Newark School Board Hosts First Women’s Leadership Conference

March 21, 2022

On Saturday, March 19, 2022, Newark Board of Education Deputy Superintendent Nicole T. Johnson proudly hosted The first annual women’s leadership conference: Embrace. Empower. Raise. The conference, open to current and future district leaders, drew more than 350 registered attendees. Deputy Superintendent Johnson opened the conference and embraced the women leaders with a powerful message: “You are a wonderful woman! We are ALL wonderful women!” This statement 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, Council Chair Dawn Haynes, and were attended by renowned women leaders across the country. Superintendent León began by saying, “I take this opportunity to thank our Assistant Superintendent for his incredible leadership and consistency in addressing the importance of this very important event.” Shortly after, New Jersey State Senator Teresa Ruiz spoke about the importance of representation and shared, “If you’re not at the table, then you’re on the menu.

Breakout sessions allowed attendees to choose their path for the rest 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 the nexus of change. Throughout the event, all attendees engaged with the presenters and each other through lively discussions and the conversations continued on social media with the hashtag #NBOEWLConference2022. Keynote speaker, Justice Victoria Pratt, author of The power of dignityelevated every female leader to her worth and reminded her that “the question is not who is going to leave me but who is going to stop me”.

Online response to the virtual conference has been overwhelmingly positive, with attendees flooding the district timeline with images of speaker quotes and posting images of themselves to the event’s online filter. The women spoke about their sense of empowerment and takeaways from each presenter. The majority of attendees shared that they felt a great sense of community spending Saturday mornings among like-minded leaders.

In alignment with The Next Decade: Strategic Plan 2020-30 Priority 4: Lifelong Learning for All, the Women’s Leadership Conference demonstrated the district’s investment in the potential and development of highly effective leaders. The conference was a historic event and a significant learning experience for all who attended. As the conference closed, Deputy Superintendent Johnson said, “This year’s conference provided an opportunity for aspiring and current women leaders to come together in this powerful and collaborative learning environment. This year’s theme was intentional and timely. Now, more than ever, we need to embrace, empower, and uplift each other while developing the skills to unleash an impact!”

Mara R. Wilmoth