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Posted: Apr 28, 2009 14:57


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By: Lon Woodbury

We are striving to make the upcoming Get-Together on May 15 as unique as the previous three have been. The goal is to emphasize networking and socializing time in a fairly small informal and interactive setting among everybody who is interested in the network of private, parent choice schools, programs and services, Yes, there will be interesting and valuable presentations, but that is only part of the program. Of at least equal importance is the chance to visit with old friends and make news ones.

Those of us who work in this network frequently attend conferences, primarily the IECA and NATSAP conferences. They are invaluable and enjoyable. However, they are usually in expensive hotels or conference centers in cities, and there is a frantic pace from the large numbers attending and being packed with presentations. Each conference is developed around one type of professional (The IECA focuses on the needs of Educational Consultants, NATSAP for school administrative staff….). Frequently an attendee must choose between whether to have that needed and long-awaited conversation with a colleague or to attend a breakout session occurring at the same time with information important for the attendee's job. Or, they sometimes take advantage of exploring or shopping in the nearby area. In the NW Get-Together, we are consciously trying to break out of these patterns.

The concept was inspired by a meeting called years ago by Rob Spear, then President of the CEDU schools. The school was doing some research on what was being done in other schools to help kids. Information was sparse and much was guarded as proprietary. CEDU then realized they had a world class library of that kind of information in the heads of the staff working at the multitude of schools and programs within a hundred miles of Sandpoint, where the CEDU headquarters were located at the time. Rob called a meeting (I think they even offered a free lunch) and about 20-30 people working in the network from as many schools and programs showed up. The only agenda was a few questions Rob had prepared. The freewheeling conversation that afternoon benefited everybody since everybody was encouraged to contribute what they knew. The value of that meeting was obvious, so I initiated the Get-Together to continue that kind of free-wheeling exchange of information.

The setting will be the same as last year, the Naples Inn, about seven miles south of Bonners Ferry and about 20 miles north of Sandpoint, a hundred yards west of Highway 95. The history of the building until recently was as a hostel and before that a Grange Hall. The main meeting room can comfortably hold a hundred people (more if necessary). The town of Naples is a quaint little town that you would miss if you blinked while traveling on the Highway. The town is isolated so there are no downtown shops or restaurants nearby to lure participants away from the Inn (with the exception of the delightful old-time Naples General Store next door). It has picnic tables next to the grass of the town Commons for people to use for lunch or visiting.

There are only three presentations planned (four if you count Paul Clark's fly fishing lesson on the Commons after the other sessions). Everyone will be able to attend each and have ample time to comment, question, etc. There will also be time between sessions for visiting, networking etc. We keep the seating informal also. Some like to sit on a chair or couch next to the pot bellied wood stove, others like to stand at the back, and some sit in the arranged chairs at tables in the center. All presenters have been asked to leave ample time for questions and discussion since often some of the attendees have information that can supplement that of the formal presenter, to the benefit of all.

It is primarily designed for those working where it is an easy drive to Naples, thus the title Northwest Get-together. Welcome are Educational Consultants, Admissions Staff, and Administrators, Line staff, Parents and any person having some interest in the work with struggling teens. There is no division between one type of professional and another, all are equally accepted and valued. We especially are interested in welcoming line staff because, although they are the ones working face to face with the students every day, they rarely attend the national conferences, and they probably are more in need of exposure to other ideas than those who do.

The continental breakfast and coffee will be available at 8:00 AM, followed by the first presentation starting between 8:30 AM and 9:00 AM. It will be a discussion of the Montana Academy Model and John McKinnon's book "An Unchanged Mind" (assuming some late scheduling problems can be worked out).

Brandi Elliott will be presenting and providing tips on the importance of working closely with parents for greater success for their child at a school or program. It will start about 11:00 AM and is titled "Parents As Partners."

Lunch (included in the registration) will then be served, followed by the afternoon session which will begin around 1:30 PM. It will feature Randy Russell on "The Value of Native Culture for 21st Century Teens" and will include a drumming demonstration in the light of the way Native Cultures present.

The less informal part will conclude between 3:00 and 3:30 PM, to be followed by a fly fishing lesson on the Commons grass by Paul Clark, so for those interested bring your fly rod. We had great weather last year when the OK Corral had their horses there for an equine therapy hands-on demonstration and hope for comparable weather this year.

Registration information can be obtained from Laura Morton at 208-267-5550 or

We look forward to a large, friendly enthusiastic crowd.

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PO Box 1671 | Bonners Ferry, ID 83805 | 208-267-5550
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