From the CMEA President- Kevin Beaber
On Friday, October 2nd, the CMEA Board of Directors officially decided, after consideration of all data and criteria for meeting in a normal face to face conference, that it was in the best interest of our membership to plan for a virtual format. While it may seem like this should have been an easy decision and probably made sooner than October, we know that live conferences have distinct advantages over virtual (even though we all have a greater expertise in online meetings by now). With the information we had in June it was determined that October would be the latest we could go and still plan a quality event, regardless of format. To go along with that we discussed what form that virtual conference might take. Everyone at the table had attended numerous online meetings and conferences and we have all seen the good and the bad with each.
I have said it before and I will continue to say it, our professional development conference is one of the best around. We want to keep it that way so we asked for bids to professionally host CMEA Clinic-Conference 2021. If we were to try to have a conference similar to the one attended in January 2020, it would cost in excess of $200K and would still have limitations of things we could not do online. There were a couple of companies that could provide a more concise format and within the budget we could set. Moving to a virtual format and choosing a professional company were both difficult decisions. Taking the conference online, when considering current and expected limitations by the governor as well as state and El Paso County health department restrictions, was actually a “no brainer,” but it was not how we wanted things to go. An online conference was not what the individual planning councils had worked on over the summer. Our next decision was how to present a virtual CMEA conference. Planning to go with a company that puts on virtual conferences, and which one, was a tougher choice but in the end it will be the best way to go forward.
The president of NAfME wants everyone to think, in the same way I have been trying to get membership in Colorado to think, that CMEA and NAfME are not corporate entities. Her catchphrase this year is “I am NAfME, You are NAfME, We are NAfME”. We are not that conference planning store that gets things ready for a January professional development convention based on what we think our clients would pay to come see. We are all active and retired educators who were elected by the membership (YOU) to donate our time, talents and energy to planning a conference based on what we hear our friends and colleagues tell us they would like help with. We are all working in a COVID-19 based world, working to make our classes safe for students as well as ourselves, awaiting decisions that we have little or no input or influence on, and often going home exhausted each day. One of the main reasons we have chosen to go with a private company instead of using “in-house” expertise is because we value everyone’s time and want to sincerely provide a set of clinics that we will be proud of. We had input from several people who planned and put on their own conference and while several said it was not a huge problem many said they would never attempt it again. We hope you will understand and trust that the people you elected are using their absolute best judgment to make decisions on your behalf. That being said the Board of Directors have set the theme of the 2021 conference as: We are CMEA: Stronger Together
Over the next couple of months look for information about the specifics of attending and what sessions are planned . Below are a set of points that will point out things that will be the same and those that will not, and in some cases why:
- This will still provide 40 hours of clock time for in-service credit
- The 2021 Virtual Conference will be professionally produced through the partnership of a professional vendor. Live and pre-recorded sessions will be archived for future reference for up to one year. Additionally, the conference schedule is planned so educators can attend sessions for content areas on specific days. This makes it possible for those who teach multiple content during the day to view any and all clinics you would like
- The 2021 Virtual Conference will provide both live and pre-recorded sessions allowing registered members flexibility in their daily schedule to attend the live events during the day and view the pre-recorded sessions when you are available. Some of you might like to have a conference day off and stay in the comfort of your home and some will rather teach that day and watch later in the evening, catching the live sessions at a later date.
- A consistent schedule with live events each day at 9:00 am, 11:00 am, 3:00 pm, 4:00 pm, and 5:00 pm. These sessions will be recorded and available after editing and closed captioning added, they will be posted by February 15th.
- Collegiate and Tri-M members will have the same access as any other member with considerable more ease in accommodations.
- A Virtual Exhibit Hall to provide access to industry vendors, companies, non-profits, and Colleges and Universities. Each day will feature a cadre of exhibitors grouped by a similarity of products or interests (i.e., instruments one day, sheet music another, travel, and colleges/universities, etc.) that will be open to registered members and allow for easy access to appropriate websites and representatives.
- A retired social event/brown bag lunch to connect with your retired colleagues across the state.
- One of the unique opportunities in the live offering is a daily synthesis session with presenters from pre-recorded sessions. This will provide time to ask questions to the clinicians from that day (especially those with pre-recorded clinics) and engage in discussion with fellow educators across the state. Not necessarily the “social” time we like to have but definitely the ability to interact with others in a live setting is very important.
- Sadly, there will be no performances this year. With copyright restrictions in regard to streaming performances it is cost prohibitive to try. What an individual might or might not be able to get away with is not something CMEA can or will try to do. We are dedicated to upholding copyright laws and strongly suggest our membership does so as well. Therefore, the cost of streaming one performance could be as much as we are spending on the entire clinic side of the conference. We did have schools who took a chance and submitted an audition. I will be celebrating these schools, directors and students in the near future.
Will there be a reduction in the cost of the conference? Yes, however, there is a “but”… Since the start of health orders last March, CMEA lost 95% of our income from March 20, 2020 – August 15, 2020. Since that time, our budget is still down 80% of our normal income, but still has on-going expenses and obligations through contracts that have to be met. During the 2020-2021 school year the All-State Elementary and Middle School Choirs have been cancelled, and the All-State High School Jazz Choir has been cancelled. The All-State High School Choirs and Orchestras are still holding hope that they will be held in late Spring 2021. All of these CMEA events contribute to CMEA’s overall financial obligations each year.
Currently CMEA membership is down, advertising sales are down by 25%, exhibitor registrations for the conference are down by 72%, award sales are down by 90%. All of these CMEA programs contribute to the overall CMEA finances, both in revenue and offsetting expenses. Many members also have the perception that a substantial portion of the dues paid to NAfME comes back to Colorado. This is not true, CMEA only receives back, on average, 29% of the amount of dues paid by each member to NAfME. Now, more than in any previous year CMEA will need to rely on conference registration revenue to pay for a viable conference for our members, but to also offset the costs of CMEA expenses this fiscal year. In order for CMEA to stay a viable organization we need the support of members and music educators to attend this year’s conference.
This was likely the hardest decision of the evening on October 2nd. We looked at several price options and selected the one that would show that the conference was smaller this year but would keep CMEA from going bankrupt before next year.
There will be more detailed information coming your way and I sincerely hope that you will feel free to contact me as well as Cynthia Eversole or Bill Kohut with your questions and comments.