We’re not in Kansas Anymore

Every year at this time, the AASA International Seminar takes superintendents and other interested parties to other parts of the world. The intent is to learn about the educational systems and cultures in the places we visit. These trips never fail to make an impression on the participants.

This year’s trip to Morocco is no exception. It’s an hour bus ride through arid, desolate land to our first school visit to a tribal school in the remote hills outside of Marrakech. A brown landscape is sprinkled with the occasional green of scrub vegetation.

We learn from our guide that the school is very excited about our visit and that they have been preparing for it for days. This will not be a typical school visit. We are in a remote area that is home to one of the many isolated tribes that have occupied the territory for hundreds of years.

AASA President Deb Kerr smiles for a selfie with school students.
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A Special Kind of Love for Children in Morocco

This year, the AASA International Seminar takes us to Morocco. The education system here provides free schooling that includes six years of a primary education, three years of middle and intermediate schooling and three years of secondary. School attendance is compulsory up to the age of 13. The system focuses on erasing illiteracy and the languages of instruction are Arabic and French. Pre-primary programs are also available to children of ages 4-6.

Students in class at Ecole Lhadchat, a tribal school outside the city of Merrakech.

This year’s  Delegation includes 22 participants. AASA President Deb Kerr and AASA President-elect Kristi Sandvik are part of the group along with three AASA Past-Presidents. Our first school visit was to the Ecole Lhadchat, a tribal school outside the city of Merrakech. It is a school of 110 students at the primary level. The school operates a daily split session with half of them attending in the morning and the other half in the afternoon.

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Brown Deer Falcon Takes Helm as AASA President

On behalf of the AASA, let me congratulate Deb Kerr, who was sworn in earlier this month in Washington, D.C. as the 2019-20 president of AASA, The School Superintendents Association. A bona fide champion for children, the superintendent of The School District of Brown Deer in Brown Deer, Wis., brings a special dedication and commitment to her new role.

The first female superintendent to serve in that role at Brown Deer Schools, her district lies in the suburbs of Milwaukee with more than 1,600 students. Three out of every four are students of color and nearly half are living in poverty.

Deborah L. Kerr, superintendent, School District of Brown Deer, Wis., being sworn in on July 9, as the 2019-20 president of AASA, The School Superintendents Association.
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Economic Reconsideration of the College Track


By Daniel A. Domenech/School Administrator, June 2019

I RECENTLY HAD the opportunity to travel to Warsaw, Poland, where I gave a presentation titled “It’s Just Not About a College Degree” at the Council of Eastern European Schools Association. This is hardly a revolutionary idea to our colleagues abroad where apprenticeship programs have flourished for hundreds of years and where typically, from the 6th grade on, students either enter the “gymnasium,” or academic program, or follow a vocational track.

Those students on the academic track are the ones who in all probability will attend and graduate from a university while the students on the vocational track will learn a skill in an apprenticeship program coupled with schoolwork that will lead to certification and employment in a trade.

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AASA’s Rapid Response in Crisis Moments


By Daniel A. Domenech/School Administrator, April 2019

CUMBERLAND COUNTY IN North Carolina is a suburban school district with high poverty near Fort Bragg, a military installation with more than 50,000 active duty personnel.

Last year, the area was devastated by Hurricanes Florence and Michael. The destructive storms left many students homeless with thousands of houses damaged or destroyed. In the aftermath, Superintendent Marvin Connelly wrote me to thank AASA for its financial support that helped students and their families. He described a family that had been homeless for several years due to Hurricane Matthew. Then Hurricane Florence flooded the temporary facility they were occupying, forcing the mother and two daughters to live out of a van. The mother used funds from AASA to repair her car, buy food and purchase clothing for her daughters.

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California Rain Turns to Gold at National Conference on Education

A steady rain and unseasonably cold temperatures in Los Angeles did not put a damper on the 2019 National Conference on Education.

Off in the distance from our hotel, one could spot the infamous Hollywood sign perched on the Santa Monica Mountains. They say Hollywood is where the stars are. As far as I was concerned, the only stars that mattered were the 2,000 superintendents and other administrators who joined us in the City of Angels to celebrate excellence in school system leadership.

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Creating Cultures Through Cohorts


By Daniel A. Domenech/School Administrator, February 2019

THOUSANDS OF SCHOOL superintendents will convene this month in Los Angeles to attend AASA’s National Conference on Education. The attendees will be exposed to more than 100 sessions focusing on topics relevant to their work as the educational leaders of their communities.

The General Sessions will include a discussion I will have with former United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice. Always a popular presenter at our national conference, Bill Daggett will share his latest research on innovative practices, while former Major League Baseball pitcher Jim Abbott will deliver an excellent talk on how he overcame having one hand yet still pitched a no-hitter with the New York Yankees. It’s a gripping story relevant to the bullying and adversity that students with disabilities face.

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Equity on Visible Display in Ecuador

By Daniel A. Domenech/School Administrator, January 2019

FOR MANY YEARS, AASA has conducted its international seminar to provide our members with the opportunity to see education up close and personal in countries across the world. I first participated in the seminar in 1998, the year that I was president of AASA, when we went to Cuba. Traveling to Cuba then was quite different than traveling there now, but our group still had an amazing experience.

Since becoming AASA executive director 10 years ago, I have had the opportunity to travel extensively with our members. This past October, the international seminar took the group to Ecuador, with a side visit to the Galapagos Islands. Compulsory education there begins at age 6, although pre-school and infant care programs are available in select private and public schools. The secondary program goes from ages 12 to 18 and encompasses the equivalent of our middle school and high school.

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Our Campaign To Show How Leaders Matter

By Daniel A. Domenech/School Administrator, December 2018

MY PARENTS WERE proud of me when I became a teacher and then moved into administration. They were aware I was in a Ph.D. program that would lead to further advancement.

When I called my mother to proudly inform her that I had been appointed superintendent of the Deer Park School District in New York, I heard a deafening silence at the other end. I asked her if she had heard me, and she finally replied, with an edge to her voice, “Son, after all of these years of study, you have accepted a job as a superintendent?”

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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.

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