In mid-January each year, the Minnesota School Boards Association (MSBA) conducts an annual conference.  The conference is both a business meeting for the organization and a professional development opportunity for school board members and district leaders.  Although not all members of the ROCORI School Board are able to attend, we do encourage as many as possible to take in the conference. 

There are always valuable things that are learned or experienced at the conference.  I would like to take some time this week to highlight a few elements of the conference held on January 17 and 18.



Although I was probably aware of the information, the recognition offered to the retiring Executive Director of MSBA, Bob Meeks with 38 years of service to the organization, highlighted a few interesting facts about the organization.  The Minnesota State School Boards Association was the eighth such organization in the United States with its founding in 1920.  This year’s event was the 92nd Annual School Board Association Leadership Conference.

The event is held at the Minneapolis Convention Center.  Although the Convention Center sprawls over several blocks of space, the location provides an excellent setting for the conference.  The need for an auditorium setting, vendor display areas, and small group settings for a few thousand people makes the Convention Center a great site.

School board members, superintendents, district office leaders, and other school leaders are part of the conference.  The conference offers a wide variety of activities during the sessions as provides great opportunities for leaders to learn from each other and from other professionals.



The conference offers various settings and types of sessions to conduct its business.  There are “early bird” sessions that are scheduled the evening before the actual conference to allow those who come in to the session early an opportunity for professional development.  Typically, there is training for new school board members on the day before the conference.

As the conference opens, some targeted sessions are held for school board chairs, officers, and organizational leaders.  The conference then typically opens with a general session with a number of business issues, remarks from MSBA leaders, and an opening or keynote session.

After the general session, activities are distributed.  There is a vendor area for businesses and consultants who work with schools and school boards.  There is a “show and tell” session so that school districts can highlight a program, a group, or a special activity within that district and other schools can learn from them.  There is a recognition banquet over the lunch hour.  There are director district meetings allowing the organization to conduct some of its business.  There are other learning session including some large group, small group breakout sessions, round table discussions, and other meetings scheduled for specific purposes.



This year’s keynote speaker was David Horsager, a Minnesota businessman who has become a consultant who works to help boards and companies to build trust.  The theme of the conference was “Building Trust” so Horsager’s book, The Trust Edge, was a very appropriate work!

Throughout the keynote session, and carrying into his address on Friday, Horsager shared thoughts on how trust is the key to successful organizations.  He shared his research work on the eight pillars of trust along with very vivid examples and illustrations of how trust is built or damaged.

Horsager’s thoughts were very challenging and illuminating.  The goal of the presentation was to help board members gain an understanding of the eight pillar framework and to encourage school boards to build trust with all stakeholders on issue at a time.



The breakout sessions during the conference allow opportunities for attendees to learn a wide variety of topics in smaller group settings.  The breakout sessions include presentations by vendors, school districts, legal experts, consultants, state department officials, other state organizations, financial consultants, and others.  These are typically an hour in length and are conducted in front of 15 to 50 conference attendees. 


The sessions range from legal advice and strategies for school districts to districts sharing some things that are working well within their settings.  Advice on financial programs or processes might be the theme in one room while another may be focused on steps to resolve or minimize issues like bullying behaviors.  Districts, vendors, and presenters might share innovative programs they have developed or have implemented.

Topics for the breakout sessions were widespread.  School improvement programs, community engagement, student school board representatives, principal and teacher evaluation, physical education programs, flipped classrooms and alternative instructional models, handbook development, conducting school elections and referendum issues, college readiness, communications strategies, and many other topics were part of the conference schedule.

Beyond the breakout sessions, a variation for learning sessions is the round table presentation.  These are 20 minute segments of tables located close to each other so that conference attendees may move quickly from table to table to learn about specific issues.  Round table discussions are scheduled twice during the conference.



During the conference, we were able to highlight the district new teacher induction program and our partnership with Holdingford and Sartell.  One of the breakout sessions featured High School Principal Mark Jenson and teacher Kelly Krueger along with representatives from Sartell and Holdingford to identify and explain our induction program.

The new teacher program, part of our involvement in the Teacher Preparation Initiative with St. Cloud State University, serves first through third year teachers.  The steps and expectations for each year of the induction program were shared during the session.  Observation process, co-teaching experiences, work with instructional coaches, development of portfolios and other steps in the process were explained to the members of the audience.


Mark and Kelly did a great job sharing information about the program.  It was a great opportunity to share what we are doing in our district and to hear some feedback from other schools as they asked questions about the approach. 



There are many ideas, thoughts, and issues brought back from the MSBA Conference.  New board member Kara Habben challenged the ROCORI group in attendance, at the end of the first day, to describe the “take home lessons” from the conference.  Each member in attendance had different thoughts and ideas to bring back.

Ideas ranged from the keynote on steps to build trust to logistical issues with policy development.  Key information about the upcoming legislative session, thoughts about school finance reform, questions for some of our vendors and consultants, and many other issues were shared as take home ideas from the conference.  The sessions proved very valuable for the ROCORI District.



The annual MSBA Conference almost always offers topics and sessions that are worthwhile for our schools.  The ideas that are exchanged, the experiences that are shared, and the opportunities for growth provide a lot of good information for our system.  We learn and share a lot at the MSBA Conference.