Summit focuses on success, inspiration

By Leah Fliter,

KASB and USA-Kansas first-ever Women’s Leadership Summit February 4-5 was a rousing success, participants said.

The Summit, which was held in Manhattan, was designed to inspire and energize female board of education members and school administrators for greater impact in their roles as Kansas education leaders.

USA-Kansas Past President and Augusta High School Principal Donna Zerr welcomed the attendees, who represented school districts from across Kansas. “Worry less about the glass slipper fitting and more about shattering the glass ceiling,” Zerr urged her colleagues.

Keynote speaker Denise Mills, Founder and Chief Mindset Officer of the Leader Fuel Center in Kansas City, kicked off the Summit by helping attendees take a closer look at their own beliefs about leadership, examine their unconscious biases about gender roles and uncover blind spots that hold them back. Mills urged attendees to consider how men and women have been socially conditioned to lead differently. She said women don’t need to change their leadership styles, but they do need to “flex” their styles to ensure success when working with male colleagues.

Following the keynote lunch, board members and administrators chose breakout sessions on “My Leadership Journey” by Dodge City High School Principal and KASSP Principal of the Year Jacque Feist or “Recognizing Personal Bias” by Dr. Gillian Chapman, Superintendent of Teton County School District #1, Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Late-afternoon sessions included “Success by Intent: Achieving Bold Goals” with Mills or a panel discussion on “Mentoring Women for Leadership Roles” featuring Topeka USD 501 Board member and Mainframe Systems Programmer at Ensono Incorporated Janel Johnson; Pat Hudgins, Associate Director of Career and Employment Services, Kansas State University/former USD 383 Manhattan-Ogden Board member; Dr. Alicia Thompson, Superintendent, Wichita USD 259; Margaret Nightengale, President of the USD 214 Board of Education and Senior Vice President/Chief Lending Officer, Grant County Bank; and Leah Fliter, KASB Advocacy and Outreach Specialist/current USD 383 Manhattan-Ogden Board member.
Monday evening’s dinner conversation was facilitated by 2017 Kansas Superintendent of the Year Sue Givens of El Dorado USD 490. Givens is also a Past President of the Kansas School Superintendents’ Association.

During the dinner, Manhattan Mayor Pro-Tem Usha Reddi, a former USD 383 Manhattan-Ogden Teacher of the Year, welcomed the Summit attendees to Manhattan. KASB President-Elect Shannon Kimball of Lawrence USD 497 then introduced Kansas Governor Laura Kelly.

Kelly, who was elected to the office in November 2018 after running on a platform promising to be “the education governor Kansans deserve,” applauded attendees for their dedication to Kansas students and schools and urged them to be engaged as the state emerges from years of stagnant school funding and state budget cuts that harmed essential services.

“It was inspiring to be with this phenomenal group of women at the first annual @KASBTopeka Women’s Leadership Summit! I look forward to working together to rebuild our state, invest in our schools and expand opportunities for our children,” Kelly tweeted after the speech.
Kimball began the Tuesday program by recounting her journey from Kansas farm girl to young attorney to stay-at-home mom to school board member and local politician.

Liberal USD 480 Superintendent Renae Hickert gave a session on managing conflict and its aftermath and USD 383 Manhattan-Ogden Board Member Katrina Lewison, a retired U.S. Army Major, presented on succeeding in a male-dominated environment. Hickert and Thompson LED a discussion group for school administrators while KASB President Elect Designee Lori Blake of USD 206 Southeast of Saline and Nightengale of USD 214 Ulysses oversaw a similar session for board members.

The summit concluded with lunch and closing remarks from Dr. Evelyn Hill, Director of Community Engagement for Avenue of Life in Kansas City and a former member of the Kansas City, Kansas USD 500 board of education, on “The Secret Power of Resilience.”

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