© 2019 by Topeka Public Schools 

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Keynote Speaker: Dr. Kathleen Budge, Boise State University

Dr. Kathleen Budge brings a blend of 26 years of practical experience as a teacher and administrator combined with more than a decade of work dedicated to bridging the gap between the university and the teaching profession. She is an associate professor of Educational Leadership and chair of the Curriculum, Instruction, and Foundational Studies Department at Boise State University, where her research focus on poverty, rural education, school improvement, and leadership development. Dr. Budge is co-author (with William Parrett) of the 2012 award-winning book Turning High-Poverty Schools into High-Performing Schools, and the video series, Disrupting Poverty in Elementary and Secondary Classrooms. 


Dr. William Parrett is the director of the Center for School Improvement & Policy Studies and professor of Education at Boise State University in Idaho. He has received international recognition for his work in school improvement, small schools, and  education and for his efforts to help youth at risk. His professional experiences include public school and university teaching, curriculum design, principalships and college leadership, media production, research, and publication.

Dr. Parrett holds a doctorate in secondary education from Indiana University. He has served on the faculties of Indiana University, the University of Alaska, and Boise State University. As director of the Boise State University Center for School Improvement & Policy Studies (1996 to present), Dr. Parrett coordinates funded projects and reform initiatives, funding of which currently exceeds $5.4 million. His research on reducing achievement gaps and effective schooling practices for youth at risk and low-performing schools has gained widespread national recognition.


Keynote Speaker: Dr. William Parrett, Boise State University

Keynote Speaker: Coach Bill Snyder of Kansas State University

Precise. Intense. Tireless. Accomplished. Dedicated. Caring. 200-Game Winner. Hall of Famer. Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder is all of these and much more.
To understand the full picture of Snyder, it is necessary to acknowledge his values, sincerity and warmth, along with the concern he shows for the people around him – all qualities that solidify his reputation as an innovator and mentor in college athletics. The architect of the “greatest turnaround in college football history” returned to the sidelines in 2009 with hopes of revitalizing a program that he once built, piece by piece, into a national force. And, after nine seasons back in charge, he has done just that – and then some.


Dr. Randy Watson’s roots run deep in public education. As a former history teacher, school principal and superintendent, Dr. Watson has dedicated more than 35 years of his life working in public education settings across the state and ensuring every child receives a world class education. That dedication continues in his current role as Kansas Commissioner of Education. The Kansas State Board of Education named Watson Kansas Education Commissioner in November 2014. In his role as the state’s chief education officer, Dr. Watson provides leadership to the Kansas State Department of Education in carrying out the policies and programs set by the State Board of Education. The recipient of many awards, Dr. Watson was named an Alumni Fellow at Kansas State and in 2015, was honored by being named the Kansas Superintendent of the Year.


Keynote Speaker: Dr. Randy Watson, Kansas State Department of Education

Keynote Speaker: Trey Folse, National Federation of Urban & Suburban School Districts


He is active in the academic community serving as the President of the National Federation of Urban and Suburban School Districts, also known as NFUSSD. He was previously on the NFUSSD Board of Directors and the Governor’s Committee on K-12 Education Transition Advisory Team. Mr. Folse has been an educator for 34 years, serving the St. Tammany Parish Public School System for his entire career. In 2017, he was selected as the Superintendent of the Year for the State of Louisiana. Mr. Folse has dedicated his life to the education of children. He works daily to make sure that “Every Child, Every Day” is not just the motto of the St. Tammany Parish Public School System but is put into action so that every child, every day gets the best education possible based on their individual needs.

Keynote Speaker: Mayor Michelle De La Isla, City of Topeka, Kansas

Michelle De La Isla is mayor of Topeka, KS, and diversity and inclusion representative at Westar Energy. She was elected to Topeka City Council in 2013 and served as deputy mayor in 2016. Previously, she was executive director of Topeka Habitat for Humanity, educated women on financial literacy for MANA National, and was a founding member of the local Hermanitas chapter for mentorship of Latina girls. Having faced challenges like homelessness and teen pregnancy, De La Isla realized her fire for advocacy and service while teaching for Upward Bound. She works on an annual girls’ empowerment conference at Washburn University, volunteers for the Rescue Mission, and serves on the board of MANA National.