There is widely-attributed African proverb which states, “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” It’s a favorite of Jamie Dial, and it served as a foundation for her theme as CASBO President this past year: Mentor. Vision. Purpose.

In our first-ever virtual Annual Conference last week, Jamie explained the significance of both the proverb and her theme as they guided her in what no one knew at the time would be a year-long odyssey presiding over a membership association that suddenly could no longer provide hundreds of onsite professional development events to more than 24,000 California school business profiessionals each year.

Last year, when Jamie began her term, it was under very unusual circumstances, as our 2020 Annual Conference, during which she would have been installed, had just been canceled due to the then-fledgling pandemic. At the time, none of us could see much beyond the week we were in! But Jamie didn’t let that blur her vision while guiding CASBO as it adapted to the changing times in order to help our members keep the meals served; the virtual classrooms open; and the safety and security of millions of California students, teachers and staff intact. Her purpose was to help us all persevere and accomplish great things despite the chaos.

And so we did! At CASBO, so many new things happened under her tenure: we moved to providing our workshops online, held our first virtual CBO Symposium and Annual Conference, started the CASBO WorkWise Webinar Series to help our members with the effects the pandemic was daily causing — and so much more — all so we could continue to provide you and your local education agencies with relevant and timely information to work through the obstacles created by the largest and longest school shutdown in our nation’s history.

All the while, Jamie’s idea of each of us becoming our own organization’s MVPs resonated. She began this journey amidst a flurry of change and in a time of great uncertainty when we didn’t know what the world was going to look like from one day to the next, nor how the pandemic would affect our organizations, especially with most of us suddenly and jarringly distanced from one another. But she led with that steady tradition of collaboration, cooperation, resolution, innovation and planning. She didn’t forget that African proverb.

“You cannot be an MVP without the support of the members of your team,” she said last week at the CASBO 2021 Annual Conference. “Over the course of this challenging year, we have seen this entire team — the CASBO membership — rise to the occasion to truly be MVPs of your school district or county office. We have seen in so many ways how you have mentored with conviction, led with vision, and propelled your team with purpose. You all truly continue to be MVPs.”

Thanking the many people who played a part in her own success as president, Jamie says serving in this role has been a great honor and privilege and, despite it being under these unique circumstances, says it’s a time she’ll always cherish.

As will we. Because, even though for the second year in a row, our formal recognition of our outgoing president did not carry nearly as much of the pomp and circumstance the role undoubtedly deserves, it doesn’t lessen the fact that Jamie’s year as CASBO President was a demonstration of unwavering leadership, carried out with both kindness and grace, in daunting times.

Last year, in a truly lovely gesture of collegiality, as incoming president, she offered to share the spotlight she herself would have had this year (had we been able to gather in Long Beach) with then-President Molly Schlange, who had missed her own accolades due to the forced cancellation of our 2020 event in Palm Springs. It was a truly lovely gesture of collegiality and unforgettable proof that Jamie is, in fact, our 2021 CASBO MVP!

There is evidence all around of how much we have benefited from her mentorship, vision and purpose — a philosophy that we needed “right now” to keep persevering, to keep sharing our stories and expertise, to keep looking at new ways to introduce professional development, networking and advocacy that empowers our members, all in support of the students we serve.

We didn’t go it alone this year. We went together as a team, with the light of Jamie Dial confidently guiding our way. And for that, as she passes into her next CASBO role, she goes with all of the thanks a grateful team can display. She goes with a cooler-full of Gatorade dumped over head … and hoisted upon our many shoulders!