When one reaches a certain advanced age, looking back at changes seen and experienced can help inform and improve decisions to be made in the present. Or, one can become so fascinated with the past that life becomes all reflection and no time is spent in the present, or planning for the future. After spending 13 years at Emporia as superintendent, I actually heard myself thinking, “We tried that once, it didn’t work.” I knew then it was time to think about a new challenge.
After four years at KASB, this geriatric has taken some time to do some reflecting. Recently the KASB Board of Directors went through a planning process to look at our future. It is always helpful to take a reflective look at the past as we look ahead.
Personally, my history with KASB goes back to 1983. As a new doctoral student, like anyone who has been in that position, I was looking for a dissertation topic. My dad was superintendent in Junction City at the time, and he suggested we visit with the executive director of KASB to pick his brain for ideas.
We drove to an old building that looked like a house, just southwest of the Topeka Holidome. I recall meeting John Koepke, who gave me a quick tour of the building and introduced me to some staff. It was cramped, and if memory serves, there were about 10 staff members at the time. John joked that since Max was never able to hold a job for long, maybe I should write on superintendent turnover in Kansas. A great idea that became my dissertation.
From a broader perspective, as the board looked back on data about the history of KASB, service has been a hallmark of the association for as long as I can remember, and the data bears it out. In the 1980s and 90s there were many changes taking place in education and KASB filled a role to help board members and administrators stay abreast of those changes. The service model of the day was seminars and workshops. Thousands of educators and board members attended seminars at KASB every year. Thousands attended a convention that lasted a full three days and included banquets and evening dances. Under John Koepke’s leadership, KASB grew from a few staff members in an old house, to over 40 staff serving educators from a large building on Arrowhead Road.
During the 2000s, things began to change. Budgets grew tight and professional development budgets were cut to the bone. Associations of every kind in Kansas and the nation experienced a drop in attendance at seminars and conventions. At the same time, a social phenomenon defined in Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone was occurring. Memberships and participation in everything from local bowling leagues to professional associations like the American Medical Association were in rapid decline. As Putnam put it, people were moving from the front porch to the back patio, and in doing so were decreasing civic and social involvement.
When I was hired in 2010, the KASB Board recognized changes were required for the association to continue to thrive. The Executive Committee of Pam Robinson, Rodney Roush, and Fred Patton represented the desire of the board with a clear direction: improve service, improve leadership for student achievement, and be a voice for public education. A different business model began to emerge. KASB would no longer be an ivory tower of knowledge to be pursued by our members, but we had to become a service organization that met our members, how and where they needed us. On-site trainings, whole board workshops in districts, individually designed trainings, and customized service have become the norm.
Staff members have embraced a culture of service at any cost. They have collaborated with service centers, other associations, KSDE, and local districts to provide service using a new array of delivery models. KASB has turned a corner and is moving forward again, thanks to a visionary board and a staff that have embraced a need to continue to improve every day.
The board met in June and acknowledged the positive direction with a new directive; continue to get better at serving our districts and being a “truth machine” for Kansas public education. This board, and this staff, will not go backward. We will demand continuing improvement on behalf of Kansas students.
On July 1, to acknowledge a new service model and direction, a new logo was introduced. It represents KASB being a voice for all Kansas public education. We think it symbolizes where we have been, and where we want to be.