Supt. Kirsten Baesler Statement on Conference Days

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Supt. Kirsten Baesler Statement on Conference Days Nov. 17, 2017

As districts begin to plan their school calendars, I have been asked for the dates of the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction’s (NDDPI) Fall Educators Conference in 2018. This is a good time to discuss the various opportunities for professional development for our teachers and administrators.
Teachers Convention: As you know, for many years we had the North Dakota Teachers’ Conventions during the third week in October. The conventions consisted of two days set aside in the fall for teachers to attend professional development opportunities sponsored by the North Dakota Education Association (NDEA). In 2009, the Legislature stopped paying school districts foundation aid for the two days in October that were intended for the Teachers Convention. Instead, the Legislature authorized districts to make the determination locally on how to use foundation aid to pay for professional development. (Page 4 of 2009 HB 1400, Section 5, Subsection 6.
Most districts felt they could provide staff development themselves more reasonably than sending their teachers to Bismarck, Fargo, or Grand Forks for a conference each year and paying registration, lodging, and travel expenses. They chose to use their foundation aid for professional development in their own district or region. Teachers were no longer contracted to either attend the teacher convention or to be present working at their school on those days. Because of the added personal expense teachers incur to attend an out-of-town convention on days for which they receive no compensation, enrollment at the annual teacher conventions declined.
With the declining attendance, North Dakota United (previously NDEA) discussed and ultimately decided to discontinue their annual October Teacher Convention.
In light of the decision by ND United to discontinue the Teachers Convention, the 2015 North Dakota Legislature worked to eliminate the state law that required two days be held on every school calendar for a statewide conference. During conference committee work on the bill, the North Dakota Council of Educational Leaders (NDCEL) requested the law be preserved, but modified to allow them or any education association to request those days be held on school calendars for a statewide convention. The law was modified and passed to reflect those changes. (Page 4 of 2015 SB 2031, Section 3, Subsection 1.
NDCEL did request to have two days held during the third week in October in 2016 and 2017 to conduct its annual convention for superintendents, principals, and other district administrators. This request was approved for both years. Most NDCEL convention attendees receive registration fees, professional leave, lodging, and travel expenses from their local school district to attend this convention.
NDCEL has again requested October 18-19, 2018, be held for their annual meeting. The days being held from school calendars during the third week of October should, in the future, be correctly referred to as Administrator Convention Days.
Fall Educators Conference: The NDDPI’s Annual Fall Educators Conference has been held the second week of October almost every year for the past 25+ years. It was first called the DPI Fall Title I Conference and was also known as the DPI Fall Title I & Special Education Conference for a time.
In 2016, ND United voted to join with other partners to work together with NDDPI and help provide professional development opportunities at the NDDPI’s Annual Fall Educators Conference. Other partners include the ND Education Standards and Practices Board, ND University System, Bank of North Dakota, ND EduTech, ND Education Technology Council, University of Mary, United Tribes Technical College, Learning Forward – PLC, and North Dakota’s eight Regional Education Associations (REAs).
Attendees at the NDDPI Fall Educators Conference include superintendents, principals, classroom teachers, special education teachers, Title I teachers, gifted and talented teachers, instructional strategists, curriculum directors, technology directors, and others.
This year, the 2017 NDDPI Annual Fall Educators Conference added a preconference session to include the former DPI Dropout Prevention Conference. The conference was held at the Bismarck Event Center on October 11-13, 2017.
The North Dakota Department of Public Instruction, in conjunction with their multiple partners, will hold the 2018 Fall Educators Conference on October 10-12. Page 4 of 2015 SB 2031, Section 3, Subsection 2, does not allow the superintendent of public instruction to declare its own conference days to be held from school calendars.
The NDDPI believes the best solution is for school districts to determine when they allow use of professional leave to attend conferences or conventions and which days they choose to use state foundation aid to pay for professional development days for their staff.
Schools can elect to schedule their paid professional development days during the NDDPI conference or could allow staff, on a rotational basis, to use professional leave to attend this or any other professional development event.