New York State School Boards Association

Every Child DOES Matter

by William Miller

On Board Online • January 22, 2018

William Miller
NYSSBA President

Welcome to 2018! It's only January and we've already had enough snow, wind and subzero temperatures for the entire winter!

It is a privilege to be your new NYSSBA president. I know we all share the belief that our state and nation's future is dependent upon having a strong system of public education, and we are all frustrated by many factors that make it increasingly challenging to provide the educational opportunities that every child deserves.

The good news is that NYSSBA is a vital organization that is part of the solution in many ways. As I begin my tenure as president of the Association, I want to acknowledge that no one accomplishes anything alone. As we pursue our Association's goals in 2018, I am pleased to have the energy and ideas of other members of the NYSSBA Board of Directors, including my fellow officers: First Vice President Fred Langstaff, Second Vice President Peggy Zugibe, Treasurer Tom Nespeca and Immediate Past President Susan Bergtraum.

I especially want to thank Susan for her strong leadership over the past two years. She will be a tough act to follow.

Traditionally, each new president of NYSSBA chooses a theme to guide his or her presidency. I chose "Every Child DOES Matter" as my theme because I want to focus on the individual strengths and needs of every student - especially those who are overcoming significant challenges. In fact, some of my most memorable experiences as a school board member have been watching students succeed while overcoming physical disabilities, the loss of a parent and similar heart-wrenching hardships.

One thing I've learned in my 25 years on a school board is that every student truly is unique. There is no "one-size-fits-all" model of education. Children learn in different ways.

We are serving as school board members during an enlightened time in public education in terms of the level of commitment to serve every child. The Regents have devised multiple pathways to graduation in recognition of the fact that different students learn differently. I'm pleased that the State Education Department is pursuing ways to measure school climate, because every school is a multifaceted place that serves as a kind of family for our students and employees.

Academically, all schools have to embrace change to accommodate different learning styles. Recently, I visited a classroom where some students were sitting in traditional desks, some were in beanbag chairs, some were using tablets, etc. That experience reinforced to me that accommodating students' individual learning styles can take many different forms. As school board members, we must give the educators in our districts the appropriate programs and resources they need to provide research-based, effective instruction to all students.

I also believe there is more than just one way to define success for students. Success can mean many things. Regardless of whether a student is bound for college, the family business, the military, or selects some other pathway - all of these represent achievements.

Like many of you, I was motivated to run for school board because I thought I could help improve education in my community and solve some of the challenges facing my school district. No doubt, we have all experienced frustrations during our school board service, but for me, the positive things we are able to accomplish for students far outweigh the frustrations.

Public education will always face new threats and issues, whether they are funding inadequacies, teacher shortages, or outdated facilities. We all face obstacles. We all persevere. I hope that my theme, "Every Child DOES Matter," will resonate with you. I want it to help remind us why we serve as school board members and the importance of the work of the people we employ in our local school districts and BOCES. Discussions about state aid, property tax caps, school building closures and any other issues are important only insofar as they have a direct impact on the education of children.

I look forward to meeting as many school board members as possible and hearing your stories. I will be attending NYSSBA events in every corner of the state, and I hope to see you at them. Feel free to contact me if there is an issue you think NYSSBA should address.

I have a strong belief that things are moving in the right direction in our state, and that NYSSBA has a lot to do with that.

Thank you again for giving me the honor of leading our Association in 2018. It is a privilege to serve as your president.

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