AASB 70th Annual Conference – Gathering, Learning, Partnering, and Setting Direction

Lon Garrison, Executive Director

Since 1953, the Association of Alaska School Boards has convened an annual conference to bring school board members and their superintendents together to learn about school district governance and create a unified voice advocating for public education funding, local control, and best practices that can serve all the students of Alaska. What is remarkable is that this effort began before statehood and undoubtedly helped impact the framing of the Alaska Constitution, specifically Article 7 – Section 1, Public Education:

The legislature by general law establish and maintain a system of public school open to all children of the State, and may provide for other public education institutions. Schools and institutions shall be free from sectarian control. No money shall be paid from public funds for the direct benefit of any religious or other private educational institution.

Starting on November 9th and culminating on November 12th with the Delegate Assembly, the AASB membership will gather once again in Anchorage to continue the work and the mission of AASB put into action 70 years ago. This gathering of school board members, superintendents, and educational professionals gives us the chance to reconnect with old acquaintances and make new ones. If you are a newly elected school board member, it is a powerful experience to begin to understand your new role and, how you can develop to be an effective member of your board, and how you can have a positive impact on student achievement in your district. For experienced members, it provides the chance to share your experience and delve deeper into governance, leadership, and educational practices. I always learned something new in my 16 years of attending the conference!

The theme for the 70th Annual Conference is “Partnering for Student Success.” Given all the external pressures focused on practices and policies for providing “a public education open to all the children of the State,” our reliance on and need to develop partnerships has never been more important. The annual conference is a unique opportunity to explore partnerships with other districts, service providers, vendors, other associations, post-secondary institutions, and your fellow board members. Don’t let these opportunities slip by!  

One of the most fundamental and critical functions of the conference is the work of the membership in developing and adopting our Resolutions. This work begins with the Resolutions Committee meeting on Thursday, November 9th. The committee is responsible for developing the final packet of resolutions to be adopted by the membership on Sunday during the Delegate assembly. This is where the association members decide where they “stand” on various issues. These resolutions are critical for guiding and informing our advocacy throughout the year, especially during the next legislative session. If possible, we strongly encourage each board to have representation at the Resolutions Committee meeting.

For 2023, the Annual Conference, we want to take advantage of our extensive gathering of members as an opportunity to begin to set the stage and prepare for the most active and aggressive advocacy campaign we have ever embarked upon. Alaska’s public education system is literally on the edge of collapse if it is not adequately funded and supported. To that end, we have added an extra session on Saturday.  The Art & Science of Advocacy – Strengthening Schools Through Powerful Stories. This breakout session will be unique because it will include students’ engagement, voices, and stories. On Sunday, Norm Wooten and I will also host a breakout session about the current status of legislation and some expectations and requirements for implementing a successful advocacy campaign focused primarily on increasing the BSA. We view this as the beginning of our advocacy effort for the second session of the 33rd Legislature.

I eagerly look forward to seeing both familiar faces and new ones! This is our chance to GATHER, LEARN, PARTNER AND SET DIRECTION. Together, we can make good things happen.  

See you in Anchorage!!

Lon D. Garrison

Executive Director