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Saturday, March 21, 2015
#NSBAConference2015 Nashville-Day 1
The first 24 hours in Nashville have flown by and the day has been eventful.
After landing in Nashville, the first interesting contact I had was with "JD" the airport shuttle driver.
He was a personable, funny guy, telling jokes and playing the harmonica for the half-dozen weary travelers headed to multiple downtown hotels in his van.
He talked about his days playing music professionally with several local bands, and he treated us to a grainy video of a performance that featured him on the harmonica, from the early 90's. It was a great performance--he looked a bit different in the video-kind of like Patrick Swayze with a mullet. JD told us all "I had a lot more hair back then" He did! (we all did!)
I told him I liked the way he played the harmonica-and I tipped him. I was the second to last passenger dropped off.
The next day on my 1 mile walk to the convention (which I enjoyed) I found the McDonald's that isn't friendly to homeless folks (there were a lot of them milling around) I've never seen a sign like what was posted on the wall there "Thirty minutes maximum visit length while consuming food!"
I only spent five minutes there, washing down a sausage biscuit with a coffee as I made the final stretch over to Music City Center.
The session kicked off with what was advertised as a speech from Arianna Huffington. Thankfully, Huffington backed out and Jane Pauley was brought in to fill in the slot.
I was genuinely impressed with Pauley's 40 minute conversation with the 6000 board members in the giant main hall. Her stories were self-depricating, honest, personal, and humorous. Her message was positive, and she told stories of many average citizens who make big impacts on society. She talked about life spans expanding and the definition of retirement evolving. She urged the audience to find something to be passionate about, stating "Inspiration is everywhere, you just have to be looking for it, and you will find it"
Next I attended a series of three break-out sessions, learning about different approaches to school policing during a presentation by @safeschools, a company with 30 years of school consulting experience regarding school safety and security. The main thrust was do not discontinue SRO programs, work on joint training with school police, and have the courage to have difficult conversations about race, policing, and school climate. The presenter hammered this point home when he discussed the pitfalls of watering down discipline, when he stated "unintended consequences occur when schools too attempt too quickly to fix discipline "numbers" and do not address the underlying behaviors. Amen to that I say!
Next up, a discussion by the leadership of a Minnesota school district, Anoka Hennepin, that had endured a full-blown investigation by OCR over discrimination complaints initiated by students that were LGBTQ. The outcome--students are still bullied and harassed, this district mediated with OCR and accepted a consent-decree from ED and DOJ which costs the district $500K yearly in costs for various mandated specialist positions that focus on equity, non-discrimination, counseling, and training staff on harassment/bullying issues. These administrators all said the changes have made the district "better" yet they did not present solid data showing the changes have reduced incidences of bullying on thier campuses.
Last session of the day was a review of teaching practices in Finland, China, India, and Poland. A panel from several mid-Atlantic school districts went on separate sabaticals to different countries to see what knowledge could be gleaned from these other countries and brought back home to America for Implementation here. Lots of interesting data and anecdotal stories--but the common denominator is that other countries are different than the US, and these differences are stark. The panel were unified in their disdain for the PISA results, which I thought was somewhat odd. Overall a decent presentation.
Between these sessions, I visited the vendor display area, talked to several companies, got a free shirt for listening to an Elvis Impersonator that did a very cool series of voice impersonations (Christopher Walken, Arnold Scwarzenneger, William Shatner) try to sell me on educational software products--which I must admit was a pretty cool sales tactic.
Then I had lunch at Jack Daniels Old #7 Bar and Grill (great food, weak service)
Pretty eventful 24 hours...