RSA Summer Conference Wrap -Up

"The Hard Work of Staying:

Rural Schools as the Heart of the Community" 

July 7-9, 2019

  Otesaga Resort, Cooperstown, NY



48 hours of learning set astride one of the most picturesque lakes, at one of the most beautiful times of year in one of the country’s best facilities, hearing from the state and nation’s top educational experts. It’s a tough combination to beat, but every year attendees tell us RSA has topped itself once again. This year was no exception.


We began with a pre-conference summit on transforming rural school districts through community and college partnering. NYSCOSS Supt. of the Year Dr. Jason Andrews of Windsor and Cornell’s Dr. John Sipple gave us the latest information on collaborating with healthcare providers and universities to do innovative programming and build school based health centers. With the state education commissioner’s pending resignation, we heard from the State Education Department’s Deputy Commissioner Dr. Kim Wilkins on SED’s efforts and focus.


On Monday our focus went national with the National Dropout Prevention Center and Successful Practices Network President Ray McNulty talking about the next chapter in education, while Battelle for Kids’ Chief of Staff Jamie Meade showed us how to build a portrait of a successful graduate (and the changes needed to make it happen for all students!) We heard from the National Rural Educator of the Year, Pennsylvania’s Wade Owlett on doing the hard work of staying in rural America and the critically important role our rural schools play in that effort. We wrapped up our general sessions with a panel of experts ranging from NYSPTA’s President Lorey Zaman on engaging parents in education, to NYSCOSS’ Deputy Executive Director Bob Lowry on trends in educational focus and concerns, to RSA and Seneca Falls Board Member Heather Zellers highlighting federal advocacy issues and RSA’s own Executive Director Dave Little forecasting the political and demographic environment in rural New York in the coming years.


Interspersed amid this powerful lineup was a rare but outstanding summer student musical performance by the Canandaigua Academy Fiddle Club, a networking reception at nearby Brewery Ommegang and the ever popular presentations by the winners of the FFA Statewide Student Oratorical Contest. RSA also honored RSA and Champlain Valley Educational Services BOCES board member Linda Gonyo-Horne for her insightful guidance and advocacy with the Anne Z. Paulin Distinguished Service Award. Current NYSSBA board member and former RSA board member Sandra Ruffo was presented the RSA Appreciation Award for her outstanding leadership at the local, regional and state levels, while current RSA board member and Wayne Finger Lakes BOCES leader Scott Bischoping received the William H. Deming Award for outstanding leadership by a school administrator.

Finally, the James C. Dawson Lifetime Service Award was presented to NYSSBA Deputy Executive Director and General Counsel Jay Worona, for his 35 years of leadership, advocacy and service to public education. It was a stellar group of deserving recipients.

Of course, the meat of the conference is provided by the many breakout sessions focusing on programs and services already doing great work in rural districts. RSA always selects presentations that can be easily replicated in all rural districts and this year’s choices (selected by a conference planning team led by Tompkins-Seneca-Tioga BOCES DS Jeff Matteson) really hit the mark.

Attendees networked with over 30 vendors and sponsors at a number of receptions, providing the perfect balance of inspiration, education and relaxation. The coming years are likely to be particularly challenging for our rural schools, but RSA and its Summer Conference will be there to prepare, protect and provide rural schools with the latest and most pertinent information.

See you next year July 12-14 at The Otesaga in Cooperstown!

Pictures are available at these links:

Sunday Photos

Monday Photos

Brewery Ommegang

Technical Building Services Winner of the Keurig drawing is Theresa Carlin, Superintendent at Schenevus CSD