This past Saturday, March 19, 2022, the Newark Board of Education’s Deputy Superintendent, Nicole T. Johnson, proudly hosted The First Annual Women’s Leadership Conference: Embrace. Empower. Elevate. The conference, open to current and aspiring women leaders in the district – attracted more than 350 registered participants. Deputy Superintendent Johnson opened the conference and embraced the women leaders with a powerful message: “You are a wonder-woman! We are ALL wonder-women!” This declaration set the tone for the event, centering the ideals of purpose, mentorship, and authenticity, for each woman leader and speaker who followed.
To kick off the day’s guest speakers, special messages were shared by Superintendent Roger León, Mayor Ras J. Baraka, Board President Dawn Haynes, and were followed by renowned women leaders throughout the country. Superintendent León began by stating, “I take this opportunity to recognize our Deputy Superintendent for her incredible leadership and her steadfastness with regards to the importance of this very important event.” Soon after, New Jersey State Senator M. Teresa Ruiz spoke to the importance of representation and shared, “If you are not at the table, then you are part of the menu.”
Breakout sessions allowed those in attendance to choose their path for the remainder of the conference, with session titles such as Leading for Justice through Radical Care, Leading with Your Authentic Story, and Women at the Forefront and Nexus of Change. Throughout the event, all participants engaged with presenters and one another through lively discussions and the conversations continued on social media with the hashtag #NBOEWLConference2022. Keynote Speaker Judge Victoria Pratt, author of The Power of Dignity, elevated each woman leader to know her worth and reminded her that “The question is not who is going to let me but who is going to stop me.”
The online response to the virtual conference was extremely positive with attendees flooding the district’s timeline with images of quotes from speakers and posting images of themselves within the event’s online filter-frame. Women spoke to how empowered they felt and the takeaways they had from each presenter. A majority of the attendees shared that they felt a large sense of community in spending Saturday morning amongst like-minded leaders.
In alignment with The Next Decade: 2020-30 Strategic Plan Priority 4: Continuous Learning for All, the Women’s Leadership Conference manifested the district’s investment in the potential and development of highly effective leaders. The conference was a historic event and a meaningful learning experience for all who attended. At the close of the conference, Deputy Superintendent Johnson stated, “This year’s conference was an opportunity for aspiring and current women leaders to come together in this powerful and collaborative learning environment. The theme this year was intentional and timely. Now, more than ever, we must embrace, empower, and elevate ourselves and one another as we develop skills needed to ignite impact!”
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