The Office of Non-Public Education (ONPE) hosted the 9th-Annual Private School Leadership Conference on September 23 at the Department of Education’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. Each year, the invitation-only event brings together 100 of the nation’s top private and home school educational leaders from across the country. Also attending were representatives from state and local education agencies who are responsible for administering federal education programs on behalf of private school students.
The annual conference provides a forum to address Department of Education programs and initiatives, listen to the concerns of the nonpublic school community, highlight innovative practices, and facilitate discourse between the Department and national nonpublic school leaders.
This year’s event featured a dialogue between Acting Assistant Deputy Secretary (ADS) Nadya Dabby and national private school leaders. Acting ADS Dabby topped off the day with an engaging discussion with key stakeholders in the nonpublic school community concerning the Department’s efforts regarding eligible children receiving the equitable services available to them, and she highlighted the Equitable Services Implementation Plan (ESIP). Acting ADS Dabby stated that it is a core responsibility of the ONPE to respond to concerns that students and teachers may not be receiving the available equitable services, and she welcomed the opportunity to partner with the national private school community on the components of the ESIP.
She also expressed appreciation of the long-standing relationship the Department has enjoyed with the nonpublic school community and reminded them of their role in helping the Department achieve a long-range vision for education. She encouraged them to help the Department build stronger relationships with parents, students, and teachers in nonpublic schools. Acting ADS Dabby also asked the nonpublic school leaders to continue to push the vision of what is possible in education, seizing opportunities and sharing them with others. The Department, she said, knows there are pockets of innovative work occurring in private schools and it wants to hear about them.
The conference began with a keynote address about massive open online courses (MOOCs) and the impact they are having on education at the postsecondary level. Throughout the day, participants learned about programs such as cultural exchanges available through the Department of State’s Bureau of Cultural Affairs, which provide abundant opportunities for American citizens to travel to another country for either academic pursuits or professional growth for educators. Many opportunities also exist for U.S. schools, both public and nonpublic, to enroll students for school-year study abroad, as well as for American families to host foreign students who participate in U.S. exchange programs.
A highlight of the day was the insightful remarks of Sophia Pink, a high school junior at Washington International School in Washington, D.C., who took a sabbatical for her sophomore year. That’s right, a sabbatical, during which Sophia created a uniquely hybrid approach to her academic pursuits. She studied courses online, completed a Google science fair project, began development of an app to showcase acts of kindness, and produced a five-minute short film entitled Honk if You Love Someone, which has already won a youth filmmaking award and is being considered for another. Watch for Sophia’s guest blog on OII’s home page to learn more about her sabbatical year.
The ONPE team hopes that all who attended this year’s conference found it beneficial to the work they do on behalf of nonpublic school students and teachers. The team is also grateful to all of the presenters for making this year’s conference a priority in their busy schedules.
Pamela Allen is an education program specialist and the team lead for the annual conference in the Office of Non-Public Education.