New York State School Boards Association

My remarks at the Business Meeting

by Susan Bergtraum

On Board Online • October 23, 2017

Susan Bergtraum
NYSSBA President

I find that most school board members are self-motivated and don't need a lot of inspiration. Nevertheless, I attempted to be inspirational at the 2017 Annual Business Meeting. I tried to capture the essence of what draws us to school board service and explain how NYSSBA helps us magnify our voice and fulfill our mission as school board members. Below is the text of my remarks, edited slightly for this space.

"Better school boards lead to better student performance." You see that phrase on the banner of NYSSBA's website. You see that phrase on our letterhead. You see that phrase on individual emails.

But it's not just a phrase. It's a concept that goes to the heart of school board service.

I thought about that philosophy when I became president of this vibrant association two years ago. The primary purpose of school boards is to improve the lives of children and others through their leadership. I daresay that's why most of us went into school board service in the first place. It's also why I adopted the phrase "Student Success through Leadership" as the theme of my NYSSBA presidency.

In the two years that I have been president, we have seen change and upheaval in public education - both good and not-so-good. We have seen reauthorization of the federal law that governs practically all aspects of education. We have also seen:

  • A re-imagining of the Common Core standards to better reflect our priorities as a state.
  • A U.S. secretary of education who is a proponent of privatization in public education.
  • The state implementing a program that requires independent receivers be put in charge of struggling school districts.
  • A ramping up of efforts to have children opt out of state exams.
  • Changes in the length of state tests and the time permitted to complete them.

That's a lot of change for a two-year period. It takes strong leadership at the school district level to cope with these large-scale policy changes. NYSSBA, your statewide association, is committed to providing you with the support you need to fulfill the responsibilities we have to the students, parents and taxpayers in our districts.

We have a resolutions process that allows you - our members - to set our policy priorities. We have a dedicated advocacy team that communicates your priorities to state and federal policymakers. And we have a strong communications team that keeps you abreast of all the latest educational issues and trends, legal developments, and legislative and regulatory updates so that you can be informed and knowledgeable advocates.

You can depend on NYSSBA to be your collective voice in Albany and Washington, D.C.

NYSSBA has also been changing and evolving to keep up with your needs. Here are a few examples:

  • We created a separate Member Relations Department whose sole focus is to cultivate stronger ties with members and increase NYSSBA's visibility and interaction with member school boards.
  • We made a commitment to hold training events in additional areas of the state which provides easier access to training events for members.
  • We launched a podcast that shares the latest research on education.
  • We held our first-ever Member Appreciation Receptions in 12 geographically disparate areas of the state as a way of saying "thank you" to all of our members - veteran and new - recognizing and appreciating your efforts.

As I take my bow as NYSSBA president and our new leader takes over effective Jan. 1, you can expect NYSSBA to continue to evolve to meet your needs.

On a personal note, I am so grateful for all the wonderful people I have had the opportunity to work with. That includes you, the many board members I have met and worked with across the state.

You have a Board of Directors that really cares about public education and an outstanding staff of professionals at NYSSBA who are totally committed to serving member needs.

Yes, there are still challenges to face and opportunities to explore. But rest assured that NYSSBA remains committed to providing our members with the highest quality services that respond to your needs year after year. We are dedicated to your success.

I have been truly privileged to have been your association's president for the last two years. Thank you for giving me this opportunity.

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