Dear NSFA Conference Attendees,

Thank you immensely for your time and participation in the national conference.  It was a remarkable week filled with a host of incredible nationally recognized keynote speakers and presenters who provided us with new insights, skillsets, ideas, strategies and opportunities for growth. I found myself awed by new information every single day.  

A sincere thank you to AMI for handling every single detail, to all of the vendors who shared their mechanisms to streamline and improve our services and to all of the sponsors and donors without whom this conference would not have been possible.  A special thank you to our Conference Co-Chairs Donna Frisby-Greenwood, Mary Melon and Heather Carroll, our Superintendent of the Year Committee including Dr. Wayne Padover, Robin Callahan and Brent Severe and once again congratulations to Dr. Rodney Watson from the Spring Independent School District of Houston upon receiving the 2021 award.  We look forward to another successful cohort of new Certified Education Foundation Leaders beginning in June and send our sincere thanks to National University for your years of partnership.  Please remember to visit the NSFA website or reach out to Bill Hoffman or Sara Bender with questions and thank you to you both for your leadership.  Gail Rothman - we appreciate your work with the Industry Leadership Council during the last year.  The ILC is an integral group of professionals who help continue to build our organization. More to come in 2021!

Finally, thanks to the NSFA Board of Directors whose unparalleled passion and care for the PreK-12 Education Foundation Industry continues to remind me of how fortunate I am to be a part this special community. Looking forward to an outstanding conference in 2022 in Oklahoma City!!!  Warm wishes across the miles.

Toba Cohen-Dunning, CEFL, MSW, MPA
President, National School Foundation Association


National School Foundation Association (NSFA) Hosted a Four-Day National Conference...VIRTUALLY.

Between Tuesday, February 23 and Friday, February 26, 2021, the NSFA held the 16th annual four-day virtual National Conference. This event hosted nearly 500 attendees consisting of education foundation leaders, board directors, philanthropy experts, professors, and more. Registrants congregated virtually from all over the country.

Conference Testimonials

"During Mary Kelly's presentation, I was furiously taking notes - so much valuable information and resources that I can't wait to dig into.  I look forward to going back through the recorded sessions in a few weeks to view sessions I missed.  As a breakout speaker, I could not have asked for more support from the NSFA team.  You made presenting a breeze."

- Blair Ellis, Bartlesville Public School Foundation

"This has been a great conference! I started as a director in January and I am so impressed by how willing people are to share the expertise with a new person!"

- Dr. Donald Johnson, Fort Calhoun Community Schools

"This is my first year attending the conference. I'm liking the digital format. I was nervous about diving into a digital conference, but the Socio app seems to have been used to its full potential. Great job everyone!

- Ryan Weiss, NPSD Educational Foundation

"Thanks for such a great conference this year! Thanks for working so hard to make it easy and fruitful for us as sponsors - the networking events were super fun and we had at least 5 genuinely interested organizations stop by our booth each day which for a virtual show I will count as a definite win! Appreciate everything and being so adaptive to a crazy year!"

- Alexandria Burgraff, Alumni Nations

"The conference line up was spectacular! I am excited to go back to listen to the sessions that I missed."

- Katie LaPira, CEFL, Rockingham Educational Foundation

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"This year, as I am new to my Foundation role, and new to the virtual world of conferences, I  have been so very impressed and my soul, my heart and my head has been fed with information and meaningful information! I am so excited and can hardly wait to implement and engage my board and my District! Our foundation is just 4 years old and we have so much more we can do and build on! I have high expectations and feel WE Can Do this! Thank you for everyone for making the virtual world feel like "home". for all the interactive ways you have made this so meaningful and educational! I have loved it all!"

- Kathy Carr, Education Foundation for Osceola County

"Ok, so now I am a fan of cloning. We need more district leaders all over the U.S. who think like Dr. Hite!"

-Mary Chance, Consortium of Florida Education Foundations

"This has been such a fantastic week, and I'm really excited to watch many of the recorded sessions in the weeks to come. Thanks NSFA for creating such wonderful content and connection through the virtual conference this year. Your planning team has done a tremendous job!"

- Katy Leffel, Oklahoma Foundation For Excellence

"Thank you for all you are doing.  This conference was amazing. I started two years ago and felt I needed to find out what others do. I now have a great direction."

- Paula Webb Clark, Wausau School Foundation

"Can't wait to share some of the sessions with my board members!"

- Donna Frisby-Greenwood, CEFL, The Fund for the School District of Philadelphia


2021 NSFA Superintendent of the Year
Dr. Rodney E. Watson, Superintendent, Spring Independent School District, Houston, TX

Dr. Rodney E. Watson has led the Spring Independent School District since July 2014. The district serves more than 33,000 students in a diverse community approximately 20 miles north of downtown Houston, in an urban area of Harris County, Texas. Along with its 26 elementary schools, seven comprehensive middle schools and three comprehensive high schools, Spring ISD offers families two middle schools of choice, a nationally recognized early college academy and an award-winning high school career academy.

Located near the heart of one of the largest, most culturally diverse and most vibrant metropolitan areas in the country, Spring ISD’s mission is to prepare students to contribute, compete, and lead in a global society as well as in their own communities. Through classroom instruction, extracurriculars, enrichment activities, internships and robust CTE pathways, volunteering and other forms of civic engagement, the district’s students are encouraged to become lifelong learners, critical thinkers, and responsible citizens of good character.

Watson arrived as superintendent from Houston ISD, where he served as Chief Human Resources Officer for the largest district in Texas and seventh largest in the nation. Upon his arrival in Spring ISD, he partnered with stakeholders and community members across the district to develop a shared vision for the future. An ambitious five-year strategic plan, EVERY CHILD 2020, launched in May 2015 with an emphasis on student-centered decision making, rigor and accountability, and leveraging the power of teamwork and common purpose at every level of the organization.

That work has led to numerous successes for Spring ISD, including the expansion of full-day prekindergarten to every elementary campus, enhanced early childhood and dual language offerings, improvements in high school students taking and scoring well on AP exams, a boost in elementary reading proficiency, and the launch of several new middle and high school specialty programs. Watson’s leadership has helped inspire a large increase in parent and community volunteer hours, as well as the passage of a $330 million bond that brought new school buildings, improved technology and infrastructure, and allowed for the establishment of dedicated ninth-grade centers at each of Spring ISD’s three comprehensive high schools.

In the spring of 2020, Watson formed an Innovation and Equity team to support the district’s belief in the importance of ensuring equitable outcomes for all students. A steering committee of both internal and external stakeholders was charged with developing a proactive plan to close achievement gaps while improving support structures that meet the needs of every student within the community.

As superintendent, Watson has been a strong advocate for the district’s education foundation and its work, partnering with the organization and lending his support to its initiatives, including the annual “Tee Up For Education” charity golf tournament and the group’s Grant Express, which funds innovative teaching and learning opportunities through targeted grants given directly to district teachers and campuses.

When Hurricane Harvey devastated the Houston area in 2017, many district families and students were affected by extensive flooding in their neighborhoods. Before the rains had even stopped, Watson and his district leadership team had joined forces with foundation board members and a small army of volunteers to bring much-needed relief and support to Spring ISD families in crisis. This kind of dedicated partnership in support of the common good of all families has been a hallmark of his tenure as superintendent.

Beyond the district, Watson's service to other organizations has included work with The Education Trust, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the NAACP, the National Association of Black School Administrators, the Asia Society’s Global Cities Educational Network, and the American Counseling Association. He has also served as an adjunct professor of education at the University of Missouri–Kansas City and the University of Texas at Austin.

He currently serves as Board Chair for Northwest Assistance Ministries, board member and Executive Pastor at Wellspring Church International Ministries, and formerly served as the Board Chair for Houston Northwest Chamber of Commerce.

Watson received his bachelor’s degree in psychology and music education, his master’s degree in counseling psychology and special education, and his Ph.D., from the University of Missouri–Kansas City, in Urban Leadership and Policy Analysis and Curriculum and Instruction.

Read the press release here.

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On Friday, February 26, 13 hard-working education professionals received their Certificate in Education Leadership. Congratulations to the following individuals who were a part of the 2020 Cohort:

  • Patricia Berger, CEFL
  • Laura Brown, CEFL
  • Nicola Dumas, CEFL
  • Amy Ellgard, CEFL
  • Sarah French, CEFL
  • Liv Gifford, CEFL
  • Denise Haycock, CEFL
  • Katie Lapira, CEFL
  • Holly Laufer, CEFL
  • Doris Martin, CEFL
  • Todd Orner, CEFL
  • Yolanda Pruitt, CEFL
  • Wendy Van DelaCastro, CEFL

Click here to access the CEFL webpage to find out more information about the instructors, courses and more!

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The Certificate in Education Foundation Leadership (CEFL) is the professional standard of the National School Foundation Association and is the only certification program designed exclusively for education foundation leaders and executives.  While each education foundation is unique, this program provides students with specific skills and knowledge required to lead and manage an education foundation of any size.

The National School Foundation Association connects, informs and motivates education foundation leaders through the CEFL program to help leaders manage and lead organizations for greater success. 

Conference Networking Sessions

Trivia Night

Tuesday evening John Barber hosted an "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?" themed trivia night, the first networking event of the National Conference!

Congratulations to LaKisha Bruce for winning trivia night!

Virtual Happy Hour

Wednesday evening Happy Hour was hosted by bartender Patrick Owens of the Baltimore Country Club in Maryland. He is an experienced bartender who has skills in wine, culinary, food & beverage, and alcohol and is a level 2 sommolier. Patrick provided a cocktail handout, linked here, that outlines making cocktails for a dinner party. Hopefully everyone can use this once the pandemic is over!

Donna Frisby-Greenwood said, "He certainly was a wealth of knowledge. Look forward to trying one of his party cocktails."

Thursday Morning Chair Yoga

The Chair Yoga session was a popular networking session! After a relaxing yoga session, Laura Chismudy and Laura Zimmerman led a discussion on how to use yoga in schools to benefit children.

Kim Lund said "After months of sitting, I have come to loathe my office chair. This makes me feel better about my relationship with my chair."

Tough Talks with Toba & Book Chats

On Friday morning we had lively networking breakout sessions! Each session discussed three different books, lead by NSFA CEFL members. NSFA's President, Toba Cohen-Dunning, hosted a dialogue about challenges that districts faced throughout the pandemic.


Thank You to our 2021 National Conference Sponsors!

Platinum Sponsor

Gold Sponsor

NSFA Superintendent of the Year Sponsor

Silver Sponsors

Thank You to our 2021 National Conference Donors

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