Normally, this space features a traditional message from the president welcoming everybody back to the start of a new school year. So, welcome back!

However, I would like to add to this tradition by sharing some other changes we have made at NABT.

First, as you may have noted, we have shifted the calendar for the annual Professional Development Conference in November. By starting the conference a day later, classroom teachers can now request one fewer professional day from their cash-strapped districts. The opening general session on Thursday afternoon begins a packed schedule of continuous day and evening programming that continues through Saturday night. You will be able to choose from more than 100 high-quality, carefully vetted workshops and seminars, plus an even larger number of poster sessions than in the past. As usual, terrific featured speakers will be there. But some events and other traditions will not be part of the program. For example, the exhibit hall will open Thursday afternoon and close Friday evening, and Saturday night will offer a great conference finale, so don't leave early! There is even limited conference programming on Sunday! Since Denver is home to the nation's fourth-largest airport, there are a lot of flight options and even members from the East Coast can be in Denver by lunchtime on Thursday, in time for the opening session, and home by 1 p.m. on Sunday (really, I checked the schedules). This is a jam-packed, high-energy conference that you don't want to miss!

Another important change this year is that we have a new address and a new management firm responsible for our daily operations. The Collie Gorg Group of Warrenton, Virginia, will process memberships, answer inquiries, handle registrations, and manage our vital financial records. This arrangement matches our needs well and already has created a more efficient operation, all overseen by our executive director. We are now reviewing proposals to completely redesign our website and database, offering a long-overdue reboot of the NABT “front door.” Combined with NABT's Facebook Groups and Twitter presence, the new website will provide a robust set of member tools and professional educator support at the level expected from the “leader in life science education.”

We have also broken tradition by changing the expectations and involvement of NABT committee chairs, section chairs, and regional coordinators. These individuals now participate in a series of conference calls with the president and executive director each quarter and share progress toward their specific goals. This new opportunity for communication is already showing benefit. Leadership in our association often begins with dedicated volunteers serving on association committees who, before long, often transition to appointed and elected positions. By expanding communications and bringing members together to work on behalf of NABT, we are identifying the people and developing the common understandings and vision that will serve our association for years to come.

The NABT Board of Directors has updated the NABT Bylaws and is in the final stages of writing new policies and procedures. The Bylaws revision made changes in membership categories, formalized the members of the Executive Committee, refined terms of office for State Coordinators and OBTA Directors, revised outdated guidelines for the Nominating Committee, and removed a few outdated standing committees. The Policies and Procedures manual will serve as the operation guidelines for volunteer leaders and NABT employees. This is the first time in many years that our governing board has been able to focus on the big ideas of the association. This foundation will allow future NABT leaders to concentrate on and expand NABT programs.

The board also took the unusual action of sending newly revised NABT Position Statements out for review by several of our partner organizations. These reviews will help mitigate any unintended consequences and promote our unique perspectives to organizations with whom we frequently cooperate. Our Position Statements are important resources in defining best practices for our profession. Probably the one guiding resource no biology teacher should be without is the NABT Position Statement on Teaching Evolution. This statement provides guidance to teachers and administrators who are often inclined to satisfy complainers rather than defend principle. Look for this and other revised Position Statements on the NABT website in the coming months.

In May, the board sent a comprehensive survey to members and prospective members. The survey was a lengthy but necessary tool for building a new NABT strategy. Thank you for completing it! The results have given us a snapshot of who our members are, what they need, what they like about NABT, and what future services and opportunities are needed. The board will be using the data to construct a new vision for the future of NABT. Effective strategic planning articulates not only where an organization is going and the actions needed to make progress, but also how it will know if it is successful. The board has committed to an extensive work session at the upcoming conference to begin this planning to move toward an exciting vision of a future NABT. We look forward to sharing more about this with you in Denver.

NABT is already a light and lean organization, able to pivot and change quickly. Now we have the time and ability for more deliberation and focus. This is the real message of change taking place within NABT. We aren't breaking traditions merely to do something different. We are building the infrastructure for future growth and the development of new leaders, all with the aim of increasing member services and reaffirming our relevance in the education community.

Bob Melton

NABT President – 2016