The St. Helens School Board and superintendent spent a bit of time just visiting between Saturday OSBA Summer Board sessions at the Riverhouse on the Deschutes. (Photo by Jake Arnold, OSBA)
COVID-19’s sweeping education disruption provides a “moment of opportunity,” the OSBA Summer Board Conference keynote speaker emphasized Saturday in Bend.
“Normal is gone,” said Steve Constantino, author and former teacher and administrator. “You are in the position to lead the next normal.”
The annual gathering of school board members and administrators was back in person after virtual events the previous two years, and like schools, OSBA is taking advantage of the new technologies to reach more people in more convenient ways.
OSBA enlisted audio and video technicians to record preconference and conference sessions July 8-10, although technical difficulties prevented some sessions from being available on the livestream.
Recordings will be available for attendees for 90 days, and people can still register for the conference to gain access by emailing OSBA Board Development’s Jenn Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nearly 200 people registered for Friday’s in-person administrative professionals workshop and a preconference session by Constantino, and 250 registered for the Saturday and Sunday conference.
Roughly another 100 people registered to attend the sessions online.
For many happy school board members and administrators, though, a sunny weekend in Bend was a lure to OSBA’s varied training opportunities that another Zoom session just couldn’t match.
“I wouldn’t be staring at my computer for five hours,” said St. Helens School Board member Bill Amos between sessions at the Riverhouse on the Deschutes.
OSBA sessions covered topics ranging from school board basics to more recent issues such as public comment best practices.
Constantino led an all-day preconference session on family engagement and spoke about it again for the Saturday keynote. He said engaging families is essential to raising student achievement, while being cognizant that teachers, administrators and school board members already have heavy demands on their time.
“Family engagement is not about doing more, just doing what we do differently,” Constantino said. For instance, change the papers sent home for parents to sign. Rather than routine forms, give parents some information about upcoming lessons and topics parents can discuss with their children.
He said board members can inspire their districts to look at education differently, starting by granting parents “grace and mercy.”
Constantino said engagement activities at schools often just engage the already engaged, and he suggested different approaches, such as a math night at a local laundromat.
Vidal Peña, Central School District board member, said his district southwest of Salem has had success reaching underserved students by holding events in the migrant farmworker camps.
“We come to them,” he said.
Peña appreciated that Constantino offered evidence and data that these engagement strategies raise student achievement.
Equity was another big theme through the weekend, with different groups discussing what it means to serve all students in their part of Oregon.
In the session on “Embracing equity to improve student achievement in rural settings,” InterMountain Education Service District Superintendent Mark Mulvihill made the core of equitable efforts simple.