NSBA 2024 Annual Conference | April 6-8 | New Orleans

Keynote Speakers


Breaking Barriers: A Fireside Chat with Ruby Bridges on Equity, Education, and Empathy

Ruby Bridges

Ruby Bridges
Icon, Activist, Author and Speaker

Ruby Bridges is a civil rights icon, activist, author, and speaker who, at the age of six, was the first Black student to integrate an all-White elementary school alone in Louisiana. Bridges was born in Mississippi in 1954, the same year the United States Supreme Court handed down its landmark decision ordering the integration of public schools. Her family later moved to New Orleans, where, on November 14, 1960, Bridges began attending William Frantz Elementary School, single-handedly initiating the desegregation of public education. Her walk to the front door of the school was immortalized in Norman Rockwell’s painting “The Problem We All Live With,” in Robert Coles’ book “The Story of Ruby Bridges,” and in the Disney movie “Ruby Bridges.”

She established the Ruby Bridges Foundation to provide leadership training programs that inspire youth and community leaders to embrace and value the richness of diversity. Bridges is the recipient of numerous awards, including the NAACP Martin Luther King Award, the Presidential Citizens Medal, and honorary doctorate degrees from Connecticut College, College of New Rochelle, Columbia University Teachers College, and Tulane University. Bridges is also the author of “Through My Eyes,” “This Is Your Time,” “I Am Ruby Bridges,” and “Dear Ruby, Hear Our Hearts,” released January 2024.

Healing the Breach: Strategies and Skills for Bridging Political and Cultural Divides

Dr. Timothy Shriver

Dr. Timothy Shriver
Chairman of Special Olympics, Co-founder and CEO of UNITE, Co-creator of The Dignity Index

Dr. Timothy Shriver is a husband, father of five, Chairman of Special Olympics International, and a co-founder of UNITE — an initiative to promote national unity and solidarity across differences. He is the co-creator of The Dignity Index, a tool designed to ease divisions, prevent violence, and solve problems. Tim began his career as an educator and subsequently co-founded and currently chairs the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), the leading school reform organization in the field of social and emotional learning. He earned his undergraduate degree from Yale University, a master's degree from Catholic University, and a Doctorate in Education from the University of Connecticut. Tim has produced six films, including Amistad, The Loretta Claiborne Story, and The Peanut Butter Falcon. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller Fully Alive — Discovering What Matters Most, and co-editor of The Call to Unite: Voices of Hope and Awakening.

The Antidote to Fear Is Hunger

Richard Montañez

Richard Montañez
Former Vice President, Multicultural Sales & Community Activation, PepsiCo North America; Author and Philanthropist

Former Vice President, Multicultural Sales & Community Activation for PepsiCo North America, Richard Montañez is a renowned motivational speaker, inventor, author, and accomplished business executive. With a career spanning multiple decades, he held pivotal leadership roles at PepsiCo across North American divisions, championing multicultural sales and marketing initiatives. He began as a janitor at Frito-Lay (a PepsiCo division) in 1976, going on to create the Flamin' Hot product line, which evolved into both a billion-dollar enterprise and a cultural phenomenon.

Recognized for his innovation and leadership, Montañez has received numerous awards and made history as the first Latino board member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), founded by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. As a speaker, Richard Montañez has spoken before Fortune 500 companies and esteemed academic institutions. His remarkable journey, extensively covered in the media, was chronicled in the best-selling Penguin Random House book Flamin' Hot. The book's success led to its optioning for a film adaptation directed by Eva Longoria. The biopic premiered on both Disney+ and Hulu in 2023, achieving the notable feat of becoming the fifth most-streamed film in its debut week. Richard Montañez's inspiring story continues to fuel innovation and resilience, resonating with audiences worldwide.


Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) Signature Speaker


Teaching That Transforms: How to Cultivate a Classroom of Learners Who Believe, Read, and Achieve

Dr. Eddie Connor

Dr. Eddie Connor
Author, Speaker, and Professor

Empowering people to overcome obstacles and walk in their unique purpose is the real-life message shared by Dr. Eddie Connor. A survivor of stage 4 cancer, he transparently shares his health journey as a spokesperson for the American Cancer Society.

Dr. Eddie is an empowerment speaker, college professor, radio/television correspondent, and visionary of the Access Identity Conference. As founder of Eagles Academy, he facilitates master classes on faith, identity, relationships, and speaker training. He previously served as president of the National Entrepreneurs Association of Michigan.

Dr. Eddie is the founder of the mentoring programs Boys 2 Books and Gifted for Greatness, which empowers young men via literacy, leadership, and life skills enrichment. As an aide to former U.S. Congressman Hansen Clarke, Dr. Eddie assisted in crafting a bipartisan resolution to address the urgent illiteracy crisis in America. The resolution became the impetus for President Barack Obama’s My Brother's Keeper initiative.

Dr. Eddie is a best-selling author of 16 books and shares his story in The New York Times best-selling book “REACH: 40 Black Men Speak on Living, Leading, and Succeeding.” A recipient of the President Barack Obama Volunteer Service Award and the President Barack Obama Lifetime Achievement Award, he is recognized as one of the Top 35 Millennial Influencers in America.

Dr. Eddie grew up in Kingston, Jamaica, and lives in Detroit, Michigan.


National Connection Joint Council Luncheon Signature Speakers

Education for Liberation: The Role of a Racially Conscious Educator in Combating Oppression

Dr. Tracey Benson

Dr. Tracey Benson
Founder, Anti-Racism Leadership Institute
Author, Academic-Activist, and Equity in Education Expert

Dr. Tracey A. Benson is the CEO and the founder of The Anti-Racism Leadership Institute. He received his doctorate in Education Leadership from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Master of School Administration from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. A notable accomplishment is his TED Talk: “The Binary Code of Racism.” He has served as a university professor, principal coach, high school principal, middle school vice principal, district trainer, and elementary school teacher. His book, Unconscious Bias in Schools: A Developmental Approach to Exploring Race and Racism, was released with Harvard Education Press in August 2019. Dr. Benson and his co-author, Sarah Fiarman, wrote this book as a roadmap for school and district leaders who seek to eliminate racial achievement gaps by rooting out and addressing racial bias in schools.

Dr. Benson firmly believes student achievement, teacher efficacy, and school success are contingent upon high-quality, equity-focused school and district leaders. He has committed his career to leading for change, courageously addressing entrenched practices that impede lifetime outcomes of students of color, and coaching education leaders to lead for racial equity through implementing anti-racist practices, policies, and curriculum in K–12 schools.

Be #PRESENTE — Being an Advocate for Equity and Catalyst for Change

Maria J. Andrade

Maria J. Andrade
Board of Trustees, President Emeritus 
Roseville Community Charter School

Maria Andrade, a resident of Newark, New Jersey, is fervently dedicated to the cause of social equality and its far-reaching implications. Over the past few years, she has played a pivotal role in conceiving, leading, and coordinating impactful projects across New Jersey. Maria's professional journey spans over a decade, encompassing diverse roles in urban classrooms—from serving as an Autism Instructor in a self-contained Special Needs Program to teaching biology in a Juvenile Detention setting. Presently, Maria proudly holds the position of Site Director of NJ GEAR UP/College Bound at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, where she represents her alma mater GEAR UP and serves as the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers SHPE Jr. Chair.

As a first-generation Ecuadorian immigrant, woman of color, young mother, and advocate for social justice, Maria channels her passion into addressing issues related to social justice, equality, minority affairs, criminal justice reform, and education. She passionately believes in the transformative power of education, viewing it as the key to overcoming environmental challenges and paving the way for a brighter future.

Maria's commitment to social justice extends beyond the classroom. She has served as the Immediate Past President of the Roseville Community Charter School Board of Trustees. She holds distinguished certifications, including NJSBA Certified Board Leader Member and the groundbreaking NJSBA Master Certified Board Carole E. Larsen Master Board Certification (MBC). Recognized for her outstanding contributions, Maria has received the Distinguished 2023 Hazel Frank Cluck Award by NEW Leadership®, the 2023 LUPE Woman of Influence Award, and has been named one of the TOP 100 Latino Leaders in New Jersey for four consecutive years by the Latino Spirit Digital Annual Publication.

In addition to her local involvement, Maria holds an appointed position in the Hispanic Commission for the Office of International Relations and Diaspora Affairs in Newark. Her influence extends nationally, having earned certifications such as the Political Science Certificate from The Washington Center (TWA) and been recognized as a Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN) Women in Global Policy Fellow Alumna in Washington, D.C.

Partnering to Serve Native American Populations 

Scott Farmer

Scott Farmer
Superintendent, Fort Gibson Public Schools
Fort Gibson, Oklahoma

 Scott Farmer is a second-generation educator who has served in multiple capacities in PK-12 education. Scott has a passion for the profession and has firsthand knowledge of the impact and difference a great education can make in the lives of children. 

Scott attended Northeastern State University and received a degree in Mathematics and Public School Administration. He met his wife, Emily, in college; she also is an educator. During his tenure, he has been able to work with some of the best educators in Oklahoma and serve in many community roles. He believes in local advocacy in addition to state and federal advocacy. He served as president of the local Lions Club, the DHS Foster Kids Advocacy Team, the NOW (New Opportunities Working) Coalition, and as a member of the Chamber of Commerce and the First Baptist Church.  

The Farmer family moved from Sallisaw, OK, to Fort Gibson, OK, in 2018 after Scott was named superintendent of Fort Gibson Public Schools. Scott has served as an adjunct professor for Southern Nazarene University’s Educational Leadership/Administration Degree Program. 

He believes that being involved at the state and federal level is paramount in advancing equity in education. He is currently the president-elect of the Oklahoma Association of School Administrators (OASA) and has served as president of the Oklahoma Schools Advisory Council (OSAC). He strives to stay engaged in advocacy work with tribal governments and state government. He has been a guest presenter at State Board of Education meetings. He has been selected by his peers three times to serve as the Superintendent of the Year for various OASA districts and received Administrator of the Year for OSAC in 2019. Scott believes education is vital to maintaining a strong nation and is a great equalizer for all kids.