When asked why he took on the top leadership position of the National School Boards Association at such a challenging time for the organization, Dr. John Heim, NSBA Executive Director and CEO, points to his belief in public education and the power of a national association that supports local control.
“I believe in the power of democratically elected school boards and locally elected officials to change the lives of children and the course of our future,” Heim said Saturday as he welcomed attendees to the Opening General Session of NSBA’s 2022 Annual Conference. The San Diego convening is the association’s first in-person annual conference in three years.
Selected for the executive position by NSBA’s Board of Directors in November, Heim previously served as executive director of the Kansas Association of School Boards.
During his remarks on Saturday, he recalled that one of the early lessons he learned from Mrs. Eckhart, his fourth-grade teacher at Marlatt Elementary School in Kansas, was to acknowledge when a mistake was made, apologize, and take steps to ensure the error doesn’t happen again. That lesson is helping drive NSBA forward today.
“Six months ago, NSBA made a mistake with a letter to the Biden administration,” Heim said. “Since that time, we have publicly acknowledged the mistake and apologized. Now, we are undergoing an independent internal review to ensure it will not happen again.”
Heim said that on Friday, the NSBA Delegate Assembly “took some monumental actions to make sure we don’t repeat the mistake,” including:
- Formally recognizing and including the expertise of state executive directors in NSBA governance, and streamlining governance processes so NSBA can be more nimble.
- Reaffirming NSBA’s commitment to nonpartisanship in clear language because partisanship has no place in the education of children.
- Establishing in policy the importance of parental partnerships in a child’s education.
- Calling out NSBA’s fundamental belief in local control because problems are best addressed at the local level.
- Affirming support for historically disadvantaged students.
For 80 years, NSBA has been a voice for education and a source of professional learning for board members,” Heim said. “Our history and our future are about facing common challenges whether you’re a school board member in Baltimore or Manhattan, Kansas.”
Among those challenges, he said, is increasing broadband access and closing the homework gap, fully staffing classrooms with highly qualified teachers, providing support for students with disabilities and mental health needs, and addressing unfinished learning caused by the pandemic.
“These common challenges are where NSBA will continue to focus,” Heim added. “And we invite you to help us face the future as we strive to change and get better.”