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Conferences further school board members' education on education

Federal Way School Board members aren't afraid of a little travel in the quest for knowledge.

Board members are currently choosing what conferences, both local and national, might help further their education on education.

As the elected officials who shape education in Federal Way, the conferences are just one way the school board members keep up with the ever changing and expanding field of education. The conferences help them learn about new ideas, new technology or the ways kids learn best.

Last year, the district spent about $15,000 on conferences, split equally between travel and registration costs, a spokesman said. All of the board members went to the National School Board Conference in Chicago this past spring.

The National School Board Association held a conference in Seattle during Amye Bronson-Doherty's first year on the school board in 2008. Seminars on technology and learning were very beneficial to the newbie, she said.

This year, Bronson-Doherty is looking for conferences that deal specifically with issues the district is facing or exploring, including policy governance and standards based education.

"I am most interested in getting information in policy governance," she said. "Really understanding and applying it in the best way we can. It's a little different for us than other boards, so I am ready to educate on ways to apply the principles."

Bronson-Doherty finds that the national conferences present are more informative, mostly because she can keep up with education trends and news in state. However, getting focused researched on national issues at conferences is beneficial, she said.

The conferences give school board members a chance to see what is working in other areas of the country, especially on issues that relate to Federal Way.

Last year, then-board president Suzanne Smith attended a conference on dual language programs in Albuquerque, N.M. She came back with a plethora of information she shared with the board members as they were looking to approve a Spanish-English dual language program at Sunnycrest Elementary. Smith has already made plans to attend that conference again this fall. Last year, Smith also attended a teaching and learning conference in Denver, Colo., and was part of the emergency management course that the school district, city, Lakehaven Utility District and South King Fire and Rescue participated in last year (the latter course was paid for by regional emergency planning funds).

From the school district's standpoint, the conferences are invaluable.

"The Federal Way School Board of Directors is a learning board," Superintendent Robert Neu said. "They are elected and expected to remain knowledgeable about the district's needs and state and federal regulations. To accomplish that, board members must have access to the most current research and cutting edge information."

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