asbointl.org SCHOOL BUSINESS AFFAIRS | NOVEMBER 2020 7 We should not be shy about letting the world know about the central role school districts play in keeping segments of our society afloat. Celebrating Our Achievements By David J. Lewis executive director’s message A n extraordinary event took place October 13, 2020 at Union City Public Schools in New Jersey: They celebrated the two millionth free meal dis- tributed to their students since the COVID-19 pandemic closed schools and sent our world into a tailspin. They celebrated this amazing milestone with a press conference and public recogni- tion of the administration and staff of UCPS, state and federal agriculture officials, the food services management company, and the mayor and commissioners. They celebrated their com- ing together as a community to ensure that despite the clouds overhead, the lives of the Union City students were brightened by the certainty that they would not have to go to bed hungry. This milestone is an excellent example of the central role school districts play in keeping entire segments of our society afloat—espe- cially now. School districts are fulfilling a whole host of crucial roles in addition to child nutrition. School districts are most often a community’s central hub of information, assis- tance, and connectivity when it comes to social and emotional counseling support, healthcare, special education services, job training and career counseling services, after-hour pro- grams, and technology engagement. Now more than ever, we need to communi- cate this message to the outside world and to policymakers who are making fundamental decisions on funding and operational direc- tives as we navigate our way through educat- ing during a pandemic. Similar milestones are happening in every school district around the country, indeed around the world, as public education institu- tions are called upon to fulfill societal needs that they were never intended to address, and certainly aren’t provided adequate resources in relation to the tasks assigned. This is not a new problem, of course, but the pandemic is bringing into even sharper focus the many disparities that already existed in our society. Whether it be a higher infection and death rate in our Black and Brown com- munities, a lack of adequate technology and connectivity in poorer communities, or fewer healthcare facilities and providers in rural com- munities, these inequalities are bringing ever- growing challenges, and they are showing up right at our local school district’s front door. Despite these challenges, and in fact in response to them, it was uplifting to see the many creative solutions presented during Envi- sion 2020, ASBO International’s first virtual Annual Conference & Expo. From cyberse- curity, school safety, and new budgeting tools, to crowdfunding, federal education funding policy, and myriad other topics, Envision 2020 offered more than 75 live and recorded ses- sions for our members to continue to learn, collaborate, engage in professional growth, and reconnect with their peers and community albeit in a virtual environment. Like school districts around the world, ASBO International will continue to look for innovative and accessible ways to provide a global venue for school business practitioners and industry suppliers to share ideas, sharpen skills, and draw strength from one another. Finally, I want to say a huge thank you and kudos to the ASBO International staff who embraced the challenge of shifting to a virtual conference, learned from an incredible amount of resources and from each other, and came together as a team—which they always do—to make Envision 2020 a reality. They are an inspiring and dedicated group of professionals who went above and beyond in extra hours and sweat equity in building a new and power- ful conference experience for our members. It is always gratifying to see a group of indi- viduals come together as a community to solve challenging problems—just like they did in Union City!