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Column: District 518 board learns plenty at state conference

By LINDEN OLSON, District 518

WORTHINGTON — The seven members of the ISD 518 (Worthington) school board and Superintendent John Landgaard were among more than 1,200 school board members and 250 superintendents that attended the annual Minnesota School Boards Association’s (MSBA) leadership conference at the Minneapolis Convention Center Jan. 15-17.

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Conference sponsors and trade show exhibitors make attendance at the Minnesota conference the only state school board conference in the country that is free except for the attendees travel expenses, meals and lodging.

The theme of this year’s conference was “Vision, Mindset, Grit!” The opening keynote speaker, Scott Burrows, overcame being paralyzed in a tragic accident to be an author and motivational speaker. His message was pursuing your dreams (vision) takes determination (mindset) and overcoming obstacles (grit). A dramatic moment of his talk came when he got up from his wheelchair and gave the remaining minutes of the keynote as he walked slowly around the stage.

Before and during the conference nearly 100 different workshops, round-table discussions and show-and-tell presentations were conducted by students, vendors, education leaders and public officials on a wide range of education-related topics. The subjects offered included school finance, laws affecting schools, innovative programs, online learning, innovative scheduling, technology and lots more. Worthington board members attended several of the offerings to get information and ideas that might benefit the district.

Recent changes to school finance included increased funding for all-day kindergarten, repayment of the funding shift and closing the funding differences between schools. Funding is now available for serving a third meal for schools offering an after-school educational program. In the legal area there were presentations on the anti-bullying law, text messaging by staff and students, the impact of implementing the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) on school districts. There were talks about innovative uses of technology to improve student learning, and involving and informing the community about what is happening in schools. One school told how they had used social media and technology to let family members digitally “visit” a child’s classroom.

There were updates from schools what was learned after a few years of using Flipped Classrooms and One-to-One learning devices. The Minnesota Department of Education had a session of what the implementation of the “World’s Best Work Force” legislation will be requiring of schools and communities.

This is but a sampling of the informative and educational topics available to the attendees of this year’s leadership conference could take home and put to use to improve their schools.

The closing keynoter was William Kent Kruger, a Minnesota educator and author. His message stressed the benefits of reading for persons of all ages and how reading makes a difference in the lives of people of all ages.

The purpose of MSBA is to support, promote and enhance the work of public school boards and public education in Minnesota. The annual leadership conference is one of the primary ways. District 518 is a member of MSBA and uses many of its services including board education and training, the model policy manual along with legislative and lobbying updates. More information about MSBA and presentations made at the leadership conference can be found at

Linden Olson is the chair of the District 518 Board of Education.