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TRI-STATE’S 10th CONFERENCE – "An Affair to Remember"

With apologies to Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, Tri-State ASBO’s tenth annual conference was decidedly "An Affair to Remember." Like the 1957 movie, there was a great beginning, a great ending, and it was a great hit! And, to use another old movie comparison, the conference looked quite a bit like "Yankee Doodle Dandy" or "Stars and Stripes Forever." Patriotism was the theme, the Lake Morey Resort was the scene, and a record 153 registrants (along with 46 vendors and dozens of speakers, presenters and entertainers) were the players.

Lake Morey Resort had just undergone a $3 million renovation, finished (almost, anyway) just before our arrival in May. The Resort was in substantially better shape than it was in 1993, when it was the site of our first conference. Almost everything in the hotel was totally new, except, of course, the boiler that was supposed to provide hot water to half of the rooms. This unfortunate incident left many attendees looking forward only to a cold shower, but everyone was warmed by the hotel’s efforts to apologize for the problem — free drinks during the Thursday banquet!

Over 100 school business people (plus a few others) arrived in time to attend the all day GASB 34 practical training session on Wednesday. David Bean, Director of Research at GASB headquarters in Connecticut, enlightened everyone with a surprisingly entertaining review of an otherwise dry and difficult topic. Evaluations for this session were extremely positive, and everyone’s knowledge of what needs to be done to comply with the new GASB requirements increased significantly

On Wednesday afternoon, for those who were not interested in GASB 34 (or who had had enough of it after the morning session!) Tara Maker, from Apple Computer, presented two informative sessions on "Trends in Technology." And a new "Rookie Orientation Session" was introduced, with veteran business officials from the three states, plus Linda White from ASBO International, giving helpful tips to new business officials at three well attended sessions.

The traditional Wednesday evening barbecue dinner ended with patriotic songs performed by members of the Old Church Theater in Bradford, VT. And, as a special 10th conference event, everyone was treated to a spectacular fireworks display at dusk. The clear skies and the full moon over Lake Morey were ideal backdrops for this moving event.

After a full day of GASB 34, a delicious dinner, patriotic songs, and fireworks, it should be bedtime – right? But no! Everyone (almost) convened in the Steamboat Lounge to hear the song stylings of Rick Davis & Gloria Johnson. The entertainment was scheduled to end at 11:00 pm, but a few hardy folks talked Rick & Gloria into performing even later!

Thursday’s breakfast featured students from Blue Mountain High School in Wells River, VT, who entertained (and awakened?) breakfast goers with excerpts from "The Music Man." And if that weren’t enough to wake everyone up, Brittany Rushing, a diminutive 6th grader from Waits River, VT, belted out terrific versions of "God Bless America" and the "Star Spangled Banner" prior to our opening session in Lake Morey’s renovated theater.

VT Education Commissioner Ray McNulty officially opened our conference Thursday morning with some excellent remarks. He endeared himself to school business officials by comparing our conference (with its extremely impressive 20 page brochure) with the VT Superintendent’s conference that he would be attending later that day (with its one page mimeographed agenda).

Following Commissioner McNulty’s remarks, eleven concurrent sessions were offered. Five sessions were 90 minutes long — "The Leadership Challenge," presented by Meredith, NH, Superintendent Scott AndersEn; "Facilities Management Issues," presented by Maine DOE Education Specialist Jay Readinger; "E-World Gadgets and Toys," offered by IP Adventures founder Ken Camp; the always popular "Current School Legal Issues Panel Discussion," featuring attorneys Harry Pringle from Maine, David Bradley from New Hampshire, and Bill Reedy from Vermont; and finally, "Safety and Security Issues ," with VSBA’s Associate Executive Director Winton Goodrich.

There were also six 45 minute sessions, including "403(b) Changes for 2002," by Harry Mitchell, the VP for the Educator Benefits Consulting arm of Horace Mann Companies; "Effective Support Staff Evaluations," with human resource consultant Dean Haller from VT; "Borrowing and Investing," presented by Dick Ranaghan from People’s Bank in Maine; "Special Ed Legal Update," with attorney Eric Herlan from Maine; "Alphabet Soup (FMLA, ADA, etc)," with Primex’s Claims Manager Peter Sheffer; and "Recognizing Valued Employees," with Primex’s Director of Training and Consulting Nick Manolis.

The Tri-State program subcommittee did an outstanding job in selecting and arranging a variety of worthwhile topics and outstanding presenters. The goal was to provide training not only for business officials, but also plant directors, personnel directors, and central office finance employees. Their goal was certainly achieved, and the conference evaluations confirmed that conclusion. In fact, one attendee, commenting on one of the sessions, stated that "This was the best session I have ever attended, at any conference, anywhere!"

Thursday afternoon’s general session featured Primex’s "Prime Time Players," offering their rendition of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" Complete with a Regis Philbin look-alike, the fast finger round, professional lighting and sound effects, and a lot of not so easy questions on safety and workers’ compensation issues, we were all thoroughly entertained and enlightened.

After the "Millionaire" event, vendors took center stage in Lake Morey’s Terrace Room, where record attendance led to standing room only at many exhibits. Vendors were overjoyed with the turnout, and conference attendees were eager to see the latest in products and services available to their districts. The constant buzz of activity throughout the afternoon confirmed the fact that everyone was extremely pleased with the event.

At the conclusion of Thursday’s banquet, students from Oxbow High School, in full costume, delighted conference goers with excerpts from "West Side Story." And later, our old friends, The Flames, provided dance music for our "Mardi Gras in Vermont" party until late in the evening. By the way, who WAS that masked woman flirting with all the men on the dance floor?

Friday’s breakfast featured outstanding entertainment by the Lyme, NH, elementary school band. And another new event – Friday morning round tables – featured individual sessions from all three states, plus discussions on GASB 34, 403(b) plans, personnel compliance review, and the Rebuild America program.
The conference concluded with our keynote speaker, John Powers. John was the keynoter at our first conference in 1993, and his return was a huge success. He presented his motivational message with enthusiasm and humor.

And the final event (for a record 32 participants) was the golf tournament at beautiful Lake Morey Country Club. In that event, our lone Massachusetts registrant was unable to overcome the handicap of being teamed with an eager but relatively inexperienced business manager/golfer from the Barre, VT, area.

Yes, the 10th conference was certainly "An Affair to Remember." And we all owe a debt of gratitude to the vendors, to the speakers, and to the three state ASBO organizations, for their continued support of the Tri-State conference. Without their help, we could not have enjoyed the "Decade of Success" that the conference has provided for hundreds of school business officials over the past ten years. We look forward to many more outstanding conferences to come.



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