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.

Brightest Minds in Education Convene in Phoenix

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This week, America’s foremost thought leaders in public education are in Phoenix, celebrating the vast contributions being made in our school districts.  

Hundreds of superintendents are attending the National Conference on Education, hosted by AASA, The School Superintendents Association, the premier organization serving thousands of school district leaders nationwide. This annual gathering is routinely regarded as the most comprehensive professional development and networking event for superintendents, cabinet-level officials and other school administrators.

Our conference comes at a unique time. Just before the New Year, Congress passed—and the President signed into law—the Every Student Succeeds Act. The legislation takes the pendulum of federal overreach and control and returns it back to state and local education agencies. The law preserves important federal policy cornerstones such as equity, accountability, standards and assessments, but does so in a way that empowers state and local education leaders to more effectively operate the systems for which they are responsible.

ESSA is certain to be a prime topic of conversation at our meeting. Other critical issues that are sure to be covered include Common Core, superintendent/board relationships, personalizing learning, instructional leadership, innovative technology, healthy school environments, and poverty and equity.  

In addition, one superstar superintendent will be named AASA’s 2016 National Superintendent of the Year. This award points to the outstanding contributions and leadership provided by superintendents, who, arguably, have the toughest job in America.  

Running a school district is hard work. I was a superintendent for nearly 30 years on Long Island and Northern Virginia, and as I travel across the country, I see firsthand that the roles, responsibilities and political pressures placed on today’s superintendents are greater than they’ve ever been.

That’s why our conference is so important—not only for the superintendency, but also the 50 million students who are depending on us, as educators, to effectively prepare them for college and careers beyond high school. Greater Phoenix will be the place where the CEOs of our school districts will be sharing best practices and ideas about improving student outcomes and district management.

We are here to applaud school district leaders, the true champions for children. Their contributions to public education are immeasurable. Their efforts are setting a positive educational framework for generations to come.

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

AASA’s Final Four

SOY Finalists Group 1 -1This is an exciting time for AASA, The School Superintendents Association. It’s also an exciting time for school system leadership and public education.

In two weeks, hundreds of superintendents will convene in Phoenix, Ariz., for the National Conference on Education where AASA’s 2016 National Superintendent of the Year will be announced.

I couldn’t be prouder of our finalists. I had the opportunity to meet them during our press conference at the National Press Club in mid-January. In my view, we have four winners. I know it will be a difficult choice for our panel of judges.

One thing among others that impresses me about our finalists—they all have tremendous passion for what they do. Here is what they shared with us about being a superintendent:

Pamela Moran, Albemarle County (Va.) Public Schools: “Nothing is more important than the profession of education. We need to keep elevating that message. Being a superintendent has an incredible responsibility—to see that all kids get the best learning opportunities available.”

Thomas Tucker, Princeton City (Ohio) Schools: “This business is about improving the lives of our children. I stand with more than 13,000 committed individuals who advocate for the goals of public education.”

Steven Webb, Vancouver (Wash.) Public Schools: “This work is about transforming the lives of children, and cultivating hope and opportunity in young people. I feel so blessed that my avocation and vocation are one in the same.”

Freddie Williamson, Hoke County (N.C.) Schools: “My life’s dream has always been to serve as a superintendent of a public school system. Public education has provided me with an opportunity to reach my life’s dream. It means that I’m going to be an inspiration to others.”

The 2016 Superintendent of the Year will be announced on Day 1 of our national conference, Thursday, Feb. 11. Congratulations to these outstanding individuals.

I invite you to view our latest video where you’ll hear more from Superintendents Moran, Tucker, Webb and Williamson.

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