Shining Lights in Public Education

(Pictured from left to right: David Schuler, Amy Sieu, Daniel Domenech, Wendy Robinson, Mike Winstead.)

AASA, The School Superintendents Association, recently announced the four finalists for the 2018 Superintendent of the Year, a program graciously sponsored by VALIC and First Student. This is our opportunity to showcase four champions for children and put outstanding school district leaders from communities large and small on the national stage. It marks a time to place the spotlight on the superintendency — a profession I often say is the most difficult job in America, yet the most rewarding.

Earlier this month, we were pleased to host a press briefing at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., featuring our four finalists. I invite you to watch the video. We were grateful that members of AASA’s Executive Committee were able to attend and we thank Daarel Burnette of Education Week for moderating the discussion.

Listen to Wendy Robinson, superintendent of Fort Wayne (Ind.) Community Schools, talk about the critical need for superintendents and other educational leaders to be community spokespersons for people who can’t speak for themselves. She’ll also talk about how schools in her district have distinctive business partnerships with major employers in her community for the benefit of her students.

You’ll hear David Schuler, superintendent of Township High School (Ill.) District 214, describe how students in his district having access to workplace learning experiences while they’re still in school help them decide what career tracks to take — and what not to take.

Mary Sieu, superintendent of ABC Unified (Calif.) School District and the daughter of Chinese immigrants, reflects on her love for “the world of public school.” She proudly proclaims, “demographics do not determine destiny.” I couldn’t agree more.

Mike Winstead, superintendent of Maryville City (Tenn.) Schools, shares how his district is pushing to enhance professional development for his teaching force as well as the mobilization throughout his community around the book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

All four discuss one of the most critical issues our nation is facing — equity in education. The discussion concludes with the participants sharing how their respective districts have been transformed over the years in order to, as Wendy put it, leave behind the “1950 view of education.”

The National Superintendent of the Year® will be announced at AASA’s National Conference on Education, Feb. 15-17, in Nashville, Tenn. We are proud of our finalists. We also know there are like-minded superintendents in droves with success stories of their own generated by the districts and communities they serve. I look forward to learning more about them.

Scores of public school district leaders, like Wendy Robinson, David Schuler, Mary Sieu and Mike Winstead, and others just like them are working tirelessly to maintain the fact that our nation’s public school system is the lifeblood of our democracy.

Congratulations to the four of you. This will be a tough call for our blue-ribbon panel of judges.

See you in Nashville!

Daniel A. Domenech is the executive director of AASA, The School Superintendents Association.

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