From the Executive Director
The 2016 AASB Annual Conference has been completed and everyone has returned home. is was the 63rd conference and from preliminary reports was a hit with attendees. e theme. “Every Student – Every Story” was showcased from the pre-conference sessions, to the Youth Leadership Institute (YLI), to the sectionals. Story telling is an honored tradition and practiced by all of Alaska’s First People. It is a tradition that is e ective in advocating for our children and we are proud to carry it on even as we honor it.
We opened the conference with a new tradition this year as Chief Lee Stephan Dena’ina of Eklutna welcomed us to his traditional grounds. What an awesome conference beginning to honor a respected elder with a reminder of Alaska’s history. It perfectly set the mood and emphasized the AASB Board of Director’s Goal #1:
“Empower our boards to increase the academic success of Alaska Native Students and increase graduation rates of Alaska Native Students who are grounded in their cultural identity with the ability to successfully pursue their goals.”
The presentation of colors and an amazing rendition of the Star Spangled Banner by Sand Point student Melrose Ceballos also punctuated the opening ceremonies.
Gov. Bill Walker shared that in his vision for Alaska is forward funding for education so that the path for this generation’s visionaries is clear. He put forward education as a financial and philosophical priority this year and that he wants to give teachers and students every tool for success, including a fiscal plan looking out five years.
Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott challenged educators at Friday’s General Session to elevate education to a standard that improves the lives of all Alaska students and makes school boards an example of the best that democracy offers.
Commissioner of Education and Early Development Michael Johnson attended most of the conference and introduced his new deputy, Sana Efird, who is moving into EED from the Department of Health and Social Services, where she was an assistant commissioner for Finance and Management Services. She succeeds Les Morse, who retired.
James Fields, President of the State Board of Education, committed to the school boards that all students get a great education so that every student succeeds in every community. It is up to each district to create how that education looks. Fields suggested that there may be things and ideas out there that don’t exist yet that will help education innovate.
Tam Agosti-Gisler, President of the Anchorage School Board, touched on the new three “Rs” – relationships, relevance and rigor. Until students know that teachers and other adults care, they will not be able to engage in learning. Agosti- Gisler called on school boards to walk the talk, modeling positive relationships, relevance, rigor and being active life long learners.
Both pre-conference presentations had over ow crowds who hung in the entire day. e Academy for Experienced Board Members o ered ideas to take home on personalized learning. Board Room Boot Camp got newly elected board members o on the right foot.
Several important committees met on Thursday prior to the conference:
The Nominations Committee interviewed board candidates all day. Making their job difficult was the high caliber of candidates forwarded by their districts. is is a good problem to have and makes the AASB board even stronger. During the election on Sunday all incumbents were reelected and were joined by new board members Barbara Amarok of Nome city Schools and Penny Vadla of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.
The Awards Committee also had more nominations for the Carl Rose Governance Award and School Board of the Year than ever before. After agonizing over so many good nominees their selections were announced on Saturday evening. Pete Hoepfner of Cordova was the recipient of the Carl Rose Governance Award and the Fairbanks North Star Borough Board of Education the School Board of the Year.
The Budget Committee reviewed the AASB budget in detail prior to the conference and came prepared with questions. is is a very technical committee and committee members are selected from those board members with an expertise in budgets or with a financial background. They asked tough questions of the staff and after discussion directed that the budget be presented to the membership and forwarded to the Board of Directors with a recommendation for approval. e Board of Directors then considered it at their post-conference meeting and approved the budget as presented.
The Resolutions Committee divided into five teams and reviewed all existing resolutions as well as proposed resolutions forwarded by districts. is committee has the important job of recommending to the delegate assembly ideas and beliefs that will set the legislative agenda of the Association for the coming year. ese were serious people who worked through the entire day. They did such a thorough job that the delegates approved the recommendations with only one resolution being pulled for discussion with the remainder being accepted as approved.
The June Nelson Memorial Scholarship fundraiser is always a lively and fun event. e auction was shortened to two hours giving boards members a free evening to socialize with each other and their students and seemed to be appreciated. It was fast paced and the bidding was lively. Board members and Superintendents are incredibly generous in their contribution of auction items and in bidding. Once again AASB will be able to assist students in their post-secondary studies.
In talking to conference attendees the complaints around sectionals were which ones to attend. Folks wanted to attend them all but had to select. Nice problem! Presenters were excited and pleased with the crowds. Most sessions were standing room only.
The conference app was a popular feature and allowed attendees to build a digital schedule. There were minimal handouts this year with all presentations and handouts entered on the app and available for downloading. There were many positive comments about the ability to have all materials available – even if one wasn’t able to attend a session due to a conflict with another session.
Both general session speakers seemed to resonate with board members. Gene Tagaban started us off with an inspiring message of hope. Didn’t you feel “awesome” as the entire room whispered? Back by popular demand was Dr. Thomas Alsbury who presented us with good governance tips as we serve on local school boards.
The Youth Leadership Institute (YLI) continues to be popular with our young people and provides them with leadership skills to take home. Watching these students and interacting with them gives all of us great hope and confidence in the future. There is no doubt but that we’re building future school members, legislators, tribal leaders, and municipal officials. Their energy is infectious and makes us all better by their presence at our conference.
The Conference seemed to meet the expectations of attendees. Thanks you all for participating in this professional development.