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NSBA reneges on joint conference with AASA

The collapse of its agreement with NSBA puts AASA “at a huge disadvantage,” Executive Director Dan Domenech said.

Organizations representing the nation’s superintendents and school board members won’t hold a combined conference next year after all—a decision that has blindsided the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) and left the group “scurrying” to find a conference venue of its own for 2013.

AASA and the National School Boards Association (NSBA) had what AASA Executive Director Dan Domenech described as a “verbal agreement” to hold a single, combined conference in San Diego in April 2013. The agreement was first announced during AASA’s National Conference on Education in February 2011.

The move was expected to save money for the two organizations and also for school systems, which wouldn’t have two separate events for district leaders to attend.

But in a letter sent March 27 to AASA’s conference exhibitors and sponsors from prior years, Director of Corporate and Strategic Alliances Kay M. Dillon wrote:

“We were notified by NSBA’s executive director, Anne Bryant, on Friday, March 23, after over a year of planning and promoting that they are no longer willing to hold a joint conference with AASA in 2013, citing financial reasons on their part.”

The letter continued: “As you can imagine, we were stunned and disappointed, not only that the meeting was not going to occur, but that their decision came at such a late date. This obviously puts AASA at a disadvantage and we recognize that you, our valued supporters and exhibitors, are also impacted by NSBA’s decision. Please know that we are diligently working to secure a location for our 2013 National Conference on Education and will share this information with you as soon as it becomes available.”

Joe Villani, deputy executive director for the NSBA, confirmed that his organization has backed out of the agreement. He said NSBA still plans to hold its 2013 conference in April in San Diego, without AASA’s involvement.

NSBA “tried to figure out a way to join the two conferences and let it be of benefit to both organizations, but what we found, when we got down to the nitty-gritty of the details, was that there were just too many additional expenses that had to be factored into the budget planning,” Villani said. “That made it such that NSBA would not have as much revenue from a joint conference as we would have from a conference by ourselves.”

NSBA and AASA were in negotiations for a contract that would formalize their verbal agreement, which is what brought to light the financial challenges such an arrangement would have presented, Villani said.

“We realized it just was not going to have the same result,” he said of holding a joint conference.

NSBA’s decision “came as somewhat of a surprise to us,” Domenech said. “We’re disappointed, to say the least.”

The decision puts AASA “at a huge disadvantage,” Domenech said, because it leaves very little time for AASA to find a site for its own 2013 conference that can host a few thousand school administrators. “At this stage, we’re scurrying to find a date and location,” he said.

Still, he promised that AASA “will have a date and will put together a great event” for next year. He said AASA is hoping to find a venue for February or March 2013 “within the next week or two.”

As for what the collapse of the agreement means for the relationship between AASA and NSBA going forward, Domenech said there will be “hard feelings for sure” but emphasized the need for administrators and school board members to continue working together for the good of their schools—a theme that was championed, ironically, by the federal Education Department during a special summit held in conjunction with AASA’s 2011 conference.

“We still think there’s a need for boards and superintendents to have a good relationship,” Domenech said. “But it may take awhile” for the group’s frustration to subside.

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