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Highlights from the CUBE Annual Conference & Equity Symposium West

A record 500 education leaders, educators, and public-school advocates from across the country celebrated the work underway to improve education in the nation’s urban centers and engaged in educational programming to expand that work at NSBA’s Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) Annual Conference, held last week in Las Vegas.

Digital equity, mental health services and social-emotional learning, and decision-making that can fuel school improvement, were among the topics featured during the three-day, sold-out event’s clinic sessions, district-size workshops and leadership training programs.

Cardell C. Patillo Jr., a member of the Portsmouth, Virginia School Board and winner of the 2018 Benjamin Elijah Mays Lifetime Achievement Award was honored at the conference along with three school districts – Jennings School District, Missouri; Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, North Carolina; and Forth Worth Independent School District, Texas – winners of the 2018 Award for Urban School Board Excellence.

The one-day Equity Symposium West – NSBA’s first-ever equity seminar held outside of Washington, D.C. – preceded the CUBE Conference. Sessions highlighted the role of assistive technology in transforming special education; the importance of K-12 computer science investments in expanding the field to under-represented groups; and the use of Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) credits to address the digital divide affecting students and adults.

Superintendent Luvelle Brown of New York’s Ithaca City  Schools, the Equity Symposium Keynote speaker, emphasized the need to “demystify computer science and teach kids to use their devices to solve real-world problems.”

Attorney, activist, and CNN contributor Bakari Sellers, the CUBE Conference opening day keynote speaker, reminded attendees that in today’s politically charged world, the challenges before school board members are “larger than left or right, Republican or Democrat.”

Sellers underscored a litany of disparities in the nation’s justice system, economic system, and educational system that result in the “unavoidable and systemic oppression of many young people in this country,” leaving them without opportunities for success in college, career, or life.

School board members, Sellers said, “are in a position to effect real systemic change in a way that no one else can.” He urged CUBE members to “lean into” their work: “Imagine if you leave this conference and dedicate yourself to the proposition of dreaming big, (of) reaching out to every child and making sure he or she knows that we are there to help them, nurture them, love them no matter what. Imagine what’s possible.”

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