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Posted December 11, 2013

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APS to Host Council of the Great City Schools Conference

"What difference does this make to anyone not attending the conference? You be the judge." Read Superintendent Winston Brooks’ column that ran in the Albuquerque Journal on Tuesday, Oct. 8

Tighten your seatbelts, October is here! This already is one of the most exciting months of the year in Albuquerque, and this year there’s even more to look forward to as Albuquerque Public Schools for the first time ever hosts the Council of the Great City Schools annual fall conference.

What difference does this make to anyone not attending the conference? You be the judge.

The Council of the Great City Schools represents 66 of the largest school districts in America. There isn’t another organization that exclusively serves superintendents, school district leadership and school board members of urban school districts. The opportunity to network, exchange ideas, share challenges and problem solve empowers us to deliver the best possible education for the 6.8 million students we collectively serve.

As the largest school district in New Mexico, representing nearly a third of the state’s students, APS faces unique challenges. But often we’re grappling with similar issues as our counterparts in Anchorage, Dallas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Oklahoma City.

Since the Council last met, a number of issues have emerged that have impacted schools everywhere – safety concerns provoked by the Sandy Hook massacre being the most notable. Urban public schools deal with other issues straight from the headlines as well, such as racial profiling and student gender identification rights. The conference provides a platform for the policymakers to take on these difficult topics, be it in intimate conversations with colleagues or large public discussions.

The pinnacle event of the annual conference is the town hall meeting. This year, in the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin trial, the conversation will be about race, language and culture in America. Harvard Law School professor and best-selling author Charles Ogletree Jr., will moderate the conversation, followed by a candid discussion about bullying, the cultural dynamics of stereotyping and profiling. Our own PBS New Mexico Channel 5 will broadcast the town hall to allow the public to tune to in.

A superstar lineup of keynote speakers will be a big draw for this year’s event in Albuquerque. Former NFL player and coach Tony Dungy, who is also the first African-American coach in the USA to lead his team to a Super Bowl victory, will be here to share his experiences in working with young athletes. He’s also planning to attend at least one APS high school pep rally.

Consuelo Castillo Kickbusch is a powerful motivational speaker who, through education, overcame poverty, discrimination and illiteracy to take her place in history as the highest-ranking Hispanic woman in the combat support field of the U.S. Army.

David Gergen, CNN political analyst and former adviser to four U.S. presidents, will talk about national policy decisions that have greatly impacted public education.

As superintendent of Albuquerque Public Schools, I’ve embraced learning at all levels. I’ve been an active member of the Council of the Great City Schools for decades and consider the year I spent as chairman of the Council in 2011 to be one of the highlights of my career. I am very proud to help bring some of the most respected and influential thinkers of our time to Albuquerque for the purpose of creating better public schools.

The conference will bring much-needed new revenue to our city, but it’s our students in the long run who will benefit from this gathering of the minds.

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