Articles tagged with New Orleans

School leaders are in the ‘diamond mine business’

A high school English teacher saw that Simon T. Bailey was a diamond in the rough. She encouraged the teenager to get involved with public speaking. “I owe everything that I am to that public school teacher,” Bailey said. “I am here because she saw something I didn’t see.”

The inspirational speaker, author, and former leader of the Disney Institute was the keynote speaker at the final general session at NSBA’s annual conference in New Orleans April 7.

Bailey, who’s written several books on the concept of brilliance, uses the term as a metaphor for the genius and talent we all possess that gets buried under layers of boredom and conformity.

School board members have a role to play in uncovering their own brilliance (Bailey addressed the audience as “oh brilliant ones” several times) but also in helping to uncover the brilliance in their employees and their students.

“I discovered brilliance is released in an environment where people are celebrated rather than tolerated,” he said. “It invites me to be a vitamin, not an aspirin – to give that something extra.”

One way to uncover leadership brilliance is to be a “hope pusher,” he said. “We know what’s best for kids – kids are our customers; they are our future. We live in the greatest country in the world. In the DNA of the soil of America is hope. Anything and everything that exists on the face of the earth came as the result of hope.”

Bailey encouraged the audience to change the way they think about their roles as school leaders. “What needs to shift in us is not just thinking about leadership, but thinking about ‘leader shift.’ As we have moved from point and click world to touch and swipe, are we looking for broadband results using dial-up methods? What are we going to do to create a ‘leader shift’?”

Before addressing this task, he says, everyone should commit to taking 15 minutes a day for themselves, to mediate, stretch, and set an intention about the kind of leader they want to be.

He also encouraged board members to consider their relationships with other board members and how that affects leadership work.

“The next board meeting, before you start on agenda, take a moment and go around the table and tell each person what you appreciate about them,” he said. “Find one positive thing about each board member. The next time you have an intense discussion, look at them through the eyes of what you appreciate about them because then you are hugging them with your words.”

School leaders should tell themselves that they are the shift that their schools and their communities have been waiting for.

“You are the answer,” he said. “When you come together, you become the ‘brillianteer,’ polishing and shaping diamonds in the rough, so they shine from the inside out. That’s the real business of education. You are in the diamond mine business.”


Kathleen Vail|April 10th, 2014|Categories: NSBA Annual Conference 2014|Tags: , , , |

Delegate Assembly approves NSBA advocacy agenda

NSBA Delegate Assembly

NSBA’s Delegate Assembly approved the association’s hard-hitting advocacy agenda around public education at its business session Friday in New Orleans. The meeting was held right before the start of NSBA’s Annual Conference, which opens Saturday.

“This will now form the basis for NSBA’s advocacy efforts and become part of our enduring beliefs,” said David Pickler, the 2013-14 NSBA President. He referred to the three core policies voted on by the assembly as the three “legs” of the association’s aggressive and ambitious advocacy agenda.

The first “leg” is opposition to unlawful expansion of executive authority. According to the resolution, NSBA supports “an appropriate federal role in education.” However, it opposes the “federal intrusion and expansion of executive authority by the U.S. Department of Education and other federal agencies” in the absence of authorizing legislation, viewing it as an “invalid exercise of delegated legislative authority.”

Such overstepping has had a detrimental effect on schools and districts, including imposing unnecessary financial and administrative requirements and preventing local school officials from making the best decisions for their students based on their close knowledge of community needs and priorities.

The second “leg” is opposition to privatization — vouchers, tuition tax credits, and charter schools not authorized by local school boards. Privatization has resulted in a “second system of publicly funded education” that sends tax-payer money to private schools, fails to hold private schools accountable for evaluating and reporting student and financial performance and abiding by open meeting requirements, and often has the effect of resegregating schools.

High academic standards, including the Common Core State Standards, are the topic of the third “leg.” NSBA supports high academic standards, including Common Core, when they are voluntarily adopted by states with school board input and when the standards are free from federal directions, mandates, funding conditions or coercion.

Local school boards are responsible for the implementation of any new academic standards. Instruction and materials should be locally approved, to reflect community needs. In the resolution is a “call to action” to states to provide the financial and technical support that school districts require to implement voluntarily adopted rigorous standards in an effective and timely manner.

Also at the meeting, the assembly elected NSBA’s new officers and regional directors. They will take office on Monday, April 7.

The 2014-15 NSBA President, Anne Byrne of New York, was formally sworn into office at Delegate Assembly. “I promise to work hard for you to advance the mission of NSBA,” she told the group. “Leading children to excellence is my theme. To me, it is a deep commitment to the children we all serve.”

The Delegate Assembly is the policy-making body of NSBA, and it consists of delegates chosen by state school board associations. This year, changes in the Delegate Assembly meeting included holding small-group briefing sessions so delegates and state association leaders had a chance to fully understand and debate the issues around the three core elements.

Also new was an online forum for the delegates to review and debate the issues before they arrived in New Orleans.

Kathleen Vail|April 5th, 2014|Categories: Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, State School Boards Associations, Common Core State Standards, NSBA Annual Conference 2014|Tags: , , , , , , , |

New Orleans hosts NSBA’s 74th Annual Conference


Welcome to New Orleans! The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is thrilled to be back in the Crescent City for its 74th Annual Conference, held April 5 to 7.

The conference will draw more than 7,500 attendees, exhibitors, and guests representing nearly 1,400 school districts. This conference will feature distinguished speakers as well as hundreds of workshops, presentations, and other events that will help you develop your leadership skills, boost student learning, and improve your school districts’ operations.

The Louisiana School Boards Association has taped a welcome video that shows why New Orleans is one of the world’s most unique and celebrated cities. Lee Meyer Sr. and John C. Smith, president and past president of LSBA, respectively, are tour guides and they have plenty of recommendations. “The food, music, and more is a melting pot of cultures and backgrounds,” Smith says.

Keynote speakers include New York Times columnist and bestselling author Thomas L. Friedman; basketball legend, entrepreneur, and public school advocate, Earvin “Magic” Johnson; author and technology guru Sir Ken Robinson; and leadership expert Simon Bailey.

Once again NSBA’s mobile app holds a wealth of information about the conference as well as handouts and supplementary materials. The app allows you to create a schedule, review session descriptions and locations, access handouts, and search for exhibitors right from your laptop, tablet, or mobile device. Go to You can also download the online conference planner at NSBA’s Annual Conference website.

Don’t forget to read highlights of all the day’s major events in Conference Daily, which is again available online at and through the NSBA mobile app.

If you are using social media, the official conference hashtag is #NSBAConf. Be sure to share the knowledge you gain this weekend with your colleagues and community.

To ensure that you get credit for attending educational sessions, we are using Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology. Wear your badge to all conference events to get credit for your attendance, then go to the Continuing Education Credit desk, located in Lobby E, for a list of all the sessions you attended. You may also access a report through the mobile app.

The conference also uses a QR code, found on page 40 of the conference program book, which will allow you to download handouts directly to your Smartphone or tablet.

The ever-popular Exhibit Hall is now the Exposition Campus. More than 260 companies will be exhibiting and there will also be dozens of “Study Hall” sessions (formerly Learning Lounge). These are interactive 30-minute mini-sessions with the latest knowledge on hot topics, led by experts and their school district clients. We’ve more than doubled the number of Study Halls held from 2013 and will offer sessions during exclusive hours. Check your conference program book for a complete schedule.

The Exhibit Hall will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

The Annual Conference even has movies this year. On Saturday and Sunday, NSBA will show The Freedom Writers Foundation’s new film, “Stories from an Undeclared War,” which tells the personal stories of the 150 at-risk students once considered unteachable who were inspired by teacher Erin Gruwell. The movie will be shown at 1 p.m. in the Lounge at the back of Hall E.

NSBA will also be holding a special screening of “12 Years A Slave” tomorrow evening from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Hilton Hotel’s Versailles Ballroom. NSBA has partnered with Fox Searchlight Pictures, New Regency, Penguin Books, and the filmmakers to distribute this important film to high schools in the United States this fall.


Joetta Sack-Min|April 4th, 2014|Categories: Leadership, NSBA Annual Conference 2014|Tags: , , , , |

Obama administration lawyers open School Law Seminar

Two lawyers from the Obama administration answered questions from Council of School Attorneys (COSA) members at the opening general session Thursday of the 2014 School Law Seminar in New Orleans. The meeting is held in conjunction with NSBA’s Annual Conference.

Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education Catherine Lhamon and Anurima Bhargava, chief of the educational opportunities section, Civil Rights Division, at the U.S. Department of Justice, took questions from school district lawyers on a wide range of topics, including reasons for OCR investigations and the recent guidance on students with disabilities and extracurricular activities.

Lhamon spoke briefly about the mission and purpose of OCR. “Education is a civil rights issue,” she said. “That is the work we are doing at the Department of Education. We hope we can work together to deliver that justice.”

COSA lawyers lined up to ask questions of the two women. One lawyer wanted to know what she should do about what she termed “frequent flyers” — employees who file constant complaints and grievances. “It’s burden for us to get the data,” she said. “Every one of those [complaints] have come back as unfounded. Is there anything we can do to bring to your attention that this is an every-month occurrence?”

OCR is required by law to investigate any compliant, said Lhamon, “but we are looking at ways to ease” the frequent flyer problem.

Bhargava noted that her office did not have the same legal obligation to investigate every complaint. “We know there are the frequent flyers,” she said. “We try to be mindful of that. We are looking for ways to coordinate so you are not answering multiple complaints.”

Another question was about the school board obligation to look into matters such as student disciplinary decisions, which boards traditionally leave to district staff.

“We haven’t put out guidance about what boards should do,” Lhamon answered. “We want our school staff, boards, parents, and teachers to be thinking about what to ask. Boards do defer to staff, but you can ask and look underneath. Boards can make the decision when and where to ask those questions.”

Bhargava encouraged board member to look at the OCR data. “The data helps identify where there are issues. Everyone is empowered to use the data and ask questions.”

The School Law Seminar runs through Saturday.


Kathleen Vail|April 4th, 2014|Categories: School Law, Conferences and Events, Council of School Attorneys, NSBA Annual Conference 2014|Tags: , , , , |

NSBA’s COSA Seminar examines civil rights, school choice issues

Civil rights enforcement, vouchers, employment, bullying, and disability law are the hot topics this week at the National School Boards Associations’ (NSBA) Council of School Attorneys’ (COSA) annual School Law Seminar in New Orleans taking place April 3-5. The hashtag for the seminar is #COSANola.

In the opening discussion, Catherine Lhamon, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights for the U.S. Department of Education, will cover the scope of civil rights issues in our nation’s schools and the work that Office of Civil Rights (OCR) is doing to ensure equal access to high-quality education for all students. Lhamon will cover the latest OCR research and the charge to protect our nation’s students against discrimination on the basis of race, sex, disability, and age in K-12 and postsecondary educational institutions nationally. Lhamon will be joined by Anurima Bhargava, Chief, Educational Opportunities Division, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice, who will take questions on the recent guidance issued by both departments on Nondiscriminatory Administration of School Discipline.

“The annual School Law Seminar gives COSA attorneys and attendees the chance to get updated on crucial school law trends and challenges our school board clients are facing,” said Greg Guercio, the 2014-2015 COSA Chair and Seminar Committee Chair.  “This is our largest Seminar.  It brings in 350+ school attorneys.  We really look forward to connecting with our colleagues and getting updated on the legal advocacy work of NSBA, as well.”

COSA sessions will be led by experienced school attorneys on relevant issues such as “What the Louisiana Voucher Litigation Means for You and Your Clients,” “Your Top Ten FERPA Questions – Asked and Answered,” and “The Alpha and the Omega: An Anti-Christ to Yoga Update on Litigation Affecting Student Religious Rights in Public Schools.”

Alexis Rice|April 1st, 2014|Categories: School Law, Teachers, Special Education, School Climate, Leadership|Tags: , , , |

Urban school boards, board member honored at New Orleans conference

CUBE Award Winner

Texas’ Mesquite Independent School District receives the Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) Annual Award for Urban School Board Excellence.

Three urban school boards were honored at NSBA’s Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) annual meeting in New Orleans on Saturday. Texas’ Mesquite Independent School District took top honors as the winner of the 2011 Annual Award for Urban School Board Excellence. Boston Public Schools and Nevada’s Washoe County Public Schools were named as finalists.

Mesquite Board President Kevin Carbo, board members Christina Hall and Cary Tanamachi, and Superintendent Linda Henrie accepted the award.

“We are very proud of our district’s accomplishments,” said Carbo. “This award is not just for the Board of Trustees, but for everyone in the district-from the administrators to the teachers to the auxiliary employees who day in and day out give our children their maximum effort.”

Henrie accepted the award on behalf of all of those across the country who are dedicated to public education. “This honor affirms that public education works and works well,” she said.

“This is just one more step in the right direction,” Carbo added. “We have more work to do, and CUBE just gave us a little more incentive to continue working toward a better future for our kids.”

The award recognizes excellence in school board governance, building civic capacity, closing the achievement gap (equity in education), and demonstrated success of academic excellence.

A 37,000-student school system located less than 20 miles east of Dallas, Mesquite has systematically made gains in student achievement and significantly closed achievement gaps while successfully rallying community support around the schools.

Eighty-four percent of students tested proficient in math in 2010, up from 67 percent in 2004. The percentage proficient in science grew from 52 percent in 2004 to 82 percent in 2010. Reading test scores rose from 82 percent to 91 percent proficient during the same time period, while social studies scores went from 86 percent to 95 percent passing.

While all subgroups showed improvement, minority students enjoyed particular gains, and the test score gaps between white and minority students closed significantly in all subject areas.

For more information on the winning district and the finalists, go here.

Also at the CUBE meeting, Arizona school board member Eva Carillo Dong was honored with the 2011 Benjamin Elijah Mays Lifetime Achievement Award. Dong has been a member of the Sunnyside Unified School District Governing Board since 1999.

She was honored for her long-time dedication to the community and her strong belief that education can improve life for children in Sunnyside Unified, which serves more than 17,000 students.

President of the Sunnyside board three times in her 12 years of service, Dong has helped the district gain state and national attention for its innovative programs and initiatives to increase student achievement, reduce the dropout rate, and increase community engagement.

The Benjamin Elijah Mays Lifetime Achievement Award is given to individuals who demonstrate a long-standing commitment to the educational needs of urban schoolchildren through school board service. Benjamin Elijah Mays, whom the award honors, was a teacher, minister, author, and civil rights activist who served as president of Morehouse College and the Atlanta school board from 1970 to 1981.

For more information on the awards and CUBE, go to

Kathleen Vail|October 11th, 2011|Categories: School Boards, Conferences and Events, Announcements, Urban Schools, CUBE Annual Conference 2011|Tags: , , , , , , , |
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