Well-attended OSBA conference teaches school board members the ropes
Monday, July 17, 2017
OSBA Executive Director Jim Green asks new school board members to raise their hands Saturday morning of OSBA’s Summer Board Conference 2017. (Photo by Alex Pulaski, OSBA)
OSBA’s Summer Board Conference 2017 was marked by fresh faces and different voices.
More than 400 superintendents, administrative professionals and school board members gathered over the weekend at the Riverhouse on the Deschutes in Bend, with about 75 being newly elected school board members. OSBA staff said it was the best attended summer conference in at least 20 years.
Umatilla School District Superintendent Heidi Sipe, who spoke Saturday, offered strong encouragement for those new board members as well as experienced members.
“If you’re trying to change the conversation for kids, know how powerful your voice is,” she said.
Sipe, who was Oregon Superintendent of the Year in 2016, gave her school board members credit for the hard work they do crafting, enacting and supporting district policy. She spoke of Umatilla’s innovative robotics program and how it, along with other programs, has built students’ confidence.
“They believe in themselves because our board believes in them,” she said.
It is often said a school board’s most important job is choosing a superintendent, but Sipe said that is only the beginning.
“Keep the communication open,” she said. “That is the only way superintendents can get better.”
Dubbed “Summer Camp for School Boards,” the July 14-16 conference covered a wide range of topics, and not just for school board members.
Pre-conference events on Friday included all-day workshops on essential practices for districts setting up charter schools, holding effective meetings and the work of administrative professionals.
Saturday began with introductions from OSBA Board President Betty Reynolds and OSBA Executive Director Jim Green, followed by keynote speaker William Parrett.
Parrett, co-author of “Turning High-Poverty Schools into High-Performing Schools,” showed examples of successful high-poverty schools and then challenged the audience: How many schools do you have to see graduating students despite hurdles to believe it can be done?
“If there are schools beating the odds, go see them,” he said.
Parrett, director of the Center for School Improvement & Policy Studies and professor of education at Boise State University, has studied effective school approaches for decades.
“There is no blueprint,” he said. School boards have to look at local data, understand the community and then ask themselves, “What’s getting in our way?”
Parrett expanded on the theme of reaching students in poverty in a later session.
“Something is not working for our kids who are underperforming,” he said. Good things happen when educators, from the school board on down, find out what makes their communities tick, according to his research. “When the educators built relationships with kids … achievement went up.”
OSBA is a resource for Oregon school districts on a variety of topics and issues. Conference sessions helped educate school board members on everything from best school board practices to legal ethics to meeting laws to charter schools as well as covering current issues such as cyberbullying and implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act.
School board members spoke highly of the weekend conference.
Jaci Spross of the Hillsboro School District is a new board member and she compared Summer Board to training for a new job, teaching her about procedures, ethics and expectations.
Amber Burns, a new school board member for the Perrydale School District, appreciated the chance to network as well as learn about policy and board procedures.
“It is really nice to know that OSBA is there as our advocate and to help us,” she said.