2017 ABEC Conference
2017 ABEC Conference
Thank you for attending the 2018 ABEC Annual Conference!
As promised, below are links to the presentation material by some of our participants:
- Lattie Coor, Chairman and CEO, Center for the Future of Arizona (download presentation)
- Cameron Wilson, Chief Operating Officer, Code.Org and President, Code.org’s Advocacy Coalition (presentation)
- Jacqui Clay, Cochise County School Superintendent (download presentation)
- Don Budinger, Chairman & Founding Director, Rodel Foundation of Arizona (download presentation)
If you have ideas for future topics for our annual conference, please let us know.
2017 Annual Conference Round-Up!
By Dick Foreman
If public education in Arizona is indeed “Steering into the Future” we had the right people to enlighten us at the ABEC Annual Conference! If you were unable to join us or missed part of the program, I’d like to give you at least a snapshot of key moments from a long list of excellent speakers. But it should not go without saying that some of the most passionate speakers came from the audience. Throughout the day, attendees stepped up to the microphone and freely shared their thoughts. And if there was a key centralizing theme, it was the challenge that the education community at large had better begin reestablishing relationships with policy makers because the current impasses and valued relationships necessary to build trust and make change is an unacceptable reality to all.
We began with a framework for public education in Arizona delivered by Dr. Lattie Coor. To say that his research and advocacy on behalf of the Center for the Future of Arizona is of seminal importance does not do his presentation justice. But let it be said that the current state of public education is not achieving either our expected or desired results and Dr. Coor left the data to virtually speak for itself. It is convincing and important, and we appreciated his sharing it with us.
We then made a dive into the roles and challenges that our changing world is forcing upon us. Are we ready for our future? Are Arizona students ready, on the right track, active, and engaged in the constantly evolving new workforce? Cameron Wilson of Code.Org, Steve Zylstra of the Arizona Technology Council, Julie Euber from TGEN, and Marilee Dal Pra, the incoming CEO at First Things First provided challenging visions that clearly identified needs and opportunities. Clearly, our schools are capable of working in this changing environment, but resources remain the challenge. Do Arizona students get the exposure they need to multiple career pathways including the amazing developments, careers and opportunities in the world of CTE and technology? Some do, and obviously, some do not. But without question, the role that CTE, STEAM and STEM will play in Arizona’s employment future is so big, we really haven’t grasped it yet, and the investment to ensure that we engage students is justified, documented, and must be a part of the plan.
So, what did our educators think about this? We featured an education panel of Cochise County Superintendent Jacqui Clay, Maricopa County Superintendent Steve Watson, Pendergast Elementary School District Superintendent Lily DeBlieux and Paradise Valley College President Paul Dale. If there were any questions about the passion that can be tapped, this panel left no doubt. Superintendent Clay made it very clear that passion was her driving force, especially after her life experience as a retired Army Command Sergeant Major where she learned that there is no substitute for working together. Candidly, Superintendent Clay felt that need remained significant and was a core value to her presentation. Superintendent Watson and an equally passionate and dynamic presentation by Superintendent DeBlieux then followed. They all pointed to the teacher shortage and all made a clarion call that it will take more than money to solve this. Yes, more resources are necessary, but a complete overhaul of how we view the teaching profession and recruit new faces is going to require some serious rethinking. Then Paradise Valley College President Paul Dale challenged us to better understand and recognize the role of workforce development. This component of the education system is not just significant, it is one of the primary gateways to careers. Fortunately, in Arizona, we have a community college system quite willing and able to meet this challenge. That’s a future that will guide a tremendous amount of our coming graduates into meaningful and valuable careers.
And then we get to the critical resource discussion. Rodel Foundation of Arizona Founding Director Don Budinger made it abundantly clear that the importance of “mission” was not apparent when it comes to Arizona’s public education system. In a luncheon address that riveted attendees, he carefully spelled out the constitutional duty for public education and the seeming lack of compliance that pervades our state. He could not have been more succinct and dynamic in this stark contrast to the vision he has for public education versus the reality we now experience. The current vision is not a vision, in this respect. It is not even constitutionally compliant.
What better way to follow up a luncheon presentation of that power than with a CEO panel representing the Southern Arizona Leadership Council (Ron Shoopman), Greater Phoenix Leadership (Neil Giuliano) and the Northern Arizona Leadership Alliance and LAUNCH (Paul Kulpinski). As business leaders of business leaders, these gentlemen reminded all attendees that the business network has succeeded by building relationships and thus the general challenge was, “is the education community really building relationships with public policy leaders?” And if not, what else could be expected? This straight talk did not disagree at all with the problem but challenged us all to think a little more clearly about how to effect a solution.
Not to be outdone in the solution business, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas then presented her vision. It included significant new investment via renewal of Proposition 301 with a 0.4 cent increase in the rate, raising nearly $500 million in new money for our public schools. Couple that with her determination to improve the environment, respect and training for Arizona teachers and you can fairly sum up the Superintendent’s passion for the future of Arizona’s public education system.
So how did the ABEC Public Policy Co-Chairs (Hon. Hugh Hallman and Dr. Roger Freeman) react? I asked them to give a candid response to what they heard, and that is exactly what they did. Yes, resources are a critical concern, and yes, the role of the teacher must show growth and significant improvement in the public eye. But as for the vision? Well, let it be said that according to Hallman, there is indeed a vision, and it IS the state constitution which, by any plain reading of context and words, describes the disconnect between many state policy leaders and Arizona’s school children.
But the challenge to create a vision was, perhaps, asked and answered by this powerful, diverse and robust group of speakers. Arizona has a vision. Arizona has always had a vision; since Statehood. And it is time we all started paying attention to it and ensuring that it is followed because that vision is not just good, it is excellent.