Bob Barman and Sarah Howell attend conference and visit other school districts

Visiting two California school districts and attending a four-day conference, two Lake Oswego School Board members are spending their own time and money seeking educational innovation ideas while spreading the word about the local superintendent search.Sarah Howell

Board members Bob Barman and Sarah Howell are in California this week for National Center for Education Research & Technology’s executive leadership conference in Berkeley. Barman and Howell aim to learn the latest education trends, and they’ll have the chance to meet superintendents from across the country.

Because they were going to be in the area, Barman and Howell saw the opportunity to look into how similar schools are developing, and so they’ll be spending time at the Palo Alto Unified and Menlo Park City school districts, both in the Bay Area.

“My goal is to go there with my eyes and ears wide open,” Howell said. “With a successful district like Lake Oswego, there’s a tendency to look inward instead of outward, but there’s innovation all around us, and I think this is just a great opportunity to learn.”Bob Barman

Menlo Park in August opened a new middle school building with features including nine science classrooms and a broadcast studio classroom. Palo Alto Unified is a member of The 21st Century Consortium, a group of seven school district leaders who focus on preparing students for postsecondary education.

Barman said he’s curious about the consortium: “How is it working for them, and what have they gained?”

Palo Alto Unified Superintendent Kevin Skelly said the consortium has been beneficial as a vehicle to trade ideas and discuss trends in education. Skelly said it’s important to venture out to other school districts: “to go away and reflect and pick up ideas from other places.”

There are many “people who are taking on problems in different ways than you are,” he said.

NCERT Executive Director Anita Johnson invited board members to the conference as an organizer and as the West Coast regional search manager for Ray & Associates, which specializes in educational executive leadership searches.

School district leaders from throughout the country will attend the conference, affording the opportunity to spread the word about the Lake Oswego School District’s upcoming superintendent opening upon Bill Korach’s retirement next year. Ray & Associates serves as the search firm for the local position.

Howell and Barman’s presence also will give “superintendents an opportunity to ask questions about the district and really get answers from talking to board members,” Johnson said.

Johnson said the aim of the conference is “bringing global education into focus.” She added that her main reason for inviting local school board members is “to allow the board members to have some of the latest information about public education,” especially amid a superintendent search.

She’s attracted some major professional talent to the conference to offer input, including Steve Cantrell, chief research officer for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Barman said his goal at the conference isn’t to find a superintendent — he’s looking to learn.

“I’m interested in listening to speakers, seeing what’s going on in the education field,” he said.

Jillian Daley can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and 503-636-1281, ext. 109. Follow her on Twitter, @jilliandaley.

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