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At AASPA's 85   
Annual Conference

October 3-6, 2023
 Anaheim, California

AASPA 2023
Pre-Conference Workshops Descriptions

AM Pre-Conference Workshops: 9 am - 12 pm

You may choose 1 AM and 1 PM session. 

1. "When You Ain't Got Nobody!" What We Did About It.
Presented by Susan “Ze” Anderson Brown, Executive Director of Human Resources, Lane Education Service District, Eugene, OR


Lane ESD was so short of staff during the 2021/2022 school year they had no other choice but to move to a 4-day school schedule. Facing the upcoming school year and heavy pressure from the state, Lane Administration gave the new incoming Human Resources Executive Director a directive to make hiring the number one priority so that schools could operate at their full schedule, five days a week. As HR school professionals, we all know that gone are the days when a job posting yielded a pool of qualified teachers and support staff candidates. School human resources departments now face shrinking hiring pools, ghosting candidates, and pirated staff. Couple that with the ongoing problem of the substitute shortage that has been made more acute by COVID's lingering presence, this winter's two Noroviruses, RSV hitting adults, the great resignation, Monday's presenteeism, and the record high levels of absenteeism due to stress, poor attitude, or injury related to increasing behaviors in the classroom. Applicant shortage is an ongoing problem. The shrinking talent pool is not going to get any deeper. Regardless of your budget and district size, tracking recruitment efforts and better knowing when your vacancy effort is being viewed and acted upon is essential. Lane ESD engaged in geo-tracking to dial in on applicants to understand better when and where to spend their advertising dollars. They turned to social media campaigns and used analytics, and measured click-throughs. They looked at their applicant experience, and they measured their abandonment rate. They created an employee/applicant new-hire referral program. They partnered with external resources and built internal programs to support their daily substitute teacher needs.


  • Create a realistic candidate persona for applicants to identify with.

  • Create a Call-to-Action posting.

  • Remove barriers to help ensure a seamless candidate experience.

  • Develop a successful employee referral program.

  • Identify and work on reducing bias.

  • Understand where and when your candidates are applying.

2. Building the Workforce Our Students Need: Strategic Staffing for Student Defined Success 

Presented by Sara Baker, Executive Director of Workforce Planning; Sarah Semroc, Human Resources Partner; Cathy Kim, Human Resources Partner; Kellie Hernandez, Principal on Special Assignment and Michaela Raikes, Project Manager for Workforce Planning, Highline Public Schools, Burien, WA

Hire the best.” Best is often a culturally steeped translation of “the most educated, most experienced” applicants attracted to the posting. However, do those criteria result in the best hires for students in a given context? How do we identify the leaders we need to ensure we have equity-driven staffing throughout the organization? And how do we know we did?

Participants will hear about the framework Highline is developing in practice, to think strategically about staffing for student-defined success. As a continuation of our 2021 and 2022 sessions: Building the Workforce Our Students Need, participants will engage in learning around how Highline is moving from staffing individual vacancies to development of multi-year staffing models. We’ll share learning from our Design Team process and highlight key (transformational) workforce data practices that support our system’s ability to target the recruitment and retention of our staff, particularly centering

the experiences of Educators of Color and staff who serve in hard to fill

designation positions.

This session will also include workshop time; come ready to engage in dialogue

and try on some new ideas in support of strategic staff planning in your context!

3. What You Don’t Know Might Hurt You: Essential Title IX Update for School Personnel Administrators

Presented by Jackie Gharapour Wernz, Partner at Thompson & Horton LLP, Dallas, TX, Holly McIntush, Partner at Thompson & Horton LLP,  Austin, TX and Kristi Johnson, Associate Counsel, Labor and Employment, Loudoun County Public Schools, Ashburn, VA


Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is often thought of as a student statute, but the implications for human resources administrators abound. Join nationally recognized Title IX attorneys to discuss the essential Title IX topics every school personnel administrator needs to know. We will discuss how Title IX impacts transgender issues in the workplace, sexual misconduct processes and discipline, new employee training requirements, regulatory changes on the horizon, and more. Our interactive session will include meaningful conversations about these important—and often divisive—issues.


4. A Robust Grow Your Own (GYO) Teacher Cycle: GYO Development, Recruitment and Retention Strategies that Work

Presented by Leah Zavala, Teach Denton Coordinator,  Emily McLarty, Director of Staff Engagement and Dr. Robert Stewart, Assistant Superintendent, Division of Human Resources, Denton ISD, Denton, TX 


In Denton ISD, we are committed to developing, recruiting, and retaining a richly diverse workforce to serve our students and our community. We recognize the value of recruiting, developing, training, and maintaining a pipeline of teachers to ensure we provide a pool of educators who reflect our students, families, and community through their cultural heritage, language, and traditions. Come prepared to learn and engage in a collaborative process as we share how Denton ISD’s innovative Grow Your Own/Teach Denton Program is providing a teacher pipeline for Denton ISD schools. In this session you will gain the knowledge, tools, and ideas on how to 1) create and implement a “grow your own” program within your district to include diversity, equity, and fidelity, 2) create and implement a “mentorship and employee engagement” program within your

district, and 3) implement intentional strategies to retain your employees. 

We know that many of you share these priorities, and we look forward to

exchanging ideas to grow in this vital area. We want to learn from you, as

well as share our own experiences. We are in this together and we promise to

leave you energized and excited towards this endeavor!

5. From Conflict to Collaboration: How Conflict Agility Skills Can Build School Capacity and Reduce Leadership Stress

Presented by Dr. Robert Feirsen, Co-author, Manhattanville College, New Hyde Park, NY and Dr. Seth Weitzman, Co-author, Mercy College, Larchmont, NY 


Conflict is rife in today’s schools, causing elevated stress levels, unprecedented turnover rates, knee jerk resistance to school improvement efforts, and toxic environments. Administrators often careen from one seemingly intractable dispute to the next; studies clock the total at 20-40 percent of a leader’s typical day. Since building and district administrators receive little training in how to handle conflict constructively, discord festers, and seek to avoid it entirely, schools miss opportunities to confront many of education’s most substantive issues.

Nevertheless, conflict in schools is inevitable. In fact, the authors maintain that when skillfully managed, conflict actually can benefit schools and school districts by improving the ability of stakeholders to work together toward shared goals and by establishing a culture where people can disagree without becoming disagreeable. In this hands-on workshop, participants will learn conflict-agility skills and strategies to address “wicked problems” that defy traditional solutions and drive wedges into increasingly polarized school communities. The presenters' approach is drawn from evidence-based practices in the fields of education, engineering, organizational psychology, and peace studies, coupled with experience in principal and superintendent offices.

Topics include: causes and consequences of conflict in schools; 3 conflict leadership styles; strategies to grow trust, engage in                                                                                          disagreement without divisiveness, and build school capacity and culture; and                                                                                 how to use Design Thinking to facilitate collaborative problem solving.                                                                                           Workshop participants will engage in realistic practice based on a scenario                                                                                     that reflects one of today's top issues. Finally, in a section called “Taking Your                                                                                 Learning Back,” participants will consider how they can apply learning from                                                                                   the workshop in their own schools or school districts.

6. The Top 10 FMLA Pitfalls to Avoid

Presented by Mari McGowan, Director/Shareholder and Rebecca Bradley, Senior Associate, Abernathy, Roeder, Boyd & Hullett, McKinney, TX

This session will address the Top 10 issues encountered with FMLA both through recent cases and guidance from the Department of Labor. The goal of the session is to provide a solid foundation for many of the complex challenges faced with employee FMLA leave.

PM Pre-Conference Workshops: 1 pm - 4 pm

You may choose 1 AM and 1 PM session. 

7. Investigations

Presented by Richard Verstegen, Attorney, Boardman & Clark LLP, Madison, WI


Allegations of employee misconduct trigger investigation processes. Human resources administrators often play an important role in guiding the process and assuring that all political, procedural and legal principles are taken into account. This role can be challenging, especially considering the various policies that may be triggered

depending on the type of misconduct involved. This presentation will provide

an overview of the investigation process, scenario discussions and related

considerations such as law enforcement involvement, child abuse reporting,

records creation and other issues.

8. Organizational Culture & Climate: Creating Communities of Belonging 

Presented by Dr. Erikca Brown, Equity & Education Consultant, Equity Continuum, Hagerstown, MD

Schools are not simply a collection of individual teachers, administrators, students, and staff. They are organizations, with structures, practices and norms that may impede or support its organizational members. An organization’s culture defines the proper way to behave within the organization. Previously, scholars have viewed organizations as “race neutral”, however recent research indicates that schools are racial structures that reproduce the racialization process and hierarchies. Frequently organizational culture and climate is determined by the dominant culture. These racial hierarchies, whether implicit or explicit, typically disadvantage non-dominant organizational members relative to dominant. Organizational culture determines individual organizational members perceptions and understanding of, behavior in, and ultimately level of satisfaction and desire to remain in the organization itself.


The purpose of this session is to develop your equity lens to reflect personally on their practice, analyze the systemic issues that perpetuate the racial/ethnic/cultural disparities that exist in schools, and support honest and compassionate dialogue around addressing these disparities. This will enable participants to:

  • Evaluate your own organization's culture

  • Understand the impact of organizational culture to diversity efforts

  • Explore the factors contribute to or support diversity

  • Assess the roadblocks/challenges to diversity

As such schools can create more equitable communities through:

  • Changing toxic workplace environment

  • Shifting the culture to make it more inclusive to ensure all shareholders feel they belong

  • Improving the recruitment & retention of diverse people

  • Increasing diverse thoughts, ideas, perspectives

  • Enhancing your organizations reputation, employee engagement, production, and satisfaction

9. Overview of Federal Laws

Presented by Francisco J. Valenzuela, Attorney at Fanning Harper Martinson Brandt & Kutchin, P.C., Dallas, TX

                                                                               Title VII, Title IX, ADA, ADEA, FLSA, FMLA, Section 1983…are just some of                                                                                   the Federal laws that provide the structure for how schools are to treat their                                                                                 employees.  It's a lot!  This session will provide an overview of each of these                                                                                   statutes, their requirements, and how they operate, as well as practical                                                                                         guidance as to how to remain legally compliant.

10. Power Up Your Retention Strategy

Presented by Emily Douglas-McNab, Co-Founder & Chief and Dr. Kate Heynoski, Co-Founder & Chief, Experience Management Institute, Delaware, OH


Why do educators stay, and how can you keep your best? This session will focus on the reasons you need to prioritize retention and high-impact strategies like communicating total compensation, offering competitive total rewards, and monitoring pay equity. EXMI experts will also share examples of how districts have enhanced the employee experience at key touchpoints from orientation to onboarding, growth, and throughout the employee lifecycle with an

emphasis on smart stay strategies. Audit your current retention

practices and leave with a game plan!

11.  Gender Identity, EEOC and Related Public Relations Issues

Presented by Namita Brown, Partner; Peter Fagen, Partner and Terilyn Finders, Chief Client Services Officer, Fagen, Friedman & Fulfrost LLP, CA

This is a session aimed at exploring the gender identity issues playing out in school districts across the nation.  We will discuss gender identity issues arising within the context of classroom interactions, school facilities and programs, student support, and how all these issues culminate in board meetings.  This session will also examine access and participation guaranteed to students under state and federal laws, and how gender identity access lawsuits are shaping the debate around the nation, in education and athletics.  We will also discuss the “book banning” debate involving books on gender identity.  All of this will be discussed in a backdrop to EEOC laws and regulations, and how to effectively manage personnel without running afoul Title VII.  We will also discuss practical considerations regarding media coverage on these hot button issues and evaluate best practices to create an environment for civil policy discourse.

12. Teacher Shortage?  What about the Leadership Shortage and the Data/Research that We Have Discovered in California?   Action is Needed Now!    

Presented by David Robertson, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources, Vacaville Unified School District, Vacaville, CA and Serette Kaminski, Legislative Advocate, Association of California School Administrator (ACSA), Sacramento, CA


At this pre-conference session, attendees will get a chance to review, learn, and analyze current data in California and other states across our nation that are directly related to the leadership shortage we are facing today. Our hope is that you will find this session will be interactive, fun and engaging as we will use this as a great opportunity to also learn from each other as we begin with the challenges related with the issue. We will also highlight some California initiatives and legislation meant to alleviate the loss of leadership.  David Robertson is a former AASPA Executive Board member and Serette Kaminski leads their recruitment and retention efforts here in California for ACSA. 

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