A record 700 public-school leaders, educators and advocates from across the country and the Virgin Islands gathered in late September in Miami for three days of educational programming, information sessions and thought-provoking conversations during NSBA’s Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) 2019 Annual Conference.

The conference kicked off with site visits to two Miami-Dade County Public Schools — William Turner Technical Arts High School (a magnet school offering eight academies that prepare students for careers and college), and iPrep Academy (a PreK-12th-grade international- and global-focused magnet school that uses innovative teaching strategies in a technology-rich environment).

Andrea Messina, executive director of the Florida School Boards Association, Alberto Carvalho, superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, and Steve Gallon, CUBE Steering Committee vice chair and Miami-Dade Schools board member, officially welcomed attendees to CUBE’s 52nd conference. In his State of Urban Education address, Jacinto Ramos Jr., CUBE chairman and board president of the Fort Worth Independent School District, urged the audience to see students as “assets to be invested in, not as problems that need to be solved.”

He described CUBE as a “place of solidarity with people from all walks of lifeto have courageous conversations about the most effective ways to eliminate achievement disparities and improve educational outcomes for students who are often marginalized due to race, language, poverty, disability or sexual orientation. 

The intersection of trauma-informed and culturally competent education, recruiting and retaining more male educators of color, understanding data to impact student outcomes, and the growing problem of domestic minor sex trafficking, were just a few of the topics featured during the conference. A full house attended a closing-day session on the experiences of women leading school boards, including facing issues of “microaggressions” and “old-boy networks.

Despite the challenges, serving as a school board member “is one of the most important jobs of my life,” said panelist Wakisha Briggs, board president of the 6,000-student Hickman Mills School District C-I in Kansas City, Missouri. 

During the conference, Florida’s Hillsborough County Public Schools was presented with the 2019 Award for Urban School Board Excellence, and Deena A. Hayes, chairwoman of North Carolina’s Guilford County Public Schools Board of Education, was honored with the 2019 Benjamin Elijah Mays Lifetime Achievement Award.

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Author and social justice scholar Monique Morris, Friday morning’s plenary speaker, discussed research showing that black and Latina girls are disproportionately suspended, reprimanded and punished in schools compared to their white peers, hindering their access to education. “We have to unpack what’s leading to this and rethink what we’re doing and what we’re prioritizing,” said Morris, author of Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls and the follow-up, Sing a Rhythm, Dance a Blues

Luncheon speaker Christian Moore, a clinical social worker, resiliency advocate, and author of The Resilience Breakthrough, reminded attendees that “there’s no law in the universe that says you can’t take negative emotions and turn them into a positive outcome.” Teaching children how to manage both negative and positive feelings and experiences can help “fuel their success,” he said.

Educator and activist César Cruz, founder of Homies Empowerment, a youth and community development organization in Oakland, California, closed out the conference on Saturday challenging CUBE advocates to help young people scale the “20-foot borders” of educational roadblocks with “21-foot ladders” of opportunity, support, culture and history. Help students find “the warrior, scholar, healer and the hustler within and channel it on their journey towards freedom,” Cruz said.

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