• Marcia Lavigne, director of professional learning at the NJSBA, makes a point at the Women's Leadership Conference.

Nearly 200 stakeholders turned out for the New Jersey School Boards Association’s sold-out inaugural Women’s Leadership Conference on Friday, April 19, at the Conference Center at Mercer County Community College in West Windsor.

Dr. Timothy Purnell, executive director and CEO of the New Jersey School Boards Association, welcomed attendees to the event. “As you know the theme of today’s program is: Connection, Balance and Inspiration,” he said. “I encourage each of you to embrace the learning opportunities in today’s program; to connect and share ideas with each other; to learn how to achieve balance in your lives; and to leave here inspired to continue breaking barriers and leading with courage and compassion. Together, we can create a world where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.”

Karen Cortellino, M.D., president of NJSBA, also greeted attendees and shared her personal story of how she overcame stereotypes to enjoy a successful career as a radiologist, which remains a field dominated by men.

“Post graduation, it felt like female doctors were steered to pediatrics or family practice as more suitable specialties for women to pursue,” she said. “I eventually found that radiology was something I had more interest in. While subtle jabs or out-of-bounds comments never thwarted my career, they did not make it easy.”

The sessions kicked off with a powerful keynote address by Denise Collison, senior vice president of public sector sales at SHI International. Her presentation was titled, “Bringing Your Whole Self to Work: Unleashing the Power of Authenticity.” One attendee reported “The keynote speaker was amazing. She put a human side to our day-to-day as leaders. I learned so much from her.”

Breakout session topics included lifting up others, networking, self-efficacy, mentorships, developing an equity mindset, confidence, gender equity, the power of positive deviance, empowering women in leadership and navigating and embracing change.

The day concluded with an esteemed panel of distinguished women in leadership who shared their insights and experiences on the challenges submitted by conference attendees. Panelists included Michele Siekerka, president and CEO at the New Jersey Business and Industry Association; Kristen Bunnell, entrepreneur; Alisha DeLorenzo, human connection expert; Chanta L. Jackson, vice president of legislation, NJSBA; and Dr. Alishia Richie, plan medical director.

The attendee feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Here is what a few participants had to say.

“Loved hearing from such a wide range of experienced and effective women leaders in various roles. The time and attention to detail on the part of the planning committee showed in every keynote, breakout session, and group forum. Definitely time well spent, and looking forward to the next Women’s Leadership Conference.”

“The entire day was wonderful. Absolutely an amazing event and it was so empowering to be with such knowledgeable and professional women.”

“The entire event was well run, well organized, and I enjoyed the empowering sessions and information. I was only sad I had to pick just two to attend, I wanted to hear from everyone!”

Marcia Lavigne, director of professional learning at the NJSBA, said, “Today’s event was filled with an exchange of ideas and dialogue, which is only the first of many enhanced learning experiences for our members.”

Due to the popularity of the event, follow-up webinars and programs are coming soon. If there is something you would like to see, please email Lauren Cuervo, lead director of strategic development at the NJSBA.

More Great Programming Ahead

On Friday, May 10, the NJSBA will hold another great program: Its Spring Conference, also at the Conference Center at Mercer, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

This in-person prequel to Workshop 2024 will feature over a dozen training sessions covering topics impacting boards of education today, including student achievement, school safety, and effective public relations strategies.

Join the NJSBA as it sets the stage for Workshop 2024 by bringing together school officials from across New Jersey for a day of collaboration and professional growth.

The event costs $99 per person. Ask your school business administrator to register you as soon as possible.