This year’s AASA International Seminar is special. The delegation includes current AASA President Deb Kerr, President-elect Kristi Sandvik and Past-presidents Pat Neudecker, Amy Sichel and Gail Pletnick.
Having five AASA officers on the trip is unusual, but what makes it even more special is that these five leaders are all women. The face of AASA is changing as more women become superintendents. At last count, nearly 25 percent of our superintendents are women. Throughout the 11 years that I have been the executive director at AASA, these five exceptional leaders have been elected by our membership to represent the organization. All five of them, including our three past presidents, are actively engaged in the organization. Prior to their election, only two women had held the post of president in AASA’s 150-year history.
As we visit schools here in Morocco, we become aware of the gender disparity that is still prevalent in rural areas. Our delegation received a warm and enthusiastic reception at the first school we visited but we could not help but notice that no women had been invited to greet the visitors. Our delegation, which consists primarily of women, were not shy about coming out of the bus and eagerly approaching our male hosts. I could not help but smile as I saw our hosts retreat at the sight of the feminine wave that was about to approach them. Soon enough, however, they were shaking hands and trading hugs with their guests.
We are visiting a part of the world with values and morals that are significantly different from our own. Yet, that is what makes the AASA International Seminar experience so special. A group of Muslim men who would not have any of their own women participate in a school reception were willing to be gracious and welcoming to a group of women educators from the U.S.
Morocco is changing. As we traveled from rural to urban areas of the country, we could see the difference in how women dressed and how they interacted with men. We could also see it in the classrooms, as boys and girls learned side by side and played together in the school yards.
Although the customs and traditions we witnessed were foreign to us, nevertheless, as visitors, we were respectful. We strive for gender equity and perhaps there is more of it in America than in Morocco, but it is still a work in progress.
Daniel A. Domenech is the executive director of AASA, The School Superintendents Association