Bouncing Back Better

Kevin Casey, SAANYS Executive Director
July 2021 News & Notes

I hope you recognize the title of this column. It is the theme for our October 2021 IN-PERSON conference, which I hope you will make a special effort to attend.

When it comes to our conferences, I am admittedly biased. I have long noted that our conference format and content is put together by administrators for administrators, reflecting the priorities of administrators. I also get a behind the scenes look at the planning and attention to detail that goes into conference preparation, and am grateful for a dedicated professional staff.

When we first went into COVID shutdown in March 2020, I naively thought we would still hold our October 2020 in-person conference. Surely the virus would have run its course by then. Even during the summer of 2020, I held out some hope, but we all know what became of 2020.

In the early spring of 2021, we were wondering whether or not to conduct an in-person conference when the property with which we had contracted notified us that it was cancelling all of its 2021 events and bookings. We were without a 2021 venue only six or seven months before our conference date. Typically, we have properties under contract two or three years out and getting an “appropriate” property (not too big–not too small, adequate location, sleeping rooms, break-out rooms, ballrooms, dining options, etc.) on short notice seemed like a long shot, but as the public health environment slowly but steadily improved, the SAANYS Board of Directors felt it important to at least try, and I am increasingly glad it did.

We were able to obtain conference space at the Crowne Plaza Albany – the Desmond Hotel, which was completely renovated in 2020. I’m sure many will recognize the location as a popular conference center that holds a variety of conferences. The agenda is first-rate, with school administrator and ASCD and Corwin author, Dominique Smith, as one keynote speaker (“Leading the Rebound”) and neurologist Dr. Romie Mushtaq (“Break the Stress-Success Cycle”), the other. We will also have an interactive session with Dr. Lester Young, Jr., chancellor of the Board of Regents, and Dr. Betty Rosa, commissioner of education; a variety of practitioner workshops to choose from and legal and legislative updates from SAANYS General Counsel Art Scheuermann and Director of Government Relations Dr. Cindy Gallagher, among other agenda items.

While I always hope for robust conference attendance, the success of this year’s conference seems particularly important for another reason. SAANYS is a professional association. The definition of “association” is “an organization of people with a common purpose.” Our purpose is reflected in our mission statement, which reads:

“To provide direction, service, and support to our membership in their efforts to improve the quality of education and leadership in New York State schools.”

To realize our purpose, to fulfill our mission, requires us to work together in support of each other in the discharge of the duties of a school administrator. To work together to improve practice and results. Pre-COVID we came together in regional meetings, which could have been informational, social, professional development or a combination thereof. We would have in-person regional and state awards ceremonies, scholarship fundraising events, in-person meetings with SED staff, in-person meetings of our Government Relations Committee, in-person lobbying, in-person Board of Directors meetings, an in-person state conference… All were suspended or made remote throughout the pandemic.

Borrowing from the title of Commissioner Rosa’s column in the spring 2021 edition of Vanguard, these are the connections that hold us together. We need to renew and strengthen them. We too need to Bounce Back Better.