OKLAHOMA CITY (August 11, 2016) – The Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) recently concluded its first professional development conference for educators in a regional road trip format, and officials are praising the results.
“At a time when every education dollar is precious, we were determined to minimize travel costs to educators by bringing our EngageOK conference to them rather than asking them to make their way to Oklahoma City,” said Joy Hofmeister, State Superintendent of Public Instruction. “The feedback we received from attendees was overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic. They were so grateful for the opportunity to earn much-needed professional development in a format more convenient to them.”
Educators appreciated OSDE’s closer-to-home conference approach.
“It is nice to have a State Superintendent who is willing to think out of the box for ways to get all stakeholders involved in moving Oklahoma’s education system in a forward direction,” said Lindsay Rana, who teaches first grade in Howe Public Schools. “Quality professional development is essential for providing our students with the most current methods of pedagogy available.”
Held July 18-28 at Broken Arrow High School, Sallisaw Middle School, Durant High School, Edmond Santa Fe High School, Woodward High School and Lawton High School, the conference was free for attendees, whose numbers surpassed last year’s estimate of 5,000. During the eight days of EngageOK on the Road, nearly 6,000 participated in dozens of sessions on a host of education topics, including new academic standards, classroom management, suicide prevention, accreditation, certification and updates on education-related legislation, assessments and the Reading Sufficiency Act. Four of the six sites had more than 100 on waiting lists to register.
Host schools underwrote all or the majority of their costs. Christian Moore of the WhyTry Program waived his speaking fees, and OSDE minimized travel expenses. In total, the agency saved approximately $350,000 over the 2015 conference while reaching a broader audience.
“I would like to applaud Superintendent Hofmeister for making a bold and creative move in taking EngageOK on the road,” said Woodward Public Schools Superintendent Kyle Reynolds, who hosted the conference on July 27. “Having lived in northwest Oklahoma most of my life, I’ve become accustomed to traveling at least a couple of hours for workshops and training. We loved having EngageOK right here in our town. We take great pride in our facilities, so this was an opportunity to put our best foot forward and invite our neighbors to join us for a day packed with meaningful learning.”
The majority of attendees – 58 percent – were teachers, another 27 percent school administrators. Among the most sought-after sessions were those devoted to implementing new academic standards in English language arts and mathematics.
“I’ve been diligent in keeping up with the adoption process of our new Oklahoma Academic Standards,” said Mandi Cloud, a kindergarten teacher at Limestone Technology Academy in Sand Springs. “I attended EngageOK in Edmond and walked away with clarification and strategies that will help me with full implementation of new standards this year.”
During the conference, Hofmeister hosted several town hall meetings to solicit stakeholder feedback on Oklahoma’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) state plan. Some 275 administrators, teachers, support personnel, community members and parents from every region of the state participated in a lunch hour survey and conversation to provide guidance on what Oklahoma public schools should do and be.
Hofmeister said the future for EngageOK on the Road is assured.
“Those of us who worked at the conference – hosts, presenters and OSDE staff – left so rejuvenated at the end of the second week,” she said. “It was a blessing to be able to connect with so many educators around the state. In fact, the response to the format was so positive that we have made the decision to take EngageOK on the road again next year.”