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.

Passing of the Torch

AASA President David R. Schuler presenting at our 2016 National Conference on Education

AASA President David R. Schuler presenting at our 2016 National Conference on Education

July always marks a special time of year for AASA, The School Superintendents Association. Some of the sharpest minds in public education are gathering in our nation’s capital next week for our annual legislative advocacy conference.

At the convening of our conference, the room will be filled with dozens of superintendents, the “champions for children” who are the catalysts behind the achievements taking place in our school systems today.

It was only fitting that during AASA’s 150th anniversary year, we saw the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The strong efforts from our members combined with the great work of our policy and advocacy team was a major lever in creating the new legislation.

We will continue to work closely with the U.S. Department of Education to ensure that the transition to ESSA, and the rules and regulations issued by the Department, are in line with the spirit of the new law. During our three-day meeting (July 12-14), superintendents will have the opportunity to visit members of Congress and other education policy leaders to discuss ESSA and other pressing matters affecting our schools.

In conjunction with the conference, AASA will install Alton Frailey, superintendent of Katy Independent School District (Katy, Texas), and Gail Pletnick, superintendent of Dysart Unified School District 89 (Surprise, Ariz.), as president and president-elect respectively. I look forward to working with Alton and Gail in their new roles.

On behalf of the AASA family, I wish to congratulate David Schuler for completing a successful term as president. I invite you to read his June column in School Administrator, “An Amazing Year in AASA’s Evolution.” The superintendent of Illinois’ High School District 214 played a key role in our success. David testified before Congress last month as part of the House Education and the Workforce Committee’s hearing about steps to implement ESSA. Read our press release.

David was the founding father of AASA’s Redefining Ready! campaign, launched at our 2016 National Conference on Education in Phoenix, Ariz. I recently had the opportunity to visit David’s district in suburban Chicago and saw firsthand multiple indicators aimed to assess a student’s readiness for life beyond high school. I discuss my visit in my May 31 blog, “Student Engagement At Its Best.” David spoke of this important matter when he addressed a gathering of superintendents and community college presidents in June.

A tech-savvy educator, David is a member of AASA’s Digital Consortium and regularly participates in #suptchat, a monthly conversation via Twitter (the first Wednesday of each month, from 8-9 p.m. ET) involving superintendents and other educators from across the country who virtually share ideas about the most critical issues in our business.

Every July, we have a “passing of the torch” but with David, it’s hardly a farewell. He will continue to serve on our executive committee as immediate past president and will surely be a valuable asset as AASA continues to serve as the nation’s premier voice for school system leadership.