Teachers Gather In Cullowhee for the LIFT Conference

The North Carolina Bar Foundation helped bring together more than a dozen teachers and attorneys in the mountains of western North Carolina to discuss education law topics and the North Carolina education system.

Sponsored by the North Carolina Bar Association’s Education Law Section, Project LIFT (Law Institute for Teachers) helps teachers explore the responsibilities and rights of educators while examining and explaining laws that protect the rights of teachers, parents, students, administrators and school staff.

LIFT organizers planned this year’s program in partnership with the NC Center for Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT) in Cullowhee, which provided the space, food and administrative support.  A grant from the North Carolina Bar Foundation Endowment helped bring in panelists and experts from around the state and pay for conference materials. The North Carolina Bar Foundation Endowment makes grants available to North Carolina organizations that are engaged in programming or projects that advance the Foundation’s values of access to justice, volunteer service, civic education and professionalism.

The conference has grown out of a concerted effort by the Education Law Section to bring educational programming to teachers in a format that allows participants to dive deep into the legal topics and directly interact with presenters through Q&A and discussion.

“The intimate setting allowed for a high level of engagement and encouraged much more opportunity for questions, even fostering potential collaboration because the participants interacted not only with the attorneys but each other.”
Rachel Nicholas, Organizer

The Education Law Section promotes education and networking among attorneys serving schools K-12 and colleges, administrators, employees, faculty and students.

The LIFT conference, held this year from March 21-23 in Cullowhee, is the flagship public service program of the Education Law Section. Designed to be held annually, the conference normally draws about 20 educators. Strategic partnerships with both the NCBF and NCCAT have made it possible for teachers to attend at no cost.

“We were able to talk with other teachers from across the state and a variety of teaching backgrounds to learn about their experiences and brainstorm solutions with a lawyer right there to participate in the conversation”
Erika Luke, Durham

The weekend kicked off on Friday evening with a presentation on the “Top Ten Ways To Keep the District, and Yourself, Out Of Court.” Dinner and an informal networking session capped off the first night.

On Saturday, six sessions filled the day: Transitioning Students from High School to Higher Ed, Navigating Challenging IEP Meetings, What the School Board Can (and Can’t) Do for You, Open Government Requirements in the Digital Age, First Amendment Issues for Students and Teachers, and Social Media Ethics.

“The hot topics of the weekend were issues surrounding teacher ethics, the First Amendment and best practices.”
Rachel Nicholas, Organizer

While the Education Law Section offers resources in a variety of ways, this conference offered a rare opportunity for person-to-person discussion. Teachers benefit when they understand the laws that govern their work, while students, parents and schools all benefit from the implementation of best practices.

“I returned home feeling empowered and with an abundance of resources to reference when concerns arose.”
Erika Luke, Durham

The speakers and panelists represented a wide variety of interests and expertise.

Chris Campbell, Co-founder of Campbell Shatley, PLLC

Katie Cornetto, Attorney, Schwartz & Shaw

Benita Jones, Assistant Legal Counsel NCCU

John Leidy, Attorney, Hornthal, Riley, Ellis & Maland

Brandon McPherson, Attorney, Schwartz & Shaw

Rachel Nicholas, Attorney, Schwartz & Shaw

Carmen Nunalee, Attorney, Parker Poe, LIFT Committee Co-Chair NCBA

Maura O’Keefe, Attorney, Tharrington Smith

Brian Shaw, Attorney, Partner, Schwartz & Shaw

Lindsay Smith, Attorney, Tharrington Smith