The opening luncheon at the 2021 Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) Annual Conference in Atlanta on Thursday began with a welcome from Georgia School Boards Association (GSBA) Executive Director Valarie Wilson.
Wilson told the audience that as a former school board member, she understands “the relevance and the importance of the work that you do. That relevance and that importance has been magnified over the last year or so.”
She lauded them for standing in the trenches, doing the hard work, and making difficult decisions. “Thank you for coming here, and thank you for doing the difficult work that you do every day.”
Wilson introduced NSBA 2021-22 President Dr. Viola Garcia, an Aldine, Texas, school board member.
The work of school boards doesn’t get easier, and the stakes don’t get any higher, she told the audience. Too many children don’t have adequate internet access at home, don’t get the resources they need to succeed in school, and are harmed by social injustices and discriminatory practices and policies.
She encouraged school board members to commit to eliminating discrimination in all its forms and ensuring students have what they need to learn and succeed.
“That’s a tall order, I know. On top of all the other issues and challenges you have had to endure in your service to your boards and your communities, particularly over the past 18 months,” she said.
CUBE is all about community, and the pandemic has underscored how important it is to share ideas and celebrate progress.
“I challenge each of you in the audience today to lean into all of the conference offerings,” she said. “We need every voice at the table, so ask questions, share your insights, and connect with each other.”
NSBA interim Executive Director and CEO Chip Slaven spoke next. He also mentioned the increased tension and discord school board members were facing in their communities as they navigate reopening schools during a pandemic.
“We are very concerned for school board members and public schools,” he said. “The escalating threats to schools and school board members is troubling. I want to let you all know that this is something we are taking a very strong leadership position on in support of our state associations, to our members, and all of you, who are their members.”
Slaven continued: “Thank you, school board members. You are the leaders we need. We stand ready to support you, and I believe we are going to turn all these challenges into great opportunities. Together we will stand strong with you.”