Public Education, and other projects.

For more information on this year's NSBA conference, visit their Web site at:

Founded in 1940, the National School Boards Association is a not-for profit federation of state associations of school boards representing 95,000 local school board members throughout the United States.

The 2007 conference is scheduled for April 14-17 in San Francisco.


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