By EDWARD HUSARHerald-Whig Staff Writer
The Illinois Association of School Boards will spend the coming year celebrating its 100th anniversary, and Quincy will be a big part of the history the organization will share with its membership.
The IASB started in Quincy in December 1913 when Joseph W. Wall, a member of the Quincy School Board, invited school board members from around the state to form an organization to discuss mutual concerns facing all school districts.
The group's inaugural convention was held Dec. 11-12 of that year at Quincy's Newcomb Hotel, on the southeast corner of Fourth and Maine, with about 30 people attending from school districts around Illinois.
Wall was elected the first president of what was then called the Illinois State School Board Association. The name was changed to the Illinois Association of School Boards in 1938.
According to the Dec. 11, 1913, issue of The Quincy Whig -- forerunner to The Quincy Herald-Whig -- the first convention featured talks on some familiar-sounding topics. They included:
º "Some school board problems and how best to solve them."
º Standardizing school accounting/school statistics and office methods."
º "The school board and vocational education."
º "Legal uses of school buildings."
º "The prerogatives of the superintendent."
º "Teachers' salaries and teaching efficiency."
Linda Dawson, director of editorial services for the IASB, said those topics are as current today as they were then.
"You could put those topics on our conference program each year, and they would be well-attended," she said. "They're talking about some of the same stuff today that they talked about 100 years ago."
Dawson, who works in the IASB's communications office in Springfield, serves on a committee drafting plans for the IASB's yearlong centennial celebration, which will begin in January.
She said the largest portion of the celebration will occur at the IASB's joint annual conference Nov. 22-24 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Chicago, the single biggest event of the year for IASB members.
Like the inaugural event in Quincy in 1913, the annual conference today features talks on a wide range of topics of interest to school officials throughout Illinois. But today's conferences are much different than the first conference -- particularly in size.
Dawson said about 11,000 people now attend the IASB conference compared with the 30 who met initially in Quincy. She said the conference must be held in Chicago because "there's no other venue in the state where we could meet that would have enough hotel rooms."
Membership in the IASB includes the seven school board members from all but eight of the state's 862 school districts. That's about 6,000 people, many of whom attend the annual conference. Also attending the conference are nearly 900 superintendents, along with business officials from most districts.
Dawson said the 11,000 attendance figure also includes speakers, exhibitors and guests who pack the event's headquarters.
Dawson serves as editor of the IASB Journal, a bimonthly publication focusing on education topics of interest to Illinois school leaders. She said tentative plans for the centennial celebration call for publishing six articles about the 100-year anniversary -- one in each bimonthly magazine starting in January.
Dawson said her first article will focus on the founding of the IASB and what happened at the first convention in Quincy.
"What I'm trying to do is come up with some kind of a historical perspective," she said.
Subsequent articles will focus on other aspects of IASB and how the organization has developed over the years.
Today, the IASB serves a variety of purposes. For example, the organization provides training to school board members. It also has a legal department that tracks school-related legislation and makes recommendations to districts on how school policies should be adjusted to conform with new laws.
The association also has a government relations arm that essentially lobbies on behalf of school districts and for quality education in general. The organization also helps school districts search for new superintendents when vacancies arise, and it has a communications arm that disseminates news about education issues.
The agency's website is www.iasb.com/.