Written By Stefanie Reda, Project Associate, Fordham PDRC
After many years of simply hearing about the event from my former Principal, on November 14th and 15th, I was finally able to attend the RISE Conference in Albany. Not only was I a participant this year, but I am a part of the Fordham PDRC team. After two years of online conferences, the enthusiasm for the return of this impactful gathering was present among school leaders. The 38th annual conference for NYS Religious and Independent School Educators - RISE Conference, Religious Schools (NYSCIRS) in Albany, New York was the result of the collaborative effort of the New York State Consortium of Independent and Religious Schools (NYSCIRS) with the Professional Development Resource Centers (PDRCs).
The sessions addressed a wide breadth of important themes for our schools and the needs of faculty and students alike. On Monday afternoon, Jim Cultrara of the NYSCRIS opened the conference while Dr. Donna Elam gave the keynote address on Equity of Effort: A New Habit of Mind, a speech that resonated with all of us. The day was a success, and it left me feeling excited about Day Two. On Tuesday, Associate Commissioner Christina Coughlin kicked things off early, speaking to participants during the conference breakfast before we all broke off for the rest of the day’s sessions. I learned so much about the many initiatives led by SORIS! Needless to say, it was encouraging to see the support that New York State is offering to all non-public schools. At the close of Tuesday’s session, Deacon Kevin McCormack, the keynote speaker, addressed the topic, The Secret Sauce for our Schools: The Mission Driven Imagination. I felt that his speech empowered educators to clearly define their mission and utilize it to grow their schools.
I was fortunate to be present in several breakout sessions over the course of the conference and was able to have many impressionable conversations with educators throughout our stay. I found that the common theme of each school educator is their purpose. It did not matter which religious affiliation a school is defined by, nor whether a school is independent; ideally, their focus on academic rigor, based on state standards and curriculum, and what sets them apart from the masses, is that the concentration is on the character of the students in which they lead. Priorities amongst the leaders is of course the data and ensuring student achievement based on ability; however, the values of the students that they graduate is the true stamp of success. I found that it did not matter which session I attended - a clear message was indicated from the topics of equity, inclusion and mindfulness to academic drive and aspiration for achievement. In speaking with one another at the conference, each person would probably admit that they had something to learn from a colleague or was able to contribute a useful tool for some to turnkey when they returned to their homebase.
The Fordham PDRC had the honor of not only sponsoring the two keynote speakers, but nine separate sessions as summarized in the table below:
If you were fortunate enough to be an attendee in one of these workshops, or the numerous others that took place at the conference, I believe the takeaway messages enhanced the drive of your leadership skills and your students will thrive on the messages you bring them. My hope is that we continue to focus on these important themes and new ideas for the conference in 2023! I hope to see you all there again and to meet new leaders, as well. Stay tuned for interviews and insights from our presenters in the coming articles from Fordham PDRC!