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Tri-State Association of School Business Officials
17th Annual Conference, May 13-15, 2009

“Tacking Through the Winds of Change”
2009 Conference In-Review

“After the sea-ship, after the whistling winds, After the white-gray sails taut to their spars and ropes, Below, a myriad waves hastening, lifting up their necks, Tending in ceaseless flow toward the track of the ship, Waves of the ocean bubbling and gurgling, blithely prying, Waves, undulating waves, liquid, uneven, emulous waves, Toward that whirling current, laughing and buoyant, with curves, Where the great vessel sailing and tacking displaced the surface, Larger and smaller waves in the spread of the ocean yearnfully flowing, The wake of the sea-ship after she passes, flashing and frolicsome under the sun, A motley procession with many a fleck of foam and many fragments, Following the stately and rapid ship, in the wake following”. By Walt Whitman

What a picture perfect setting for our 17th Annual Tri-State ASBO Conference, Spruce Point Inn located on a peninsula at Boothbay Harbor, Maine. The campus- like environment with an oceanside palette offered exactly what the doctor prescribed for our three days of workshops; knowledgeable presenters, vendor exhibitors, great lodging accommodations, exquisite food, excellent sailing companions, and of course, the rugged ocean winds did bring with them opportunities for the daring attendees to ‘tacking through the winds of change’.

Our Tri-State conference opened on Wednesday with a myriad of options for us to yearn for scholarly opportunities. How best to kick-off the conference but with our Excel guru, Rick Hutchins. Rick has been a big draw for attendees with his concentration on many uses of Excel, and what attendees should know about Excel’s many options; focusing on helpful shortcuts and timely saving [life raft] techniques. Rick merged business and school environment that included formulas, functions, linking and integrating with other applications. This was a technology based filled with “aha’s’’, as the three days of conference offering taunted our appetite.

No Fraud Left Behind with Hank Farrah and Casey Leonard of RKO, gave a glimpse into the rough seas that schools may experience with the rising tide of school fraud. Their session was extremely well attended and attendees were appreciative that as auditors, they could shed light on audit procedures and how and where schools could better prepare with safety nets to handle signs of fraud. Auditors are truly our “channel-master” friends, guiding us through the rough channels of preventing fraud in our schools.

As analogous to it’s sister show by same name, “Survivor: The Tri-State Leadership Challenge”, Terri Haas and Debra Dixon-Doss, our returning stars from last year’s conference, gave an interesting, interactive approach to leadership by identifying individual leadership qualities and styles. It was fun, relaxing, blithely prying, and yet professional, while still providing participants with insight into their abilities and team-building skills.

Our morning sessions would not be complete without our crewmate, Bob Berry and his presentation On Demand Operations Management System-Great Results in a Small District. Bob’s presentation was tantamount to the ocean’s wave action. Slow to rise but with tremendous thunder pounding action hitting the rocky coastline. How to best capture a successful speaker but to hear from an attendee who commented “I had been looking forward to seeing what could be done with an on-demand operations management system and Bob did not disappoint”. A true testimony of how whirling his excitement for School Dude can affect others.

The Wednesday afternoon was a recurring tidal pool with ceaseless flows of strong current beating negotiation techniques into the minds of crewmembers that dared to venture into their abyss. The great storytellers, Roger Kelley and Paul Apple from Drummond Woodsum, gave participants opportunities to raise their individual negotiation skills by asking specific questions, and concerns. Presenters were crafty in providing options for resolutions with attendees’ full attention and allowing group participation. We walked away from the session with tremendous tools to help us navigate negotiations in this harsh economic climate.

The infamous Judy Rollins of Tyler Technologies was not to be left-in-the-fog with her Get Best Bid presentation. Judy explained the workings of Get Best Bid and compared it to EBay merchandising and how this portal is able to assist schools with their procurement centers needs. Schools who are using GBB are realizing significant savings by funneling their procurements using this on-line web portal and streamlining the bid from solicitation to an award process. The dashboard of this portal is compared to a ship’s navigational instrument where you can easily post, review and award your bid request. After the award posting, an email notification is automatically steered to all vendors announcing the award within the bid request category. Ultimately the GBB portal gives you great flexibility to join co-operative groups in joint buying and furthering the opportunity for savings.

Technology at its extreme best, offers larger and smaller waves; David Trask of Vassalboro Community School tackled the sails of Cloud Computing. In his session, David gave an undulating first-hand set up on Google Apps for your domain. Participants were given the opportunity to use these tools during class and set up a working “Google Apps” domain. With today’s digital society, portability, and collaboration users, it is easier than ever to fashion work groups from around state/nation/world without leaving the office. It certainly is becoming a smaller world.

As the waves of the ocean continue to bubble and gurgle while they mark their way towards the shoreline, Mary Putnam, of Creative TeamWorks, presented an informative session on Leadership During Difficult Times. Mary spoke of navigating during challenging times and offered a new paradigm on old vs. new leadership traits and the making of great leader. Her “Self-Alignment and Integration” model gave resounding echo of how leadership deals with priority setting and must do in difficult times. Her leadership materials are posted on our Tri-State web site and can be downloaded from http://www.tristateasbo.org/2009materials/7Leadership.pdf. A must have for those seeking leadership roles.

Our first conference day culminated with the Spruce Point Inn chef and staff in a delicious downeast clambake festival. Tim Sample, a Maine humorist, provided the evening entertainment with everyone laughing and enjoying the crisp evening air by the ocean’s edge. A real Maine tradition lives on!

As the Thursday morning fog gave way to a cloudy and windy day, our breakfast, in the enclosed tented area overlooking Boothbay Harbor cove, began with the cheerful entertainers from Boothbay Region Youth Arts Chorus. Their performance adjourned with a standing ovation. What a terrific start to our day with students showcasing their collective talents. Bravo!!

This year’s conference entailed the introduction of a rising and talented student, Morgan Mitchell, who is a senior a Boothbay Harbor High School. Morgan gave the opening welcome message and it was delightful to hear such an articulate young lady. She has compassion, commitment and drive to help strangers in third world countries. She is one young lady to watch for success in her future endeavors.
Eileen King, Superintendent of Boothbay-Boothbay Harbor CSD, welcomed us to her hometown and took pride in giving us an ecliptic tour of what the quaint town of Boothbay Harbor and the surrounding towns had to offer. She recommended that we visit the many offering of the Towns and enjoy the staff while at Spruce Point Inn.

Our morning general session gave us a brilliant start to the second day of the conference. Economist, Dennis Delay, of NH Center for Public Policy Studies, was excellent. Albeit his presentation was not humorous, it had great whirling currents, buoyancy, curves and yes, even some laughter. Dennis offered such great insights and information, it is no wonder he is such a great scholar and erudition of the subject. If you have not heard Dennis talk, you owe it to yourself to review the PowerPoint presentation he gave at the 2009 conference, His Tri-State presentation can be viewed at http://www.tristateasbo.org/2009confreview.html under Uncharted Territory – The Economic Outlook for Northern New England. Dennis can also be heard on New Hampshire Public Radio, as a guest host expounding his wisdom on the fate of our economy.

Our morning concurrent workshops offered a cacophony of presenters, so there was no reason for anyone not to find an interesting topic.

Safety & Learning Convergence
Sailing through difficult waters and navigating your way home, is a paradigm to safety in school settings. Jeff Hinckley and Peter Reed were masterful in detailing the many ways school administrators are able to access control, life safety and emergency communications using network infrastructure. They provided actual demonstrations using an existing client based network, integrating systems using the latest in technology.

Top Ten Things to Energy Efficient Building
Crewmates Jim Lucy and Bob Marcotte, of Honeywell Corporation, highlighted the reasons that energy waste occur and the obstacles that school systems face in attempting to become more efficient. They defined exactly what energy conservation is and how it should be viewed in terms of a school policy to gain savings, maintain good learning environments, without sacrificing the comfort of the occupants. They then presented not ten but 14 things that a school could do to gain efficiencies. The items ranged from biomass boilers to simply developing an energy policy. The power point presentation is available on the Tri-State web link http://www.tristateasbo.org/2009confreview.html

Print Management and the cost savings measures associated with its’ potential, was the flashing and frolicsome splendor of the sea hosted by Carl Tourginy, Director of Business Development for BEU and Transco Business Technologies. He and three of his colleagues explained the savings that can be achieved by contracting with a company for supplies and service on printers much like school systems are contracting on their copiers.

Our fellow ASBO member Ron Everett, from the great state of Illinois, hosted the afternoon general session. Ron described the ‘p-card’ process and gave an update of the program since the presentation from last conference in 2008. ‘P-card’ is an electronic procurement card that streamlines the purchasing process, reduces purchase order paperwork, increases budget control and internal controls, and reduces cost of payments. The ‘p-card’ is an Illinois ASBO sponsored program that is partnered with Harris Bank/Master Card and is being offered to other state ASBO's; whereby the intent is to increase the size of procurement pool and thus increase the percentage that Harris Bank reimburses to the state ASBO participants. The program has grown in size and scope and the participation offer is extended to Tri-State ASBO. It is certainly a program that most school districts will evaluate and watch over the next year.

Our Thursday afternoon Vendor Exhibit showcase was a large success with 68 vendors registered and attending the conference. Vendors brought with them a great deal of energy and excitement, and conference attendees eagerly stormed the hall to learn of the latest products and services, underscoring the appeal and importance of what vendors bring to this conference. This year’s exhibit was held outdoors under 3-tented areas, which provided space for all that wanted to attend. Tenting enclosure for exhibitors was our “maiden voyage” attempt in an effort to host a conference location along the rocky coast of Maine, without fear that space was limited. Had the weather cooperated, there is little doubt that this arrangement would have been a great idea; however, the afternoon brought rain and winds from the ocean. It was to say, not quite what the Planning Committee had anticipated. The tents did allow plenty of room for the vendors, and attendees were able to navigate the exhibit with plenty of elbowroom. The staff at Spruce Point Inn was creative in meeting the space and electrical needs of the vendors, and the social time with our vendor colleagues was not dampened by the weather. All in all, the vendors were not overly bothered by the tented arrangements, and both attendees and vendors enjoyed the atmosphere regardless of the inclimate weather. Feedback from our vendors is always appreciated and we will evaluate their comments.

The evening banquet provided an opportunity for attendees and exhibitors to spend time socializing and occasionally one could be heard speaking of school business. Excellent entertainment was provided by the Waterville Strings group from the Waterville, Maine school department. Following the banquet, continued socializing and dancing to DJ music was enjoyed by many.

Friday morning the cloudy skies parted and bright and clear skies gave our outdoor breakfast a new breath on life. Breakfast was served, once again, in the enclosed tented area and offered a spectacular vista overlooking Boothbay Harbor cove. The spectacular view was overshadowed when the Franklin County Fiddlers, students from the Farmington, Me (SAD #9) school district, promptly arrived to perform Cajun music to get everyone started on a buoyant day. These students were simply marvelous!

The morning concurrent sessions gave attendees a great opportunity to further their learning options. Rob Nadeau of Drummond Woodsum in Portland, Me, provided specific information to Maine attendees. His topic directly correlated to the crashing waves of “salt into a wound” that Mainers have endured over the year as a result of school consolidation. He was, however, able to share new information regarding the latest in Maine DOE stimulus funding and that seemed to ease the waves crashing onto our shoulders. Attendees were left with a USB drive that had information to take back to the office. “Oh where is the nearest cliff?” muttered a distraught attendee while leaving to hear the keynote speaker.

As not to be outsmarted, Peter Robinson, Technology Director for Auburn School Dept., battled the airwaves in his attempt to showcase the latest in gismo and gadgets in Smartphone’s and handheld devices. Peter offered numerous useful practices and functionality on the use of Smartphone’s. His presentation mirrored the 'Arts and Crafts' of teaching, by using both his Smartphone and laptop, as he sailed us through rocky waters of the Internet world. And how, with its’ use, we are able to use both devices in preparing, presenting and researching for data and creating a parallel world of Internet accessibility via global connectivity.

Other presentations of the morning included two teachers from Winslow High School, in Maine, who demonstrated the usefulness that an interactive whiteboard can offer you in your presentation media. They specifically demonstrated how the use of Promethean Active Classroom solutions keeps students engaged and motivated. It also is a tremendous teaching tool with enormous research capabilities, which is available at their fingertips, thanks to the marvel of Internet connectivity.

The concurrent workshops rounded the bend with an eye towards financial planning. Lee Daggett, Daggett Associates of Yarmouth, shared insights toward today’s stock markets and varying strategies to help us delve into the art of retirement investments and some of the pitfalls that we should avoid along the way.

Our keynote speaker was a delight to hear and what a great way to end our three day conference. Christine Cashen’s hilarious and fast-paced delivery was exactly what all of us needed to jazz our return to work. How insightful a speaker! She brings our realities of work issues to the surface and sparked innovative ideas that will aid our handling of conflicts and reduce stress with better resolutions. Her humor was so contagious and her ‘Get What You Want with What You’ve Got” attitude, made us all realize the importance of staying energized and distributing that contagious attitude to others. What a terrific message! Her words of empowerment are a real zest for life.

Our three-day conference had ended. It was an enormous wave of knowledge to assimilate and it is our obligation to disseminate some of our learning to our office staffs. We gathered together, made tremendous stride to better our professional goals, entertained humor at every corner of Spruce Point Inn peninsula, and collaborated with our Tri-State colleagues in sharing our woes, aha’s, and successes. Our conference is not merely to seek great accommodations or to partake in deliciously prepared food, albeit that in itself is wonderful. We come to realize that these three days bring us closer together for the camaraderie, sharing our challenges and opportunities, and that we as school business officials need each other as support and encouragement as we face the strong winds and aggressive ocean current for the year ahead. Let us never forget that ‘collectively’ we are a Tri-State group and that our successes are but the next ‘wave’ arriving on the sandy white beach. What a great testimony to our profession!

As we move from the harbor coves and rocky shores of Maine to the beautiful and breathtaking vistas of New Hampshire, we are hopeful that everyone will join us on May 19, 2010 at the Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods, NH. See you all then…. and don’t forget to bring a colleague!!!

 

 

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