It was the year that Dwight D. Eisenhower was inaugurated to his first presidential term, the Korean War ended, Dr. Jonas Salk announced his discovery of a successful polio vaccine, and the first color television was sold. 1953 also marked the beginning of an annual tradition in New Jersey: a conference for school board members and other education leaders, NJSBA’s Workshop.

The first fall Workshop attracted 127 people to Haddon Hall, which now is known as the Resorts Casino Hotel, located on the famous Atlantic City boardwalk. Professional training sessions that year included: “Financing a Building Program: Determining Cost, Bonding Procedures, Emergency Funding and Debt Limit,” and “Relationships of School Board Members and Staff: Ethics, Duties and Responsibilities.” Interestingly, these topics still are on point today and in line with the training and services that the Association delivers to its thousands of members nearly 68 years later.

Still Making History The annual Workshop, co-sponsored by the New Jersey School Boards Association, the New Jersey Association of School Administrators and the New Jersey Association of School Business Officials, has grown into the largest education conference for school officials in the state. It continues to make history in 2021 as it goes virtual for the second consecutive year during an international pandemic.

“We have a long tradition of providing top-notch training programs at Workshop, and I am proud to say that practice is alive and well in our virtual Workshop this year,” said Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod, NJSBA’s executive director. “Earlier this year, we made a decision to plan on a virtual conference because of the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.  We are delighted to be able to continue to serve our members with engaging virtual training and networking opportunities.”

Hot-Topic Training Sessions The 2021 virtual Workshop continues to stay on trend and ahead of today’s issues with expert sessions offered in updated policy, legal decisions, and societal issues that affect schools.

Timely sessions regarding social-emotional health, equity, data security, electric buses and gender identity are scheduled for the three-day event, Tuesday, Oct. 26 to Thursday, Oct. 28.

As in previous years, Workshop 2021 will offer continuing education credits for school board members and school staff.  Board members can earn NJSBA Board Member Academy credits toward certifications, while school district staff can earn Qualified Purchasing Agent and Certified Educational Facilities Managers credits.

New Jersey’s Top Education Official to Address Conference Attendees Dr. Angelica Allen-McMillan, New Jersey’s acting commissioner of education, will address Workshop participants on Thursday, Oct. 28.

She began her career as a substitute teacher in Essex County and taught in East Orange Public Schools before she launched the Marion P. Thomas Charter School in Newark.

Dr. Allen-McMillan is a proud product of a New Jersey public school education. She also is a passionate educator and an inspirational public speaker.

“I understand and value the importance of strong relationships between people as a path to learning,” she said in a prepared statement, “and I am deeply committed to the well-being of children both inside and outside of the classroom.”

She served as an assistant principal and principal in the South Orange-Maplewood School District, and as an assistant superintendent in both Irvington Public Schools and Newark Public Schools, the state’s largest school system.

Most recently, the acting commissioner served the New Jersey Department of Education as the interim executive county superintendent for Morris County.

A parent of three, she also has served on the Montclair Board of Education.

Dr. Allen-McMillan holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial and labor relations from Cornell University, and she earned a master’s in educational administration, as well as a doctorate in education, leadership, management and policy, from Seton Hall University.

Alisha De LorenzoA Popular Speaker Returns to Deliver a Keynote A great indicator of where the K-12 field has evolved this year also is reflected in the selection of Workshop’s keynote speaker. Alisha De Lorenzo, a former educator and wellness professional who has been a popular presenter at prior NJSBA programs, will focus on making social-emotional health and mindfulness a priority for students and staff, forming relationships and connections, and addressing trauma.

“It doesn’t matter what city you’re from, what town you’re from, what your ZIP code is, or what color your skin is. Trauma does not discriminate. And, we now know through this pandemic that no one was spared,” said De Lorenzo, who is a licensed professional counselor. “All people have the high likelihood that they’ll experience trauma, and now we experience it collectively. And so what’s required in a collective trauma is collective healing. We didn’t go through something individually, we went through something collectively.”

Maura Baker

NJSBA will also feature a student speaker, Maura Baker, who is the student representative to the State Board of Education. Baker, 16, shares her own experiences and advice on living with dyslexia in a blog, website and Twitter account called “Smart Kid-Mad Myths.” She will speak about the topic in remarks that will kick off the conference Tuesday morning, Oct. 26.

Revisit Workshop After it’s Over NJSBA frequently heard from attendees of our Workshop conference at the Atlantic City Conference Center that they wish they could have attended more training sessions. Because of the virtual nature of this event, it is possible to make sessions available after the actual live sessions. You need not miss out on valuable programs because your schedule didn’t allow, or they conflicted with, other sessions. All registered Workshop participants can access programs 24/7 for one full month after Workshop ends.

The Live Exhibit Floor Workshop attendees can also interact with Workshop’s vendors and sponsors through the Live Exhibit Floor, which will allow for real-time conversation and questions and answers. More than 100 providers of school district goods and services are expected to take part.

Workshop Wind-Down This year, NJSBA will debut a new feature, “Workshop Wind-Down.” These evening sessions will give members more flexibility and convenience for participation and training.

Inspired by the popular County Café chats, NJSBA will deliver regional county school boards association programs on Tuesday, Oct. 26 and Wednesday, Oct. 27.

Workshop Wind-Down will offer smaller meet-and-greet opportunities and timely topic sessions produced by NJSBA staff and other experts. These clinic-style online gatherings are intended to serve as discussion roundtables, where members can drop in to get their pressing questions answered.

Join Thousands of Your Board Colleagues  Last year some 6,000 board members, superintendents, school business administrators, IT directors, facilities directors, principals, and other district staff registered for Workshop. Attendees participated in training sessions that kept them informed, challenged and safe.

This fall, NJSBA will do it again. The 2021 digital conference platform will be even more useful with newly-added engagement tools.

For more information about the annual conference, or to register your district team, visit NJSBA’s Virtual Workshop 2021.

Rosa Cirianni is a contributing editor to School Leader magazine.