Giving Thanks … in More Than 13,000 Ways

As families coast to coast are celebrating this blessed Thanksgiving holiday, I am so proud of the more than 13,000 school district leaders who are working diligently to enhance the lives of our young learners.

Thank you for the powerful contributions you are creating and providing on behalf of the future leaders of society.

Thank you for serving as a voice for our public schools, the real lifeblood of our democracy.

Thank you for being champions for children.

The resiliency of our superintendents and other school district administrators continues to amaze me. I was a superintendent for 27 years and I can say without hesitation that when I am in a room with other superintendents, I still get excited engaging with them, listening to their conversations and learning about their successes and the successes of their respective school districts.

Last week, it was an honor to stand before the nation’s State Superintendents of the Year at the 2018 National Superintendent of the Year Gala, held in Washington, D.C. The men and women gathered were living proof that great leaders really matter. It was clear that great leaders are making a difference for the students and families they serve.

We were fortunate to have U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education Mick Zais speak at our event. A retired U.S. Army brigadier general, a former South Carolina state superintendent and a former college president, Deputy Secretary Zais knows a thing or two about great leadership. This is what he said during his remarks:

“To every superintendent here, thank you for what you do for our students to improve their lives and to provide opportunities that they would not otherwise have … Leadership matters, and because of that, your work as leaders of school districts could not be more important … I’m seeing a positive evolution in public education across America. We’re moving from a one-size-fits-all, college-for-all model to more flexible approaches that provide multiple options so that students can find pathways to meet their own needs, their own abilities (and) their own aspirations. Our superintendents, in many cases across America, are driving that evolution in education.”

One key driver of an evolution in his district and throughout the country is David Schuler, past president of AASA, the 2018 National Superintendent of the Year® and the superintendent of Township High School District 214 in Arlington Heights, Ill. Honored at our Gala, David leads our Redefining Ready! Cohort, an initiative that introduces new research-based metrics to more appropriately assess whether students are ready to pursue their lifelong goals and dreams. Through this program, AASA members are helping to create real-life workplace situations that are providing students with a taste of life beyond high school graduation.

No one can argue that there are scores of superintendents nationwide, like David, creating winning solutions for their students and the communities in which they live. This is why leaders matter.

Earlier this year, AASA was pleased to launch our Leaders Matter campaign as a way to showcase the exemplary work by superintendents and other educators. We continue to receive success stories from school districts large and small spotlighting the outstanding work being done encompassing critical issues such as advocacy, professional development, social and emotional learning and much more.

I am so grateful to be associated with thousands of great leaders who are trying not to fix or tweak the education system but transform it by doing the right things to meet the individual needs of our kids—to allow them to do what motivates them to be successful.

That’s what AASA is all about. That’s what superintendents are all about.

Our school system leaders are working tirelessly on behalf of future political leaders, doctors and lawyers in America. The reality is that school system leaders are working tirelessly on behalf of future educators, journalists, machinists, plumbers, welders, carpenters, steel workers and law enforcement officers in America. The reality is that school system leaders are working tirelessly on behalf of all students covering all professions imaginable—and especially those that haven’t even been created yet.

There is no better voice representing our students than the superintendents who are leading the charge in our school districts.

Thank you for the work you do. Happy Thanksgiving!


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