Mid-August in Des Moines means an annual event that attracts folks from all across the state and beyond to one of Iowa’s destination venues for an experience that no summer around here is complete without.

The State Fair? Well, that’s happening too, but we’re referring to the Summit on School Climate & Culture that’s going on today and tomorrow at the Iowa Events Center. How big a deal is it? Here are some hints:

  • 2,400 educators
  • 27 different states represented
  • 4 keynote speakers
  • 100+ breakout sessions
  • 6 topic strands
  • 7 student performance ensembles
  • 16 exhibitors
  • 200,000 square feet of meeting space

Poets from East High School began the event early Monday morning, a not at all subtle FYI that the SSCC-IV agenda concerns much more than pedagogy. In many ways, the Summit is a comfortable place for educators to address issues that are often uncomfortable.

The opening keynote by Dr. Pedro Antonio Noguera, a noted professor of education from UCLA who’s also, he hastened to mention, a former school board member, amplified that point. So did a cursory scan of the schedule.

“Today, good teachers also need to be part social worker and part surrogate parent,” said Dr. Noguera. “And our colleges (of education) don’t train you very well for those things.”

Breakout categories include Equity (NOT equality!), Whole Child Health and Stakeholder Engagement because the new reality, especially in large, diverse, urban districts like DMPS, is that toxic stress (e.g., homelessness, human trafficking, drug-addicted parents) is often a hurdle that must first be cleared in order to reach and teach kids.

“We cannot lapse into accepting the unacceptable,” Dr. Noguera said. “Education is one of the few resources we have for impacting the future…It is a field that both prepares our children for the world as it is and equips them to change it.”

The Summit on School Culture & Climate has the same objective with regard to the teachers who will pick and choose their meeting rooms over the next couple of days like students registering for electives.

Other keynoters include Dr. Benita Love, Brittany Packnett, and Robert Rivera. A wide range of presenters, including many DMPS personnel, will lead the breakout workshops.

What it will all add up to by the time the Tuesday afternoon sessions conclude is much greater than the sum of those parts enumerated above.

Following the opening keynote, the large crowd stood up and surged toward the Grand Ballroom exits, eager to disperse into the first round of breakouts. There was gridlock pulsing with freshly absorbed energy and positivity that led one to wonder what mountains might be climbed if only it could somehow be harnessed and used to fuel the upcoming school year.

The point of the whole thing, of course, is that it can. Maybe that’s why they call it a summit.

Photos from the 2019 Summit on School Climate and Culture
2019 Summit on School Climate and Culture

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