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.
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?”
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.
This year’s AASA International Seminar took our group of superintendents to Ecuador. This was not our first journey to South America and we found education in Ecuador to be very similar to what we have seen in Costa Rica, Panama, Peru and Chile.
AASA President Chris Gaines and Executive Director Dan Domenech with children from the Milenio School in Guano, Ecuador.
Like their neighbors, Ecuador’s public schools serve primarily the poor while the middle class and up tend to send their children to private schools. We visited two such schools, the American International School in Quito and the Vigotsky School in Riobamba.
The International school is truly a model of outstanding education. Catering to the children of American diplomats and those that can afford the $18,000 per-year tuition, the school offers programs to infants through high school. We were very impressed by the college-like campus and the quality of the teachers and administrators.
Today, we began our school visits at the Unidad Educativa del Milenio GUANO, a Pre-K to high school, housed in a four-and-a-half year-old government-built facility. The school has an enrollment of 630 students who previously attended seven different smaller schools now consolidated into one new building.
The children attend school from September 4 through July 10 and live in the area of Guano. Some children are bused to school.
As superintendents from across the U.S., we appreciate the opportunity to see the value placed on education in other countries. Clearly, other countries often aspire to provide a mandatory education for all, as we do.
I ventured to visit schools on a hot sunny morning on the island. Not knowing if I would be given entrance to the schools, I decided to take the risk and was joined by David Woolly, the superintendent of the Alma School District in Alma, Ark.
Given the lure around Charles Darwin on the Galápagos Islands, I was immediately attracted to visiting the Carlos Darwin School. Upon arrival, a native from Ecuador greeted us.
The AASA International Seminar is always a meaningful experience for superintendents. During this year’s trip, we are learning about the culture and history of Ecuador, which includes the opportunity to visit schools. The value added is traveling with fellow superintendents from across our country, making connections and learning from each other.
Superintendents on the AASA International Seminar listen to a presentation at the American International School in Quito, Ecuador.
Our first school visit was to Academia Cotopaxi, an American International School, educating children from 12-months-old to high school. This school has a beautiful campus and is located in Ecuador’s capital city of Quito. The Academia is a private, English-based international school. The parents of many of the children who attend are stationed in Quito either through the embassy or are U.S. government officials. The children come from 38 different countries with a total enrollment of 850. Fifty-eight percent of the students are international, 42 percent are from Ecuador and 22 percent are from North America. The tuition is $18,000 per student.
he Message of an Unforgettable Day By Daniel A. Domenech/School Administrator, September 2018
THE FAIRFAX COUNTY Public Schools’ leadership team always met on Tuesday mornings. On Sept. 11, 2001, my administrative assistant walked into the meeting room to place a note in front of me. It read: “The North Tower of the World Trade Center has been hit by an airplane.” She did so because she knew that, as a New Yorker, I would be interested.
Initially, I assumed the pilot of a small plane, blinded by sunlight, had crashed into the building. Half an hour later she came back to inform me another airplane had crashed into the South Tower. Recognizing this as an improbable coincidence, I dismissed the meeting and requested everyone return to their posts. I had barely reached my office when the report came in that a plane had crashed into the Pentagon.
As long as I’ve been working in public education, this time of year has always been very special. On behalf of the entire AASA family, we hope our superintendents and those aspiring to become superintendents have a fantastic school year filled with the creation of positive solutions that will translate into greater academic outcomes for our students.
I’ve been saying for years that superintendents are the nation’s foremost thought leaders in public education. Last week, our school system leaders spoke out about some very critical issues that directly affect the lives of our students. We need to listen to what was said and do something about it.
Our high schools are brimming with innovators. There are scores of students from coast to coast driven by ideas and dreams of a better tomorrow.
I recently read an article in a newspaper focused on a discussion between a community college president and a U.S. Senator about how poorly we’re preparing kids for college. The piece contained no authentic examination of data to prove their argument.
Students attending Virginia Beach (Va.) City Public Schools
As schools across the country open their doors for the new academic year, we as educators need to think about what I believe should be our No. 1 goal—changing the trajectory of our students’ journeys and the lives of their families in order for our communities to dream differently.